I’m a longtime fan of crime writer extraordinaire Ross Macdonald, and was excited last week when I found a Vintage/Black Lizard edition of Black Money — a novel I’d never read — at my local Goodwill store for $1.99. I’m currently reveling in Macdonald’s amazing prose — every line, a treasure.

Born Kenneth Millar on December 13, 1915 in Los Gatos, California, and raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Ross Macdonald has been called the heir to Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) and Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep). Most of his novels — starring detective Lew Archer — are set in Los Angeles and the fictional Santa Teresa, based on Santa Barbara, where he lived most of his life with his wife, and fellow detective novelist, Margaret Millar. Macdonald passed away in 1983 at age 67.

In Ross Macdonald, a Biography, author Tom Nolan writes: “By any standard he was remarkable. His first books, patterned on Hammett and Chandler, were at once vivid chronicles of a postwar California and elaborate retellings of Greek and other classic myths. Gradually he swapped the hard-boiled trappings for more subjective themes: personal identity, the family secret, the family scapegoat, the childhood trauma; how men and women need and battle each other, how the buried past rises like a skeleton to confront the present. He brought the tragic drama of Freud and the psychology of Sophocles to detective stories, and his prose flashed with poetic imagery.”

I consider it serendipity that I found a copy of Black Money just in time to celebrate what would have been Ross Macdonald’s 97th birthday — and consider myself lucky to spend this rainy December evening in L.A. reading Macdonald’s amazing prose.

Here are a few lines from the opening page: “I walked around the end of the fifty-meter pool, which was enclosed on three sides by cabanas. On the fourth side the sea gleamed through a ten-foot wire fence like a blue fish alive in a net. A few dry bathers were lying around as if the yellow eye of the sun had hypnotized them.”

Find Black Money by Ross Macdonald at