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The Barbarous Coast Paperback – Dec 4 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (Dec 4 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307279030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307279033
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.3 x 7.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #374,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Ross Macdonald’s sixth Lew Archer novel, of 18. I’ve read them all and this is one of my favourites. Set in southern California, Archer is hired to find the wife of a sports writer from Toronto, but he soon finds she is not what the husband thinks she is. A few people are murdered along the way, so the case becomes much more complicated than it first appears. The plot moves along quickly, and it’s hard to find a likeable character in the people Archer comes up against – corrupt movie bosses, gangsters and blackmailers prevail, until Archer sorts it all out. A great read for a rainy afternoon.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa95fddbc) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa94e40f0) out of 5 stars Barbarous Hollywood Dec 17 2007
By C. Schaub - Published on
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.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9531720) out of 5 stars the plot gets so complicated that it becomes difficult to follow Feb. 18 2008
By clifford - Published on
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa950c06c) out of 5 stars Raymond Chandler's Truest Heir May 14 2014
By M. Buzalka - Published on
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9345144) out of 5 stars Unfocused. Jan. 4 2006
By Michael G. - Published on
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
HASH(0xa9345300) out of 5 stars Vintage Archer, Complicated plot but stick with it... March 3 2012
By Badman - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm reading through my Archer collection after about 20 years, and Barbarous Coast is an interesting entry. Not one of MacDonald's best but certainly head and shoulders above a lot of the hard boiled detective fiction coming out of the 50s. While the story starts out interestingly with Archer on the trail of a missing wife, it takes a lot of twists and turns and is one of the most sordid and difficult to keep up with plots so far in the series. No one, not even Archer, comes out of this one unsullied, and there are a lot of examples of class warfare, a plotline MacDonald excelled in telling. You'll need a scorecard to keep up with everyone, who killed who when and where, etc. I like some twists and turns but this seems to be a real whirligig. One great scene is Archer at a country club dinner featuring ridiculous over the top Hollywood types, MacDonald had a real talent for skewering the high and mighty in his stories (I'm sure MacDonald/Millar ran into many of these types in California in the 50s!) and this is a great example. My issues would be with the overly complicated plot and the feel Archer is just kind of moving around from location to location through a lot of the book instead of making things happen.

However, MacDonald wrote like an absolute dream, his prose is so sharp and witty and brilliant that even a mediocre mystery by this man is a treasure.

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