I recently read three old detective mysteries in a row, starting with the hardest boiled, Mickey Spillane’s I, The Jury. The plot wasn’t bad, it was a page-turner. It went a little overboard with the gratuitous violence: the private eye would beat up anyone who looked at him funny, and get away with it. He was out of control. Anyway, worth reading for the experience and comparison with other styles.
Then I read The Ferguson Affair by Ross MacDonald. This was more medium boiled. Also well-plotted, except for a couple contrivances near the end. I’ve read one of his earlier mysteries and liked it, and this did not change my opinion. I don’t think you can go wrong with any Ross MacDonald mystery.
Finally I read The Spanish Cape Mystery by Ellery Queen. The softest boiled style of the three, in fact the style is quite formal and literary. It is rife with literary allusions to Greek mythology, Shakespeare, and many other classic writers and philosophers. It is stimulating and witty. The most interesting device is that Ellery Queen himself, in the role of private detective, is the protagonist of the story! That device works very well, adds a lot of charm. This was my favorite of the three novels, it was utterly spellbinding, and I will go back to the library for more Ellery Queen very soon. Enjoy!
Chuck – As you know, I’m a huge mystery fan. Of the 3 you mention, I prefer Ross MacDonald. I also love John D. MacDonald (probably no relation, but I’m not sure). At one time, I had read all of John D. MacDonald’s books. I don’t know if he’s still alive and writing, but I doubt it. I like your comparison. I guess I prefer medium-boiled. If you haven’t read any John D. MacDonald, you definitely should, preferably the Travis McGee series. Travis is a unique combination of hard and soft-boiled. I guess that would make him medium-boiled as well..
Pat – When I’m at the library I’ll look for John D. MacDonald, I’m anxious to read him. So many books, so little time!