So you can read my books

Monday, June 24, 2013




It's a show about misogyny. Sex. Money. Anxiety. Change. And millions can't look away.

Perhaps we see in its alienated characters, adrift in an age of insecurity, a mirror of our own troubled times.

"Enjoy the world as it is," an old woman tells a young one during the third season of Mad Men.

 They'll change it and never give you a reason."

Unlike the series' characters, marooned in the early 1960s, we, the audience, can see the changes coming.

We've either lived through them ourselves or grown up in a world shaped by them.

Furthermore, Mad Men offers a litany of reasons why those changes had to be made; the series catalogues the many failings of pre-counterculture America for our amusement and head-shaking dismay.

It specialises in a particular flavour of voyeuristic nostalgia: the chance to live
vicariously through a period of acute uncertainty while nestled in the comforting knowledge of how it will all turn out.

If you like MAD MEN for those reasons, may I suggest TRAVIS McGEE by John D. MacDonald:

Why Travis McGee?

I look at my trashy-looking  covers of the original Travis McGee novels and think of what treasures lie behind them:
The world of the sixties live in vivid detail for that is when they were written.  And the novels contain:
Amazingly excellent writing, with little gems of wisdom, humor, and compassion casually slipped-in among the preposterous and inevitable sex, murder and mayhem.
Classy trash! Not unlike MAD MEN ... and set in the sixties as I have written.
A beach book for intelligent readers!
John D. MacDonald's insights on issues like environmental degradation, overpopulation, irresponsible development, and mindless materialism are as urgently relevant today as they were forty years ago.
You are jarred by how often and casually terms like "Darling" and "Dear" are tossed about.  Hearing $4 as the price for a cheap motel room perks your ears.  The sexism and naive outlooks of many have you shaking your head.
The internet, cell phones, and AIDS are unheard of.
Travis returned from the Korean War to start a business with his brother and discovers his brother dead, swindled out of his savings.  He finds the swindler and a path to walk the rest of his life.
The basic framework of a Travis McGee story is this:

Travis, the lean combat veteran, is a self-described beachbum and salvage expert.

By "salvage" he means he will retrieve something of value that was taken from its rightful owner, something the victim can't get back by himself, and keep half as his fee.

He lives in a houseboat at Fort Lauderdale, drives an old Rolls-Royce which someone had converted into a pickup truck, and works only when he feels like it or when he can't refuse doing a favor.
His best friend and next-berth neighbor is Meyer, a renowned economist and goldmine of knowledge and insight. With these two characters, the author manages to find a way to say whatever he wants about humankind and the state of the world:

[Re assuming an identity]
"People take you at the value you put upon yourself. That makes it easy for them.
All you do is blend in. Accept the customs of every new tribe.
And you try not to say too much because then you sound as if you were selling something. Sweetie, everybody in this wide world is so constantly, continuously
concerned with the impact he's making,
he just doesn't have the time to wonder too much about the next guy."
"One good way [to detect poisonous females]
is to watch how the other women react...
Just the way, honey, a woman should be damned wary
of a man other men have no use for."
"A woman who does not guard and treasure herself
cannot be of very much value to anyone else...
Only a woman of pride, complexity, and emotional tension
is genuinely worth the act of love,
and there are only two ways to get yourself one of them.
Either you lie, and stain the relationship with your own sense of guile,
or you accept the involvement, the emotional responsibility,
the permanence she must by nature crave.
I love you can be said only two ways."
Travis in THE DEEP BLUE GOODBYE, p.24.
 is where MacDonald hits his stride
with Travis MacGee.
It might be a good starting point.
The plot of the Quick Red Fox,
like all the McGee novels is high melodrama. 
The thing that makes these novels so captivating
is the sense of time and place that MacDonald creates. 
I love the typical poetic musing. 
I love the characters...
not just McGee, though he is wonderful. 
In this one, he creates an amazing vapid actress,
a wonderful cast of villains
and a strong, brave female companion.


  1. I watch very little tv. It's a time suck. I've never seen Mad Men, and the premise doesn't appeal. And if it's about misogynists, that just irritates my female ego.

    I'm not familiar with John D. MacDonald. Wonder what covers they would use today for his books?

  2. Aloha Roland,

    Just started watching Mad Men on Netflix and I agree, it's fun to watch, but OMGosh the amount of cigarette smoking is hilarious, but I do remember growing up in the 70s and that's how it was...

    Thanks for the tip re MacDonald. I will check him out :)

  3. D.G.:
    I watch DVD's or Amazon video's of TV programs. It's easier to fit into my frenzied schedule. PERCEPTION on TNT is thought-provoking.

    I have the answer to your cover question. Amazon has done Kindle editions of TRAVIS MCGEE'S adventures. The modern cover for THE QUICK RED FOX can be seen on this link:

    The cigarette smoking hits me, too, as I watch classic movies. I cringe each time I see an actor light up, remembering usually that they died of lung cancer eventually. Sigh.

    I think you would enjoy MacDonald's McGee's novels.

  4. i have never watched this show, i love the look, the art... the lingo...

    Jeremy H.

    New Look, New Name and Same Suff...

  5. Someone suggested watching Madmen because I work in advertising and I think the main character does too? It just sounds so dark and dreary...

    Allison (Geek Banter)

  6. Jeremy:
    I have never watched the show either. Don, the protagonist, is not a man whose life I want to share on screen.

    Like you, the storylines seem too dark and harsh. I like Travis McGee because he thinks, he reflects, and like Mel in FIREFLY, he's witty and is a maverick who does what he can in the world he finds himself.

  7. I haven't watched it, either. It didn't appeal to me. The books sound pretty interesting, though. I like watching old movies set in the 60's. Even the 50's and 40's. It's a whole different world!