The Moving Target

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The Moving Target
First edition
Author Ross Macdonald
Cover artist Bill English
Country United States
Language English
Series Lew Archer
Genre Mystery
Publisher Knopf
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 245
Followed by The Drowning Pool

The Moving Target is a 1949 mystery novel, written by Ross Macdonald, who at this point used the name "John Macdonald".

This is the first Ross Macdonald novel to feature the character of Lew Archer, who would define the author's career. Lew Archer is hired by the dispassionate wife of an eccentric oil tycoon who has gone missing. Archer must dig through a strange cast of Los Angeles characters, finding crime after crime before he can get to the job he was hired to do.

The novel became the basis for the 1966 Paul Newman film Harper, thanks in no small part to screenwriter William Goldman.[1]

Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar) originally titled this book The Snatch. When the book was published, he chose the pseudonym John Macdonald after his father, John Macdonald Millar. It is believed he didn't want to use his own name as his wife, Margaret Millar, was already an established writer. Due this pen-name's similarity with the name of the writer John D. MacDonald, Millar later wrote as John Ross Macdonald and finally as Ross Macdonald.

Santa Teresa[edit]

In this book, Macdonald created the fictional city of Santa Teresa, a version of Santa Barbara, California.[2] In the 1980s, Santa Teresa became home to Kinsey Millhone, a fictional female private investigator created by Sue Grafton.[3] Millhone is the protagonist of Grafton's "alphabet mysteries" series of novels.[4][5] Grafton chose the setting as a tribute to Macdonald.[6]


  1. ^ Goldman, William (1983). Adventures in the Screen Trade. Warner Books. pp. 177–179. ISBN 0-446-51273-7. 
  2. ^ Priestman, Martin (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. Cambridge University Press. 
  3. ^ Everett, Todd (1991-05-23). "Mystery Town: Whodunit author Sue Grafton lines in Santa Barbara and sets her tales in Santa Teresa". Los Angeles Times. p. J15. 
  4. ^ Hawkes, Ellen (1990-02-18). "G IS FOR GRAFTON Instead of Killing Her Ex-Husband, Sue Grafton Created a Smart-Mouthed, Hard-Boiled (and Incidentally Female) Detective Named Kinsey Millhone". Los Angeles Times Magazine. p. 20. 
  5. ^ Natalie Hevener Kaufman, Carol McGinnis Kay (1997). "G" Is for Grafton: The World of Kinsey Millhone (Hardcover ed.). Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-5446-4. 
  6. ^ Nolan, Tom. "Ross Macdonald". BookSense. Retrieved 2008-06-01.