Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Another visit with Mr. McGee
Over the past year or two, I've been enjoying finally discovering John D. MacDonald's classic Travis McGee series, which the prolific author wrote from the 1960's until his death in the 1980's. This is the eighth entry in the series, and this time our self-described "salvage expert" McGee tries to figure out where a friend's late husband's fortune disappeared to after his death.
As fans of these books are well aware, the gimmick (though that's really too cheap a word to employ here) of the McGee series is that our man Trav spends as much time communicating his various philosophies to the reader- on topics as diverse as credit cards, human mating rituals, the best way to cook a steak, etc., etc.- as he does discussing the current book's case at hand. Due to the skill of the author, McGee's frequent speeches are, thankfully, always thought-provoking and a lot of fun, even if you don't agree with them all.
In fact, it was one of Travis' social topics this time out that made this book particularly interesting. Along with the imaginative, often very dark, plot about the dead husband and his estate that disappeared before anyone could inherit it, I enjoyed this installment a lot because it addressed a seeming contradiction that's become pretty apparent now that the series has reached book eight: namely, Travis has often lamented the superficiality of most male/female relationships, pointing out that the "new permissiveness" has mainly resulted in people using each other and moving on to the next person, with little true appreciation- especially by men- of the special, sacred aspects of human connection (I'm paraphrasing there, but I think I accurately summed up the character's frequently-expressed view).
And where's the contradiction, you say? Only in the fact that, over the eight books so far, Travis has routinely moved through one to three women per book, with nothing ever lasting very long. Talk about glass houses.
So, here, in One Fearful Yellow Eye, we finally get a little introspection and speechifying by Travis about this seeming contradiction, and it's interesting. It'll also be interesting to see how some of Travis' conclusions will be applied to his future dealings with women.
But for those mainly looking for a decent mystery story, don't worry, this novel definitely delivers that, too. There's danger, very creepy antagonists, surprising revelations regarding who was behind what, and some very effective suspense. Dark secrets, mortal danger, and all under the radiant sunshine and gorgeous blue skies of southern Florida. What more can readers want?
Between all that, and a new, even more self-aware Travis McGee, One Fearful Yellow Eye amounts to one of the richer installments of the series so far.