ROSS MACDONALD/KENNETH MILLAR: The Poorhouse Prince by Matthew J. Bruccoli


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Those familiar with Macdonald's Self-Portrait (1981) will find little new material and few fresh insights in this very brief survey of the Millar/Macdonald career. Bruccoli sketches in Millar's life-history--the childhood traumas, the dual Canada/US identity, the frustrations in academia. He offers useful comments on the little-known early novels (under the Miller name), with some intriguing excerpts from publisher's reports. (A major source: the Knopf Papers at the U. of Texas Research Center.) And, in the Ross Macdonald/Lew Archer years, there's additional information on Millar's unstable daughter--""who can be perceived behind the troubled girls in her father's novels."" Otherwise, however, Bruccoli's book-by-book rundown offers only the most predictable critical phrases about Macdonald's work: the anti-Rich viewpoint of this ""outcast pauper""; the metaphor-laden language; the recurring theme--especially after the psychoanalytic breakthrough in the Oedipal Galton Case--of ""problems of paternity or identity in terms of the resurrected past."" And, while making the familiar claims for Macdonald as a serious writer who transcended his category, Bruccoli makes glib, dubious generalizations about the mystery genre, undermining his argument. Dullishly informative at best, pedantic at worst: the thin, not-very-impressive first volume in a projected series of illustrated ""Album Biographies.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1984
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich