Saturday, May 21, 2005

Border Town Girl -- John D. MacDonald


Every now and then I get the urge to revist something by John D. MacDonald. (So does Ed Gorman. Check out his post about The Brass Cupcake here.) I wanted something short and snappy, so I picked Border Town Girl, which isn't a novel but a collection of two novellas, the title one and another called Linda. Border Town Girl was published originally in Dime Detective in 1950, and this book publication is one of the rare occasions where JDM seems to have wanted his pulp work reprinted. (The edition pictured is the first one from Popular Library; it was later reprinted by Gold Medal.) I think one reason must be that he liked the villain so much. His name is Christy, and he's the forerunner of all those really bad guys that populated the Travis McGee series. The only problem with the story is that the hero overcomes him so easily. If you've ever doubted that JDM was a fine writer even before he started writing for Gold Medal, have a look at Border Town Girl. A lot of his virtues are already on display, along with some of his typical weaknesses. I'm glad I had another look at this one. Now I need to try Linda. Posted by Hello

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill--be interested to hear what you think JDMs weaknesses are, if they are the same ones I see. I like Linda very much; and it made a fine filmwith Virginia Madsen and (believe it or not) Richard Thomas. Nathaniel Gutman directed it and did a damn good job. I was going to say that JDM probably would've liked it but then he didn't like the original Cape Fear so who knows. Ed Gorman

Bill said...

Hi, Ed. In "Border Town Girl" there's the relationship between the hero and his ex-wife. The dialogue at the end is just too cutesy for words, and I get the feeling it's not exactly what two people would say to each other after a bitter divorce and quite a few years apart. All the women in the story are sentimentalized and pretty hard to believe, especially the "bad" but really pure and noble title character. JDM liked to make fun of Hemingway now and then, but there's sure some of Hemingway in this story, especially the part where our hero takes up writing again. But I liked the little joke about the story he wrote quite a bit.

James Reasoner said...

I love that title, Border Town Girl. Really evocative of its era. Who did the cover on the Popular Library edition? I have the Gold Medal reprint, which is McGinnis, of course. In all the JDM I've read or reread in recent years, it's the female characters who don't really come across as believable. But he puts words together so well I don't mind.

Bill said...

I don't know who did that cover, but I like it. I don't know whose title it is, either. The story was published as "Five Star Fugitive," which is pretty bad. Maybe "Border Town Girl" was JDM's original title, or maybe somebody at Popular Library came up with it.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Bill, nice coincidence. We were in a junk shop yesterday looking for books for Jackie and I came across a Gold Medal edition (2nd ptg) of JDM's Murder for the Bride for 50¢. It was in really nice shape so of course I bought it. How could I not, with the tagline "She may look like an angel...but she's a tramp."

Now I need you to tell me if I should read it.

Bill said...

Anything by JDM is worth reading. I haven't read that particular book in probably 40 years. But I guarantee it's worth a look.