RARA-AVIS: Re: What about John D. MacDonald?

From: Karen G. Anderson ( Karenand@mac.com)
Date: 16 Jun 2006

A few comments in defense of JDM:

I agree with the observations that Travis McGee has not aged well. But perhaps that's a significant part of what makes the series so fascinating for a reader my age. I grew up on the East Coast in the 60s with a WASP father who was a McGee contemporary, who worked in the intelligence community, and who had friends who reminded me of Meyer. Getting inside McGee's head lets me know the mindset of that era in the same way that Simenon (and Nicholas Freeling) give the reader insight into the French middle class. The simplistic attitude toward women? Well, that was the way most men thought in the 60s. I can't fault MacDonald for not guessing that would change. Same with MacDonald's preachy pronouncements like:

"Florida can never really come to grips with saving the environment because a very large percentage of the population at any given time just got there. So why should they fight to turn the clock back? It looks great to them the way it is. Two years later, as they are beginning to feel uneasy, a few thousand more people are just discovering it all for the first time and wouldn't change a thing. And meanwhile the people who knew what it was like twenty years ago are an ever-dwindling minority, a voice too faint to be heard." (THE EMPTY COPPER SEA)

Very heavy-handed. Very John Wayne. But, again, very much of the times. You see that same wordy style characteristic of the late 1960s and 70s in the work of Norman Mailer, and even the early Tom Wolfe. Those were technicolor times.

Speaking of which, If setting means a lot to you, reading a pile of Travis McGees while in Southern Florida is a widescreen experience. Perhaps that's why the only McGees to have disappointed me were the ones in which McGee leaves Florida (one of the later ones is a try at a James Bond-type plot, set in New York, and it's downright painful).


------ Karen G. Anderson karenand@mac.com

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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