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Blue City (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – January 11, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307740731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307740731
  • ASIN: 0307740730
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #372,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“[The] American private eye, immortalized by Hammett, refined by Chandler, brought to its zenith by Macdonald.” —New York Times Book Review
“Macdonald should not be limited in audience to connoisseurs of mystery fiction.  He is one of a handful of writers in the genre whose worth and quality surpass the limitations of the form.” —Los Angeles Times
“Most mystery writers merely write about crime.  Ross Macdonald writes about sin.” —The Atlantic
“Without in the least abating my admiration for Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, I should like to venture the heretical suggestion that Ross Macdonald is a better novelist than either of them.” —Anthony Boucher
“[Macdonald] carried form and style about as far as they would go, writing classic family tragedies in the guise of private detective mysteries.” —The Guardian (London)
“[Ross Macdonald] gives to the detective story that accent of class that the late Raymond Chandler did.” —Chicago Tribune

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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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
The cover of this book contains an inexcusable misprint. Blue City is not a Lew Archer novel. Archer, of course was Ross MacDonald's series character: a hardboiled private eye and first person narrator who revealed much more of his psyche than is typical in the genre. If any Archer fan were to resist returning the book after the disappointing discovery which takes place by reading the first three pages, there is a real treat in store. The twenty two year old hero is refreshing, narrating away with a perception and cultural awareness that is way beyond his years. The novel is great noir with intriguing characters and a well-thought-out story line. Like Hammett, MacDonald painted the seamy, corrupted side of life. Heroes could be tough, brutal, terribly antisocial and very persistent in their quest to right wrongs. Perhaps this is what gave the hardboiled genre such staying power. In today's world, reading this stuff can be almost therapeutic. There were only a handful of basic plots in this type of writing. Don't look for anything new. The delight is in the brush stokes. Very delightful indeed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Unique ViewPoint on July 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is reminiscent of Dashiell's Hammett novels such as "Red Harvest" or "The Dain Curse." Adjectives such as "hard-boiled" apply to the hero as well as the villains. The hero in Blue City (like Hammett's Continental Op) accomplish the impossible because they have crossed over the line at times into murder. Yet somehow the hero is not corrupted even while living in the middle of corruption. The style is choppy and the action is jumpy. It makes one wish for smoother connections between scenes. The book is almost too abbreviated. The characters are not developed beyond what is needed for the plot line. As a result, everyone seems hard-nosed, cold-blooded and lacking in humanity.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on June 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
This early, pre-Lew Archer, Ross MacDonald crime novel is all about big-city corruption, and is one of the most violent novels MacDonald ever wrote. Johnny Weather comes home after the war and learns that his father, one-time mayor, had been shot dead about two years earlier. As he begins to delve beneath the surface, Weather discovers a decayed city government and a crooked police force. He's a hard-headed guy, though, and not afraid of getting roughed up: "Why don't you sock me some more, Hanson. There's no danger in it. I'm handcuffed," he says at one point. The book shows little of the superb character development found in the Archer novels, and a lot of it reads like a teenage-action fantasy story. Weather becomes more and more impossible to believe as the story unfolds; his worst defect might be his preachiness: he lectures the killer of his father about mistaking political assassination for justifiable homicide, for example. The writing is hard-boiled, though (MacDonald was still very much writing in the shadows of Hammett and Chandler), and the story flies by. Better things were yet to come.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daniel on March 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This stand alone novel is the earliest Ross MacDonald currently in print to the best of my knowledge, though his third published. Better than a lot of late 40's noir I've read, but not yet MacDonald at his best.

Narrated in the first person by WWII vet John Weather returning to his hometown in 1946 to visit his father, who he's not spoken to since he was twelve. When he arrives, he finds strangers apparently in control of his father's businesses, and sets out immediately (in the middle of the night) get to the bottom of things.

The novel plays out over a fairly short period of time. Less than 48 hours I think, with the narrator proceeding pretty much directly from one encounter to the next. I'm not the type of reader who makes any effort to try and "solve" the mystery before the detective, but in my opinion MacDonald did a good job of keeping my suspicions shifting around.

The narrator seems a little verbally aggressive, and many of his quips seem a bit random, but the story is enjoyable. While it's not bad by any stretch, I'd recommend anyone new to MacDonald start with one of his later books. At his best I think MacDonald is the best of the Hammett - Chandler - MacDonald trio, and I'd hate to see anyone write him off based on just this novel. So by all means include it if MacDonald's to your taste, but don't start here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael G. VINE VOICE on May 24, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Of the Ross Macdonald novels written before the first Lew Archer mystery was published, Blue City is perhaps the one that most closely follows the Lew Archer formula. It features an aggresive protagonist who does double duty as narrator. The protagonist is essentially a loner who, over a relatively short period of time, repeatedly risks his neck to solve a mystery that is much more complicated than initial appearances suggest.
Except in this case, the protagonist and narrator is a 22 year old youth named John Weather. John is wise beyond his years. His degree of erudition and use of language seem to be that of a much older individual and this tends to detract from Blue City's believability. (Of course, in certain exceptional cases, a 22 year old could sound like someone in his forties or fifties. Think, if you will, of the young Orson Welles.)
In any event, John Weather returns to his hometown after a prolonged absence only to find that his father has been murdered and that the city is being run by thieves. Lots of hardboiled action, including several killings, rapidly ensues. In the last few pages, the precocious Mr. Weather identifies his father's killer and sets the stage for clean municipal government.
Though at times preachy, Blue City is a worthwhile read especially for those who are already Ross Macdonald fans. It's an important work in tracing the evolution of both the Lew Archer character and the books he appears in.
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