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A great “pulp” writer remembered

I came across this fine tribute website to John D. MacDonald, the writer of many crime/mystery novels, most of which were set in the area around Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean. If you have not come across his writings, which are a sort of mixture of Lee Child, with a twist of Raymond Chandler, a shot of Ian Fleming, a light coating of Eric Ambler and a tincture of Robert Parker, then you should correct that oversight. One thing I love about these old 1950s and 1960s novels is the artwork on the covers. I love those “pulp” covers with pictures of hot dames, tough private eyes, guns, boats, gambling cards with smudges of coffee or whiskey on them. There is a whole genre of design and artwork that went into making these covers that deserves more credit than it usually gets.

Even today, the MacDonald books, especially his Travis McGee stories, which later got a hilarious echo in the crime capers – also set in southern Florida – of Karl Hiaasen – read as freshly and sharply today as when they were first written. Reading them makes me want to jump on a plane and head on down south for a spot of marlin fishing off the Keys. Bliss.

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9 comments to A great “pulp” writer remembered

  • PersonFromPorlock

    A very readable author, although if you go through several of his Travis McGee books in a row McGee’s displays of manly virtue begin to feel like the posings at a body-builder’s contest – something that can be said of Spencer and Dave Robicheaux, too.

    Excellent in limited doses, though.

  • Roy Lofquist

    Hiaasen is an extreme environmentalist. His villains are always businessmen and real estate developers.

    He is also a superbly gifted writer. His stories are wacky – just short of absurd. His characters are the epitome of stereotypes. I’ve read as many as I could find and always look for a new one when I visit a bookstore.

  • Unsurprisingly, I am a major fan of both Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee. Along with Robert A. Heinlein, these three authors have had the greatest effect on my personal philosophy. I wish I could say I lived up to the tenets of that philosophy, but I fall far short.

  • My favourite J.D.McDonald novel is not in the hardboiled style at all, but a delightful “magic realism” story called “The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything”.(Link)

  • I was about to say, if you want a fine book on fantasy fulfillment:
    “The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything”(Link)

  • permanentexpat

    I love those “pulp” covers with pictures of hot dames, tough private eyes, guns, boats,……………..

    LP covers of the period were also of a similar genre…promises of excitement & fulfillment within.
    Still have a large almost pristine stack…selected on quiet Summer evenings with either a jug of chilled Daiquiries or Mr. Daniel’s on the rocks…Happy days indeed.

  • Thank you for reminding me of dear old Travis! I was quite in love with him as a teenager in the early eighties when I found and read every John D. MacDonald (and Ross McDonald, too) that the base library had.
    What a man!

  • Evan

    Let us also note that John D. MacDonald wrote some excellent fantasy and science-fiction, not just the novel length “The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything” and “Wine of the Dreamers”, but shorter length works including such classics as “Dance of a new World” and “The Legend of Joe Lee” which are both collected, if memory serves me correctly, in a 1978 collection, “Other Times, Other Worlds”. Even his minor short pieces that didn’t make that collection were still enjoyable reads.