“Never Sleep With Anyone Whose Troubles Are Worse Than Your Own.”

That’s one of the more memorable of the many memorable lines penned by mystery novelist Ross Macdonald who was born Kenneth Millar in Los Gatos on December 13, 1915.

Many of Macdonald’s one-liners and hard-bitten observations came from the mouth of his most famous character, private investigator Lew Archer. Macdonald named him after Sam Spade’s dead partner in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, Miles Archer, and Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur. 

While Macdonald spent most of his childhood in Canada, he returned to California in the 1950s and lived in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years — the fictional Santa Theresa in his Archer novels. 

The tough but caring Archer, the central character in 18 books,  first appeared in the 1946 short story Find the Woman. The Moving Target in 1949 was the first Archer novel. The 1966 movie, “Harper” starring  Paul Newman is based on it. Other Archer novels: The Goodbye LookThe Underground Man and Sleeping Beauty.

“Nothing is wrong with California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn’t cure” and “Hell lies at the bottom of the human heart” are other Archerisms.

“I wanted to write as well as I possibly could,” Macdonald said in a 1953 interview. “To deal with life-and-death problems in contemporary society. And the form of Wilkie Collins and Graham Greene, of (Dashiell) Hammett and (Raymond) Chandler, seemed to offer me all the rope I would ever need.”  

Macdonald died of Alzheimer’s disease in Santa Barbara, California. His wife of 45 years, Margaret Millar, was also a successful mystery writer.


Filed under: California History

1 Comment »

  1. The quote is actually from Nelson Algren.

    Comment by MontyAlban — 1.28.2014 @ 2:19 pm

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