Saturday, August 25, 2007

Deep Blue Goodbye

Deep Blue Good-by

John D. MacDonald

Date: 31 May, 1995   —   $6.99   —   Book

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Fiction, Mystery

Travis McGee is a product of his time. He deeply appreciates women— one at a time and in sequence, though none for long term, and he treats them with a sort of rough chivalry, usually made rougher when he doesn't want to seem a soft touch. He bullies men only when necessary and treats them with gruff courtesy other times. In all reality, he seems like a beach-bum version of James Bond.

This book was written in 1964, and you can't imagine Travis McGee acting this way today. He would be up on sexual harrassment charges incredibly fast, in spite of the fact that it would utterly bewilder him.

I picked these books up because Spider Robinson has his characters rave about the man from time to time. Spider has often been called the heir to Heinlein— something I never saw— but it's MacDonald's writing style that he most clearly reflects. So if you've read any Spider Robinson, you'll have a gauge for how well you'll like this style of writing.

On to the novel. Travis McGee is a relaxed sort, one who is "taking his retirement on the installment plan." He does a big job and lives off the proceeds until he needs to work again. His line of work is to retrieve things that are both difficult to find and which may have legal obstacles in the way, and he takes a hefty half of the proceeds. In this case, the missing items are unknown except that they were brought back from overseas— probably illegally— by an army guy, and stolen by a son-in-law after the man's death. His daughter would like to have whatever it is back, in no small part because the jerk not only abandoned her but returned to flaunt his newfound wealth.

Junior Allen is the nastiest little sociopath I've ever run across in a novel. He hasn't graduated to outright murder yet, but as written, he soon will. He's an utterly chilling personage, and I say that as one who has read through Crime Library's descriptions of various nasties. This is long before such things were widely available, and in fact, the term "serial killer" was only coming into common parlance, yet Junior Allen has all of the hallmarks of incipient psychopathy.

Travis McGee is very competent at his job, yet he's a little amateurish in that he never seems to understand the depth of the danger he's about to be in. (He deeply appreciates it while he's in it.) As it happens, it's a very close thing for him at the end, with deaths and injuries on all sides.

This is one for the hardboiled category.

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