Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fun Times in Florida

John D. MacDonald; Bright Orange for the Shroud (Ballantine Books/Fawcett; 1983; ISBN 0-449-22444-9; cover designer unknown).

About a year or so ago, my friend Steve Hart and I got into an extended e-mail discussion about recent books from The Library of America. They had come out, amazingly, with a volume of tales by H.P. Lovecraft and, even more amazingly, the first (in what will be, with the publication later this month) of three volumes of novels by Philip K. Dick. Steve wondered what other authors would be worthy of such publication. We discussed Samuel R. Delany, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert A. Heinlein and many other "genre" writers.

One author that Steve came up with that intrigued me was John D. MacDonald. I knew the name (he had written some science fiction, one tale which was adapted to a popular movie), but most of my knowledge came from Spider Robinson's Callahan tales, in the course of which, the extended Callahan "family" moves to the Florida Keys and makes homage to MacDonald and Travis McGee.

Steve came up with his four best McGee tales in some e-mail (that later made its way into a blog posting) and I was able to purchase three of the four (Bright Orange for the Shroud, The Long Lavender Look and The Dreadful Lemon Sky) with the fourth (The Empty Copper Sea) being out of print.

I picked up Bright Orange for the Shroud early this afternoon...and finished it, with a short break for supper, this evening. McGee is an interesting character, MacDonald is a good "pulp" (and I mean that in a good way) writer and the story (with grifters, murders, clues aplenty, shootings and more) is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. Good stuff, and I thank Steve for the recommendation (although I was slow to follow through!). On to the next!

(Weirdly enough...upon reading this, I not only saw the influence that MacDonald had upon Spider Robinson, but I also noticed similarities with the works of John Ringo, especially the so-called Paladin of Shadows series (Ghost, Kildar, Choosers of the Slain, Unto the Breach and A Deeper Blue). Stranger things have happened!

1 comment:

Steven Hart said...

Thanks for the shout out. Considering how macDonald was the king of the bestseller list in the Seventies, it's hard to believe any of the McGees are out of print.

I was just reminded of how MacDonald and Stephen King gave shout-outs to each other in their books. I heard my daughter and her friends mocking the Twilight series and said, "Well, if you want a great vampire story, check out Salem's Lot." Turns out it started too slowly for their tastes, but I ended up re-reading the thing and sure enough there's a plug for Travis McGee. I recall in one of the later books, McGee goes to sleep reading Cujo.