Thursday, October 3, 2013

The end of the night...John D. MacDonald

“The end of the night” is a completely messed up novel—though in the best of ways. It’s a noir novel written by a renowned detective mystery writer who sought to present us with his psycho-sociological analysis of the American society at the end of the Beat generation and the beginning of the Hippie generation. John D. Macdonald, the author of this beautiful novel, is one of those long forgotten novelist. Not only for being branded ‘a mystery pop writer’, but as well for publishing primarily in the ‘paperback’ format for most of his career.

John D., as his fans prefer calling, was a prolific writer. He launched his career in science fiction, but is best known as a prominent detective mystery writer. His Travis McGee series is his best remembered work.  However, in this novel—which he claimed his best ever—he had given leeway to his literary talent over the necessary plot crafting. He sacrificed the suspenseful ending (mandatory for every detective mystery) for the sake of character establishment and elated dramatization. He gave his social treatise priority and never regretted it.

This 1960 novel is prophetic of sorts and expositive as well. It captures the spirit of the upcoming decade, its romanticism, vanity and, of course, brutality. John D. excellently paints some of the liveliest characters ever written in fiction. As well, his message and warning is clear: clean-shaven, upright America has sores under its sleeves and worms under its skin.

The novel tells of a notorious “Wolf Pack”: three men and a beautiful girl on a cross-country terror spree, a coast-to-coast rampage of theft, destruction, and murder; a good pretense for a detective mystery alright. Sorrowfully, there isn’t any. That’s why this novel was never met by John D.’s fans warmly. Perhaps, this was the novel’s weakest point: it was targeted at the completely wrong audience—John D.’s detective mystery readers. Clearly, the novel was better suited for readers of a completely different genre, more somber word carnivores…readers of Truman Capote or Harper Lee.

However, any reader of any genre is sure to enjoy reading this book. Reading is the joyous part indeed. I haven’t enjoyed more versatile prose for four years since Lolita by V. Nabokov.

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