A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hello, "Good-By"

Originally published in 1964, John D. MacDonald's initial Travis McGee novel, The Deep Blue Good-By, mixes lurid treatments of sex and violence with fascinating philosophical observations about life in America in the 1960's. An engaging reading experience, the novel is also pretty dark, as- be warned- not everything turns out well for our man McGee and the people in his sphere.

Of particular interest was the fact that, for a novel originally aimed at young men who purchased adventure paperbacks from drugstore spinner racks back in the 60's, The Deep Blue Good-By is populated mostly by women characters, and nicely fleshed out ones at that (pun slightly intended). Seriously, it was enjoyable to see nuanced, complex female characters, who weren't just there to hang on the arms of "salvage specialist" McGee during the course of his adventures (not that one or two don't do that a little).

I also liked the contrast between the beautiful Florida locales and the dark doings going on there, as Travis McGee tries to recover for his client Cathy Kerr a treasure her late father brought back from World War II but was then stolen by a devious acquaintance of her father. That acquaintance is Junior Allen, who turns out to be quite a memorable villain, first romancing Cathy to find out where the treasure is hidden, then horribly victimizing Cathy and several other women once the treasure is in his grasp.

The philosophy in the book comes from McGee's frequent internal pronouncements (about once per chapter) on whatever aspect of American life is getting under his skin at the moment. Though sometimes a little tiresome, most of McGee's little monologues are kind of interesting, though one has to wonder what adventure readers of the 60's- who probably just wanted a fast-moving atory- thought of all the mini speeches that frequently back-burnered the plot for a few minutes.

Anyway, I'm glad this thriller fan is finally taking on the Travis McGee novels, and look forward to the second book in the series, Nightmare in Pink.

Oh, one more thing: the Travis McGee novels aren't yet available as e-books, but brand new unabridged audiobook versions of all 21 entries were recently produced by Amazon's Audible subsidiary.  They're all read by Robert Petkoff, who did an excellent job with the first book, combining sharp, clear enunciation with depth, nuance, and emotion.  I'm glad I experienced The Deep Blue Good-By on audio, and will likely do the rest of the books in the series that way, too.

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