Friday, November 29, 2013

Ross Mcdonald's Lew Archer

Lew Archer is a fictional character created by Ross Macdonald. Archer was similar to Philip Marlowe. However, he eventually broke from that mold, Archer's principal difference is that he is much more openly sensitive and empathetic than the tough Marlowe. He also serves a different function from Marlowe. Raymond Chandler's books were studies of Marlowe's character and code of honor. Another small difference was that Marlowe prowled the city of Los Angeles during the 1940s, while Lew Archer primarily worked the suburbs in the 1950s. Like Marlowe, Archer observes growing dichotomies in the American society with visual snapshots. Archer's name pays homage to Dashiell Hammett. Miles Archer was the name of Sam Spade's murdered partner in The Maltese Falcon. 

The Novels
The Moving Target (1949)
The Drowning Pool (1950)
The Way Some People Die (1951)
The Ivory Grin (1952; aka Marked for Murder)
Find a Victim (1954)
The Barbarous Coast (1956)
The Doomsters (1958)
The Galton Case (1959)
The Wycherly Woman (1961)
The Zebra-Striped Hearse (1962)
The Chill (1964)
The Far Side of the Dollar (1965)
Black Money (1966)
The Instant Enemy (1968)
The Goodbye Look (1969)
The Underground Man (1971)
Sleeping Beauty (1973)
The Blue Hammer (1976)

The Films
The Moving Target (filmed with Paul Newman as Harper, 1966)
The Drowning Pool (also filmed with Paul Newman as "Lew Harper", 1975)

The Underground Man (1974, dir Paul Wendkos, TV movie starring Peter Graves).
Archer, (1975 NBC TV series starring Brian Keith)
Ross Mcdonald
Kenneth Millar (December 13, 1915 – July 11, 1983)


  1. Scott - Nice that you highlighted Lew Archer. I like him very much as a character.

  2. A handy page, Scott. Recent blogger interest in the Lew Archer series prompted me to complete my set of the books, which was mostly early UK paperback printings. One of the four titles missing was The Drowning Pool and I ordered a copy from online charity bookseller Better World Books.

    When the book arrived, I was dealt one of those unexpected surprises that used to be the delight of the collector browsing for hidden treasures in used book stores.

    On the inside front cover was the interesting signature of the book's original owner. "Why interesting?" you may ask, the value of a copy of any pre-owned book possibly being reduced by an old, private inscription.

    Ah, but this inscription says: "Roger Ebert, Chicago 1971." I've checked out the handwriting via Google Images and I've no doubt it's completely genuine.

    Roger Ebert, of course, was the movie critic of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper from 1967 until his death in April this year. In 1975, he was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. His opinions are respected by film buffs worldwide. His reviews were syndicated far beyond Chicago to more than 200 newspapers. When Ebert died, President Barack Obama wrote, "Roger was the movies ... [he could capture] the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical ... The movies won't be the same without Roger."

    Ebert did not rate the 1975 film of The Drowning Pool highly, awarding it only two stars. I wonder if he formed that opinion partly as a result of studying his copy of the book. He said, "... since The Drowning Pool is a Paul Newman vehicle, it goes first class [as opposed to a kind of B-movie route], and that turns out to be fatal. So much attention is given to making the movie look good visually that the story gets mislaid, and scenes that should create tension are photographed so painstakingly they only record it. There's a lot of careful framing and backlighting and things look so good we lose track of what's going on... It's too bad The Drowning Pool only occasionally comes alive, because it has some nice Macdonald characters in it."