RARA-AVIS: Naming of the Names

From: Bill Bowers ( BBowers@one.net)
Date: 09 Jul 2002

---original message---

>Date: Tue, 9 Jul 2002 03:19:12 -0700 (PDT)
>From: "George C. Upper III" < gcupper3@yahoo.com>
>Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: JDM biblio


>Bill-- [Denton]
>I've been meaning to tell you of these two for a while
>now. I actually use a printed version of your list
>both as a quick reference for my writing and as a
>checklist when I'm out book-hunting.
>It also helps me keep the publication dates straight.
>JDM wrote the first several McGee books, for instance,
>before any of them were published, and I tend to think
>of all of them as "1963" which, of course, is
>incorrect. And did you know that his protagonist was
>named Dallas McGee for the first several novels? I'm
>not sure why he changed it to Travis, but in the
>manuscripts, where Travis would be called "Trav,"
>Dallas would be called "Dal." Now, I know that JDM
>probably meant Dal to rhyme with gal, but when I was
>reading it was hard not to read it as "Doll." I
>wonder if that had anything to do with it.

George, you must be very young. <g>

"MacDonald began working on the series in 1962. First he had to come up with a character and give him a name. MacDonald called his detective Dallas McGee. He explained why in an interview with Edgar Hirshberg, his biographer: 'I have a friend here that I've had for a hundred years named Dallas and the name intrigues me because it has a nice flavor about it. I think lots of times geographical names are fun, and easy to remember, like Tennessee Williams or Vermont Royster....'" [pg. 109]

[...] "Then, on November 22, 1963, John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. And MacDonald changed his hero's name. The assassination "gave the name a resonance I did not want. I wrote out twenty names and did not like a one of them. MacKinlay Kantor suggested I look at a list of Air Force Bases. He said they had pretty good names. And Travis was a good name in California," [pg. 110]

         ---The Red Hot Typewriter: The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald, by Hugh Merrill [Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Minotaur; NY; 2000; ISBN 0-312-20905-3]

...which I've had since it was first published, but just read.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the most interesting biography of a mystery writer I've ever read, with extensive quotes from letters, dollar figures, and just why JDM was approached to do a series character, and why he agreed, after having previously rejected the concept.

And someone with more energy than I can compare the massive bibliography with Bill D's posted version.

I wax enthusiastic-- but if you've any interest in JDM at all, read this book!

Bill Bowers, USAF [1964-1968]

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