"TO DOROTHY, WITH LOVE. KEN": EXCEPTIONAL PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION FIRST EDITION OF RENOWNED CRIME WRITER ROSS MACDONALD'S FIRST NOVEL, DARK TUNNEL, PUBLISHED UNDER HIS BIRTH NAME OF KENNETH MILLAR, WARMLY INSCRIBED BY HIM TO THE SISTER OF HIS WIFE MARGARET MILLAR
(MACDONALD, Ross) MILLAR, Kenneth. The Dark Tunnel. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1944. Octavo, original red cloth, original dust jacket. $38,000.
First edition of the first novel by Macdonald, famed for his Lew Archer series, presentation/association copy inscribed by him to his sister-in-law, Dorothy Schlagel, "To Dorothy, with love, Ken," with her owner signature opposite. When Macdonald was struggling with his first Lew Archer novel, Moving Target, Dorothy offered him the quiet of her home when she was at work, and again when he wrote The Way Some People Die. An exceptional rarity, the first inscribed copy we have encountered.
At his death in 1983 Kenneth Millar, writing as Ross Macdonald, "was the best-known and most highly regarded crime-fiction writer in America… Some critics ranked Macdonald among the best American novelists of his generation" (New York Times). Known for his Lew Archer novels, Macdonald "is regarded as the successor to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett." His first novel, Dark Tunnel, is the first of only four novels issued under his birth name, Kenneth Millar. He adopted the pen names of John Macdonald and John Ross Macdonald before taking the name of Ross Macdonald. Dark Tunnel, written while he was working on a doctorate at the University of Michigan, was hailed on publication "as the debut of an important new novelist in the suspense field. The Boston Globe called it 'breathtaking,' the New Republic said it was 'a humdinger,' the New York Times described it as 'a thrilling story told with consummate skill'… the praise was justified. Few first novels of any type are as polished, professional and powerful as this one."
Written in the hard-boiled tradition, Dark Tunnel adds "elements of the literary, the scholarly, the lyrical… Like all of Macdonald's work, it is a novel of insight, ambition and social commentary disguised as pure entertainment… a tribute to the talent and vision of Kenneth Millar and his alter ego, Ross Macdonald" (Bill Pronzini). "By any standard Macdonald was remarkable… His influence on a generation of mystery writers was profound" (New York Times). Bruccoli Checklist, 1-2. Bruccoli & Layman, 243. Hubin II:573. Reilly, 987. Magill III:1134-1140. With owner signature of recipient Dorothy Schlagel, the sister of Margaret Millar who, like Macdonald, was known for skillfully crafted mysteries. "More so than Patricia Highsmith, Millar was the most accomplished pioneer of the psychological thriller or novel of domestic suspense" (Irish Times). Ross Macdonald "chose a pseudonym because his wife achieved recognition as the writer named Millar first. 'By going on ahead and breaking trail," her husband wrote of their intertwined careers, 'she helped to make it possible for me to become a novelist, as perhaps her life with me had helped to make it possible for her'" (Los Angeles Times). Macdonald was close to Schlagel and her husband, and would recall that while writing his first Lew Archer novel, Moving Target (1949), he sought the quiet of her home while she was at work, and later "rode over every morning on a motor scooter" to her house to write his 1953 novel, The Way Some People Die (Foreword, Archer in Hollywood, viii). With laid-in color photograph of Macdonald signing a book.
Book fine; small loss to rear flap, early tape repairs to verso of extremely good dust jacket trimmed 1/4-inch at lower edge minimally affecting imprint. A highly desirable presentation copy with a rare association.