But JDM was a writer, and this is an example of crime fiction at its most primal and incendiary; Mac is dredging up tough stories of dangerous lives springing up in the hard streets of a poor neighborhood. Described as The Sink this is the hard luck fecundity of crime fiction, the drunk but amorous mother from which these kinds of stories spring.
This particular novel I would describe as multiple character sketches tied together as a crime story.
time place scene settings *the bronson home at 1024 arcadia street *story opens, it is a saturday afternoon in october *the sink...30 city blocks in hancock *the port city of hancock...that has merged with brookton *1214 river street, one place in "the sink" the bronson family, lee, his brother danny, and their mother lived *sonny's bar *the john x moran school on hoffer street, keefler's school as a kid *1947...given as a year for one incident in keefler's life...so, the "time" of the story is likely the late 40s, early 50s...elsewhere, 1949 is used as a date...so the story is after that *alton...the name of the prison *a camp, private lodge, constructed without his wife's knowledge by burt catton, 63 miles from hancock *verney's offices, 6th floor, market building corner of george and castel streets *tulsa...is involved with the ransom money...a bank...safety deposit boxes...post offices *mel stodd's courthouse resataurant *the date 1950 is used...so story "present" is after that *plato's bar on 5th street *the 2-acre man-made lake at catton's private lodge a note on the narration there is that prologue, one page, the setting is unclear...someone speaking to a commission, sounds like a prosecuting attorney. the remainder of the story is divided by chapter, each chapter told from the p.o.v. of a character in the story, the first from lee bronson's pov, followed by johnny keefler, the 3rd from lucille bronson's pov. 4 is danny bronson...5 is paul verney...6 is john keefler...7 is lucille bronson...8 is lee bronson...9 is ben wixler later in january this story, told 3rd-person through the eyes of the individual characters, the chapters titled from that perspective, is like another macdonald story, this one from 1954, All These Condemned, although that story is told 1st-person, each chapter titled from the p.o.v. of a character within the story. names characters major minor real imagined peripheral *lee bronson, 29-year-old, married to lucille, a korean war veteran, graduate of columbia graduate school, he is an instructor at brookton junior college where he is in his 3rd year. keefler has taken over richardson's cases *a young punk...to do w/keefler *nurse in hospital *jerry bronson: father of lee and danny bronson. when jerry the 1st husband died, she married *rudy fernandez...and he was killed then she hooked up with a slob named *cowley...when lee was 12, danny 15, cowley died of a heart attack *nick bouchard: a gangster type...crossed the syndicate and was eliminated...danny worked for him *nick's lawyers...helped lee on an assault charge *kennedy...took over after nick is out of the picture *three sons, lucille only daughter, of the detteriches' *a couple at sonny's bar...when danny was there *fitch, a big shot banker from detroit...the male of the couple at sonny's bar *two boys who were following her...lucille *uncle rog, lucille's uncle...who calls her "seel", mother's brother *dr. *red annlie was the chieftain of the rough gang of boys *gilbert "gil" peter kowalsik, hank rillyer, stubs rollins, theodore "tooey" gennetti, and pete casey...abused johnny keefler...they were all killed, eventually *hank rillyer...one of above..sliced open uncle mose *interns *three enlisted men in the eight air force, london...to do w/keefler *mr paul keller...beaten by keefler as a patrol cop...to do w/a stolen car, recovered, not taken off the list...keefler stops, beats *corporal richard benedict, keefler's partner at the time *dispatcher *talliaferro...someone keefler will lean on *terry judson...on parole...married...sent back to prison for drinking a beer *bartender...bowling team...to do w/judson *connie judson...terry's wife...keefler is diddling her...because he can *bill holden...movie star of the day...george raft, another...earnest borgnine, yet another...grace kelly, cary grant *earl...ruthie's husband *taffy...a dog...lucille's...killed by a car *the kids next door *burt catton, 60-year-old, in poor health...philanderer...married to a woman half his age, wealthy...the 1st mrs died when she was 61, ethel... she and danny are an item...and it is through her that danny learns of the hot money...she shacks him up at the lodge to keep him away from the parole officer who wants him back in prison *calder downey, father of