The men who killed Tush Bannon knew he was a nice guy with a nice wife and three nice kids - trying to run a small marina on the Florida coast. They also knew he was in the way of a big land development scheme. Once they killed him, they figured they were on easy street. But Tush Bannon was Travis McGee's friend, and McGee could be one tough adversary when protecting a widow and her kids.
©1968 John D. MacDonald Publishing, Inc. (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Author of the Reno McCarthy and Harry Cork Series
McGee is a conflicted but essentially moral man and his rage at what happened to his friend is very nearly palpable. It infuses the book with a tension it wouldn't have if the protagonist had been a disaffected third party investigator.
Another thing is the realness of the plot. As someone quite familiar with criminal activity, I am always struck that the action in this book follows the law of unintended consequences that we often see in street crimes. Other authors (Elmore Leonard and John Sandford come immediately to mind) use the technique in contemporary fiction but MacDonald did it first and does it best.
When a reader cares about the characters, he cares about what happens to them. MacDonald creates characters so real that each one of them could walk off the page and sit down on the next bar stool. We care, of course, about McGee's knight on a spavined steed but we also care about his friends, particularly Tush Bannon. How could you read the early description of the man and not see a decent guy? What happens to him is tragic...and thus the essence of the plot. We want to see justice.
The scene where McGee cons a description of what happened to his friend Tush out of an unwitting phone repairman.
I have also always been moved by McGee's simplified visualization of life and death. I don't want to spoil it for the uninitiated but, suffice to say, I read it the first time when I was about 12 and it's stuck with me for nearly fifty years.
Travis loses a friend, wreaks havoc on the bad guys, and collects new scars, all the while treating us to his sardonic view of 1960s America. Nothing is safe from his acid wit, from the Detroit automakers and high-rolling "investors" to hippies and macho-men, Travis tells it like it is - in his opinion.
We've got him outnumbered; hope he can learn to like girly books.
Another excellent McGee mystery that still works even though it was written in 1968. Once again there is a old friend in trouble. To quote Travis "Tush Bannon was the best friend I ever had." This despite the fact that that he is never so much as mentioned in the first eight books in the series. Bannon; his wife and three children are living on the water in their motel attached to his marina. It's a nice little business but it's unfortunately in the way of a large piece of property that both local and statewide big shots want to get their hands on. So using the power of local government they drive him into bankruptcy; then he is killed. Though they attempt to make it look like a suicide McGee has the body sent to a lab where he has another friend who hasn't appeared in any of the other McGee novels. It's not a suicide; it's murder.
So McGee and Meyer swing into action to con every penny possible out of the local big shot (Preston LaFrance) and the state, even national big shot (Gary Santo.) They are aided if only slightly by McGee's love interest in this book Puss Killian. (An obvious ode to Pussy Galore from the Bond film Goldfinger) She is a more serious girlfriend than most of the McGee paramours and is thus marked for death. Her explanation for leaving is convoluted and delivered in a letter in the conclusion of the book and strains credulity.
Despite a few far fetched scenarios the book is written well enough to make up for some lack of realism in the characters.
It's a joy to find John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series available on Audible. I first read Pale Gray for Guilt in the 60s when the book turned up in my Peace Corps book locker. Immediately, I was hooked on Trav, his philosophy and adventures. I collected and read all the novels more than once. Dog-eared paperbacks still have a place in my library. Later when the stories emerged on tape read by Darren McGavin, I collected those, too, and wore them out. Pale Gray for Guilt still remains a favorite for the intricacies of the plot, the fun of taking down the con men, and the fact that Travis' friend Meyer has a nice role. Always loved Meyer. The story stands up surprisingly well after all the years.
If you've enjoyed the stories of Carl Hiaasen, you'll probably enjoy Travis McGee's adventures. Hiaasen has stated that John D. MacDonald's series influenced his writing.
Robert Petkoff does a fine job of narrating the stories as if he were McGee telling the tales as opposed to reading a book written in the first person. He's a fine successor to the late Darren McGavin.
It's easy to listen to this book all at once. Audiobooks accompany me while I do chores, yard work or exercise and the plot and characters of this one will keep you motivated. The story is interesting; there's plenty of action and strong writing. Best of all are the characters. You like them and care what happens to them.
In an age where we are urged to work longer hours and for more years, Travis' philosophy of taking his retirement a bit at a time instead of grasping for more and more money may seem strange or out of step. His way of thinking caused me to think seriously about what I wanted and how much money I needed to achieve it. I've applied it to my own life without regrets. Enjoy.
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times best-selling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner, anthology editor and comic book writer.
This is one of the best books in my all-time favorite series of mysteries.
Meyer is always a favorite of mine.
Petkoff brings great skill as a reader but also an actor's insight into individual character. He does a superb job of bringing this cast of characters to life.
Thanks to audible for presenting the entire Travis McGee series in excellent audio productions --and for getting the whole series done and made available so quickly! Bravo!
The writing groans under the weight of overstated adjectives. Its a reasonable story....the names are contrived and the descriptors are cliched .
Another mystery will be next but I'll likely stick with authors I know I like.
The narration was good I think. I can't decide if I didn't care for it because the writing tried too hard or because the narrator did. His characterizations seemed appropriate but maybe a touch heavy.
Dissapointed....and surprised by all rave reviews ...all I can guess is that the other reviewers have a history with this author and like his books the way I like DeMille....almost without regards for the quality.
Try it I guess,but if u don't like it you were warned. :-)
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