This week I salute the late Lawrence Sanders.
Now, here at the beginning it may seem I don’t like him because, to be honest, I didn’t completely enjoy his Deadly Sin and Commandment series. Detective Francis Xavier was and interesting character, especially with the fascinating sandwiches and meals he concocted. However, I felt there was a lot of extraneous material and I was only interested when he managed to get around to actual detecting; I only kept going on some of the books because I just had to know who did the misdeed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get through one book-I don’t recall the title-when after a few chapters, the story just wasn’t going anywhere, and I decided to read something else. The only thing I got out of that book was an interesting meal called a ragu. I tried the recipe and the meal was pretty tasty.
His biggest hits were the Archibald McNally novels. I absolutely loved those books. They made me laugh and both love and get angry at the main character. First off, who taught him how to dress? The god-awful combination of clothes he donned everyday was just atrocious. Beyond gaudy.
He loved food, liquor and women and not necessarily in that order.
He thought nothing of dallying around (read: boinking) many of his female clients or female villains, but became jealous when his girlfriend fooled around-or even hinted at fooling around-with some other man.
He kept in shape by swimming a couple of miles per day in the ocean (although at times I longed for a shark to come bite him on the butt because he was being an ass in the previous chapter), but smoked and drank daily.
He drove a cool car, but lived and dined with his parents. His father, a lawyer, only handled big money and his mother was one step up from a ditz who preferred to tend her flower beds.
His friends were wonderfully naïve or snobbish or both.
Archie was a rogue, a scoundrel, a liar, a sneak, a cheater. He was such a bad boy sometimes, but you always came back for more.
I loved the McNally books and I wish Sanders had lived longer to write more. Vincent Lardo continued with a few more McNally books after Sanders died. They were very well written and many times the style was very Sanders-ish, especially when it came to language and phraseology. He has moved onto other series, and I wish he’d write a few more McNally.
McNally’s stories weren’t gruesome or gory. Yes, there were dead bodies, but you didn’t read about spilling innards or ragged pieces of flesh. The language was risqué and lighthearted and jovial and good-natured. The characters were funny, witty, unique. The stories took you to a land of money and wealth, but showed a slightly cynical side to high society because the stories never really took themselves seriously. McNally wasn’t the world-weary, hard-boiled detective. There were traces of Archie Goodwin, Richard Diamond, Vincent Price’s Saint, but nobody would confuse Archibald McNally with anyone else. He was his own man.
Read any of the McNally series from both Sanders and Lardo and you will not be disappointed.