Saturday, May 15, 2010

A relevant novel

Sleeping Beauty by Ross Macdonald. (1973)
Synopsis: She walked into the West L.A. night with a bottle of sleeping pills in her hand. The problem for Lew Archer was that she had taken the pills from him and was in the mood to use them. Her family was behind a huge oil spill that lapped like blood against the California coast, while a 30-year-old family secret refused to stay buried beneath all that money and power. Now the girl was missing, two men were dead, and there was oil everywhere.
I coincidentally had just finished re-reading this fine novel inspired by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, when the Gulf oil platform exploded. It opens with private investigator Lew Archer returning from a brief vacation in Mexico, jet flying low over an out-of-control offshore spill as it banks & descends into Los Angeles. Archer, like most fictional Californian detectives after Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe, has an appreciative, descriptive eye for scenery. Before Archer goes home, he drives to the coast for a closer look at the disaster, & the ineffective attempts to stop the spreading oil & cap the well. The spill provides the background for the increasingly complex tale, & at the conclusion the well is still gushing.oil on to the beaches.

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