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The Dark Tunnel

Tekijä: Ross Macdonald

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1682163,618 (3.22)5
On the home front, two wartime lovers reunite under a cloud of paranoia in this thriller from Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Ross Macdonald In 1937 Munich, an American must be careful when he smokes his pipe. Robert Branch, a careless academic, makes the mistake of lighting up when the Führer is about to begin a procession, and nearly gets pummeled for his mistake. Only the timely intervention of Ruth Esch, a flame-haired actress, saves him. So begins a month-long romance between East and West--a torrid affair that ends when the lovers make the mistake of defending a Jew, earning Branch a beating and Esch a trip to a concentration camp.   Six years later, Esch escapes to Vichy and makes her way to Detroit. To her surprise, Branch is waiting for her. He is a professor, working for the war effort, and his paranoia about a spy inside the Motor City war board sours their reunion. Once again, a dangerous net is encircling these lovers--a reminder that, in this war, love always comes second to death.… (lisätietoja)
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näyttää 2/2
review of
Ross MacDonald's The Dark Tunnel
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 22, 2020

I learned of Ross MacDonald's existence at the end of 2018 & read 3 bks by him in quick succession wch I very much enjoyed (The Chill: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2599283403 ; The Far Side of the Dollar: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2609949502 ; The Barbarous Coast: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2643712696 ). Then I cdn't find any more used copies of his bks at Caliban, my favorite bkstore, so my reading of him languished. My luck turned recently, though, when I went to Caliban & found 15 of the little buggers waiting for my eager mind to ingest.

It's odd timing b/c for these last 2 yrs I've been largely trying to plow thru ± 8 bks that've been important to me for one reason or another but wch I haven't really been enjoying. As such, I've finished ONE of them & reviewed it but I'm still plowing thru the others. The side-effect of this is that the temptation to read MacDonald leads to the possibility of setting those more turgid bks aside.. but I'm resisting. I read 2 more MacDonalds, found them exceptional, but now I won't 'allow' myself the luxury of any more until I get some more 'serious' reading done. I do have my priorities, doncha know?!

So this one: I'm reading the 15 recent MacDonald acquisitions in chronological order. I started w/ The Dark Tunnel (1944) b/c it seems to be his 1st novel. Since it was written during WWII it's no surprise that it's an anti-nazi spy novel. Despite the possible genericness of that I enjoyed it.

The main character wants to join the navy but fails the eye test b/c his eye was damaged in a fight w/ nazis when he was visiting Germany many yrs before.

"I had to trek nearly the whole length of the room before I could read the smallest letters at the bottom of the card.

""Not so good," the yeoman said. "How do you account for the comparative weakness of your left eye?? Did anything ever happen to it?"

""Yes," I said. An old anger woke up and moved to my stomach. "A Nazi officer hit me across the face with his swagger stick in Munich six years ago. That eye's never been the same since."

""No wonder you want to get into this war," he said. "But I'm afraid the Navy won't take you. Maybe the Army will, I don't know."

""What's my score?"

""Not good enough, I'm sorry to say. Your right eye just about makes the grade but your left is way down. Too bad."" - p 5

As a 1st novel, this is quite good. Kenneth Millar, MacDonald's given name that he was using as an author at the time, wd've been 28 when he wrote it & it seems to show some experience w/ the world. A sympathetic character that he meets in Germany when the story of his visit there is told, is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) so the author's politics is considerably wiser than any patriotic glop one might expect from a wartime thriller.

""I've enough personal crimes to answer for without assuming responsiblility for the crimes of my ancestors," Franz said, smiling like a precocious boy. "My ancestors were in the aristocracy racket."

""And you've been in the United States," I said.

""Apparently I still talk United States adequately. Sure, I lived in California for several years. They deported me for being a Wobbly. That's one of my crimes."

""A Wobbly? You're older than you look."" - pp 28-29

The protagonist has been given reason to suspect that certain people may be Nazi spies. He gets into a discussion about morality w/ one of them.

