A hole in the space-time continuum. (Notes by M.C. O'Connor.)
06 April 2007
A glass of rye for John D.
Funny how I found the Ellroy looking for John D. MacDonald. No offense to Mr. Ellroy, he being a heavyweight in the crime fiction field, but the last "fictional" half of Destination: Morgue! sounded like William Burroughs doing a parody of Mickey Spillane. Now, I'm a fan of both writers, but a combination of psychotropics and shots of rye is bound to turn out badly. Trust me, I've been there. Speaking of shots of rye, two separate characters in John D. MacDonald's "Five Star Fugitive" pour rye whiskey when they needed a belt. "Five Star Fugitive" was the name of the novella when it appeared in a 1950 Dime Detective, it was re-titled "Border Town Girl" and re-issued (apparently) in 1956 with another short novel "Linda." I found them bound in a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback titled Border Town Girl that lacked a publishing date, but from the groovy block letters and psychedelic art I suspect the early 1970's. Now rye whiskey is a drink just finding its way back to respectability after years of languishing unappreciated. Sort of like 1950's Dime Detective stories if you don't mind me stretching the metaphor a bit. Mr. MacDonald, of course, has been much and deservingly praised for his remarkable body of work. A story like "Five Star Fugitive/Border Town Girl," with its crisp, suspenseful plotting and strong characterization hasn't lost its luster. With a happy ending and neat resolution, it lacks the cynicism of David Goodis or Charles Williams. But I note that Ellroy's hip, contemporary noir tales have fairy tale-fantasy endings despite their vulgarity and twisted violence. If you wanted a lens to see 1950's America, you would do well to use John D.'s, and if you need a model of great fiction writing, you'd go no further. Mastery of the craft doesn't go out of fashion.