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The Underground Man: A Lew Archer Novel
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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(5 star)show all reviews
on December 25, 2001
The Underground Man was the first Lew Archer novel I had ever read. I was 12 or 13 and was looking for something other than the Stephen King and Michael Crichton potboilers that were so popular at the time . Reading this book was an epiphany. Now, nearly 15 years later, and hundreds of PI novels later, I have discovered nothing that surpasses this series.
The thing I liked about what MacDonald did is he took all the traditional Hammett/Chandler plot points and character traits (later to become tired cliches when grabbed on by dozens of lesser writers) and made them fresh and relevant. All the authors that came after him, from Parker's Spenser to Grafton's Kinsey Millhone (who sometimes resembles a female Lew Archer) owe their livelihoods to MacDonald.
The Underground Man is particularly interesting. In it, the author combined a natural disaster ( a devastating wildfire in the Southern California hills) with the turmoil that has enveloped the family whose members he is investigating. Like most of the later Archer stories, he serves not so much as the investigator of wrongs than an emissary to untangle the complex and poisonous relationships of the characters and try to avert impending tragedy. He is not so much interested in "who did it" as much as finding out what circumstances caused the situation he is now mixed up in.
Please disregard the previous negative reviews of this book. It doesn't sound to me like they even read the bookvery carefully. They totally misinterpreted the character. Lew Archer is not the stereotypical hardened tough guy of zillions of pulp paperbacks. He is actually a sensitive softie, perhaps too soft for his own good on occasion ("down these mean streets this weeping man must go" as one wag put it).
The other characters, the female ones included, are neither overly virtuous nor utterly weak as the negative reviewers seem to believe. They are simply ordinary people caught up in a bad situation. Politically Correct (even though the term didn't even exist when the book was written) platitudes give way to a realism never seen before in a detective story. MacDonald transcended genre.
Lew Archer is above all a flawed romantic who tries to make sense of a senseless world. I think the world could use a few more Lew Archers. Both this character and his creator have been inspirational to me in more ways than I can count.
Highly recommended.
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on October 11, 2001
THE UNDERGROUND MAN is my favorite Ross MacDonald novel. Lew Archer reaches his highest stage of development in this novel as he investigates a multigenerational mystery amid the southern California fire season. In my humble opinion, there has never been a finer mystery author, and THE UNDERGROUND MAN is MacDonald's finest book.
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on November 18, 2000
In the winter of 1972, the New York Review of Books featured this novel on its cover and proclaimed the it had won the editors over: From then on, detective mysteries would be considered literature - not just pulp fiction for the lowly masses. They had good reason. The way MacDonal writes, the story reeks of southern California in the 60's, capturing the feel of a Sunday drive through Santa Barbara and along its beaches. It also recognizes that all powerful families have dark histories that sadly repeat themselves over and over. This is the central theme; a constant in Ross MacDonald stories, but best expressed in this one. This mystery novel will not soon leave your memory bank; you will recall it fondly over and over for many years.
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on September 13, 1999
I just happened upon this book, and I'm now a confirmed Ross Macdonald fan!
I am amazed by reviewers that revile a book written over 20 years ago because it does not match the mores and attitudes of the 1990s.
One of the charms of this book is that it beautifully captures Southern California in the 60s. I was there, guys, and women did not act or dress the way they do now. Don't judge this book out of the context of its era. Instead of being irritated because the book does not portray today's world, enjoy the ride into the past!
As for Macdonald's writing, it was masterful! With a few well chosen phrases, he sets the stage and immerses you in his world. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and look forward to reading more.
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on July 15, 1999
MacDonald is a master of the detective novel. His hard-boiled narrator Lew Archer talks the reader through a confusing tangle of relationships in a southern California setting. Fictional detectives tend to be a self-pitying lot, and Archer is no exception to this rule, but MacDonald makes him more of a philospher than a reader might expect. Yes, he is more complex than an ex-cop private dick is supposed to be, but that is why we love to read about life through his eyes. Grab this book, put on your hat, find a nice retro diner, buy a pack of Luckys, order up a strong cup of coffee, and be prepared to be amazed.
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on January 7, 1999
I'm a big fan of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novels, and this one's my favorite. Perhaps it's something about the way he perfectly captures Southern California during a brush-fire at the beginning of this novel, or maybe Archer's struggle to understand the generation behind his. Anyway, it's my favorite novel by one of my favorite authors.
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on August 23, 1998
Combines the hard-boiled cynicism of old-school noir writers like Dashiell Hammett with an emerging concern about the modern age; features an aging Lew Archer who is more visibly aware of his own isolation and loneliness, on the track of a missing 6-year-old boy. The themes include parallels between natural and human destruction, the gap between the generations, and the truth's use as a weapon as much as a liberator. Ripped away a day of life.
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