"["]I distrust the feelings of men in general. I subscribe to the doctrine of original sin."

""I hadn't thought of you as a religious man, Mr. Schneider," I said in the hope of insulting him. "You'd base your ethics in dogma or revelation then, would you?"

""Of course not, I was speaking figuratively. I base morality in the common good. If you act for the common good, you are doing the right thing."

""Whose common good?"

""The good of the community. The political group or state, whatever group that happens to be."

""Is there not morality above the state?"

""Obviously not. Morality varies from place to place. In Russia it is not considered moral to deprive colored people of civil rights. In America and India it is considered moral."

""That merely proves that the state or community can be wrong."" - p 51

""You are an unconsious anarchist, Dr. Branch. You would set up the feeling or impulses of the individual against the laws, against the good of the state."

""If the laws are evil, they are not for the good of the state. Denying the validity of the individual conscience leaves no check on the state. Whatever it does is right."" - p 52

Interesting dinner conversation, eh? The presumed Nazi spy accuses the protagonist hero, Professor Branch, of being an "unconscious anarchist" while Branch sees himself as upholding American values. That wd've been a somewhat unusual position for a crime fiction writer during WWII to take in the US. I respect it. & what sorts of things might a Nazi spy be after & for what reasons?

"["]A smart German who knew all about our A S T P courses and could correlate the knowledge with information from other sources could figure out a hell of a lot. He could predict with a reasonable amount of accuracy a lot of the things that we'll be doing five years from now in Europe."

""In 1948? The war will be over long before then."

""No doubt it will, but the Nazis won't be finished if they can help it. Himmler's boys are laying plans now for carrying on underground even after Germany loses the war. But they're not going to get any more information from us."" - p 70

Now, here's one of those odd little details that gets my attn:

"["]Incidentally, you're not Edgar B. Hoover but I understand you're hot on the spoor of some spies."" - p 73

Not J. Edgar Hoover? Nowhere in the Wikipedia entry for John Edgar Hoover do I find a mention of "Edgar B. Hoover" but a search for EBH yielded the predictable JEH. From wch I conclude that JEH was actually President Rump from the waist up & President Bid from the waist down. Then again, maybe J. Edgar just wasn't that well known at the time & the author made a mistake?

"I wanted to tell him that he was acting pretty cocky for a dumb cop that didn't know one of his most important body openings from an excavation in the earth. But I also wanted his co-operation and I let him leer." - p 122

It's nice to know that the expression doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground was active in 1944.. but what if I'm reading that wrong? What if what's meant is doesn't know his navel from an open grave? That wd have a hole [pun intended] different set of philosophical implications. Perhaps it means doesn't know his history from a phone book, remember them?

"The making of a historical dictionary is a long process. For five years Alec had been co-editor of the Middle English Dictionary, with a dozen people working under him. One thing his death meant was that the Dictionary would have to find a new editor. I had never had anything to do with the Dictionary directly, but Alec had given me a general idea of it.

"It was intended to put in print, for the first time, in ten handy volumes weighing about fifteen pounds each, all the meanings of all the words written in English between the death of William the Conqueror and the time of Caxton, the first English printer. This meant that the editors and sub-editors and infra-editors had to read all the books and manuscripts remaining from four hundred years of English writing. They had to keep a file of every word read and examples of every use of every word. That is the first half of the process of making a historical dictionary." - pp 132-133

Yes, I'm the type of person who actually gets excited thinking about such a thing. I collect dictionaries, I don't have any historical ones. So, yeah, I had to start looking online & decided to get this:

A Concise Dictionary of Middle English : From A. D. 1150 To 1580 by Walter William Skeat and Anthony Lawson Mayhew:

