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October 24, 2005


Ingrid (I.J.Parker)

I am clearly odd, for I developed instant hatred for Travis McGee.

Middle Browser

I think it was Penzler himself in his shop (or perhaps one of his employees) who was a little dismissive of the Travis McGee template, saying to me (to the effect) "one thing is for sure, you don't want to be his friend 'cause you'll wind up dead." I like the ones I've read but you can definitely overdose if you read too many in succession. After reading several McGee novels in a row, I recall putting one down and swearing not to pick it up ever again because half-way through the novel yet another of his many girlfriends is brutally murdered (this on top of the original death he was investigating). I had had enough.

That said, I agree with everything in the article. MacDonald definitely had a lot of insight into society, business, etc. and it is worked well into the novels. Yardley is a big fan of MacDonald and last year revisited "Condominium", which he recommended. While I have it, I've not read it yet. I fear I'll become attached to some smart, appealing young woman only to watch her die.



The Travis McGee books were among the first crime fiction I ever read. What amazes me now after going back and reading some of them again is how McDonald could pack so much story AND McGee's philosophical digressions into what were, by modern standards, pretty short books. Despite the philosophizing, there's not a wasted word in there. No small trick, that one.

Bill Crider

I'd been reading MacDonald for a while when the first T. McGee book came out, so I was already a big fan. I loved the McGee books from the start, and while reading them now is sometimes a little painful (the dialoge between Trav and the wounded women can get pretty awful), I still enjoy them every time I go back.


I read those books when they came out and thought the storytelling was excellent. But the female characters were awful, and no amount of taut narrative could take away the bad taste of those dreadful women. In fact Travis McGee turned me into a feminist! I remember a line in one of the books--I think the 'gray' one--in which Pussy Galore or whatever her name was said 'all women are at war all the time' and I thought 'bullshit!' 'Condominium' was no better. Well-drawn male characters and one-dimensional female characters reduced to a sum of their sexual parts.

Middle Browser

I agree with both Bill and Helen, but I think MacDonald did sometimes create a proto-femninist who was smart and accomplished only to have her killed off late in the novel. One woman actually survived to the next novel before she was killed. It just got to be too much.


Mary R

Two summers ago I read all of the Travis McGee novels, in order. The "kiss the Captain and you die" women definitely date the work. In defense of MacDonald, this plot affectation was very common in the 60s. Look at the Bond novel/movies and Star Trek - probably the worst offender. In books and movies the hero is killing off maybe one woman a year, but on Star Trek it was a weekly occurrence! I just saw it as how the plot problem of the hero having a love-of-his-life level affair in every novel, but not having to marry him off, was solved in genre fiction at the time.

The social commentary has held up better. One thing that I noticed was how tight the writing was in those sequences. Often, a novel which felt like it was really tackling issues, in actuality had only one or two paragraphs devoted to social commentary. But they were bleak and clear-eyed looks at reality, with no pity for the victims and little hope that things will ever get better.

I've tried to bring that into my writing. No hand wringing, no whining, just the facts.


I'm obviously a fan. My blog's name is: Where's Travis McGee?

The novels are great - but I always find it amazing that everyone wants to talk about social commentary from as far back as the late-60s.

Travis McGee: The enviromentalist that existed before it was cool to be green.


Thank you for bringing this series to the attention of this generation of readers. Many decades ago I traded 52 John D. MacDonald paperbacks for credit at a bookstore and miss them very much.

I always thought a young Nick Nolte would have made a great Travis McGee.

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