RARA-AVIS: JDM's Clemmie

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 14 Feb 2002

Continuing on through John D. MacDonald's books, I just finished CLEMMIE
(Fawcett Gold Medal, 1958), and I think it's the weakest of his I've read. Craig Fitz is a 40-year-old mid-level-executive, and his wife and daughters go away for the summer. He mopes around, then goes on a drunk with a guy from work, they get into some trouble, he picks up a 23-year-old popsie and they have a wild weekend. It's obvious from the start that she's an amoral man-eater who'll use him up and drop him. Fitz isn't just not super-competent, or average, he's a loser. But not an interesting loser, just a weak man who should know better.

There are some well-done scenes, such as a long drunk and a grim sobering-up, and a cringe-inducing job interview. I was reminded of Jason Starr: a man has trouble at work, trouble with women and drink, and starts down the tubes (and shows up at work with bruises he can't adequately explain) but Starr does it much better. Craig Fitz's decline isn't gripping, especially when you know McGee would see right through the woman.

Period detail: a man is described as looking like Richard Nixon, but blond. A phone call to England takes a while to place and then there's a loud hum on the line as the faint voice fades in and out.

I'm really enjoying rereading the McGee books and going through JDM's other stuff, but I've hit a clinker. There aren't many at all in his large body of work, though. He's solid.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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