THIS IS NOT A HASTILY ASSEMBLED SCAN, OCR'd OR "FACSIMILE EDITION" OF THIS WORK. EVERY LETTER AND WORD OF THE ORIGINAL HAS BEEN RESET AND CAREFULLY PROOFED FOR ACCURACY. A reprint of A Concise Dictionary of Middle English (1888) by the prominent Middle English scholars and lexicographers Rev. A. L. Mayhew, M.A. of Wadham College, Oxford, and Rev. Walter W. Skeat, Litt.D.; LL.D. Edin.; M.A. Oxon., Ellington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in the University of Cambridge. This Dictionary will easily pave the way for a clearer understanding of the birth of modern English while providing the medieval English reader with an invaluable resource for tackling all of the important English texts published between 1150 to 1580 A.D. It is also a perfect companion to the John Wycliffe Middle English translation of The Holy Bible published through R A SITES BOOKS. Originally published by Oxford at the Clarendon Press, this long out-of-print Middle English Dictionary is newly available with type entirely reset. This edition should not be confused with other significantly pricier "facsimile" editions or "scanned" editions which do not preserve the original Middle English and Greek alphabet characters of the original book.

I mean, how cd I resist?

Do you remember "The Fugitive"? A TV show about a guy wrongfully accused constantly on the run trying to exonerate himself? Well, of course, that sort of thing is fairly common. It's taken to the usual extreme here.

"Before I reached the head of the stairs, I heard a police whistle.

"I was a fool. He could whistle out of the window. But what could I have done to him? Tie and gag him? Sure, and suffer for it later. But I had his gun." - p 138

"I dropped my flashlight and scrambled up the ladder and got the iron door at the top open. The door from the tunnel sprang open below and I slammed the iron door shut. Two bullets rang flatly against it like the knocking of iron knuckles, and I jumped onto a black hill which loomed outside the door." - p 145

For at least the last 20 yrs I've been saying that if Hitler had needed to self-declare as a 'liberal' to gain power he wd have. During this time of the QUARANTYRANNY I've been particularly disgusted by the way that liberals have embraced Big Brother & censorship. As such, I enjoyed this next passage.

""It's something I can't understand, how scholars like Dr. Schneider, devotees of the humanities, can sink to such a level."

""Pro patria. They're Germans. One-third of the officers of the Nazi party are school-teachers, or used to be. But I can't understand the Esch woman." I tried to think and talk about her as impersonally as I could. "When I knew her in Germany she was liberal to the core."" - p 202

Wwweeeeeelllllllllll, as it turns out Branch was full of water (97%) on this one subject.. but I don't want to spoil the plot. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
It was an interesting mystery, set in a midwestern university toward the tail end of World War II and involving a Nazi spy ring and some dead people, until the last ten pages when an out-of-nowhere homophobia reared its head. Maybe it was a commentary on the bigotry of the time, but if it was, it was too subtle for me. ( )
  wearyhobo | Jun 22, 2020 |
näyttää 2/2
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Detroit is usually hot and sticky in the summer, and in the winter the snow in the streets is like a dirty, worn-out blanket.
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The Dark Tunnel was republished in 1955 under the title I Die Slowly.
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

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On the home front, two wartime lovers reunite under a cloud of paranoia in this thriller from Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Ross Macdonald In 1937 Munich, an American must be careful when he smokes his pipe. Robert Branch, a careless academic, makes the mistake of lighting up when the Führer is about to begin a procession, and nearly gets pummeled for his mistake. Only the timely intervention of Ruth Esch, a flame-haired actress, saves him. So begins a month-long romance between East and West--a torrid affair that ends when the lovers make the mistake of defending a Jew, earning Branch a beating and Esch a trip to a concentration camp.   Six years later, Esch escapes to Vichy and makes her way to Detroit. To her surprise, Branch is waiting for her. He is a professor, working for the war effort, and his paranoia about a spy inside the Motor City war board sours their reunion. Once again, a dangerous net is encircling these lovers--a reminder that, in this war, love always comes second to death.

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