08 November 2013

Munro, Bellow, Millar, Macdonald and Identity

I Die Slowly [The Dark Tunnel]

Kenneth Millar
New York: Lion, 1955
222 pages
This review now appears, revised and rewritten, in my new book:
The Dusty Bookcase:
A Journey Through Canada's
Forgotten, Neglected, and Suppressed Writing
Available at the very best bookstores and through


  1. What a lovely piece, Brian. Interesting to note how many of his initial themes would turn up in his future novels: the college setting, the family problems, the Trips to Europe for various reasons. I love Millar more but he is nearly her equal.

    1. Thank you, Patti. You know I share your admiration of Margaret Millar. She and Gabrielle Roy were the finest Canadian novelists of their generation.

  2. I was out of town when this was posted and just saw it today.

    The Dark Tunnel...a homosexual spy...is this title meant to be wry, witty and ironic???

    1. I'm at a loss. The only thing I can say is that our hero does run down a dark tunnel - twice - as depicted on the cover of the first edition. You gotta admire the artist's use of perspective.


  3. In studying the Lew Archer novels of Ross Macdonald I’ve tried to identify certain characteristics, themes, motifs, images – call them what you like – that crop up frequently throughout the various books. I don’t claim that the following are particularly important or have any special significance or meaning; nor do I say this is a comprehensive list. They are simply some things I’ve noticed in more than one of the novels.

  4. Rather than reading the Archer stories solely as mysteries, thrillers, entertainments, and detective stories (though of course they can exist solely on that level for readers who are interested in them as such), we’d do ourselves a favor to consider them in a few other ways as well. In the massive reference work World Authors 1950-1970, published by the H.H. Wilson Company, Macdonald wrote that The Galton Case and Black Money “are probably my most complete renderings of the themes of smothered allegiance and uncertain identity which my work inherited from my early years.” Of course, in Black Money the smothered allegiance occurs between the lovers Ginny Fablon and Tappinger.