A pleasant surprise, courtesy of the Washington Post and my friend Ann

April 17, 2012 at 1:09 am (California, Magazines and newspapers, Mystery fiction)

Today I had lunch with my intellectual buddies.  At one point in our always lively conversation, one of the group, Ann, turned to me and remarked: ” I read your piece in the Post yesterday.” I looked at her in astonishment. My…what? She went on to explain the subject matter, and then the nickel dropped, though I was still amazed: “You mean, they printed it?”

In fact, the reference was to a letter I’d written to the Washington Post about five weeks ago in connection with an article on literary landmarks in Los Angeles that appeared in the March 11 Sunday magazine. I received no acknowledgement from the paper – not so much as an auto-responder – and so I assumed that my missive had fallen into the proverbial bit bucket, never to be seen from that time forth.

I was away this past weekend, and although I did receive yesterday’s paper, I hadn’t had a chance to read it. Hence, my bewilderment at Ann’s comment.

The column in which my letter appears is called, “Your Turn: Reader reactions.” It contains two letters; mine is the second.  Newspapers and magazines always warn you that letters sent to them might be edited, and so it was in this case. Here’s the full text of what I actually wrote (should you be interested):

I very much enjoyed “City of Angles” Bill Thomas (WP Magazine, March 11, 2012). I do wish, though, that Thomas had mentioned Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer series. MacDonald’s depiction of mid-twentieth century southern California as a land of material riches and  moral and spiritual bankruptcy has rarely been equaled. His mix of noir cynicism with an empathetic view of human vulnerability makes for a strangely heartbreaking reading experience. Here’s a quote from The Zebra-Striped Hearse:

“The striped hearse was standing empty among some other cars off the highway above Zuma. I parked behind it and went down to the beach to search for its owner. Bonfires were scattered along the shore, like the bivouacs of nomad tribes or nuclear war survivors. The tide was high and the breakers loomed up marbled black and fell white out of oceanic darkness.”

Your readers might also be interested to know that in 2009, two American mystery writers and a French journalist made a starting discovery:: Some sixteen minutes into Double Indemnity, Raymond Candler makes a brief uncredited appearance. How strange it is that some sixty-five years after the film’s initial release (and after years of intense study of this landmark film noir), the presence of this cameo should first be detected and reported by two unrelated parties in different countries. Follow this link to an article in The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/jun/05/raymond-chandler-double-indemnity-cameo

Also, the scene in question appears in a YouTube video, at normal speed and in slow motion: http://youtu.be/vN9THMXxndw

Ross MacDonald 1915-1983

Still, all in all, I got a chance to sing the praises of Ross MacDonald, a writer whose work I deeply admire.

I also took the opportunity to present my own take on literary Los  Angeles in a post entitled Los Angeles in literature.


  1. Mike Duffy said,

    Nice job, Roberta! (I noticed in my past PIO work that the Post wasn’t so great on acknowledgment and official recognition with the happy exception of the Howard County bureau reporters over the years.)

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Thanks, Mike!

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