1915 - 1983 (67 years)
||Kenneth "Ross MacDonald" Millar |
||13 Dec 1915
||Los Gatos, Santa Clara, California, United States [1, 2]
||, Canada 
||, Canada 
||Ross McDonald |
||32 Brubacher St., Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
||Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada 
|Eby ID Number
||11 Jul 1983
||Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, USA 
||26 Nov 2023 |
||John MacDonald "Jack" Millar, b. 30 Aug 1873, Riversdale, Greenock Twp., Bruce Co., Ontario , d. 1936 (Age 62 years) |
||Annie Moyer, b. 1 Aug 1875, Carrick Twp., Bruce Co., Ontario, Canada , d. 26 Jan 1936, London, Middlesex, Ontario, Canada (Age 60 years) |
||Calgary, Alberta, Canada 
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
||Marguerite Ellis "Margaret Sturm, b. 5 Feb 1915, Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada , d. 26 Mar 1994, Montecito, Santa Barbara, California, United States (Age 79 years) |
||26 Nov 2023 |
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
- Ross Macdonald is the pseudonym of the American-Canadian writer of crime fiction Kenneth Millar (December 13, 1915 – July 11, 1983). He is best known for his series of hardboiled novels set in southern California and featuring private detective Lew Archer. Millar was born in Los Gatos, California, and raised in his parents' native Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, where he started college. When his father abandoned his family unexpectedly, Macdonald lived with his mother and various relatives, moving several times by his sixteenth year. The prominence of broken homes and domestic problems in his fiction has its roots in his youth.
Flash From the Past: Famous 20th century private eye is rooted in Kitchener
Which Kitchener author has sold the most books? *
By rych mills Special to the Record
Incorrect guesses have ranged from Edna Staebler (Schmecks) to David Morrell (Rambo); from David Chilton (Wealthy Barber) to Mabel Dunham (Trail of the Conestoga). The actual winner isn't readily recognizable because only four early novels bore his real name - Kenneth Millar. His primary nom-de-plume is more familiar \emdash Ross Macdonald. But his private eye's name gives the game away \emdash Lew Archer.
Through 18 novels, numerous short stories, radio productions and several films (two starring Paul Newman as Lew Harper), Archer became the dominant private investigator during the late 1940s to mid-1970s
And Archer's roots curl back here to Kitchener.
Biographies by Tom Nolan, Matthew Bruccoli, Paul Nelson and Kevin Avery cover Millar's entire career. Each outlines the Kitchener years but Nolan devotes 40 pages to an exhaustive look at Ken's Kitchener world ... and it's not a pretty picture.
Growing up with dysfunctional, separated parents, Millar (1915-1983) spent several periods in Kitchener, as well as California, Vancouver, Medicine Hat, Winnipeg and Wiarton. In 1920, Annie Moyer Miller brought young Ken to her mother's house at 32 Brubacher, a dour, repressive environment that Ken evaded as much as possible. Not quite a stereotypical juvenile delinquent, Ken could be labelled a juvenile bookworm delinquent. He frequented pool halls, gambling rooms (yes, even in 1920s Kitchener) as much as bookstores and the Kitchener Public Library (KPL).
The most famous story \emdash perhaps apocryphal although I prefer to believe it \emdash combines both sides of his addictions. One day at MacCallum's billiard parlour/newsstand he discovered a hard-hitting crime novel by Dashiell Hammett. Later, he asked KPL's Mabel Dunham why Hammett's books were not stocked. They were, she said, but in a restricted area not accessible to the public. While Ken's intellectual mind was outraged, his criminal mind was engaged. After closing, he snuck in, found KPL's restricted area with authors such as Faulkner, Hemingway, Flaubert and Hammett and grabbed an armful. On the way to grandmother's home, he symbolically dumped them into a sewer.
For two years, Ken attended Kitchener Collegiate during which he contributed to the school yearbook, the Grumbler, as both author and literary editor. In 1931, his first published story "South Sea Soup Company" was a Conan Doyle send-up featuring "Herlock Sholmes." In 1932, he was listed on the Grumbler's editorial staff and in "Zuider Zee" introduced "Philo France," to lampoon Philo Vance, a popular New York gumshoe. His final Grumbler story, "To the Damned Their Due," featured an escaped murderer parachuting from a plane only to perish on hydro wires.
After graduating, although motivated by teachers such as Cy Philp and Bill Archer, Ken had no immediate prospects so spent a year working on a farm. Fortunately for his future \emdash and the future of literature \emdash Ken's feckless father died in May 1933 and his insurance policy bought Ken four years of college. During his sole year at Waterloo College, he contributed numerous articles to the school's paper The Cord. Realizing that the small college's faculty knew less than he did, Ken transferred to Western in London for a five-year course in history and English. Again, his knowledge of literature outpaced his professors. The day after graduating from Western, Ken and Kitchenerite Margaret Sturm married and one year later they had a daughter, Linda. Further studies at the University of Michigan led to his doctorate and eventual recognition as one of that university's all-time outstanding graduate students.
Ken and Margaret lived and wrote in California until they died in 1983 and 1994. Three times, they returned to hometown Kitchener, 1948, 1955 and 1971.
Locally, only the Kitchener Public and University of Waterloo libraries have circulating copies of Nolan's book but there are new and used copies on the internet where numerous sites also detail his private and public lives. Although he dropped his surname, it accompanied Ken's writing career step-by-step: his wife Margaret (Sturm) Millar actually authored more mystery novels than her husband over a longer time, 1941 through 1986.
Footnote: * I realize the definition of "Kitchener author" is a moving target: born here? lived here? moved here? educated here? family roots here? Take your pick, but Kenneth Millar can answer yes to four of those five.
Flash From the Past: Famous 20th century private eye is rooted in Kitchener. (2020). Retrieved 10 July 2020, from https://www.therecord.com/life/local-history/2020/07/10/flash-from-the-past-famous-20th-century-private-eye-is-rooted-in-kitchener.html
|Born - 13 Dec 1915 - Los Gatos, Santa Clara, California, United States
|Nationality - - , Canada
|Immigration - 1920 - , Canada
|Residence - Methodist - 1921 - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
|Died - 11 Jul 1983 - Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, USA