Friday, June 01, 2007


Lynne Barrett and colleagues have launched a lively new site, The Florida Book Review that's worth more than a quick look, and not just because I was asked to contribute.

But I was, and did, and my feature on John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee (more on MacDonald than McGee) gave me the chance to re-visit, re-read, and reflect on a writer who was once terrifically popular and whose work once meant a great deal to me.

And still does in many ways -- other than for this article I hadn't read (or, really, been able to read) MacDonald for a decade or more. That inability was mine, as much a result of over-reading (and over-re-reading!) him for decades as anything.

But picking up a couple of dozen MacDonalds -- costiveness of production was not among his characteristics -- his virtues (considerable) and flaws (ditto) all came back in a familiar rush.

I was reminded -- not that I needed to be -- that the McGees, for all of the charms still offered by the Busted Flush, the clockspring plots, the still-sharp insights into American society and culture ca. 1964-1984, aren't the best of his work.

A half dozen or ten of MacDonald's standalone suspense novels remain about as good as commercial fiction gets, My picks: The Damned, The Crossroads, A Flash of Green, Please Write For Details, The Last One Left, Murder in the Wind, and Cry Hard, Cry Fast.

Add the best of the McGees -- the first, The Deep Blue Good-by, and the strangest, The Green Ripper -- and some of the short stories and there's a shelf of superb suspense fiction.

Superbly slick, too, every bit of it, which is one of the things I carp about in the essay.

But what do I know?

Other than that for a long time I loved John D. MacDonald as much as I loved any writer, and if that love hasn't lasted undiminished, what has?