Friday, January 09, 2009

Forgotten Books: THE BRASS CUPCAKE -- John D. MacDonald

Is John D. MacDonald out of print? I can't imagine that. A guy who sold millions of books, who wrote two or three a year for a long time, who never had to go out on tour because people discovered his books for themselves and eagerly waited for each new one? Out of print? Say it ain't so.

Even it it ain't so, however, I'd bet that the only books in print are from the Travis McGee series, which means that dozens of titles are on the way to being forgotten. And that's too bad.

Sure MacDonald was, as people like to say, "of his time." Sure he occasionally gets a little preachy. Who cares? The guy could flat-out tell a story. After all, he sold millions of books in the '50s without reviews and without hype. Most of the books were sold to blue-collar guys who probably didn't even think of themselves as readers.

The Brass Cupcake is still one of my favorites among MacDonald's many standalones. Look at that blurb above the title: "A hard-boiled ex-cop. A hard-boiled dame. A hard-boiled murder." Tell me you don't want to read this book.

The cupcake of the title, in case you're wondering, is the ex-cop's badge. That's all I have to say. Find it and read it if you want to know more. I'll always be a MacDonald fan.

16 comments:

  1. Me. too, Bill. I read everyone as it came out from the late sixties onward. No one will ever top Travis for romantic appeal

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  2. The local Borders and B&N still stock some of the McGees that were reprinted a few years ago with an intro by Carl Hiaasen. Otherwise the only MacDonalds I see are copies in the used book stores, and there seem to be fewer than there once were. I agree Bill, it's sad that time and tastes seem to have passed MacDonald by.

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  3. I don't have a problem finding the Travis McGee series but his other books are difficult to buy. Most second hand bookstores have old MacDonald novels and I regularly snatch them up.

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  4. I bought a brand-new hardback of this a couple of years ago from "Tess Press, an imprint of Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, inc." Good stuff.

    MacDonald's pulp stories are also very impressive. Dude could just write.

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  5. Hard to predict who'll endure and who won't. But I agree with you, Bill. It's sad to see old John D. so forgotten already. The McGees are of their era for sure, particularly the often silly sexism. But there are maybe ten novels that should still appeal to readers of any era. Soft Touch for one. The Brass Cupcake, too. I'd like to see somebody like Stark House do two-fers of all his best books and then do a huge collection of his short stories.

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  6. Over in Cypress, TX, there is a used bookstore called Books Abound. Last time I was in there (4-5 months ago), there were more non-McGee MacDonald books than McGee books. I have yet to crack the McGee titles, something I'll rectify this year.

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  7. About 10 years ago, an old cowboy friend passed away and left me his collection of non-McGee JDM paperbacks. Talk about a thrill. The Brass Cupcake is one of them. I agree, it's an absolutely fantastic story.

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  8. Off-topic, except for the Gold Medal connection -- the NY Times ran an article this morning about a limited run for the 1966 Jean Luc Godard movie MADE IN USA at the Film Forum in NYC. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/09/movies/09made.html?ref=movies Based on Richard Stark's THE JUGGER (ok, it was one of the Parkers from Pocket Books, not GM ... still ...), the Godard movie has mostly been missing in action in the U.S. in the last 40+ plus years. I have a vague memory that U.S. distribution of the movie was blocked in the late '60s, up until now at least, I guess -- because Godard reportedly never cleared the rights to adapt the novel. I believe that MADE IN USA was the first "Parker movie," preceding POINT BLANK.

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  9. And Parker's played by a woman, right? I think Westlake finally came to some agreement about the film a few years ago.

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  10. Bill, Parker was played by Anna Karina who was Godard's wife at the time. (And a very attractive woman.)

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  11. Bob Randisi9:37 PM

    The Brass Cupcake was one of my early MacDonald favorites. I was in Borders yesterday and noticed some MacDonald's on the shelves. He might be largely out of print, but I doubt he's forgotten.

    RJR

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  12. Steve Oerkfitz12:50 PM

    I wonder why none of MacDonald's books have appeared under the Hardcase imprint. They would fit right in.

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  13. Looking at the main chain book shops for anything other than the Magee books seems to be a waste of time, and it seems like the only ones of that series they tend to cary are pretty selective... however I work in a library where a lot of books get donated for the Friends of the Library sales, and have picked up: Deadly Welcome, Border Town Girl/ Linda, A Man of Affairs, Clemmie, The Brass Cupcake, A Flash of Green, Wine of the Dreamers, The Only Girl in the Game, and Barrier Island so far. sadly I haven't made the time to read any of them yet..... I don't know if it's a case of the local used book shops (which are pretty snooty to be honest) don't want them or they don't sell.. but I am a little shocked when they last a season in the friends book shop...

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  14. DATrappert11:13 PM

    I've been picking up a lot of his books in used book stores around Northern Virginia. I haven't cracked the McGee ones yet, but the others are great. The Brass Cupcake has its rough spots - some really awful writing in the love scenes - the story is there and it pulls you through. The other old ones I've read, like The Damned, The End of the Night, and Dead Low Tide are fantastic.

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  15. MacDonald, Hemingway and Mailer are I think the 3 lastingly great writers from the 20th century. Though I enjoy the McGees I usually prefer the others - A Flash of Greeen, The Last One Left and House Guests stand out. He uses plots as frameworks to explore character, community or the mechanisms of society.
    Love these Gold Medal editions - I have Judge Me Not in that format - though in the UK you see the Hiaasen-intro'd McGees in big stores if you're lucky, and a few second-hand Pan editions elsewhere. In libraries many books by these writers are stored in the basement - a generational thing, I think. Stephen King promotes MacDonald sometimes, which may lead new readers to him - though it worked the other way for me: McGee praising Cujo was one factor that led me to try King.

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  16. Hardly anyone reads THE HOUSE GUESTS, which is too bad. Or maybe not. I like cats, myself. I can reread almost any of the novels with enjoyment, though some of the attitudes are badly dated now. MacDonald is the writer who caused me to begin collecting paperback originals, so I owe him a lot.

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