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The Barbarous Coast

(Lew Archer #6)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  946 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Private investigator 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 and a big time gambler who died by his own knife.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 1st 1990 by Warner Books (NY) (first published 1956)
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Bill  Kerwin

This book is effective, in its way, with some fine behind-the-scenes glimpses of Hollywood, mobsters, and the country club crowd, and Archer is good too, making more than a few weary observations about how private detecting has changed him, and not for the better. We get our first sustained look at a sadder, wiser Archer (we have had more than a few short glimpses before), and he is frank in telling his audience--and a few other characters who will listen--how the shabbiness of the search for tr
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
According to the latest scientific research sharks can smell a drop of blood in a volume of water about the size of a backyard swimming pool (Google is your friend).
A White Shark
Sounds impressive? Not so much if you think that when it comes to sense of smell sharks smelling blood have nothing on organized crime smelling money.
Crime Money
Lots of money buys laws and once you do it you are no longer a criminal; you are a highly respected citizen. In fact you become more respected than any low peon who busts his back try
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ross Macdonald enthusiasts
Recommended to Still by: I'm in it for the long run.
The 6th Lew Archer novel starts out as another missing person case. The manager of an exclusive country club frequented by big-shot Hollywood types hires Archer to protect him from a "maniac' who claims that the manager stole his wife. The manager knows who the man's wife is but swears he has no idea of her whereabouts.
After talking to the "maniac" Archer flips a coin and goes to work to find the missing wife.

He said with the bitter irony of age: "So you are an altruist, are you? A Hollywood c
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
After the modest disappointment of Find a Victim this one's a great comeback. Because it's got a great pun of a title. And it's a Hollywood novel. Granted, the Hollywood Babylon of the early fifties could be a Disney ride by Ellroy standards, but you can still appreciate the sleaze and the cheese, however mild by our odiferous standards. You also get the requisite wacky characters: the effete club manager, the punchdrunk boxer, the jealous husband, and deranged dames galore. But most of all you ...more
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Barbarous Coast is a hipster Hollywood sleaze mystery classic that has to be read to be believed: Ross McDonald tells a story of boxers and pool tramps bought and sold by Hollywood studios while movie studio dicks enforce damage control over their pilled-out and drunken stars while gangsters hustle men for sexual favors and rich wives foam at the mouth from Demerol seizures.

Corpses are torched and drunken matron motel managers are packing heat aching for a man to unload it on and stately sa
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, noir, los-angeles
Ross Macdonald's The Barbarous Coast (1956) is an early Lew Archer mystery that takes on the moneyed classes of Southern California with a shillelagh. It all starts out when Archer reluctantly takes on a missing person case, in which a headstrong Canadian begs for help finding his lovely blonde wife who had come to Hollywood to become -- what else? -- a star.

The action starts at a Malibu Beach Club for the super wealthy and makes stops at a Hollywood film studio called Helio-Graff and Las Vegas
Brad Lyerla
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is my least favorite of the Lew Archer series so far. The crimes here are explained by mental illness and, as usual, that explanation feels sort of lazy.
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
He's so fine, right up there with Cain and Hammett and Chandler.
And he says stuff like this:
“Hollywood started as a meaningless dream, invented for money. But its colors ran, out through the holes in people’s heads, spread across the landscape and solidified. North and south along the coast, east across the desert, across the continent. Now we were stuck with the dream without a meaning. It has become the nightmare that we lived in.”
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, mysteries
Grover Gardner is so great narrating as Lew Archer. And Ross MacDonald is a worthy successor to Raymond Chandler in the Los Angeles P.I. hard boiled genre!

And the actual 'cover' of this digital audiobook looks like this:
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I recently read this author's "The Way Some People Die" and thought the writing and plot very good. I found "The Barbarous Coast" of lesser quality: it seemed to me the plot was, well, all over the place with too many characters popping in and out of the story, some of them even feeling unnecessary to the central story, as if MacDonald was trying to stretch this one out. What's wrong with a novella? Anyway, as hard as I tried to figure this one out, there were some surprises along the way and I ...more
Daniel Polansky
The uniformly strong nature of the Lew Archer novels make it kind of pointless to write much about any specific one. Here you’ve got what you’ve usually got – very strong writing, a powerful moral viewpoint, some clever character work, and one too many twists.
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great Lew Archer detective story from Ross Macdonald. It starts simple. It always does. A girl is missing and Archer sets out to find her. But things never stay simple in a Macdonald mystery. The trial leads to adultery, insanity, greed, and murder. Quite a bit of murder actually. I think this may have the highest body count of any Archer mystery I've read yet.

i am obsessed with the character Lew Archer. The little snippets we get from his life are so tragic and bittersweet. i really enj
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This comparatively early Archer novel feels almost carefree and easy-going compared to what was to follow. Given that the last Archer novel I read was ‘The Wycherly Woman’, a book I found more than somewhat dispiriting in its depiction of damaged people doing damaging things to each other, this was something of a relief. Yes, it’s an undoubtedly an Archer novel, as psychology and family intrigues play big roles here, but although there’s murder and blackmail, it knows it’s a detective story (and ...more
Franziska Self fisken
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Set in 1956 America, the tone and style of Ross Macdonald murder mysteries featuring the detective Lew Archur is similar to a Raymond Chandler novel. I hadn't read a Ross Macdonald for many years, and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. He creates a panoply of varied, credible and convincing characters. The book is both extremely readable and well-written. His command of English is superb. An example: "...Miss Seeley came in.... She was a little older, a little thinner. Her tailored pinstriped ...more
Feb 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Enjoyed this like all his others, though not as good as The Chill...he does use the word Neutraesque in here though, and I particularly liked this:
Mrs Campbell lived on a poor street of stucco and frame cottages half hidden by large, ancient oak trees. In their sun-flecked shadows, pre-school children played their killing games: Bang Bang, you're dead; I'm not dead; you are so dead.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2018
Good, but the pacing seemed a little off. You can always rely on a few great scenes, and Archer’s dialogue with his scriptwriting friend is wonderful, but there are some lulls along the way.
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Looking back, if I had to read this book all over again, I would try to read it straight through without a lot of other distractions. I read this while juggling a couple of other books, and as a result got lost a bit in the plot. In "The Barbarous Coast", Ross MacDonald offers up a classic detective story, along with his trademark descriptions and metaphors.