drusilla *a city official...a party...drusilla's escort at the party *katherine hepburn...a famous actress from the day fore and aft *al altamiro...had his left arm shot off *a runner for bouchard...that danny killed though not with intent...he roughed him up...the man died...other runners took note *specialists...called in to do berman...one called "peashooter" cause he uses colt .22, german silencer *insistent secretary...of paul v...mariam *paul d verney: attorney at law...he and burt catton are trying to "buy" some ransom money that was never recovered, but known, recorded, so it is hot...they get four dollars for each one spent...several hundreds of thousands. *a mile or two from the town of vanderpool, the bodies of the twins were found by an angora goat herder *young man...orangeville...pennsylvania/ohio...youngstown, ohio *a county cop...who made off with the ransom money...somehow...that part of the story is weak...but we'll run with it okay *roger dixon: law school buddy of paul verney...in 1949 detroit...he somehow comes into contact with people who have the ransom money...turns to paul, cause he knows paul is the type *melissa, paul's wife...had a breakdown...in a home *15-year-old boy at a school, paul/melissa *speculator in cleveland *a friend in detroit of roger dixon *"w.w. ward" an alias that paul v uses *two men who had no desire to talk *count and city cops...newspaper people...politicians...courthouse types *will slater, assistant district attorney, former cop, keefley tries to milk information from him...does to a degree *will's friends *"fred" and "tommy"...fictitious names that verney supplies to keefler *will's friends *lew...a nineteen-year-old that lucille bronson wouldn't mind diddling, if she hasn't already, ruthie knows...guy hangs out at the pool *sergeant ben wixler: left college in 1942, enlisted army, went ocs...company b, infantry, of course, europe. widower...lives with a married daughter, son-in-law...a prosperous corporative executive *randy...bursar's office *instructors, assistant professors, associate professors *a friend...sent him two already...haughton has...and will send lee down the road to a new job is he loses the one he has not *ruy lopez...as in chess openings etc *sergeant foltz *two uniformed men...one is billy *matthews...next up the chain of command, presumably, above wixler *beth wixler, ben's wie, pregnant with the 4th child *hank, brother of beth *eleanor, hank's wife *striker...was chief of police when ben wixler started as cop *homicide headed by captain roeber, health declining *assistant section head, homicide, lieutenant gabby grey...not up to the task of being in charge...wixler as sergeant is up to the job *james purvis, new chief of police *inspector wendell "wendy" matthews *shorty cullin, patrol cop *detective al spence *curious neighbors had gathered...a uniformed officer *catelli and roemer...lab techs, homicide *frenchie...another lab tech coming in his own car...last name, possibly duchesne *tormey, another patrol cop *billy sullivan, a crime reporter for the hancock ledger...and a "speed graphic" is in the scene...a camera? jack young...owner of the convertible (this didn't make sense...seemed like a loose end...macdonald didn't explain this well enough...where this car came from...why it is in the story) *sheriff...specialists...a taxi driver...baker, a patrol cop...three husky troopers, pants shoes socks off wading in the muck *a contractor...used by catton *guy who used to bust down doors in vice time passages there is a small short sweet time passages in this one...to repeat, time passages is when a character uses their imagination in whatever way is possible.
I know that's not entirely fair, but his Travis McGee books are what I love. You have to love it when a hardboiled mystery writer spends an entire book telling you about his cats.
It's uttered by Lee's mentor and boss, Dr. Ellis Haughton, the aging dean at the junior college, a voice of discernment and reason. At one point, Haughton says to Lee: "I have one more bit of advice.
As I said, this book has it all and what's more, MacDonald wraps it all up in a thoroughly good read.
The book chains through a half dozen characters, beginning with a college professor who clawed his way out of the slum, to the parole officer looking for the professor's criminal brother, to the professor's wife, to the brother, to a lawyer, and a cop. MacDonald draws interesting characters, giving them motivations and back stories.
The technique ensures that the character development isn't shallow, but it's all set-up and very little action for a long time.
But considering the sheer volume of work MacDonald was pouring out at the time, it's a pretty good read.