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The Barbarous Coast Paperback – Dec 4 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (Dec 4 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307279030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307279033
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“Ross Macdonald writes like a son-of-a-bitch.” —Anthony Boucher“Not since the novels of Nathanael West has the theme of American innocence grinding to a stop at the polluted waters of the Pacific so consistently reverberated through a body of writing.” —Detroit News“Macdonald makes a routine story of ocean-side murder among the rich take on a hard-edged, glistening solidity.” —AudioFile

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.

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Amazon.com: 9 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Barbarous Hollywood Dec 17 2007
By C. Schaub - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The Barbarous Coast" is a perfect example of a "hard-boiled" detective story. The "hard-boiled" detective story has been analyzed, re-analyzed, and over-analyzed. Ditto for the leading authors of the genre Hammett, Chandler, and Ross MacDonald. Consequently, it can be difficult to look at a novel of this genre as a stand-alone story.

In "The Barbarous Coast" PI Lew Archer takes on both the Hollywood establishment and the Mob as a simple assignment of tracking down a missing wife turns into a multiple murder case. The plot is very good, and the characters are excellent. Much of the strength of the story is in MacDonald's depiction of the southern California atmosphere: the wealth, decadence, and underlying fear of those who have made it, the regret and the disillusionment of the those who have almost made it, the sad continuing striving of those who will never make it but who still cling to the dream.

I enjoyed reading "The Barbarous Coast", but I did not find it satisying. None of the book's weaknesses is a deal breaker, but their culumative effect keeps me from giving it a top rating. Examples: The plot seemed unnecessarily conplicated, Archer kept getting beat up too frequently, the Mob connection just didn't fit in well, several cliche scenes.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
the plot gets so complicated that it becomes difficult to follow Feb. 18 2008
By clifford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
OK, the first half of this book is great. Five stars. I felt like I was reading one of MacDonald's very best, akin to Hammetts "Big Sleep". However, once MacDonald's sights get set on a group of characters, he just cant seem to stop from circling them over and over again. It got so that I felt like I was caught in a whirl wind, each page would re-visit someone and each page would shift the plot direction. Its sort of funny, but I felt like the story sort of lost itself and became almost too muddled to discipher just after Archer sustained a second serious concussion.

Archer is one of the classic series in this genre. Its just great. And this book should be read along with the others. However, I would suggest that you not start here due to the fact that it wont cast the very best light on MacDonald and his prowess.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Unfocused. Jan. 4 2006
By Michael G. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Sometimes even very talented writers like Ross Macdonald will miss the mark. The Barbarous Coast, I'm sorry to say, is an example of a great novelist not living up to his potential.

Oh, it all starts off interestingly enough. Ross Macdonald's favorite and most famous fictional character, the hardboiled PI Lew Archer is recruited to help a naive young Canadian locate his missing bride. Her name is Hester and she's a native Californian, the daughter of long dead silent film star, Raymond Campbell. As Archer pokes around Hester's last known haunt, an exclusive Malibu country club, he learns of an unsolved murder that took place there just under 2 years before.

So far so good. Unfortunately, the narrative then begins to devolve into a poorly coordinated, multifaceted saga of murder and blackmail that unsuccessfully tries to cover too many bases. Macdonald introduces a number of supporting characters; a greedy and lecherous movie studio owner, his schizophrenic wife, a Las Vegas gangster with homosexual tendencies, a washed up boxer turned actor and Hester's sister Rina, a psychiatric nurse.

Also introduced are Hester's mother and her aforementioned husband, both of whom rather surprisingly get lost in the shuffle.

Further detracting from the book's appeal are Macdonald's, shall we say, less than universally accepted theories of mental illness. Theories he does not hesitate to present as facts on a par with the law of gravity.

Ross Macdonald fans expect his novels to be intricately plotted and many would be disappointed if they were not. But the Barbarous Coast is a disjointed collection of plot threads that ultimately fail to blend together. It appears as though he tried to cram too much material into this relatively short book.

A rare disappointment from an author capable of much better.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Raymond Chandler's Truest Heir May 14 2014
By M. Buzalka - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Ross Macdonald and Mickey Spillane both began writing detective novels clearly inspired by the hard-boiled style of Raymond Chandler at around the same time: the post war years of the late 1940s. Spillane got out of the gate quickly with a series of sex-and-violence-drenched narratives that were big sellers but ultimately, to my mind at least, were very limited and repetitive. Spillane's Mike Hammer is fascinating for a while due to his psychopathic approach to life and his job but you soon realize that there's no other there there.

Macdonald's Lew Archer, by contrast, is a much more successful adaptation of Chandler's series detective Phillip Marlowe, a man in an unseemly but necessary profession doing what he has to do while remaining true to his personal code of ethics. The result is a world-weary doggedness, a cynically principled approach to life and a character with some depth.

The Barbarous Coast was Macdonald's sixth Archer novel and 10th novel overall. It shows. Unlike Spillane, Macdonald wrote several standalone novels at the start of his career that helped him hone his craft before embarking on the Archer series. I especially liked Blue City (1947) and The Three Roads (1948), the two he published just before launching Archer with The Moving Target (1949).

Some commentators have criticized the plot and pace of Barbarous Coast and while I can see their point I can also say that for me it made little difference. To me, the great joy of reading MacDonald, like Chandler, is in the characters and the crackling dialogue, as well as the world in which the characters move that both authors do a masterful of creating and describing. I grant Barbarous Coast is not a masterpiece but it is well worth spending the time on if you like hard-boiled mysteries.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Not one of his best, but a good read anyway Jan. 9 2008
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It's nice to visit old friends. I haven't read any of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novels in a long, long time. Macdonald's prose hasn't lost any of its punch for me over the years. Like Anthony Boucher says, "{Macdonald)...writes like a son of a bitch."

Originally published in 1956, The Barbarous Coast has PI Lew Archer nosing around Malibu, looking for a freaked-out Canadian's wife, a high-diving bombshell, Hester Campbell (in the vein of Esther Williams, for those who might not get it). The fact that the guy has punk hair makes the character seem awfully strange for the book's original publication date, but that's okay.

Hester has disappeared without a trace. Lew starts poking his nose into things at the Channel Club, the ritziest, snobbiest country club in the Pacific Coast. Before long he's up to his neck in blackmail, beauties, and a two-year-old unsolved murder that seems to hang around like last week's fish odor.

When Macdonald passed in 1983, America lost one its greatest crime writers. However, The Barbarous Coast is not Macdonald's best Lew Archer novel. The tales twists and turns at random that is more confusing than surprising. Sometimes, it's even hard to follow. For the life of me, I can't remember how Lew got messed up in this case.

One of the things that interests me, going back to the authors that have been a part of our American cultural landscape, is: Does the writing stand the test of time? This book does...the prose is magnificent. The difference between reading a vintage crime novel and a contemporary crime novel is like watching "Perry Mason" and "Law and Order." Only the times dictate the color and level of morality that we find acceptable.

While the scenery may be old-fashioned, and The Barbarous Coast may not be the best Lew Archer episode, it's still a good story. I've added the Lew Archer novels to my to-read list.

Armchair Interviews says: Another Lew Archer convert.

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