Ross Macdonald was recognized early in his career as the successor to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in the field of realistic crime fiction, and his detective, Lew Archer, was recognized as the successor to Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Macdonald’s advance over his predecessors was in the greater emphasis he placed on psychology and character, creating a more humane and complex detective and more intricate plotting. He is generally credited with raising the detective novel to the level of serious literature. The Mystery Writers of America awarded him Edgar Allan Poe scrolls in 1962 and 1963. In 1964, The Chill was awarded the Silver Dagger by the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain. The same organization gave his next novel, The Far Side of the Dollar, the Golden Dagger as the best crime novel of the year.
Macdonald served as president of the Mystery Writers of America in 1965 and was made a Grand Master of that organization in 1974. In a review of The Goodbye Look in The New York Times Book Review, William Goldman called the Lew Archer books “the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American.” His work has gained popular as well as critical acclaim: The Goodbye Look, The Underground Man, Sleeping Beauty, and The Blue Hammer were all national best sellers. Three of his books have been made into successful motion pictures, two starring Paul Newman as Lew Archer: The Moving Target, which was made into the film Harper (1966), and the film version of The Drowning Pool, which was released in 1975. The Three Roads was adapted into the film Double Negative (1980).