Tuesday, October 17, 2006

So Who’s Going to Play Lew?

The Central Crime Zone blog reports that “Random House films and Focus Features have announced plans to turn Ross Macdonald’s The Galton Case into a film.” No cast has been announced yet, but expectations are for a 2008 release.

Anybody familiar with Macdonald’s fiction knows that The Galton Case, the eighth novel in which Los Angeles private eye Lew Archer took the lead, marked a turning point of sorts for this author. Originally published in 1959, Galton “was the first of Macdonald’s mature works: a dozen or so books that belong with the best American mystery fiction,” writes Tom Nolan in Ross Macdonald: A Biography (1999). It was also very much a personal story for Macdonald (the pseudonym of Kenneth Millar), who gave parts of himself to at least a couple of the significant players in the drama, as he did parts of his only daughter, Linda, who at the time was a troubled, vulnerable student at the University of California at Davis. (Not long after Galton’s publication, Linda Miller disappeared from the UC campus, forcing her father to seek assistance from the media and to fall into despair, before she resurfaced a week later and was placed under psychiatric care.) Macdonald had long been interested in the psychological complexity of his players, but Galton--with its allusions to both the tale of Oedipus and the 19th-century psychological theories of Sir Francis Galton--signalled a change for the series. It and subsequent installments emphasized the twisted roots of personal and familial dysfunction, and looked more closely at how those dysfunctions can be manifested in antisocial and criminal behavior down the road.

As Central Crime Zone notes, there’s “no word as to whether or not [producers] plan to update the story to a modern setting, or place it at the time of the novel, which is the 1950s. The producers see the same potential in Galton as L.A. Confidential.” Personally, I would prefer that Random House/Focus maintain Macdonald’s Truman-era time frame, allowing the film an initial gauzy air of innocence, soon to be corrupted by deception, angst, and anger. But unfortunately, I don’t have a say in the matter.

The very least I can expect is that Lew Archer will be able to keep his own name this time, which did not happen in the two films (1966’s Harper and 1975’s The Drowning Pool) Paul Newman made from Macdonald’s P.I. tales.

READ MORE:Archer’s Return Engagement,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).

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