The Moving Target (American Crime) Paperback – 7 Aug 1986
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From the Inside Flap
Like many Southern California millionaires, Ralph Sampson keeps odd company. There's the sun-worshipping holy man whom Sampson once gave his very own mountain; the fading actress with sidelines in astrology and S&M. Now one of Sampson's friends may have arranged his kidnapping.
As Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints where you get beaten up between sets, The Moving Target blends sex, greed, and family hatred into an explosively readable crime novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Ross Macdonald's real name was Kenneth Millar. Born near San Francisco in 1915 and raised in Ontario, Millar returned to the U.S. as a young man and published his first novel in 1944. He served as the president of the Mystery Writers of America and was awarded their Grand Master Award as well as the Mystery Writers of Great Britain's Gold Dagger Award. He died in 1983. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Who kidnapped wealthy alcoholic Ralph Samson? Was it the cult leader Samson mysteriously gifted his mountain reteat to? His bitter cripppled wife? Or perhaps his youthful pilot or aging lawyer trapped in a love triangle with Sampson's daughter. It's up to Archer to find out, and take a few beatings on the way.
This book is paced as furiously as any mystery, but it carries the depth of true literature. This is simply no mystery to be solved or adventure to be told. The Moving Target is the sordid tale of a sade family the growth of a young woman.
Who knew Ross MacDonald was so good? I guess I'll have to order more books by him. If Hammett gave birth to noir and Chandler taught it how to walk, then MacDonald provided the education. I'm very impressed!
The Moving Target explores a wide variety of relationships that turn poisonous-- husband and wife, brother and sister, lovers both requited and unrequited, employer and servant, and lawyers and the law. Originally said to have been titled "The Snatch" (vetoed for obvious reasons), it tells the story of the kidnapping of an eccentric oil millionaire named Ralph Sampson. Lew Archer is hired to help get him back, but he quickly begins to wonder if anyone wants Sampson to return.
While all the characters are interesting, the addicted jazz pianist Betty Fraley is particularly complex and well-drawn. A very good read.
The case of the missing Ralph Sampson sets the plot in motion in "The Moving Target", the first book in Ross MacDonald's series featuring Lew Archer. Copyrighted in 1949, the book contains all of the elements of the classic tough guy, PI genre of the period. Characters include Sampson's beautiful daughter who seems to be in love with his handsome, indifferent pilot; the family attorney, an old friend of Archer's, who seems to be in love with the daughter; a shady nightclub owner; his movie actress wife, whose star has almost faded; an attractive has-been pianist; and a strange "spiritual" advisor, who lives on the mountain Sampson gave him. There are guns, fist fights, beatings, uncooperative cops, and mysterious chauffeurs. There are Archer's thoughts on life and things that shout there is more going on than first meets the eye (so to speak).
All of this makes for an enjoyable read that is somewhat reminiscent of John D. MacDonald and echoes Raymond Chandler. This is not the best book in the series, but it is the place to start reading the Archer books and a good read -- even if at least one of the bad guys seems pretty evident to the reader before Archer seems to tumble to him.