Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Who Is Archy McNally?

Have you ever heard of Archy McNally? No? Then you are missing out on some serious entertainment. While Archie might get himself in some sticky situations perhaps serious is too severe a word to describe his pursuits because if anything, you will find yourself grinning if not laughing out loud. You see, Archy McNally is a fictional character in a series of books written by Lawrence Sanders and while not deep literature you will no doubt enjoy these mysteries/adventures.

I have found that I enjoy books where the main characters are so colorful, lively and vulnerable that I wish they actually existed. My son loves these books largely I suppose because of Archy's playboy image, sheer quirkiness and unapologetically rakish style.

Archy works in his father's law firm McNally & Son in the department of Discreet Inquiries. Dressed in a rather unconventional and uniquely natty fashion, Archy conducts investigations on behalf of the moneyed Palm Beach set, discreetly of course. What do I mean by unconventional? Well Archy's tastes do trend somewhat toward the eclectic, so he tends to eschew the traditional sober suits and ties ordinarily viewed as standard law firm apparel in favor of more flamboyant dress. Hence one day at work Archie may be decked out in a button down shirt absent the tie, blazer with bone toggles instead of buttons and bally shoes with no socks. Another he could be observed in slacks, polo shirt, blazer and a white beret.

If my choice of words seems a bit grandiloquent then perhaps I am being influenced by Sanders. He imbued Archie with an amusing sort of glib pretentiousness that does not offend but rather enhances both our appreciation of him and his own sardonic wit. So Archie rarely uses simple sentences, instead he employs verbs that excite and adjectives that embellish with rhythm to match. From the very first page we are drawn to his style whether it is when he asks " You think me a misanthrope?" or when he declares "Occasionally my behaviour reminded me of that apothegm of the theatre: "Good acting demands absolute sincerity and if you can fake it you've got it made."

This is not surprising given Archy's Ivy League's education at Yale law, abridged though it was. His failure to complete should not be ascribed to his deficient intellect however, but to - shall we say - youthful indiscretion as he streaked across the stage during a performance by the NY Philharmonic wearing nothing but a Richard Nixon mask. No wonder he is now ensconced in an office the size of a handkerchief.

The original author Sanders is now deceased but the series continues with Archy though in a somewhat less spontaneous form. It is still a fair effort by author Vincent Lombardo. Thus there is no need to ask who or indeed where is Archy McNally as thankfully he is still a lively character motoring around Palm Beach in his red Miata, just not living.

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