RARA-AVIS: A Tan and Sandy Silence

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 10 Dec 2003

I read the 13th and 14th McGee books by John D. MacDonald, A TAN AND SANDY SILENCE (1971) and THE SCARLET RUSE (1973). The former is one of the worst in the series. McGee acts stupidly, is too dependent on Meyer, and his dealings with women are tired and unbelievable. Here's a summary, chapter by chapter. Lots of spoilers, of course, but once you've read this you won't miss much by skipping the book:

1. Harry Broll shows up looking for his wife, who has disappeared. The last time he saw McGee, they fought. McGee invites him on board and Broll empties his gun. McGee is lucky to survive.

2. Meyer berates McGee. McGee goes over to the boat where his current girlfriend, an older English aristocratic widow named Jillian, is living.

3. Post-coital, McGee and Jillian reminisce about how she tried to sleep with him while they were on her husband's boat. They discuss Mary Broll. McGee ponders being a kept man with a rich wife.

4. McGee investigates Harry Broll. Broll's employee Jeannie Dolan is attracted to McGee.

5. Jeannie and McGee have a drink. McGee comes home and breaks up with Jillian, who was mad he didn't come to a party, then discusses Broll's business with Meyer.

6. McGee investigates Mary Broll's house and street, and sweet talks neighbour and friend Holly Dressner into giving him some info. She is instantly convinced he's Mary's friend and out to save her, so she tells him everything, then her bathrobe accidentally falls open, revealing her naked body. Mary Droll is apparently living in Grenada.

7. McGee discusses things with Meyer, then philosophizes morbidly.

8. Meyer sweet talks a man at a bank and find outs all sorts of private financial information about the Brolls. Meyer reminds McGee of the existence of the telephone. McGee phones the hotel in Grenada but Mary Broll won't come to the phone. McGee and Meyer drive to the airport to check her parked car and have a run-in with the police.

9. McGee flies to Grenada. Meets beautiful friendly stewardess, philosophizes about racism. Checks in to Mary Broll's hotel.

10. Sees "Mary Broll," really Lisa Dissat, a friend of Broll's who is posing as his wife. She is with Carl, a nasty man who tries to beat up McGee but fails. Mary Broll presumed dead.

11. McGee puts Lisa under his thumb.

12. McGee finds out details about what happened.

13. McGee finds out more details, refuses to sleep with Lisa.

14. McGee finds out more details, refuses to sleep with Lisa, philosophizes.

15. McGee plans.

16. More about Lisa.

17. More waiting while things prepare. McGee meets woman who runs a small yacht that runs cruises crewed by gorgeous naked women. Men charter the boat and can sleep with any woman not wearing pants. McGee makes Lisa con Harry Broll.

18. Lisa's sociopathic cousin Paul shows up, kills Lisa, ties up McGee, but McGee escapes into the ocean.

19. McGee is rescued by the yacht full of naked women.

20. McGee returns to Florida. Talks to Jeannie Dolan, who is happy to hear from him. He and Meyer visit Broll's bank and have trouble getting information until a woman employee speaks up--she hung out with them a few years in Fort Lauderdale and knows they are the right stuff.

21. Meyer explains all the confusing business and financial details about how Paul Dissat is going to take Broll's money.

22. Showdown with Dissat. Great danger. McGee kills Dissat, almost dies, is rescued by Meyer.

23. McGee and Meyer receive help from some religious hippies who happen to be near. They all split Dissat's money and keep it quiet. Jeannie Dolan comes to the Busted Flush and moves in for a while.

It's just a tired run-through of the same old McGee stuff. The reader is always ahead of McGee and Meyer, first at knowing something's wrong and then knowing what. Being rescued by a yacht full of naked women puts the cap on it. Mr. Pelecanos said the McGee books were wish fulfillment, but there's a limit.

THE SCARLET RUSE is much better, in fact I think it's one of the best in the series. McGee agrees to help a stamp dealer who's been conned or burgled out of $400,000 worth of stamps. It's a tight plot, moves quickly, McGee is on the ball, and there are lots of good twists.


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

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