"THE FINEST SERIES OF DETECTIVE NOVELS EVER WRITTEN BY AN AMERICAN": FIRST EDITION OF MOVING TARGET, THE BREAKTHROUGH FIRST NOVEL IN ROSS MACDONALD'S FAMED LEW ARCHER SERIES
(MACDONALD, Ross) MACDONALD, John. The Moving Target. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. Octavo, original tan cloth, original dust jacket. $3200.
First edition of the novel that launched Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer detective series, confirming his place “as a seminal writer in the field of modern American literature,” the only novel published under the early pseudonym of John Macdonald, the first Lew Archer novel to be adapted for the screen in William Goldman’s screenplay for the 1966 film Harper starring Paul Newman, a Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone.
Moving Target, which introduced Lew Archer, announced "the next step in the PI tradition" (Nolan, Ross Macdonald, 83). Macdonald's detective guaranteed him "a hard-won place… as a seminal writer in the field of modern American literature" (Weinkauf, Hard-Boiled Heretic, 15-20). To renowned critic Matthew Bruccoli, the Lew Archer series, which concluded with Blue Hammer (1976), holds many "of the best detective novels in the American language" (Sipper, Inward Journey, 125). Issued after his first four novels appeared under his birth name of Kenneth Millar, Moving Target is his first and only book issued under the pseudonym of John Macdonald, his father's first two names. The next six novels came under the name of John Ross Macdonald before he settled on the pseudonym of Ross Macdonald. Moving Target was, as well, his first novel to be published by Knopf, the prestigious publisher of Hammett and Chandler. It was Blanche Knopf who devised this edition's silhouette photographic portrait of Macdonald on the dust jacket rear flap. To photographer Don Pearce, in that mysterious image of the writer in a trench coat, "Kenneth Millar lost his identity… Macdonald acquired one. And Archer became more real than Macdonald" (Nolan, 102).
On publication, critic Anthony Boucher proclaimed: "Just at the time that the tough genre in fiction needs revitalizing, John Macdonald turns up." This debut Lew Archer novel and its successors are, in the words of William Goldman, "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American" (New York Times Book Review
). Goldman wrote the screenplay for the novel's 1966 film Harper
starring Paul Newman, the first film based on a Lew Archer novel. To a generation of writers, critics and readers, Macdonald "didn't so much transcend the genre as elevate it, showing again (like Hammett, Faulkner, Collins, Dickens, Greene, and many others since Poe) how the crime story can at any time become art… Macdonald opened fresh thematic territory and set a new literary standard for his genre" (New York Times
). "First Edition" stated on copyright page. "Archer made his first appearance in a 1946 short story Find the Woman
" (Powell, ed. 100 American Crime Writers
, 218). Bruccoli, Checklist
, 10. Hubin II:I, 526. Barzun & Taylor 2316. Reilly, 987. Magill III:1134-1140.
Book fine; lightest edge-wear, fading to spine, faint soiling to colorful near-fine dust jacket.