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The Moving Target

(Lew Archer #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,160 ratings  ·  316 reviews
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

Audiobook, 0 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1949)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Bill Kerwin

I read all of the Archer books some thirty-five years ago, and since then I have been under the impression that none of the books until The Galton Case was worthy of attention. I was wrong.

True, The Moving Target (Archer #1) lacks a family tragedy with haunted children that is the hallmark of later Archer, and it also lacks a disciplined series of images--both in metaphor and in the visuals evoked by the narrative--that carry us to the heart of the classic Archer tale.

Still, there's enough her
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kemper by: anthony
I’ve got to make a shameful confession here. Even though I consider myself someone who is fairly well versed in the crime/mystery genre I’d never read any of Ross Macdonald’s work until now. I know, I know. I’m disappointed in me, too.

It’s a weird oversight because it’s not like I haven’t been aware of the Lew Archer series since I started picking up PI novels, and I’d even seen and enjoyed the two film adaptations Harper and The Drowning Pool that starred Paul Newman. (Why did they change the c
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
I should have listened to the friendly doughnut who tried to warn me that starting a series from the beginning is completely unnecessary . . . at least in the case of the Lew Archer series.


This crime thriller about the search for a missing rich guy is fairly run-of-the-mill. Archer is a likable guy, but pretty undeveloped. Don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled that there's not a lot of backstory, but I don't think a personality is too much to ask. Still, there's a lot of promise here, and the writ
Algernon (Darth Anyan)

Brain's in my stomach,
Heart's in my mouth,
Want to go north -
My feet point south.
I got the psychosomatic blues.
Doctor, doctor, doctor,
Analyze my brain.
Organize me, doctor.
Doctor ease my pain -
I got the psychosomatic blues.

A world-weary private detective sits down in a rundown bar with a whisky and a smoke in front of him, listening to a sultry, sexy singer playing the blues on the piano. She may be involved in a crime he is currently investigating, the disappearance of a wealthy oil tyc
May 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Evgeny by: Jeff
Move over Philip Marlowe, there is a new PI in town and he is not afraid to get his head bumped hard enough to knock him down. Lew Archer is a private investigator down on his luck; he has to take divorce cases to make a living. When a wife of a Texas oil tycoon asked him to find her husband who went missing hoping Archer would find him with a mistress, neither Archer no his client knew that the investigation would lead to the underbelly of the underworld and practically every type of crime whic ...more
Dan Schwent
Millionaire Ralph Sampson has been kidnapped and it's up to Lew Archer to find him. But what does the kidnapping have to do with an aging astrologer-actress, a piano player, and a holy man Sampson once gave a mountain to?

The Moving Target was a fast-paced noir thriller. Archer kept getting deeper and deeper into trouble. The love triangle between Miranda Sampson, Albert Graves, and Allen Taggart seemed to be needless at first but proved to be a very important plot element. One thing I really lik
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chandler enthusiasts, fans of Howard Browne's "Paul Pine" series
Recommended to Still by: Christopher (Donut)
I’m reading these Ross Macdonald's per Christopher’s post under The August 2018 Poll – Ross Macdonald in the Pulp Fiction Group

He suggested to Ross Macdonald newbies that maybe they start out with this novel.
So I did.
Thanks, Christopher!

I tried reading Macdonald’s “Lew Archer” short stories and novels chronologically in order of publication back in my late-teens/early-twenties. Don’t believe I ever got as far as The Moving Target before tossing it in.
To m
Anthony Vacca
3.5, really. A shaky start, but really took off near the halfway mark. A sturdy emulation of Chandler's style with flashes of more racial/societal sympathies than you'll find in Marlowe's embittered worldview. But, more importantly, my edition has a 5-star cover that asks the hard question, Why is there a target wedged in a pair of ass cheeks? You will not find the answer between the covers.
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, m

A lot of people would go to a lot of trouble to get their hands on $100,000 in small notes. Kidnapping for instance. And that's how it looks to Lew Archer when he's hired to trace a missing billionaire. But five murders later and with a tightening circle of suspects, $100,000 no longer seems an adequate reason for all that trouble.

