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The Deep Blue Good-By (Travis McGee Mysteries)

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Director James Mangold— The Wolverine, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line and Girl Interrupted (he also wrote the last two) - was onboard. Deadline reported the filmmaker was looking for an A-List talent; Fox hoping that The Deep Blue Good-by, the first of MacDonald's 21-book series would be the beginning of a beautiful franchise. A woman who does not guard and treasure herself cannot be of very much value to anyone else. They become a pretty little convenience, like a guest towel. And the cute little things they say, and their dainty little squeals of pleasure and release are as contrived as the embroidered initials on the guest towels. Only a woman of pride, complexity and emotional tension is genuinely worth the act of love, and there are only two ways to get yourself one of them. Either you lie, and stain the relationship with your own sense of guile, or you accept the involvement, the emotional responsibility, the permanence she must by nature crave. I love you can be said only two ways." Cassuto, Leonard. Hard-boiled sentimentality: the secret history of American crime stories (Columbia University Press, 2009), p.170; MacDonald, John D. "How to Live With a Hero", The Writer (Combat Publishing, Waukesha, WI), 7/2008, pp.22-23.

The people whom Travis McGee could analyze so well? Well, of course he could, since they were familiar types, cardboard cutouts of people. That's easy to see in retrospect. The onset of the sixties is a Freudian era… Women are instrumental in everything… They are hot stuff… They are victims… John D. MacDonald was the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”—Stephen King The job Travis takes on here concerns the theft of some mysterious war loot (WWII) that a friend of a friend of Travis had stolen. The thief is a real piece of work, who seems to thrive on raping and degrading women, leaving a trail of destroyed lives in his wake, and it is this trail that Travis starts to follow...Self-described as a beach bum who was “wary of credit cards, retirement benefits, political parties, mortgages, and television” McGee fills the role of the cool, cagey outsider who has a deep-set sense of right and wrong and a live-and-let-live nonchalance about all the rest. Living aboard his poker game won house boat ‘The Busted Flush”, McGee’s standard operating procedure is to make money when he needs it by retrieving lost property for friends for half the value. John D. MacDonald by the way, was a great, word is not strong enough, writer with a wonderful sense of place in all his books. He wrote mostly mysteries, some more frightening than others such as Cape Fear which I’ve yet been able to finish. He was in a gigantic circular bed, with a pink canopy over it. In all the luxuriant femininity of that big bedroom, George looked shrunken and misplaced, like a dead worm in a birthday cake.” Frail and broken, Lois can barely get out of bed when Travis finds her, let alone keep herself alive. But Travis turns into Mother McGee, giving Lois new life as he looks for the ruthless man who steals women’s spirits and livelihoods. But he can’t guess how violent his quest is soon to become. He’ll learn the hard way that there must be casualties in this game of cat and mouse.

