Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Linwood Barclay, Ross Macdonald, and me: What I shot and thought at Harrogate, Part II

Linwood Barclay signs a book for
an adoring fan. Photo by Peter
Rozovsky by special agreement
with Detectives Beyond Borders.
I’ve never been able to get Ross Macdonald or, as Macdonald himself might have said, I am paralyzed by a deep-seated fear of wince-makingly amateur Freudianism that I just can’t express.

Linwood Barclay, on the other hand, is a great admirer of Macdonald’s, so naturally when Barclay approached as I chatted with a fellow attendee at the Theakston Ole Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate last month, I said: “Oh, hey! We were just ripping the ---- out of Ross Macdonald.”

Barclay, born in Connecticut but rendered good-natured and amiable by his years in Canada, pretended to be offended. But then he smiled widely and offered a disarming explanation for his Macdonald love.

When he first encountered Macdonald, Barclay said, "I didn't know anything about Freud." And no wonder. Barclay was just 15 years old at the time, and a meeting just a few years later was a formative experience for Barclay. I don't remember the rest of his apologia for Macdonald. Perhaps he was touched by that author's yearning empathy for his characters, and not just his protagonist.

And that's what's important, isn't it, that Barclay, through the deadening welter of Macdonald's Freudian theorizing, found something that touched him and helped make him a critically admired and internationally successful author in his own right. So no, I'm not sure I'll ever warm to Macdonald, having tried his early overwrought imitations of Raymond Chandler and his mid-career embrace of Freud and found both wanting. But I was humbled by Barclay's innocent and whole-hearted early embrace of the man and by how deeply and author can touch his readers.

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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