"Without in the least abating my admiration for Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, I should like to venture the heretical suggestion that Ross Ma
Jeff Dickison
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good "noir" novel from 1949, later made into the movie "Harper" with Paul Newman. The first Archer novel is the definition of the "hard boiled PI" genre. Harper is hired to find a millionaire who has gone missing and quickly decides he has been kidnapped. Fighting double cross after double cross Archer solves the crime, to almost no ones satisfaction. Highly recommended.
J.K. Grice
Warren Zevon is my favorite singer/songwriter, and Ross Macdonald was his favorite author. So, I decided to take Zevon's advice and give him a try. Alas, the results were lackluster for me. This is the first Lew Archer book, and while it wasn't a bad story, it wasn't anything special either. Perhaps other Macdonald offerings are better than THE MOVING TARGET, but I'm not going to pursue them. Sorry Warren, R.I.P. my man...
RJ from the LBC
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The accusations of "warmed-over Raymond Chandler" are deserved, but it turns out that warmed-over Raymond Chandler is still pretty good. Take the socialite wife client, amoral wealthy victim, flirtatious daughter, and all the usual tough guys and fallen women, stir well and add some intrigue. The plot is pretty obvious at times but it never ruins the enjoyment of a good post-WWII southern California detective story, the first of many featuring Lew Archer. The movie version is "Harper" with Paul ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Not as good as The Drowning Pool but The Moving Target still has a lot to offer as far as suspense and a gripping plot goes.
Carla Remy
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From 1949
The first book in the Lew Archer series
Lew is 35 here (he says he's five years younger than a 40 year old).
The mystery is not bad. Not as violent as Blue City, his earlier standalone novel.
The term "Moving Target" actually refers to an ephemeral goal you're always trying to attain.
The Moving Target is the second Ross Macdonald book I’ve read this summer (Instant Enemy was the other). I still don’t know much of Mr. Macdonald outside of his brief bio and cool, lean cop-meets-journalist-meets insurance salesman jacket picture, but I want to learn more. His The Moving Target is the rare book that both validates and transcends its genre.

Macdonald’s (anti)hero, Lew Archer, is a private detective with all the expected private detective characteristics (few friends, shady history
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first Lew Archer novel.

Archer is hired by a woman to find her millionaire husband, who has been missing for a couple of days. He'd wandered off, drunk, when the chauffeur went to bring the limo around at the airport. He had a habit of doing such and the last time he'd given away a mountain with a hunting lodge to weird old religious freak. See, he was into astrology and such. The wife wanted him found before he did something else stupid.

Not having much luck, a letter arrives, in the milliona
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th, murder
Lamenting the lack of any new Philip Marlowe novels, I recalled having read The Drowning Pool long ago. Now Lew Archer is here to fill that empty place where a hard-shelled PI with a hard head drives here and there in the Los Angeles basin doing dirty work for nasty people. I’m not a critic of the genre, but I do look for a Chandleresque approach to language, because that’s what I enjoy. This was a good book, a very entertaining film noir in my head, and a now I have uncovered hidden stash of ha ...more
Ed [Redacted]
Sparse, crisp, raw, muscular prose. In his first Lew Archer novel, MacDonald shows himself the equal of Hammett, Chandler, Thompson, Cain or anyone else who wrote in the noir/hardboiled style. MacDonald doesnt have quite the same flair to his writing as Hammett or Chandler, at least not in this first offering, and his plots are not as twisted. I suspect, though, I may end up with MacDonald on the top of my list by the time I am finished with his body of work.

Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
The first of Grandmaster MacDonald's Lew Archer series is pretty much what you would expect from a talented young writer trying to emulate Chandler and Hammett. It's better written than most that followed but it's also derivative and obvious. A solid start but he gets better with age and experience.
A paint-by-the-numbers noir thriller that does nothing to differentiate itself from the host of other such novels. It's certainly not bad, but it doesn't really give you a reason to choose it over any other novel of its genre.
Sep 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’d never read any Ross MacDonald, but a recent article in The Guardian - piqued my interest.

Once upon a time he was apparently ranked as part of ‘The Holy Trinity’ of crime writers alongside Hammett and Chandler. Having now read his first Lew Archer novel I’m not sure I’d place him as high as Chandler, but I was mightily impressed with what I found and wonder how I managed to miss him until now.

Archer is hired to find a
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-noir
Three and a half, maybe four stars? I couldn't decide, I liked the writing but suppose I like more heart and less description of breasts, I certainly enjoy Chandler more(who he is so clearly drawing from). The one-liners had me laughing through the book though...and I loved this early description of the canyons up north of L.A.
The light-blue haze in the lower canyon was like a thin smoke from slowly burning money. Even the sea looked precious through it, a solid wedge held in the canyon's mouth,
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Visiting a store that takes in used books, music and movies and I found they had a bunch of Ross MacDonald paperbacks on sale at 5 books for $2. I picked out 5 that I do not own, even though I'd read 2 of them many years ago. The Moving Target is the first Lew Archer novel and he's not the Lew Archer you may be used to in the later novels. He's young and more wise-cracking in this one, more cavalier in how he interacts with his client and the sundry characters involved in the case of a missing m ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ross Macdonald channels his inner Raymond Chandler in The Moving Target with his protagonist Lew Archer coming across as a long lost, less competent and less witty cousin of Philip Marlowe.

