Monday, July 24, 2006

Happy Birthday, John D. McDonald!

John D. MacDonald: "American mystery writer, one of the great names of the genre, who establish his name in the pulps. MacDonald created his famous series character Travis McGee in his forty-fourth novel The Deep Blue Good-By in 1964, and went on to write twenty-one books about the most 'colorful' of all unlicensed private detectives - each novel in the McGee series contains a color in the title. The awarded mystery writer and critic H.R.F. Keating selected MacDonald's The Green Ripper (1979) in 1987 for his list of the one hundred best crime novels."

It would be impossible to overestimate what John D. MacDonald means in my life. His books are what set me on the road to collecting paperback originals, more than 40 years ago. It was through The JDM Bibliophile, published by Len and June Moffatt that I was introduced to mystery fandom. That's where my first fannish writing appeared. Some aspects of JDM's work doesn't hold up as well as I might hope. I cringe sometimes when reading the dialogue between Tavis McGee and some of his female friends. But for sheer story-telliing ability, JDM is still hard to beat. I wish he were still around, and still writing.


Anonymous said...


Enjoyed your post. Timely, also. I just finished reading THE DECEIVERS (non-Travis McGee, 1956). The storyline kept me intrigued even with the philosophical asides to the last page.

Ed Lynskey

Todd Mason said...

McDonald was the writer whose work drew my attention to Gold Medal as the center of a school, and while he's (probably) still "only" the second best-selling of US cf writers to have come to prominence in the 1950s, he is still probably my favorite. Definitely agreed about the latter-day awkwardness of some of the dialog, and some of the monologs as well (McGee was a little too convenient a mouthpiece for philosophical rambling at times), but, damn, THE EXECUTIONERS alone would put him high in my pantheon (forgiving both the CAPE FEARs which are corruptions of the novel, whatever their virtues). Mac over the Mick, certainly, to make it plain; though that might be as against the current today as Hammett over Chandler.

Bill said...

Even the philosophical rambling didn't bother me back in the day.

By the way, Todd, that JDM spelling error on the link isn't mine. It's spelled that way on the link page. I'll fix it on mine, though.

Crider's Cider said...

I would be curious to know how many writers under the age of 35 find McDonald to be an influence.

I'm in that age group, and I must admit to finding the one McGee novel I read to be pretty dated, especially the female dialogue. Of course, you could argue that America was a very different place in the 1960s in all sorts of ways.

I am heavily influenced by writers who hold McDonald up as a favorite, such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Carl Hiassen, etc.

Bill said...

I suspect that very few writers under 35 have read much MacDonald at all. He wasn't in print for a while there, and I'm not sure that he is now. Gold Medal revived the McGee books a while back, with new introductions, but I don't think they did the non-series stuff.