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The Barbarous Coast (1956)

by Ross MacDonald

Series: Lew Archer (6)

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3931257,948 (3.84)10
In The Barbarous Coast, Lew Archer's pursuit of a girl who jackknifed too suddenly from high diving to high living leads him to an ex-fighter with an unexplained movie contract, a big-time gambler who died by his own knife, and finally to an answer he would rather not have known.

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Listened to this one. Pretty great, though i know it doesn't have the highest reputation. An innocent husband comes in from Canada to find his missing wife in the sleazy land of LA / private clubs / hollywood lowland. Hires Lew to do the hunting and he bumps into toughs from the studio and las vegas world. He is knocked out, pounded, tied up, etc but always manages to get the slip on the bad guys. It all ends up at the private pricey night club it started at - with the wispy head of the club in it with the iffy sanity wife of the important movie head. A bit outlandish - but a great ride. ( )
  apende | Jul 12, 2022 |
This one just didn’t click with me, way too many characters in a short novel used primarily for misdirection ( )
  jimifenway | May 27, 2022 |
review of
Ross Macdonald's The Barbarous Coast
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 28, 2018

I read thru all of Dashiell Hammett & all of Raymond Chandler pretty quickly & was duly disappointed that there wasn't more. Ross Macdonald fills that need. I've read & reviewed 2 bks by him so far (The Chill: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2599283403 ; The Far Side of the Dollar: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2609949502 ) & I liked this one as much as the others. Every time I go to my favorite used bookstore I look for more by him. He & I are like this: &.

Given that this is copyrighted 1956 I was taken aback by the following:

"A man came out of the oleanders and ran past my car. He was a big young man in a blue suit, hatless, with flying pink hair." - p 4

Pink hair in 1956?! The character's a sports writer. This will never make any sense to me. In the neck of the urban woods where I stretched my 2 or 3 yr old toes a guy w/ pink hair wd've been eviscerated & fed to poodles. The only explanation is the one the guard provides:

""The guy's a cycle-path what they call them,"" - p 6

If you were married to a cycle-path wd you go missing?

""On Christmas Eve she woke me up in the middle of the night and announced that she was purified. Christ had appeared in her sleep and forgiven her all her sins. I didn't take her seriously at first—how could I? I tried to kid her out of it, laugh it off. So she told me what she meant, about her sins."

"He didn't go on.

""What did she mean?" I said.

""I'd just as soon not say." - p 28

Maybe she'd been messing around w/ a foot-path.

""I couldn't exist without coffee. I developed the habit when I ran the snack bar. Twenty-five cups a day, silly old woman." But she sounded very tolerant of herself. "I do believe if I cut myself I'd bleed coffee.["]" - p 34

She wdn't bleed coffee, she'd bleed coffee pots.

""You know the situation as well as I do, Lew." Colton sounded angry and apologetic at the same time. "Our operation is essentially a prosecuting agency. We work with what the cops bring in to us. Carl Stern was using cops for bodyguards. The politicians that hire and fire cops went on fishing trips with him to Acapulco."" - p 49

If everyone bled coffee pots it wdn't be like that. But what kind of junk mail wd we get?

"The mailbox was full of mail: four early bills, two requests for money from charitable organizations, a multigraphed letter from my Congressman which stated that he was alert to the threat, a brochure describing a book on the Secrets of Connubial Bliss marked down to $2.98 and sold only to doctors, clergymen, social-service workers, and other interested parties" - p 64

Note that there's nothing about using coffee pots for Connubial Bliss. That's b/c:

"The problem was to love people, try to serve them, without wanting anything from them. I was a long way from solving that one." - p 119

In my used copy of this a reader corrected one of the words. Can you guess what the correction is?:

"His mind was one-track and too preoccupied to catch the inference." - p 132

There's lit-w/in-lit here as the detective, Lew Archer, reads an account of one of the murders he's investigating:

"What could be keeping her? Tony asked himself again and again. She had promised to be in by midnight at the latest. Now it was three o'clock in the morning, now it was four o'clock, and still no Gabrielle. Tony's inexpensive alarm clock ticked remorselessly on. The waves that thundered on the beach below his modest seaside cottage seemed to echo in his ears like the very voice of doom itself. . . ."

"I lost patience with the clichés and the excess verbiage, which indicated that the writer had nothing much to say. He hadn't. The rest of the story, which I scanned in a hurry, leered a great deal under a veil of pseudo-poetic prose on the strength of a few facts" - pp 134-135

This is California, you've heard of it, that place where all those big budget movies are made?

"These were movie people, but a great deal of their talk was about television. They talked about communications media and the black list and the hook and payments for second showings and who had money for pilot films and what their agents said." - p 140

For some, life goes on despite the blacklist. For some, there's even time to remember that James Joyce existed. Those were the days.