Archer is hired to find a missing millionaire who might be out on a booze binge or been kidnapped. The plot is not revolutionary but pretty strong. The second half filled with double crosses and climaxes is much better than the first. Terse prose, cynical private eye, femme fatales, a lot of sleaze and every o
This is the book of Lew Archer series and I really liked it.

4* The Moving Target (Lew Archer #1)
3* The Way Some People Die (Lew Archer #3)
4* The Zebra-Striped Hearse (Lew Archer #10)
3* Black Money (Lew Archer #13)
3* The Instant Enemy (Lew Archer #14)
TR The Drowning Pool (Lew Archer #2)
TR The Ivory Grin (Lew Archer #4)
TR Find a Victim (Lew Archer #5)
TR The Barbarous Coast (Lew Archer #6)
TR The Doomsters (Lew Archer #7)
TR The Galton Case (Lew Archer #8)
TR The Wycherly Woman (Lew Archer #9)
TR The
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ross Macdonald, where have you been all my life? This year I finally ran out of Dashell Hammett and Raymond Chandler novels to read so I had to strike off into the noir wilderness to find someone new. Well I didn't have to look long.

"The Moving Target" is superb. The dialogue is snappy, bitting and can pack a punch. A slightly less sad version of the world that Chandler created. And, I'll go ahead and say it, better than the majority of what Hammett wrote. Better characters, better settings, bet
Chris Callahan
A ten cent coffee, a thirty-five cent beer, a switchboard operator, an 80 percent tax bracket, the late forties were a different time as illustrated by these and many other elements of this first Lew Archer book. I picked this up because I read a lot of crime fiction, but mostly more contemporary authors and want to give some of the classic noir authors more attention. This, the first book in this Ross MacDonald series and the basis for a Paul Newman movie (“Harper”), has some great descriptive ...more
Cathy DuPont
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the mystery genre, best of all. And I must almost force myself to get out of my comfort zone and from time to time read a non-fiction; best seller; classic; anything other than a mystery.

With that said, reading the mysteries that I have, it occurred to me that I should do some backtracking and read from the masters of the genre; writers (who proudly claimed to be writers, not authors) and 'just one of the guys.' They thought nothing of 'popping off' with a serial in The Black Mask as an
Jay Gertzman
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all fans of crime novels
Recommended to Jay by: Pulp Fiction group
I think that Macdonald meant “The Moving Target” to signify the illusive post war happiness that post-war Americans will not have (Fitzgerald’s “orgiastic future”—always just over the horizon.) Could Archer be experiencing his own bitterness at not attaining this happy future? He’s been a moving target himself, with a lot of close calls. In the process, he seems to have been hit square with self-contempt.

His work has made him familiar with sleazy bars, hotel room rendezvous for quickies, divorce
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ross Macdonald has been on my to-do list for a while and I have finally taken the dive. This is the first in the "Lew Archer" series. Set in post-war California, Lew is a private detective in this case on the hunt for a missing man. Kidnapped? Dead? I won't give it away. Lew Archer has a few suspects to choose from and he acts deftly to figure it all out.

We've seen the plot many times before, but for those who like the Chandler-esque style of writing, this is for you. Lush with pulp fiction simi
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Goodreads Librari...: New edition of 'The Moving Target' 3 15 May 06, 2014 01:14PM  

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Ross Macdonald is the pseudonym of the American-Canadian writer of crime fiction Kenneth Millar. He is best known for his series of hardboiled novels set in southern California and featuring private detective Lew Archer.

Millar was born in Los Gatos, California, and raised in his parents' native Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, where he started college. When his father abandoned his family unexpectedly,

Other books in the series

Lew Archer (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Name Is Archer
  • The Drowning Pool (Lew Archer #2)
  • The Way Some People Die
  • The Ivory Grin (Lew Archer #4)
  • Find a Victim
  • The Barbarous Coast
  • The Doomsters
  • The Galton Case
  • The Wycherly Woman
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse

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“No one looks at the mountains. But they were there, making them all look silly.” 10 likes
“I used to think the world was divided into good people and bad people, that you could pin responsibility for evil on certain definite people and punish the guilty. I’m still going through the motions.” 8 likes
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