Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kathleen Sharp On Margaret Millar

Faithful readers already know that I am unabashed in my admiration for the mystery novelist Margaret Millar. One of the great noir writers, she wrote intensely psychological novels that hummed with energy and crackled with sharp, witty prose. I've spent years browbeating friends into reading masterpieces like DO EVIL IN RETURN and THE IRON GATES. (Allow me to take this opportunity, my friends, to encourage you to find yourself a copy of one or both of these books.) Millar was prolific and incredibly diverse--though the latter quality, while admirable, is often cited by her admirers as the reason that she's not better known today. A lot of mystery writers, even great ones, tend to be one trick ponies, but Margaret Millar wasn't a "series detective" kind of gal. You truly do not know what you're going to get when you read one of her books. (DO EVIL IN RETURN and THE IRON GATES, for example, have little in common apart from sheer genius.) All you know is that a Millar novel will be good, maybe even great. Sentence for sentence, book for book, she was just about the best American crime writer of the postwar era.

Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, the writer Kathleen Sharp has a fantastic piece on Millar's life and work. It is essential reading for Millar fanatics. (A reviewer once noted that "Millar doesn't attract fans; she creates addicts.") Sharp's essay is the single best thing I've read on Millar, and it makes me hope that she's working on a full length biography.

Read The Dangerous Housewife: Santa Barbara's Margaret Millar here.

PS. There is an error in Sharp's otherwise excellent piece that I should probably point out--I have feeling that other Millar fanatics will take me to task if I don't. She incorrectly describes THE IRON GATES as a gothic novel about abortion. It's neither a gothic novel nor is it about abortion.   

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