In this book, Lew Archer, attempts to make contact with his new client, only to break up an attack by a man who claims that his wife is miss
James Castle
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
2. 5 stars. A middle-of-the-road novel, The Barbarous Coast is the 6th Lew Archer book; it belongs more with the earlier work than the later. The set-up is familiar: a simple request to protect one man from another man turns into a hideously complex story, replete with blackmail, counter-blackmail, gangsters, false business fronts, a schizophrenic woman, several murders, and what seemed like dozens of false leads. The Chandler influence is evident in the plotting, since almost every chapter conc ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last of the early phase of the Lew Archer series, Macdonald's The Barbarous Coast is a solid, but not an essential entry. It's still an Archer book, which means it is beautifully written and plotted, but it simply does not compare to what came after (still some of the finest detective novels ever written). Also, after solid early entries like The Way Some People Die or The Ivory Grin, this book feels overstuffed despite its relatively short length: Macdonald throws a whole Chandler-esq milie ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read the Library of America's "Four Novels of the Fifties." If I were rating that, I'd give it five stars. Each of the novels taken on its own is excellent.

For me, Hammett and Chandler are the greatest of the noir novelists of the mid-twentieth century, with Ross MacDonald up there with them. I don't think MacDonald wrote a book as good as "The Big Sleep" or "The Maltese Falcon," but his body of work is larger, and a bit more psychological.

As always, the racial and gender politics are occasion
A few years ago I won the Edgar Award for mystery writing. If there was one author that brought me to that it was Ross Macdonald. This book was the one that clicked for me, though I read all of the Lew Archer series, many times over. This was the book that I was reading during a snowstorm somewhere in Ohio on the way to grad school at IU, where a few months later I invented my own fictional detective. Macdonald's evocation of California and post-war angst opened my eyes to my own potential as a ...more
Mar 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
I am amazed that MacDonald seems to have fallen out of the mystery pantheon. His books are marvelously plotted, well written, and speak to issues of family, friendship, and how old wrongs can return to create pain and chaos. I devoured this book and am so glad the Library of America has re-issued these books. When I was young, MacDonald was compared the Hammett and Chandler, and he deserved to be. He was truly one of the great American mystery novelists - in fact, like Hammett and Chandler, he d ...more
Rylee Black
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me after I expressed an interest in writing a noir mystery of my own. While the plot line was interesting, and the writing very well done, I found it a tedious read often skimming through parts that seemed unnecessary. Perhaps I found it so because I'm new to noir, but for me it was a struggle. I will probably try a couple more by this author just to see if it's a matter of getting used to the style and genre.
Paul Secor
Lew Archer ends up in the cesspool of mid-nineteen fifties Hollywood and lives to tell the tale.
(I wonder what he'd think of Hollywood sixty years on?)
I'm rereading Macdonald's Lew Archer novels from the last to the first, and The Barbarous Coast was (surprisingly, at least to me) an improvement over The Doomsters, the following book in the series.
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Best yet in the series, and he almost pulled it off without the explanations at the end
Roger Barnstead
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
it was good
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
As with "The way People Die," the setting is Los Angeles, although this time there is a touch of Las Vegas as well. That is important since part of the reason for reading these books is to enjoy his description of these places, as they were in the 1950's. This time find ourselves in a more upscale part of L.A.: Malibu and Bel Air (instead of lower Santa Monica and what is now Venice, Playa del Rey ands Inglewood) with dashes down to Hollywood's Strip & environs. But does it seem so different ...more
Larry Piper
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jim Thomas
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Macdonald is still the man who rightly inherited the Chandler hard boiled style but with more ccomplexity and more depth. However, as much as I love Lew Archer mysteries, sometimes I believe author Macdonald was a bit self conscious and forced in creating this depth. He needs to be read. The Library of America have released not one but three volumes of his works. I'm not sure anymore but The Library of America professed they would not publish genre works but literature. They eventually published ...more
Chad Malkamaki
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another double concussion for Archer, this guys starting to pile up the hits on the noggin. Is it bad enough to get knocked out once, but Archer seems to get nailed again as soon as he wakes up from the first one. Oh yeah, besides getting knocked stupid, he's hired as a body guard and discovers a whole lotta killing is going on at swanky private club.
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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 Moving Target (Lew Archer #1)
  • The Drowning Pool (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
  • The Way Some People Die
  • The Ivory Grin
  • Find a Victim
  • The Doomsters
  • The Galton Case
  • The Wycherly Woman
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse
“She said surprisingly, in a voice as thin as a flute:
"Are you a good man?"
"I like to think so," but her candor stopped me. "No," I said, "I'm not. I keep trying, when I remember to, but it keeps getting tougher every year. Like trying to chin yourself with one hand. You can practice off and on all your life, and never make it.”
“A taste of whiskey had changed her mood, as a touch of acid will change the color of blue litmus paper.” 1 likes
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