RE: RARA-AVIS: 1960s: Pale Gray for Guilt: Rotarian Hippy: Denton & THE PRICE OF MURDER

From: Todd Mason (
Date: 24 Feb 2003

Mm, actually, Brubeck was an interesting study...the DB Quartet that had been the best-selling jazz group of the early '60s had just broken up in
'68, after years of controversy in the jazz community for a variety of reasons, not least being so damned popular with white listeners...and Brubeck was playing third stream music and starting to introduce extended free-jazz solos into some of his concert performances. DB was "safe" the way Spillane was "safe" at this point...Coltrane and Dolphy had gotten much more thoroughly free (and others, of course, who'd even survived to continue playing and evolving), but I'd suggest that the fusionists were becoming much more Safe, and reaped the commercial benefits of that. Meanwhile, the DBQ playing Cole Porter was perhaps dubbable as MidCult back when, but to appreciate it still bespoke of a certain PLAYBOY-level of hipsterism.

Last week I read the 1957 (iirc) MacDonald THE PRICE OF MURDER, a fine Gold Medal standalone with a deft multiple-perspective approach and flawed, if at all, with a distinctly un-noirish set of too-competent cops. Another establishmentarian thread to be traced? Also, the attitudes toward women expressed by the more sympathetic characters, without any countersuggestion from anyone, suggest that JDM was growing in maturity and egalitarianism by the time McGee would more gently condescend to his womenfriends.

-----Original Message----- From: William Denton [mailto:] Sent: Saturday, February 22, 2003 2:06 PM To: RARA-AVIS Subject: RARA-AVIS: 1960s: Pale Gray for Guilt

PALE GRAY FOR GUILT (1968) by John D. MacDonald is the ninth Travis McGee novel.
| I switched the FM-UHF marine radio to the commercial frequencies
| and tried to find something that didn't sound like somebody trying
| to break up a dogfight in a sorority house by banging drums and
| cymbals. Not that I want to say it isn't music. Of course it is
| music, styled to accompany teen-age fertility rites, and thus is as
| far out of my range as "Rockabye Baby.... As I was about to give up
| I found some pleasant eccentric, or somebody who'd grabbed the wrong
| record, playing Brubeck doing Cole Porter, and I caught it just as
| he opened up "Love for Sale" in a fine and gentle manner, and then
| handed it delicately over to Desmond, who set up a witty dialogue
| with Joe Morello.

This is classic McGee. There's the technical detail that it's an "FM-UHF marine radio," not just any old radio, and there's the snobbery about crass popular music. McGee's too experienced and intelligent to dig rock and roll, though it's fine for the kids. But who does he admire? Dave Brubeck, who played very nice but quite safe jazz. McGee didn't even like the way jazz had changed.

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