Wednesday, June 08, 2022

27. The Drowning Pool by John Ross MacDonald (and major paperback haul!)

Hoo boy the beginning of this novel is just scathing.  Archer gets hired by a woman to follow up on a blackmail letter.  She is hesitant and will tell him almost nothing and he sort of forces her to let him come to her small coastal town outside of LA.  There, he spies on her little scene of local bourgeois.  He first watches her husband rehearse his lead performance at the local theatre (and also witnesses a kerfluffle between his daughter and their chauffeur). Later, he goes to a small dinner party the husband hosts.  MacDonald is at is nastiest, best here with Archer barely able to contain his contempt for this lost, pretentious group.

The story gets complicated quickly, involving a controlling mother, the wayward daughter, potential oil wells and the neighbouring oil boom town (very nicely described).  There is some good tailing and detecting and quite a lot of action including a nasty hijacking.  I got a bit lost at one point where Archer seemed to teleport from the small town back to LA but maybe they weren't as far apart as I had thought.  The narrative got a bit crazy and somewhat lost me near the end, with a crazy yet very enjoyable scene in a water-based sanitorium run by the nasty "Doctor" Melliotes (hydrotherapy; where Archer floods the room in which he is imprisoned).  However, when the full backstory gets revealed, it is rich and interesting enough to redeem the rest of the narrative. Not my favourite Lew Archer, but solid.


I'm burying the lead, though!  This beat-up and beautiful paperback was one of an incredible find.  I was walking to the park with some friends of my daughter's and passed this record store that I have been meaning to check out as I had noticed a bookshelf previously. From the window, it looked to be mainly music-themed books and indeed it was, but on the ground there were three boxes.  I took the liberty of opening them up (could be a no-no in some stores).  The first box was typical liberal arts classics (though some nice editions) with that nice Bowie biography being a minor gem.  The next two boxes though were like opening up a treasure chest!  More good stuff just kept coming out.  I appreciated the theme of 50s youth anxiety.  A few real classics here, including this great copy of The Amboy Dukes (I wonder if it is edited at all?) and another edition to the Amboy Dukes universe that I am looking for.

There was some brief sweating when the books weren't priced and we had to wait for the owner to show up. He ended up giving me a decent deal (he divided them into 3 piles of $3, $4 and $5).  I am not a huge Mike Hammer fan so hope to be able to pass these on to somebody with more of an appreciation.  The rest are mostly keepers.  The owner also said that he had gotten these from an older fellow who had moved into a nursing home and that there were more boxes to come.  I hope the gentleman is in relatively good health and spirits.  I hope to find some more of his books to give a good home.

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