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Lew Archer Books In Order

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Publication Order of Lew Archer Books

The Moving Target / Harper (1949)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Drowning Pool (1950)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Way Some People Die (1951)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Ivory Grin / Marked for Murder (1952)Description / Buy at Amazon
Find a Victim (1954)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Barbarous Coast (1956)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Doomsters (1958)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Galton Case (1959)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Wycherly Woman (1961)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Zebra-Striped Hearse (1962)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Chill (1963)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Far Side of the Dollar (1965)Description / Buy at Amazon
Black Money (1966)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Instant Enemy (1968)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Goodbye Look (1969)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Underground Man (1971)Description / Buy at Amazon
Sleeping Beauty (1973)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Blue Hammer (1976)Description / Buy at Amazon

The name Lew Archer refers to a series of crime mystery novels written by Ross Macdonald. Lew Archer is also the name of the primary protagonist, a private investigator that solves crimes in Los Angeles.

+The Story

Ross Macdonald did not immediately elicit interest when he wrote the first Lew Archer novel in 1949 and that was partly his fault. Lew Archer came out at a time when Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe character was at the height of his popularity.

For most people, Lew Archer was just a derivative of his superior counterpart. Fortunately for fans of the crime/mystery genre, Ross Macdonald did not allow these comparisons to last.

It took a while but the author succeeded in dragging his hero out of the Philip Marlowe mold and making Lew Archer his own man, an intelligent, sympathetic character that readers could support.

People loved Marlowe because they could relate to him. They hadn’t necessarily lived his life or seen the things he had seen. But Chandler did such an impressive job of defining the detective that audiences felt like they knew him as well as any real-life friend. And that made it much easier for readers to care for him.

To that end, no one could blame Ross when his own hero began to mirror Marlowe so closely. Marlowe had set the standard for the modern hard-boiled detective. It was only natural for every hero who came out of the crime/mystery genre to mirror the Chandler detective in some way.

In fact, it wasn’t that people accused Ross of mimicking Philip Marlowe with Lew Archer. Rather, no one really took notice of the Lew Archer character because he was so derivative of Marlowe.

Archer was in danger of being thrown to the sidelines as just another generic detective that would never be remembered.

So Ross took steps to remedy the issue. And he succeeded in his endeavors by basically taking Lew Archer out of the spotlight. Most detectives are the stars of their own books. And there is no denying the fact that Archer is the driving factor of the Lew Archer series.

However, the detective is rarely the primary interest of the author. Rather, Ross uses Archer as a tool through which the relationships of the other characters in the novels are explored.

The detective also acts as the lens through which the author comments on society, its people, ideals, and philosophies. There was some skepticism surrounding Ross Macdonald when he first attempted to take his hero down such an outlandish route.

However, Ross succeeded so immensely in his efforts to set Ross apart that by the time he died, the author had exceeded the confines of his genre, with critics elevating him to the position of a legendary American author.

Lew Archer, Ross’s hero, is a tall man in his fifties. Archer had a troubled childhood, primarily because of the abusive nature of his relationship with his father. He spent some time as a petty thief and his life would have spiraled further out of control if he hadn’t met an old police officer who put him on the right path.

Archer was swept up by the Second World War like so many men his age. He did his part to protect his country by serving the military intelligence wing. Upon retiring from the Army, Archer eventually found his way to the Long Beach California Police Department which gave him many of his skills.

For all that it did for him, Archer has sour memories about the department primarily because of how corrupt it became. Archer was eventually fired and it occurred to him that he had a better chance of protecting the innocent and fighting injustice by working for himself as a private investigator.

Lew Archer is a weary, cynical man who struggles with depression on occasion. The world has disappointed him so many times that he has learned to temper his expectations. The private detective has a tendency to overwork himself for the sake of solving a case.

The Lew Archer books have been adapted into two feature films, namely: Harper (1966) and The Drowning Pool (1975). There’s also The Underground Man (1974), a television movie.

Not many people know that a television show based on the Archer books was made in 1975. The show only ran for six episodes before its cancelation.

+The Author
Ross Macdonald is a Canadian/American author that was born in 1915 in California. He was sixty seven when he died in 1983. The author’s father abandoned his family when he was young. Ross and his mother had to depend on various relatives to survive.

Ross’s publishing career started when he wrote stories for pulp magazines. When he graduated to writing full-length novels, Ross chose to use a pseudonym because his wife was already a successful author and Ross did not want to create confusion for some readers.

Ross is credited with having taken what Raymond Chandler and his ilk did for the hardboiled mystery genre and elevating it to new heights.

Ross Macdonald is a pen name used by Kenneth Millar.

+The Moving Target
Ralph Samson is a millionaire. And it is probably because of all the money he has that Ralph entertains so much odd company. It isn’t just the holy man who worships the sun that gives people pause but also the fading actress who has a taste for S&M.

When one of Ralph’s friends arranges for his kidnapping, no one is particularly surprised. It is up to Lew Archer to get to the bottom of the mystery by sifting through Ralph’s company and identifying the person who betrayed him.

His investigation will take him to the sanctuaries of the rich as he encounters greed, sex, and hatred.

+The Drowning Pool
A rich matriarch is dead and there is no shortage of suspects. Among them all, the victim’s worthless son in law seems particularly suspicious. But Lew Archer isn’t so certain that he has his man, not when there is the seductive teenage daughter to consider.

Los Angeles is a cesspool of corporate greed and family hatred. If Archer wants to find a murderer, he must sift through all the filth until he gets to the truth.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Lew Archer

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