From: ejgorman99@aol.com
Date: 15 Jun 2006

I agree with those who put forth A KEY TO THE SUITE and SOFT TOUCH as two of JDMs best. Certainly there are six or seven others equally as good.

I think there were two JDMs working at the same career. In the pulp days, which he caught the tail end of, JDM did flat out hardboiled which proved, in the long run, to be his best work. And he also did quite a bit of work for the slicks. The Saturday Evening Post stories, of which he was obviously so proud, read flat and empty today. The early Gold Medal stand-alones are his legacy.

Anybody who reads his letters to Dan Rowan of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" knows what a prig JDM could sometimes be on a personal level, a Witchfinder in the making. Rowan is dumping his present wife for a young babe and JDM feels loyalty to the wife, whom he obviously respects and likes. The problem is that he can't let go with a simple you're making a mistake. He becomes the Pope. Rowan is about to be ex-communicated from the world of JDM. And it's this papal inclination that makes Trav baby such an insufferable twit. I wrote somewhere that "Travis McGee is a Rotarian's idea of a cool guy." I think that's pretty much true.

I still feel that JDM was the best pure storytellerof his generation. I remember when I discovered Ross Macdonald. I felt disloyal to JDM for thinking that Ross was a far better writer than sturdy John. These days I feel that Ross Mc was the most important private eye writer of all time and one of the few writers--Simenon, Ross Mc's wife Margaret Millar, Malcolm Braly, Ruth Rendell and a handful of others--who turned the pulp formula into real art. I don't see anybody today, for all the noise, who comes close as yet.

To his credit JDM understood the nickle-dime banality of most evil--not the evil of Hannibal Lechter but the evil of the bastard who kills a convenience store clerk for fifty bucks and change. It gets too tricked up and self-conscious today, make my day and all that theaterical bullshit. JDM just looked it in the eye and saw it for the stupid tiresome cruelty of the career criminal it is.

JDM was overpraised in his time but now that he's passed he's being underpraised. Start with A KEY TO THE SUITE and go on to SOFT TOUCH and DEAD LOW TIDE. I think you'll see what the fuss was about when he was riding the top of the bestseller list. I just wish it hadn't been with the interminable McGees.

Ed Gorman

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 15 Jun 2006 EDT