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The Moving Target Paperback – March 3, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews
Book 1 of 18 in the Lew Archer Novels Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Published in 1949, 1961, and 1962, respectively, these three titles find gumshoe Lew Archer up to his neck in murder, kidnapping, and blackmailAjust another day at the office. This is hard-boiled detective writing at the top of its form.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (March 3, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037570146X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375701467
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
The literary private detective novel reached its zenith with the creation of Lew Archer, the last legitimate heir to the Chandler/Marlowe tradition. This first novel in the series is still close enough to the 1940s roots of the genre to evoke the peak period of noir fiction, and introduces some of the best writing ever to grace a mystery story. Later novels in this series, which extended into the 1970s, variably fell victim to then-trendy ideas about psychiatry that mar their realism and temper the otherwise shrewd and sympathetic voice of Lew Archer. The early books still display all the virtuosity of good writing with tight plots and a believable narrator. Kenneth Millar, who wrote under the pseudonym Ross MacDonald, has produced some of the best similes in English, and they pop up like gems in the early books. In "The Moving Target", film fans will recognize the plot from "Harper", which cast Paul Newman in the starring role. (He insisted on changing the hero's name for the movie, apparently because he doesn't like to play characters whose names start with "A"). But the narrative voice is what makes these novels something special, and that just doesn't translate to the screen. This is a great novel masquerading as a mystery.
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Format: Paperback
The Moving Target, originally published in 1949, is Ross MacDonald's first Lew Archer novel. While Archer's character has yet to fully blossom, most of MacDonald's typical story devices are represented; an interconnected trail of escalating violence, innocent youth, duel identities and a twist ending that makes you rethink the entire novel.
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.
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Format: Paperback
This book starts out like the typical mystery novel . . . with a mystery, a detective, and the hint of trouble. However, before long, you can't help but realize this book is no typical mystery.
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!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When listing the greats of Noir detective fiction, Macdonald seems all too often to be left off the list. The Moving Target, with its introduction of the wonderful Lew Archer character, is a good place to begin with his writing and one of the best in the series.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Her voice was clear and fresh, but the sickness was there in her laugh, a little clatter of bitterness under the trill," private detective Lew Archer says of his new client. She wants him to find her rich husband, who, it seems, gave his private pilot the slip and went off on his own. Not an unusual occurrence, she explains, but the man has been known to do foolish things when he is drunk and unsupervised. He tends to give things away -- things she that will be hers when he dies.

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.
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