Sunday, 16 December 2012

‘Jane explained’: the literary genius of Philip MacDonald

My personal Philip MacDonald literary festival continues. This writer is proving so terrific I just bought another one of his novels: The Rynox Mystery. I will read  it and report back.
I just finished reading Patrol (see earlier posts) and I’m seriously impressed. 

Patrol kept surprising me, right up until the end. I couldn’t guess what was going to happen, and there were at least two sequences of enormous suspense. Interspersed with violent action, brutal surprises and — for my taste — just a little too much colourful characterisation.

A riveting read.

Any downsides? Well, I suppose you could argue it was borderline racist now and then. But those soldiers, in those days, would have held exactly those attitudes.

Plus wouldn’t you be a little ticked off by a wily invisible foe who was slaughtering your comrades, one by one? Unacceptable language might creep forth now and then.

A worse sin was MacDonald’s insistence on spelling dialect voices phonetically.
Plus… the annoying habit… of using… too many… ellipses… which are those three little dots…

But as far as I can see, none of these imperfections mar X v Rex written some five years later. Which I’m currently reading. And which is a cracker. 

In fact I’m on page 99 and I’ve just come across a great piece of writing. It’s two words.

 Jane explained.

And with those two words, Philip MacDonald (writing here under the pen name Martin Porlock) has saved acres and acres of exposition.

It’s a tiny genuine flash of pure writing genius.

A true craftsman at work.


  1. Another interesting and informative article.
    I really enjoy reading your blog.
    I hope that you have a happy Christmas.
    Don't forget to leave some catnip for you cats under the Christmas tree.
    Best regards.

  2. By the way, the above comment should read:
    "Don't forget to leave some catnip for your cats.." as opposed to " you cats" (which sounds like a cool expression from a Bebop musician).