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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardboiled noir masterpiece,
This review is from: Blue City (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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weather in the streets,
This review is from: Blue City (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) (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. He does meet the call-girl Clara, with whom he shares
a rare tough-tender interlude of lovemaking, which is one of the best `sex scenes` I`ve read in many moons, as explicit as a writer could dare to be in puritanical America in the forties, but realistic and just explicit enough.
One feature of MacDonald`s books - and a rare one among crime writers, though I`d class him as something more than a `mere` crime writer - is that he takes a pride in not making it too easy to guess who`s going to turn out to be the culprit, and that`s to some extent true here too - though this dirty town is packed to its rotting gills with culprits.
I really can`t praise this magnificent novel highly enough. (This review`s first sentence was going to simply read: `Wow!`) What needs emphasising is that MacDonald is a genuinely great writer. Forget genre, here is a man who could write the socks off most other writers, and not only of `crime fiction`. There are one or two in the genre these days who are similarly superb writers, full stop, never mind genre; James Lee Burke is one who comes to mind.
There`s a sickliness to the ambience of Blue City, as if the whole of the States is
infected with corruption. The young, impetuous Weather hurtles himself into the relentless chase to find the person, or people, responsible for his father`s murder, as well as realising that he might just be the one to drag the town back from the brink of terminal corruption. The characters he runs into in his darkly picaresque odyssey are some of the nastiest and sleaziest in crime fiction of the period, but there is a kind of redemption too, as Weather himself matures, despite himself, through bitter experience, and he even finds fragile love. By the end, you can`t help fervently wishing them all the luck in the world.
Ignore the occasional overwritten, polemical purple passages, this is one hell of a
Whatever your poison, utterly essential.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting, well written novel,
By A Customer
This review is from: Blue City (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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Blue City (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) by Ross MacDonald (Paperback - 11 Jan 2011)