Re: RARA-AVIS: Who I've been reading - John D. MacDonald

From: William Denton (
Date: 25 Jan 2006

On 25 January 2006, Doug Bassett wrote:

> As is often the case with writers, the genre restrictions that the McGee
> series imposed actually helped JDM out tremendously. JDM had a lot of
> oddball notions about sex, for instance, especially in the late fifties
> and through the sixties. (They come off as sort of a Puritanically
> Playboy thing, if that makes any sense.)

A good description!

> When they come out of McGee's mouth, they're interesting, because
> they're embodied in a character that has a specific life history,
> setting, point of view, etc. These notions make him seem more real, more
> individual. Detached from the reality of McGee, though, they just seem
> pretty goofy, especially when you meet up with them again and again in
> the most improbable places.

I think of JDM's work as one body, with the same concerns and themes and ideas and certainly style running through all his books. McGee's one of the most memorable characters around, and I think of him as you do, but I still see the McGee books fitted in with all the others--literally, in my case, because they're all lined up on a shelf--with the same person clearly behind them all, saying what he wants to say, but in different places and ways. A McGee book is a JDM book first.

> I'm writing this on the sly at work, and as such don't have my books
> around me, but I'd certainly toss THE DAMNED, CONTRARY PLEASURE, CANCEL
> ALL OUR VOWS, CLEMMIE and THE BEACH GIRLS in that hopper, off the top of
> my head.

I think I've read half of those but I can't remember the stories from the titles! I do remember CLEMMIE was awful. As you say, many of the good ones are of a type, with a business background, and then there are the soapier multiple character/multiple viewpoint ones, like the artists' colony in Mexico or the movie star murder at a cabin in the hills. I've sent brief reviews here of most of the ones I've read, and I'd have to check them to see what I thought. I just don't remember them well enough. He wrote a lot, and they blur together in my mind, and the Earnest Everyman doesn't help.. What sticks in my head is a picture of JDM each day crafting stories that are very hard to put down. He arrived at art through hard work.

I'm reading the third-to-last McGee right now, FREE FALL IN CRIMSON, and I'll send a note when I'm done.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : :

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