Sunday, October 6, 2013

‘The Deep Blue Good-bye,’ a Crime Hardboiled by John D. MacDonald

‘The Deep Blue Good-bye’ is a 242 pages crime hardboiled written by John D. MacDonald in 1964; the first of a twenty-one long series, starring the bold womanizer Travis McGee. The series was long out of print, but has been reprinted by Random House lately, as well has entered the digital world with a hefty price tag of $9.99 per novel. [A 1964 paperback shouldn’t cost more than $3.99 digitally, IMHO].


Trav’s introductory novel brings us to his illustrated home: the 52-foot house boat at Bahia Mar, Lauderdale, Florida. Trav McGee lives the large life, the endless vacationer/retiree life, that’s interrupted by the casual detective job. Shamelessly, he operates on the semi-legal side. He won’t take your money firsthand; he’ll restore your lost property—that you want back without any blue suits involved—and he’ll just split half what he gets you back.

His adventure in ‘Deep Blue Good-bye’ is put to start with the introduction of a sinewy legged dancer who has lived meagerly for her entire life. She doesn’t seem McGee’s proper client until she blurts her fantastic claim: her father was a WWII warrior who was arrested on the eve of arriving to mainland US after killing a fellow officer. He escapes to his home in Candle Key, Florida and hides his smuggled treasure. Next day he’s arrested and deported without telling anyone in his family about it. However, eighteen years later he dies; a fellow prison cellmate gets out and visits Candle Key. He befriends the war veteran’s daughter and lives with his family for some time. One morning he disappears after ravaging their home. Next month, he reappears, shimmering wealth and luxury.

Travis McGee’s odyssey is exciting, smart and joyous and every drop hardboiled and adventurous. However, don’t expect to get amazed by the ingenious plot or the breath-gasping thriller or the mindboggling mystery. It’s what it is: a nice ride in ‘60s Florida.

John D.’s prose is terse and joyful as usual, and his characters are as lively as you can find them. His human interlocutions and social commentary are dispersed throughout the novel, but nothing impeding.

Recommended reading for fans of American hardboiled, and seekers of enjoyable reads and smart prose.

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