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Lew Harper, the private dick played by Paul Newman was before that the main character of the famous Lew Archer literary series.
What is the Lew Archer series about?
Written by American-Canadian author Ross Macdonald, this series is known for building on the foundations of the hardboiled fiction with his P.I., clearly inspired by Philip Marlowe.
Set between the late 1940s and the early 1970s, the Lew Archer stories are about an ex-cop who left after witnessing too much corruption and became a private investigator working in Los Angeles, California.
The adventures of Lew Archer were adapted for television, cinema, and radio. Through the years, the private investigator has been played by Paul Newman, Peter Graves, Brian Keith, Harris Yulin, and James Faulkner.
How to read the Lew Archer Books in Order?
Each book in the Lew Archer series is offering a standalone story.
- The Moving Target – 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. Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints where you get beaten up between sets.
- The Drowning Pool – When Maude Slocum comes to Lew Archer’s office with a poison pen letter intended for her husband, he reluctantly agrees to help her. Archer finds that Mrs. Slocum might have the least of the family’s troubles: her teenage daughter is desolate, her husband is in the closet and her mother-in-law has just come to an unpleasant end in the swimming pool. But what does the sinister Pacific Refinery Company have to do with all the bloodshed?
- The Way Some People Die – In a rundown house in Santa Monica, Mrs. Samuel Lawrence presses fifty crumpled bills into Lew Archer’s hand and asks him to find her wandering daughter, Galatea. As the bodies begin to pile up, Archer finds that even angel faces can mask the blackest of hearts.
- The Ivory Grin – A hard-faced woman clad in a blue mink stole and dripping with diamonds hires Lew Archer to track down her former maid, who she claims has stolen her jewelry. Archer can tell he’s being fed a line, but curiosity gets the better of him and he accepts the case. He tracks the wayward maid to a ramshackle motel in a seedy, run-down small town, but finds her dead in her tiny room, with her throat slit from ear to ear.
- Find a Victim – Las Cruces wasn’t a place most travelers would think to stop. But after Lew Archer plays the good samaritan and picks up a bloodied hitchhiker, he finds himself in town for a few days awaiting a murder inquest. A hijacked truck full of liquor and an evidence box full of marijuana, $20,000 from a big-time bank heist by a small-time crook, corruption, adultery, incest, prodigal daughters, and abused wives all make the little town seem a lot more interesting than any guide book ever could.
- The Barbarous Coast – The beautiful, high-diving blonde had Hollywood dreams and stars in her eyes but now she seems to have disappeared without a trace. Hired by her hotheaded husband and her rummy “uncle,” Lew Archer sniffs around Malibu and finds the stink of blackmail, blood-money, and murder on every pricey silk shirt.
- The Doomsters – Hired by Carl Hallman, the desperate-eyed junkie scion of an obscenely wealthy political dynasty, detective Lew Archer investigates the suspicious deaths of his parents, Senator Hallman and his wife Alicia. Arriving in the sleepy town of Purissima, Archer discovers that orange groves may be where the Hallmans made their mint, but they’ve has been investing heavily in political intimidation and police brutality to shore up their rancid wealth.
- The Galton Case – Almost twenty years have passed since Anthony Galton disappeared, along with a suspiciously streetwise bride and several thousand dollars of his family’s fortune. Now Anthony’s mother wants him back and has hired Lew Archer to find him. What turns up is a headless skeleton, a boy who claims to be Galton’s son, and a con game whose stakes are so high that someone is still willing to kill for them.
- The Wycherly Woman – Phoebe Wycherly was missing two months before her wealthy father hired Lew Archer to find her. Before he can find the Wycherly girl, Archer has to deal with the Wycherly woman, Phoebe’s mother, an eerily unmaternal blonde who keeps too many residences, has too many secrets, and leaves too many corpses in her wake.
- The Zebra-Striped Hearse – Strictly speaking, Lew Archer is only supposed to dig up the dirt on a rich man’s suspicious soon-to-be son-in-law. But in no time at all Archer is following a trail of corpses from the citrus belt to Mazatlan. And then there is the zebra-striped hearse and its crew of beautiful, sunburned surfers, whose path seems to keep crossing the son-in-law’s—and Archer’s.
- The Chill – A young man hires Lew Archer to track down his runaway bride. But no sooner has he found Dolly Kincaid than Archer finds himself entangled in two murders, one twenty years old, the other so recent that the blood is still wet.
- The Far Side of the Dollar – Lew Archer is looking for an unstable rich kid who has run away from an exclusive reform school—and into the arms of kidnappers. Why are his desperate parents so loath to give Archer the information he needs to find him? And why do all trails lead to a derelict Hollywood hotel where starlets and sailors once rubbed elbows with two-bit grifters—and where the present clientele includes a brand-new corpse?
- Black Money – When Lew Archer is hired to get the goods on the suspiciously suave Frenchman who’s run off with his client’s girlfriend, it looks like a simple case of alienated affections. Things look different when the mysterious foreigner turns out to be connected to a seven-year-old suicide and a mountain of gambling debts.
- The Instant Enemy – At first glance, it’s an open-and-shut missing person case: a headstrong daughter has run off to be with her hothead juvenile delinquent boyfriend. That is until this bush-league Bonnie & Clyde kidnap Stephen Hackett, a local millionaire industrialist. Now, Lew Archer is offered a cool 100 Gs for his safe return by his coquettish heiress mother who has her own mysterious ties to this disturbed duo.
- The Goodbye Look – Lew Archer is hired to investigate a burglary at the mission-style mansion of Irene and Larry Chalmers. The prime suspect, their son Nick, has a talent for disappearing, and the Chalmerses are a family with money and memories to burn. As Archer zeros in on Nick, he discovers a troubled blonde, a stash of wartime letters, a mysterious hobo. Then a stiff turns up in a car on an empty beach. And Nick turns up with a Colt .45.
- The Underground Man – As a mysterious fire rages through the hills above a privileged town in Southern California, Lew Archer tracks a missing child who may be the pawn in a marital struggle or the victim of a bizarre kidnapping. What he uncovers amid the ashes is murder—and a trail of motives as combustible as gasoline.
- Sleeping Beauty – Lew Archer finds himself the confidant of a wealthy, violent family with a load of trouble on their hands–including an oil spill, a missing girl, a lethal dose of Nembutal, a six-figure ransom, and a stranger afloat, face down, off a private beach.
- The Blue Hammer – Finding a purloined portrait of a leggy blonde was supposed to be an easy paycheck for Lew Archer, but that was before the bodies began piling up. Suddenly, Archer finds himself smack in the middle of a decades-long mystery of a brilliant artist who walked into the desert and simply disappeared.
- The Archer Files: The Complete Short Stories of Lew Archer, Private Investigator – Here, The Archer Files collects all the Lew Archer short stories ever published, along with thirteen unpublished “case notes” and a biographical profile of Archer by Edgar Award finalist Tom Nolan. Ross Macdonald’s signature staccato prose is the real star throughout this collection, which is both a perfect introduction for the newcomer and a must-have for the Macdonald aficionado.
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