Saturday, January 05, 2008

Where is Janice Gantry? -- John D. MacDonald

I may have mentioned before that I sometimes like to do some comfort reading when I'm in hospitals. Here's another example. It was originally published in 1961, a few years before MacDonald published the first of the Travis McGee novels, but this one could have been a warm-up for those.

Sam Brice is a former pro football player who's returned to his small hometown (this is a bit like Deadly Welcome, come to think of it) in disgrace, though of course he's actually a noble knight in slightly tarnished armor. A young woman named Janice Gantry disappears, along with an escaped convict to whom Brice has given aid and comfort. So Brice decides he'll dig into things and find out what's happened. He does, and while what happens won't surprise you, it's typical fine MacDonald storytelling, with some comments even 47 years ago about what the developers are doing to Florida.

MacDonald has his flaws, the irritating male/female dialog exchanges chief among them, but when it came to getting down the details of his time (he seemed to know everything about everything) and creating memorable characters, situations, and stories, he was hard to beat. I know some younger readers find him slow. I can't imagine that, but maybe the attention to detail, character, and description has something to do with it. Times and tastes (not mine, though) have changed.

2 comments:

Todd Mason said...

This is one I've had for several years (in the same edition), but haven't yet cracked...soon, perhaps. Though, when you think about it, even the Marx Bros. film THE COCOANUTS (and the stage review it was based on) were about Florida "development" some twenty years before that...McDonald's research, and/or embrace of the world around him, have been part of what I've liked about his work since first reading it...perhaps referring to things some readers have no knowledge of is part of what puts the Slow crowd off...

August West said...

Nice review and I agree. I may be in the minority, but I prefer the Non-Travis McGee novels. Besides, "...Gantry," April Evil, One Monday We Killed Them All,Soft Touch -really enjoyed these. As for the McGee series-"The Dreadful Lemon Sky" ranks the highest for me. I refer to his novels as "relaxing, mystery crime stories." And thats OK with me....