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Blue city (Corgi books)

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld (1962)
  • ASIN: B0000CLBYO
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Format: Paperback
Ross Macdonald is best known for his novels starring Lew Archer, a private eye in the Philip Marlowe mould, who plies his trade amongst the idle rich in sun-drenched southern California. However, before the advent of Archer, Macdonald wrote four earlier tales of a wholly different nature, under his real name of Kenneth Millar, and this is one of them.

BLUE CITY was first published in 1947 and has been out of print for some time. Its reappearance now should cause many to reconsider the work of Ross Macdonald, for what we have here is a tough chunk of NOIR writing set in the mean streets of an unspecified mid-Western city.

The hero has returned from the war in Europe to his home town to learn that his father has been killed. His search for the murderers leads him into the dark world of sleazy night-clubs, hookers, dealers, and corrupt police and politicians. The picture of depravity the author paints could almost form a backdrop for the later work of David Goodis, and the contrast with the radiant scenery of the Archer novels couldn't be greater. With sparkling post-Chandler dialogue and strikingly descriptive brush-strokes, Macdonald has produced a fast-moving hardboiled NOIR masterpiece which by far outshines most other crime novels of the period.

The publishers deserve praise for resurrecting this forgotten classic, which is unreservedly recommended.
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By KaleHawkwood TOP 100 REVIEWER on 26 July 2012
Format: Paperback
I read this helter-skelter masterpiece greedily, hardly believing I`d lived without its angry, brittle brilliance for so long. While I wouldn`t be so rash as to place Blue City on a par with Fitzgerald`s Gatsby or Richard Yates` Easter Parade, two of the last century`s truly great prose fictions, it is almost in that league.
Ross MacDonald wrote a lot of books, and I have many still to read. To think this was only his third novel, written in 1947 when he was, like his protagonist, not long back from the war, is surprising enough (though it does have a certain air of overwraught preachiness at times, which only manages to add to its richness) but this is not just any old crime novel, it`s a book borne out of anger at the post-war depravity and corruption the author - or at least his high-strung hero - sees all around him on his return to his (unnamed) hometown somewhere near Chicago.
MacDonald is frequently classed alongside Hammett and Chandler - such illustrious company! - but the three are very disparate beasts, Hammett being a rather dry draught, Chandler the master of poetic exaggeration, whereas MacDonald is, if anything, the finest writer of the three. A bold claim? Of course, but I`d urge the sceptical to read half a dozen of his books, then decide.
Johnny Weather, son of the murdered J.D. Weather, returns to his hometown, and goes on a sleepless revenge bender, trying to discover who killed his father, coming across a shady cast of dubious characters in the process, most of whom want him dead or out of town, or both.
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Format: Paperback
I was originally lent this book by a freind of mine, and now I dont want to give it back. Macdonald uses gritty details and streetwise language in a novel that will keep the reader entertained and sympathetic towards the lead character. All in all, a brilliant and exciting novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x957c2b88) out of 5 stars 16 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94d1eaa4) out of 5 stars Great noir behind a misleading title 3 Oct. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The cover of this book contains an inexcusable misprint. Blue City is not a Lew Archer novel. Archer, of course was Ross MacDonald's series character: a hardboiled private eye and first person narrator who revealed much more of his psyche than is typical in the genre. If any Archer fan were to resist returning the book after the disappointing discovery which takes place by reading the first three pages, there is a real treat in store. The twenty two year old hero is refreshing, narrating away with a perception and cultural awareness that is way beyond his years. The novel is great noir with intriguing characters and a well-thought-out story line. Like Hammett, MacDonald painted the seamy, corrupted side of life. Heroes could be tough, brutal, terribly antisocial and very persistent in their quest to right wrongs. Perhaps this is what gave the hardboiled genre such staying power. In today's world, reading this stuff can be almost therapeutic. There were only a handful of basic plots in this type of writing. Don't look for anything new. The delight is in the brush stokes. Very delightful indeed.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95d68e7c) out of 5 stars Reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett rather than Lew Archer 12 July 2000
By Common Sense ViewPoint - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is reminiscent of Dashiell's Hammett novels such as "Red Harvest" or "The Dain Curse." Adjectives such as "hard-boiled" apply to the hero as well as the villains. The hero in Blue City (like Hammett's Continental Op) accomplish the impossible because they have crossed over the line at times into murder. Yet somehow the hero is not corrupted even while living in the middle of corruption. The style is choppy and the action is jumpy. It makes one wish for smoother connections between scenes. The book is almost too abbreviated. The characters are not developed beyond what is needed for the plot line. As a result, everyone seems hard-nosed, cold-blooded and lacking in humanity.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x963378b8) out of 5 stars Early MacDonald crime novel: brutal 6 Jun. 2006
By Bomojaz - Published on
Format: Paperback
This early, pre-Lew Archer, Ross MacDonald crime novel is all about big-city corruption, and is one of the most violent novels MacDonald ever wrote. Johnny Weather comes home after the war and learns that his father, one-time mayor, had been shot dead about two years earlier. As he begins to delve beneath the surface, Weather discovers a decayed city government and a crooked police force. He's a hard-headed guy, though, and not afraid of getting roughed up: "Why don't you sock me some more, Hanson. There's no danger in it. I'm handcuffed," he says at one point. The book shows little of the superb character development found in the Archer novels, and a lot of it reads like a teenage-action fantasy story. Weather becomes more and more impossible to believe as the story unfolds; his worst defect might be his preachiness: he lectures the killer of his father about mistaking political assassination for justifiable homicide, for example. The writing is hard-boiled, though (MacDonald was still very much writing in the shadows of Hammett and Chandler), and the story flies by. Better things were yet to come.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9545c3c0) out of 5 stars Good standalone novel, but don't start here. 11 Mar. 2011
By Daniel - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This stand alone novel is the earliest Ross MacDonald currently in print to the best of my knowledge, though his third published. Better than a lot of late 40's noir I've read, but not yet MacDonald at his best.