""I'm sorry, I get on a talking jag sometimes and the words come out wrong and they don't mean what I want them to. Like in James Joyce, only to me it just happens. Did you know his daughter was schizzy?" She didn't wait for an answer. "So sometimes I'm a wit and sometimes I'm a nit-wit, so they tell me."" - p 150

I wish someone wd say that to me. I'd be entertained. Esp if I were drunk.

"That was the trouble with alcohol as a sedative. It floated you off reality for a while, but it brought you back by a route that meandered through the ash-dumps of hell." - p 160

Recently, I read a bk on film noir (Film Noir: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/1084349-film-noir?chapter=1 ) & that stimulated me to get quite a few films noirs out of the library. One of these was called "The Enforcer", starring Humphrey Bogart, about 'Murder, Inc.'. Lo & Behold!, the same subject popped up here:

""Suspected him of blackmail, and called him a fag. Killing always came easy to Stern. I went over his rap sheet this afternoon—the Nevada authorities have a full file on him. No wonder he couldn't get a gambling license in his own name. Back in the thirties he was one of Anastasia's boys, suspected of implication in over thirty killings."" - p 211

Ok, that's that. You probably have little or no idea what this bk was about, I haven't spoiled it for you. &, yet.. yet.. I've dangled a few snatches that may've aroused yr curiousity. So be it. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Clarence Bassett, the manager of an exclusive Malibu country club, has a problem. To solve it he hires private detective Lew Archer, who is initially asked to drive off a young man named George Wall before being asked instead to search for Wall’s wife, Hester. Archer soon finds himself emerged in a web of stories told by Hester, which draw Archer to an unsolved murder involving a friend of Hester’s, a young ex-boxer turned aspiring actor, and a movie mogul in a partnership with a mob boss. Obstructed by secrets and opposed by thugs, Archer untangles in the hope of saving the lives of those enmeshed—including his own.

Ross Macdonald’s sixth Lew Archer novel reflects all of the strengths of the series. Within its well-plotted story, he spins a tragic tale of ambition, desire, greed, and frustration under the Southern California sun. The multilayered nature of the plot takes a little longer to come together than do some of the previous books in the series, reflecting Macdonald’s willingness to tinker with his formula in order to keep things fresh and different. It makes for a work that fans of detective noir will enjoy as an excellent example of the form by a true master of his craft. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
For some reason, I stumbled across an article on my telephone, from The New Repbulic, about how Ross Macdonald was every bit as good, if not better, than Raymond Chandler, when it came to writing hard-boiled, noir detective fiction. So, I had to find me some Ross Macdonald. I have a vague feeling I'd tried doing this before, and none was to be found in my local library. But, the Boston Public Library did have a few Macdonald's available for us Kindle folk. So, I began my Macdonald investigations with this particular book.

So, we're in Hollywood in the 1950s. Lew Archer is called to The Channel Club to meet with Clarence Bassett, the club's manager. It seems Bassett wants Archer to "dispose of" an annoyance, one George Wall. Wall, who claims to be married to Hester Campbell, claims she's run out on him, in Toronto, and is likely back in Southern California, and likely with one of the Channel Club's richest, most influential members, Simon Graff, the movie mogul. On his way into the club, Archer had already run into Wall. On the way out, he tries to chase Wall off, but Wall begs Archer to find his wife. Archer agrees to do that.

So, Archer begins looking for the wife, and along the way runs into a variety of weird occurrences: some folks seem suddenly to have garnered magic movie contracts, despite having no prior skill; some folks, who were thriving, suddenly find themselves on the down-hill slide; floozies and drunks wander into and out of the scenes; etc. Along the way, bodies start piling up, gangsters drift in and out, Archer and others get the crap beaten out of them, and so forth. All the good stuff of hard-boiled, noir novels. The one thing missing is that Archer doesn't appear to live on a steady diet of whiskey, unlike Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade.

Anyway, this is quite good, albeit a bit convoluted. I'll definitely be hunting me some more Archer.

Interestingly, I just discovered that one can take a class at an Ivy League college in Hard-Boiled and Noir Crime Fiction. Who knew life's gutter creatures had ascended the ivory towers of academia?
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
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The Channel Club lay on a shelf of rock overlooking the sea, toward the southern end of the beach called Malibu.
Time was running through me, harsh on my nerve-ends, hot in my arteries, impalpable as breath in my mouth. I had the sleepless feeling you sometimes get in the final hours of a bad case, that you can see around corners, if you want to, and down into the darkness in human beings.
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In The Barbarous Coast, Lew Archer's pursuit of a girl who jackknifed too suddenly from high diving to high living leads him to an ex-fighter with an unexplained movie contract, a big-time gambler who died by his own knife, and finally to an answer he would rather not have known.

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Average: (3.84)
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