Kathy Manos Penn is a native of the “Big Apple,” who settled in the “Peach City” — Atlanta. A former English teacher now happily retired from a corporate career in communications, she writes a weekly column for the Dunwoody Crier and the Highlands Newspaper. Read her blogs and columns and purchase her books, “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday” and “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” on her website theinkpenn.com
Kathy Manos Penn with Lord Banjo
What a blast from the past! In one of the gazillion emails I get from Amazon, a Travis McGee mystery was listed as a reading suggestion. I don't know that I read all twenty-one of John D. MacDonald's McGee books, but I certainly read plenty.
I likely picked up the first one in the 70s, and I was still reading them in the eighties for sure. McGee lived on a houseboat docked in Fort Lauderdale. It was named The Busted Flush for the poker hand that won him enough money to purchase his home. When he wasn't traveling in his houseboat, it was supposedly docked at slip F-18 at Bahia Mar Marina.
I was such a fan that when I was down there one year for the annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West sailboat race, a friend and I made a late-night visit to the marina to find the slip. She was a fan too, and we'd left our husbands behind at the party at the yacht club. There may have been alcohol involved in that adventure.
Regardless, we enjoyed ourselves. The McGee books all have a color in the title. The first in 1964 was "The Deep Blue Good-by," and the last in 1984 was "The Lonely Silver Rain." McGee wasn't a private investigator or a policeman. Wikipedia calls him "a self-described 'salvage consultant' who recovers others' property for a fee of 50%."
Various women float in and out of McGee's life, and he's usually rescuing them from bad luck or bad men. I suspect in this day and age, feminists would rail against the books as somewhat sexist. It's been too long since I read one to know for sure. He drives a vintage 1936 Rolls Royce that a previous owner had converted into a pickup truck, and he calls it Miss Agnes after one of his elementary school teachers.
In the 2013 reissue of "A Deadly Shade of Gold," Lee Child's introduction provides this description of the hero:
"But the good knight's armor was always tarnished and rusted. The fight was never easy and, one feels, never actually winnable. But it had to be waged. This strange, weary blend of nobility and cynicism is MacDonald's signature emotion."
He didn't just write mysteries, he wrote great mysteries. One of his McGee books won The National Book Award. In 1972, The Mystery Writers of America honored him with the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement and consistent quality.
I had no idea that it was his novel "The Executioners" that was made into the movie, "Cape Fear."
Two of his books became movies. The first starred Rod Taylor. The second, made for TV, starred Sam Elliott. He declined to allow his books to be made into a television series, thinking people would stop reading the books if that happened. Oliver Stone and Leonardo DiCaprio were rumored to be developing a movie of "The Deep Blue Goodbye" but it's yet to come to fruition. Now, that's a movie I'd see.
Having read about the possibility of a movie, I'm yearning to hear it's coming soon. Barring that, I may have to go back and start the McGee series again. They're slim books, in the 225-275 page range, and easy to read. Occasionally, a character from an earlier book reappears, so it's good to read them in order. But, who am I fooling? There are way too many books on my TBR list for me to start re-reading books from my past.
If you've never read them, though, treat yourself. I predict you'll be hooked.
Award-winning Author Kathy Manos Penn is a Georgia resident. Find her cozy mysteries on Amazon. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.