Saturday, April 19, 2014

Travis McGee Takes the Helm

by Pa Rock

I just finished re-reading John D. MacDonald's 1964 novel, The Deep Blue Good-by, the book which introduces one of the most colorful and best known figures in the genre of crime fiction.  MacDonald's rough-and-tumble protagonist, Travis McGee, went on to become the central character in twenty-one novels before the author's death in 1986.

Travis McGee lives on a houseboat, "The Busted Flush," at Slip F-18, Bahia Mar at Ft. Laudercdale. He drives a classic Rolls Royce named "Miss Agnes" which was inexplicably hacked up by a previous owner and turned into a pick-up truck.  He has an interesting assortment of friends who drift on and off the pages of the entire set of books.

McGee, although apparently not licensed, works independently as sort of a private eye - helping people resolve and reclaim things - but only when he is low on money and only when the case interests him.  He is a ready brawler, and if there are any women involved in his cases, and there always are, they invariably end up in the sack with McGee.

John D. MacDonald was a philosopher as well as a darned good storyteller.  His works are known for their digressions into his thoughts on life or why the world works as it does.  He is best read with a highlighter so that the reader can mark those lines and ideas that may need to be referenced at some future point.

Years ago, on my first visit to Jimmy Buffett's original Margaritaville in Key West, I noticed an assortment of the Travis McGee books in the souvenir shop.  When I asked about them, a clerk told me that the series was the favorite of Buffett.  I always thought Buffett would have been a natural to play Travis McGee on film - but that never happened.

McGee ages along with the author.   He is a young man in his twenties in The Deep Blue Good-by, with the physicality of an angry bear.   However, by the last of the series, The Lonely Silver Rain, he is an older man with aches and pains as he discovers an adult daughter by one of his many youthful conquests.

All of the Travis McGee books have a color in the title.  I have read several in the series, and reading the entire set, in order, is an item on my literary bucket list.  Next up, number two:  Nightmare in Pink.

If you like your crime fighters to be tough and thoughtful, check out Travis McGee.  He is the heart and guts of some really engaging fiction.

1 comment:

Don said...

I love Meyer!!! and I think I've read all of the Travis McGee novels. Welcome to my club.