Ross Macdonald Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ross Macdonald was recognized early in his career to be the successor to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in the field of realistic crime fiction, and his detective, Lew Archer, to be the successor to Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Macdonald is generally credited with raising the detective novel to the level of serious literature.{$S[A]Millar, Kenneth;Macdonald, Ross}

Ross Macdonald was born Kenneth Millar in Los Gatos, California, on December 13, 1915. His family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, soon after he was born, and he was reared and educated in Canada, graduating with honors from the University of Western Ontario in 1938. He returned to the United States permanently in 1941, when he began graduate work at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, receiving his M.A. in English in 1943. He served in the Pacific during World War II before returning to the University of Michigan to earn his Ph.D. in English. By this time he was already a published novelist, having published his earliest works as Kenneth Millar or as John Ross Macdonald, but he settled on the pseudonym Ross Macdonald by the time of the writing of The Barbarous Coast (1956) to avoid being confused with two other famous mystery writers: his wife, Margaret Millar, whom he had married in 1938, and John D. MacDonald.

The novels fall into three groups: Those in which Lew Archer does not appear form a distinct group, and the Archer series itself may be separated into two periods. Macdonald’s first four books, together with two later works, Meet Me at the Morgue and The Ferguson Affair, do not feature Lew Archer. These are all fairly typical treatments of wartime espionage or political corruption and are primarily of interest only to the extent that they prefigure the concerns of later works. The Three Roads, for example, is Macdonald’s first use of the Oedipus myth as a plot structure and of California as a setting. The first six Archer books (The Moving Target, The Drowning Pool, The Way Some People Die, The Ivory Grin, Find a...

(The entire section is 861 words.)