John D. MacDonald MacDonald, John D(ann) (Vol. 3) - Essay

MacDonald, John D(ann) (Vol. 3)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

MacDonald, John D(ann) 1916–

MacDonald, an American mystery writer, is the creator of Travis McGee. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

MacDonald is a prolific writer of considerable diversity (some 50 of his books are listed in "Books in Print"), but what he is best known for are his books starring Travis McGee, frequently described as "a knight in slightly tarnished armor." There were some misgivings all around when Mr. MacDonald started the series several years ago. He wasn't sure he wanted to be locked into a series with a set hero and a fairly set line of plot development….

Travis is aging, deliberately. He is not quite the swashbuckler, not quite the sexual athlete that he was in the series' earlier books. What he lacks in physical reflexes, he makes up for with his wits. This is necessary, Mr. MacDonald feels, to keep Travis credible, and Travis is one of the most credible, most human of the paperback series heroes. He is aging gracefully.

Roger H. Smith, in Publisher's Weekly (reprinted from March 27, 1972, issue of Publisher's Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1972 by Xerox Corporation), March 27, 1972, p. 34.

[John D. MacDonald's] recent books about the salvage expert Travis McGee have a different flavor [different, that is, from the efficient, fast-moving American thriller]. The style is still too often reach-me-down Chandler, but behind the machined efficiency of the plotting in books like A Key to the Suite (1962) and The Deep Blue Goodbye (1964) there are interesting ideas about the nature of corruption and the increasingly mechanical form of life in America. At the end of A Key to the Suite, the central figure, Floyd Hubbard, after being betrayed for a time into human warmth and emotion, turns back into the mechanical man of American big business.

Julian Symons, in his Mortal Consequences: A History—From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel (copyright © 1972 by Julian Symons; reprinted by permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.), Harper, 1972, p. 203.

An absolutely worthless novel refreshes the spirit as little else can. Reading one is the literary equivalent of retreating to the cellar with a jug. Naturally it is not easy to find a good worthless novel, but this month the reader with a November in his soul is in luck. John D. MacDonald, the nation's best writer of no-qual crime fantasies, has turned out two splendid and utterly unmeritorious volumes.

The Scarlet Ruse and The Turquoise Lament are the 14th and 15th installments of MacDonald's serially published dream manual about the beachboy Hamlet, Travis McGee. This paladin is a roughneck who lives on a houseboat in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., despoiling stewardesses and brooding about the decline of the West. He quests forth, when funds are low, to do battle for the dread forces of reality—a Robin Hood among chattel rustlers who steals loot back from thugs and swindlers and returns it, minus a 50% commission, to the widows and orphans from whom it was taken. Oftener than not a girl enters the picture. Part of the game is to guess whether she is a thug, swindler, widow or orphan.

The McGee mixture is an agreeable blend of boat lore, suspense, machismo, sex and lighthearted sadism….

Let no man say that this is escapist claptrap. MacDonald offers something far more profound, the claptrap of no way out.

John Skow, "Tasty No-Qual," in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; © 1973 by Time Inc.), December 3, 1973, pp. 108-09.