Narrated in the first person by WWII vet John Weather returning to his hometown in 1946 to visit his father, who he's not spoken to since he was twelve. When he arrives, he finds strangers apparently in control of his father's businesses, and sets out immediately (in the middle of the night) get to the bottom of things.

The novel plays out over a fairly short period of time. Less than 48 hours I think, with the narrator proceeding pretty much directly from one encounter to the next. I'm not the type of reader who makes any effort to try and "solve" the mystery before the detective, but in my opinion MacDonald did a good job of keeping my suspicions shifting around.

The narrator seems a little verbally aggressive, and many of his quips seem a bit random, but the story is enjoyable. While it's not bad by any stretch, I'd recommend anyone new to MacDonald start with one of his later books. At his best I think MacDonald is the best of the Hammett - Chandler - MacDonald trio, and I'd hate to see anyone write him off based on just this novel. So by all means include it if MacDonald's to your taste, but don't start here.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95830078) out of 5 stars Corrupt Town, USA. 24 May 2006
By Michael G. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Of the Ross Macdonald novels written before the first Lew Archer mystery was published, Blue City is perhaps the one that most closely follows the Lew Archer formula. It features an aggresive protagonist who does double duty as narrator. The protagonist is essentially a loner who, over a relatively short period of time, repeatedly risks his neck to solve a mystery that is much more complicated than initial appearances suggest.
Except in this case, the protagonist and narrator is a 22 year old youth named John Weather. John is wise beyond his years. His degree of erudition and use of language seem to be that of a much older individual and this tends to detract from Blue City's believability. (Of course, in certain exceptional cases, a 22 year old could sound like someone in his forties or fifties. Think, if you will, of the young Orson Welles.)
In any event, John Weather returns to his hometown after a prolonged absence only to find that his father has been murdered and that the city is being run by thieves. Lots of hardboiled action, including several killings, rapidly ensues. In the last few pages, the precocious Mr. Weather identifies his father's killer and sets the stage for clean municipal government.
Though at times preachy, Blue City is a worthwhile read especially for those who are already Ross Macdonald fans. It's an important work in tracing the evolution of both the Lew Archer character and the books he appears in.
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