Blue city (Corgi books)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.