Saturday, June 09, 2007

Together Again for the First Time

It’s a rather crappy day here in the capital of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle. The rain has pretty much destroyed any plans I had of sitting out on my front porch to read, or perambulating around my local freshwater lake (Green Lake) with another book in hand. (I have different novels for different enterprises--usually a paperback for these comforting strolls, at present the Hard Case Crime re-release of David Goodis’ The Wounded and the Slain, originally published in 1955.)

However, a bit of news from Tom Nolan serves to cheer me immensely. The Southern California writer and Ross Macdonald biographer tells me that the one-volume compilation of Macdonald’s short stories featuring classic Los Angeles private eye Lew Archer, on which he’s been working for at least the last couple of years (we first reported on this project last summer) is finally due for publication. Norfolk, Virginia-based independent publisher Crippen & Landru is set to release The Archer Files: The Complete Short Stories of Lew Archer, Private Investigator on June 15, according to, which also describes the book’s complete contents:
The Archer Files for the first time collects all the brief Archer fiction: the stories from Macdonald’s 1955 paperback-original, The Name Is Archer, the additional tales included in the Otto Penzler-edited 1977 volume Lew Archer: Private Investigator, and the three then-unknown novellas presented in Crippen & Landru’s 2001 book Strangers in Town. Also included in The Archer Files are several lengthy, never-before-published fragments of unfinished Macdonald stories: case notes, as it were, from the files of Lew Archer.
Nolan adds in a note that his “11,000-word introduction [to The Archer Files] takes the form of a biographical sketch of Lew Archer.” And the jacket on this 360-page collection, painted by Jeff Wong, “is a pastiche of Mitch Hooks’ cover for the original 1955 Bantam collection The Name Is Archer,” replacing the artist’s conception of the P.I. with Macdonald’s own face. (That original jacket is shown at left. Simply click on this cover, or the one at the top of the item, in order to enlarge them.)

I’ve got to tell you, I am pretty excited by this. Macdonald (né Kenneth Millar) was the first crime novelist I ever read, back in high school. Rosemary Lacey, an assistant librarian at Portland, Oregon’s Jesuit High in the early 1970s, handed me a copy of Macdonald’s initial Archer novel, The Moving Target (1949), and assured me that I would enjoy it. That I most certainly did, and I went on not just to read all of Macdonald’s books, but to arrange an interview with the author in 1980, shortly before his death (from Alzheimer’s disease). More than any other novelist, I am indebted to Macdonald for my fascination with crime fiction and my aspiration to someday publish work in the same genre.

Interestingly, The Archer Files is due in bookstores just a month before the 24th anniversary of Ross Macdonald’s death in Santa Barbara, California. (He passed away on July 11, 1983.) Right now, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to his genius.

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