Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How did I spend the last 40 years as an avid reader without having ever read a Travis McGee mystery?
My first selection for Liz’s Summer Mystery Reading Challenge, was John D. MacDonald’s A Deadly Shade of Gold, the fifth novel in MacDonald’s Travis McGee series, and I plan to make up for lost time by reading them all. I knew I had struck gold (pun intended) when the 1995 foreward to the re-issue of this 1965 book was written by Carl Hiaasen. I love Hiaasen for his subversive humor and contempt for those who abuse the environment. I quickly found out that Hiaasen’s observation that MacDonald had expressed similar views on the environment was true - and that MacDonald was doing so long before it became fashionable, and long before Al Gore was winning Oscars for making movies about global warming. MacDonald - through McGee - also expresses a healthy skepticism about governments that strive to suppress dissent; a message that was vital in the ‘60s and vital today, as well. ("If we can restrain ourselves from killing off our own rebels, our doubters and dreamers, all in the name of making ourselves strong, then we can prevail.")

I found that this book holds up surprisingly well, even though written more than 40 years ago. Sure, there are a few colloquialisms that smack of the swinging ‘60s, but overall, McGee is as timeless as James Bond. In "Gold", we meet Mr. McGee as he is between jobs, living on his houseboat in Florida, (the Busted Flush - he won it in a card game) and enjoying the good life - good friends, cold beer, nubile young ladies lounging around the deck. He receives a surprise phone call from an old friend who left town 3 years before. When they meet up, Travis finds Sam world weary and looking like he has been ridden hard and put away wet one too many times. It becomes clear that he is involved in some illegal activities involving ancient artifacts, but also, that he wants to come clean and re-join his old life, including rekindling a romance with the woman he left behind. McGee returns with that woman to find Sam with his throat slit, and the only artifact in his possession missing.

McGee’s investigation takes him to New York, Mexico and California, and it become clear that what Sam was involved with was not just about money, but may also have grave political ramifications for the many Cubans who fled Cuba after the revolution . . .

MacDonald was a prolific author, writing more than 75 books, including more than 20 in the Travis McGee series, all of which include a color in the title. I look forward to enjoying more adventures with Travis McGee.


Blogger Bob said...

Boy, that takes me back. I blew through the Travis McGee books when I was about 14 or 15 and haven't re-read them. I seem to recall that THE DREADFUL LEMON SKY was my favorite.

Many people unfamilair with McDonald will have seen movies or tv shows based on his books - the original and the remake of CAPE FEAR and THE GIRL, THE GOLD WATCH, AND EVERYTHING.


3:44 AM  
Blogger Prunella Jones said...

There's nothing better than enjoying a book and then finding out the author has written more. It's like Christmas!

8:03 AM  

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