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Blue City

by Ross Macdonald

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218496,980 (3.63)4
He was a son who hadn't known his father very well.nbsp; It was a town shaken by a grisly murder--his father's murder.nbsp; Johnny Weatherly was home from a war and wandering.nbsp; When he found out that his father had been assassinated on a street corner and that his father's seductive young wife had inherited a fortune, he started knocking on doors.nbsp; The doors came open, and Johnny stepped into a world of gamblers, whores, drug-dealers, and blackmailers, a place in which his father had once moved freely.nbsp; Now Johnny Weatherly was going to solve this murder--by pitting his rage, his courage, and his lost illusions against the brutal underworld that has overtaken his hometown.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
“Blue City” is MacDonald’s 1947 stand-alone novel about John Weather’s return to his hometown (which I don’t think is ever named in the 247-page book). The name Weather is appropriate because this book is as dark, shadowy, and hardboiled as any book could be. Just as in Gil Brewer’s 1957 book “The Angry Dream,” which obviously followed MacDonald’s “Blue City” by a decade, the story is about a young man who returns to his hometown after many years to find his father dead, to find that his father was hated by everyone in town, and to find that the town has turned dark and corrupt and nasty. But, while Brewer set his young man in a small-town in the country, MacDonald sets John Weather in a dark city.

John Weather has not seen his father since age twelve when his parents split up. He always held it against his father and, after his mother died, Weather drifted from town to town and signed up for the European theater in World War II, spending years shooting enemies and haunted by the memories. Weather has now come back to his hometown, to perhaps make amends with his father and to perhaps find work. Within hours after his return, he finds from an old man in a saloon, that his father died two years earlier, that his father brought crime, gambling, and corruption to the city, that his father had married a sexpot of a young lady closer to Weather’s own age and who inherited everything, and that the town is as corrupt as they come with every cop on the take and every citizen scared to speak out. Alone in this town, with almost every hand raised against him, Weather starts poking around and determines that his mission is to find out who killed his father and root out the corruption at its heart.

Weather is an unusual hero in that he is angry and cynical and has few moments of charm. In fact, what is amazing about the book is how dark and squalid and foreboding every page is. I can’t recall even one minute of sunshine in the book. It is not just hardboiled, it is extra- hardboiled. If I were to criticize one thing about this book, it would be that it is perpetually dark and sinister. The cynicism begins on the first page with Weather, who narrates in the first-person, talking about how when you’ve been away from a town where you lived as a kid, you think about it and talk about it as if the air there “were sweeter in the nostrils than any other air.” But, the City started sooner than he expected it to and had “crawled out along the highway.” The truckdriver Weather caught a ride with is asked if he likes the town and Weather is told that “It’s all right if you don’t know any better places.”
Weather is itching for a fight and he finds one around just about every corner. This book is filled with action and Weather is pushing ahead on each and every page with almost no let up in the action. Weather is angry that no one seems to have investigated his father’s murder and he is getting up in everyone’s face about it, throwing out accusations of cover ups.

Weather’s new stepmother is something else entirely. “She had her legs, and the way she moved her body. In her dark silk dress she moved with the free, shining fullness and flow of a seal in water.” “Her live, stirring body in that still room was like a snake in a sealed tomb, fed by unhealthy meat.” Weather thinks about how her body “seemed lost in a dream of its own power and beauty” and how he could “have reached out and taken it” “like a ripe fruit from a tree. But then she was my stepmother,” he explained, “and that would be incestuous. Besides, I hated her guts.”
This book is as hardboiled as it gets. It is well written. The prose is unbelievable and it may be among the best of MacDonald’s work. The story takes the reader through nightclubs, poolhalls, barroom brawls, shootouts, and crime and corruption. The only possible ray of light in the whole deal is a whore with a heart of gold.

The whole story takes place over the course of a day or two and within the confines of the Blue City. Even when Weather is dumped at the outskirts and told to start walking toward Chicago, he has to head back in and finish this deal. This is good writing. It is raw and powerful. And it is hardboiled fiction the way it was really mean to be. Highly recommended. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
Very early Macdonald, his similes and metaphors are heavy handed and his style isn't yet developed. Interesting to read this and know he would develop to write the Lew Archer series. Not nearly as good as his later writing, probably not worth reading if you haven't read all of his later work. ( )
  DinoReader | Aug 21, 2014 |
A hard-boiled detective story that is definitely dated. ( )
  claudiachernov | Feb 15, 2012 |
Blue City, an early novel by Kenneth Millar (a.k.a. Ross MacDonald), unsurprisingly, tells a tale of graft and corruption in an urban setting. An anonymous cover artist provides one of paperback fiction’s most unforgettable cover designs: a sinister gigantic hand, presumably emanating from a mysterious crime overlord, manipulates the citizens of Blue City as if they were puppets. -- BCS
  bcstoneb | Sep 7, 2008 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ross Macdonaldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hotz, ChristaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marsh, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, Robert B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sieg-Welti, ChristinaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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All the time you've been away from a town where you lived when you were a kid, you think about it and talk about it as if the air there were sweeter in the nostrils than other air.
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He was a son who hadn't known his father very well.nbsp; It was a town shaken by a grisly murder--his father's murder.nbsp; Johnny Weatherly was home from a war and wandering.nbsp; When he found out that his father had been assassinated on a street corner and that his father's seductive young wife had inherited a fortune, he started knocking on doors.nbsp; The doors came open, and Johnny stepped into a world of gamblers, whores, drug-dealers, and blackmailers, a place in which his father had once moved freely.nbsp; Now Johnny Weatherly was going to solve this murder--by pitting his rage, his courage, and his lost illusions against the brutal underworld that has overtaken his hometown.

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