One day I was having a conversation with my good friend and fellow GR member, Cathy DuPont, and she kept talking about this guy called Trav. The way she spoke about him led me to believe that he was a very good friend of hers, a Floridian neighbour, and an all-round wonderful guy. It seemed that they'd known each other for some time. Cathy was clearly smitten with him. Readers will not likely be surprised that something approximating these goals occurs in the plot’s resolution, though the actual conclusion is far more thought-provoking than the good guy putting the bad guy in jail. John D MacDonald’s contribution to hardboiled crime fiction was to take an unusually thoughtful hero and to place him against a series of brutal opponents. MacDonald created the character of Max Cady in his stand-alone novel The Executioners, which inspired two films, both titled Cape Fear. Cady would hardly be out of place in a rogues gallery of Travis McGee villains. McGee’s elaborate plan includes trips to Texas and New York, and he doesn’t make very much money in the end, despite being somewhat successful in his salvage attempt. In true noir fashion, the author is not afraid of confronting McGee or readers with harsh realities. MacDonald’s terse, telegraphic prose is equally adept at conveying action sequences and Travis McGee’s offbeat, independent philosophical musings. And the musings are what make the McGee novels unique among hardboiled fiction, though they may prove off-putting to some readers. The news that Leonardo DiCaprio was going to play Travis McGee in a movie based on The Deep Blue Good-by had me over the moon. While not quite the physical match for John D. MacDonald's iconic detective, or rather self-described 'salvage consultant,' I was still ready to see Leo chillin' on the Busted Flush in the Dennis Lehane-scripted adaptation. But Leo left the building - but would still produce - so the hunt was on for a new leading man to play the Fort Lauderdale beach bum who takes on clients only when the booze runs dry. True, it was a splendid specimen, good bones, a true heart, and a marvelous pelt. It could cook and adore and it had a talent for making love. Sew it into burlap and roll it in the mud and it would still be, unmistakably, a lady. (p. 132)Allen is the nastiest villain I’ve come across recently and richly deserves his hunting-down by Travis. There’s a very well done horror-movie moment at the end which seems in keeping with his character. John D.MacDonald writer of over 75 novels and 500 short stories has been widely viewed as having influenced numerous writers living today: Hiaasen, Vonnegut, White, Hall, Koontz (who considered MacDonald his "literary Guru"), and Stephen King, a very good friend of McDonald and to whom the MacDonald estate gave its only serious consideration to allowing another author to create a McGee sequel (for good reasons both financial and ethical, this did not happen). Many other authors have considered MacDonald to be influential in their own work. Article from Elle magazine 2017) How Playboy's Unsung Female Photographer Broke into the Boys' Club and Took Them All for a Ride

So you can imagine my surprise when much later I discovered that Trav was not real! "What do you mean, he doesn't exist! What are you saying, Cathy…that he's just some character in a book?"But when the bad guy encounters the women, he hooks them on sex, presumably the wrong kind, addictive and corrupting. Some of what we today might call abusive, but mostly the sex: Already an established and successful writer, MacDonald was persuaded to create a franchise c Travis McGee is a private hardboiled troubleshooter… He is tough but compassionate… He boasts nitty-gritty wisdom… He scorns the system… Callowell was a pilot who served with Berry for a time. George Brell was one of Berry's partners. Angie is Brell's miserable little girl; Gerry is his trophy wife. Lew Dagg is the jerk of a football player who thought he could take Travis on.

What’s it about? McGee helps recover a lost fortune in stolen goods to help a friend and Allen is the gold hoarding dragon who must first be bested. This comparison to knights errant and romanticism is intentional, MacDonald has drawn McGee to be the last of the free romantics in a world growing increasingly more mechanized and impersonal. And he wrote it in 1964! I happened upon this book in an Audible sale. It was fun and thought-provoking to listen to. Several years ago some guy friends strongly recommended a Robert B. Parker, but I couldn't read it. I may not have been able to read this one either, but I could listen. Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.They have been taught that if you are sunny, cheery, sincere, group-adjusted, popular, the world is yours, including barbecue pits, charge plates, diaper service, percale sheets, friends for dinner, washer-dryer combinations, colour slides of the kiddies on the home projector, and eternal whimsical romance. So they all come smiling and confident and unskilled into a technician’s world, and in a few years they learn that it is all going to be grinding and brutal and hateful and precarious. Returning to Candle Key to rape and corrupt the lonely woman who found him distasteful had been foolish. (p. 144) But these are the last remaining years of choice, In the stainless nurseries of the future, the feds will work their way through all the squawling pinkness tattooing a combination tax number and credit number of one wrist. The novel is pretty dated with McGee coming across as both a womanizing sexist and a white knight there to defend damsels in distress. As I mentioned earlier this novel was written in the 1960's and it feels it with John D. MacDonald offering sharp writing that works as both crime story and social commentary with McGee rebelling against the consumerist and conformist society that he despises. A few years ago she would have been breathtakingly ripe, and even now, in night light, with drinks and laughter, there would be all the illusions of freshness and youth and desirability. But in this cruelty of sunlight, in this, her twentieth year, she was a record of everything she had let them do to her. Too many trips to too many storerooms had worn the bloom away. The freshness had been romped out, in sweat and excess. The body reflects the casual abrasions of the spirit, so that now she could slump in her meaty indifference, as immunized to tenderness as a whore at a clinic.”

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