Re: RARA-AVIS: JDM -- an overview of Travis McGee

From: Mario Taboada (
Date: 10 Jun 2003

Jack wrote:

<<Not too long ago, I ranked John D. McDonald up there with Hammett and Chandler. In reading him again, and in reassessing him, I find myself putting him in a separate underclass with Ross McDonald...>>

That is my opinion, too, though John D. was more imaginative (but far less insightful and elaborate psychologically). I see John D. as a great storyteller. The telling can vary from terrific (as in One Monday...) to pedestrian (as in some of the late McGees). Bue there's invariably a good story. My impression is that he only wrote when he thought he had a good idea. He had brains. He also understood, as the total pro that he was, the importance of injecting specialized knowledge ("research") to tell a believable story.

<<What McDonald did most successfully, in my opinion was to write in a hard-boiled style that took on an element of poetry, while at the same time sentimentalizing his main female characters.>>

Indeed, his female characters are often unbelievable, close to cardboard. At the very least, they're badly dated. Without inviting anyone to disclose age, ┬┐were American girls in the fifties *that* naive?

<<That being said, I'm going to take another look at his potboilers, the most memorable of which is
*A Key to the Suite,*>>

This one I remember more as a divertimento than a potboiler. Let's not get into the definitions of these two infragenres, please, else we may find ourselves talking about Dean Martin and Dick Contino (with good old Annie Proulx providing the accordion thing and the dialect thing).



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