Random House Does Right by Trav & JDM

For those of you who may not be aware of it, Random House–which publishes the McGee books in their long-time mass market series from Fawcett–has recently re-published these books as trade paperbacks and e-books. They all have handsome new covers. Being trade paperbacks and e-books, they cost more than the mass markets, which remain available. The McGee adventures are also out in new unabridged audiobooks on CD. In addition, some of JDM’s other novels now seem to be downloadable as e-books.

It’s very encouraging to see this revival of the McGee brand, along with JDM himself. This–along with the Leonardo DiCaprio film of Blue–portends some nice attention for our favorite fictional hero.


16 thoughts on “Random House Does Right by Trav & JDM

  1. I would add that the audio books are available for download from Audible, iTunes, and perhaps other sources. The reader, Robert Petkoff, is excellent.

    • The Wall Street Journal weekend edition published yesterday has a long article about JDM written by Lee Sandlin in which he says his pre-Travis novels were probably better, more focused on social maladies, runaway development of south Florida, white collar crime, and characters living on the edge.
      It’s going in my JDM file. Recommended reading.

      • Thanks for the heads up, Jack & Marilyn. You will need to Google “WSJ and John D. MacDonald” to get to it. A link does not work.

        But be prepared to be PO’d. The author has a low opinion of Travis McGee. Fortunately, commenters take him to task.

        I don’t dispute that JDM wrote some damned good books in the ’50s; I’ve read eight of them so far, and they’re uniformly excellent. But the way this guy dumps on Trav displays real ignorance of the series’ importance in American crime fiction.

      • I’m not reading it then (above entry)…you’ll delete it, rightfully so, D. R., what I would say.

        Just posted Gold review with link here, of course.

        Not much, the review, was interested in what Travis had to say about safaris, gunning big game and its manliness. He named Hemingway and Roosevelt, too. Interesting.

      • Obviously, a discussion of JDM’s earlier work and his development as a writer would be a great topic(s) for your much appreciated blog.

        I just read “Where is Janice Gantry?” (ebook) and was ultimately disappointed. The first 3rd or so of the book was like a fix; the endorphins were flowing: It seemed very much a proto-Trav story, but in the end, I found the story to be uneven and more of a male romance novel, which is my daughter’s criticism of McGee (I love her anyway).

      • Kevin, it’s my plan to start writing about some of JDM’s non-McGees, as well as Trav Wannabes such as Morgan Hunt and Doc Ford. I’m afraid, though, I have to disagree with you about Janice Gantry. I think it holds up nicely throughout, and I don’t worry that Sam Brice turns domesticated at the end. That convention was required of tons of fictional work in the ’50s. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… Well, you know.

      • What disappointed me was that I thought JDM in establishing the connections between Sam, Sis, and Charlie, with Sam being taken in by “Dipity” LeRoy at just the wrong moment was tremendous; then Sam meets Peggy and the story, to me, suddenly becomes mostly about their dates and only incidentally about finding out where Sis is. The air goes out of what I was prepared to be an all out effort by Sam to find Sis. After all the title of the book is “Where is Janice Gantry?” Instead, there is no sense of urgency. Sam is busy falling in love with Peggy.

        I felt the tension, and action, should have built continuously from the moment Sis disappears. It doesn’t. In the end, there is an awful lot of exposition by the bad guy during what seems like a foregone conclusion. I felt let down after such a promising set up. This never happened in even the weakest McGee stories.

        But, as they say, I could be wrong. I can handle it.

        I’m very interested in your opinions. I look forward to exploring JDM’s work, and the clones, with you leading the way. I’ve already mined a lot of material from your blog postings and the subscriber comments. I’m listening to “Sanibel Flats” as I drive around and reading “Voodoo River”. I’ve even ordered some of the early JDM work that won’t be published until next summer. I’m having big fun. Gimme more!

        And thank you.

      • Actually, I read Janice Gantry a couple of years ago and wrote it up then. After reading your new comments, I reread my review. I guess I still like it better than you do. I’m not bothered by the things that bothered you. But here’s what I concluded:

        “But Sam, in the end, is definitively no Trav.

        “Would Trav run a little insurance adjusting business? Would Trav propose marriage? Would Trav travel north to get vetted by the bride’s family? Would Trav actually get hitched? Would Trav lovingly caress Peggy’s baby bump and wonder dreamily about their little lad’s aquatic proclivities?

        “Heaven forbid!

        “Nonetheless, Sam Brice surely was part of the R&D JDM unintentionally did for Travis McGee. And for that we should be grateful.”

    • I don’t recall nor believe I read Janice Gantry but keeping up with the conversation here, guys, or trying…so I may need some slack, please.

      DR, R&D? What mean?

      I wonder why any comparison is drawn at all unless it’s just for curiosity’s sake only.

      I’m with you DR, no, Travis caressing a baby bump? OMG, no. In fact, in 1961, the thought would never occur to people, period, to touch a pregnant woman in public. Her husband only and in private. Wonder why JDM came up with that one since it simply wasn’t done, generally speaking that is.

      I just found some pix of me pregnant (late ’60’s) and recalled women did NOT want their picture taken unless Polaroid considering it ‘bad taste’ even if the photoshop where pictures were developed saw it! No kidding. It was like not covering your head when entering a church. Use a Kleenex. Photos were taken because I was pushed in front of camera!

      A big no, no…wearing white when not a virgin? OMG, no, although Iof course, many young women did. Had their parents known their daughter was not a virgin…all hell would break loose. Courthouse here we come.

      Read all of RWW and as you know, D.R., I loved Doc Ford. Also read Dusky MacMorgan series written under RWW’s pen name, Randy Striker. Don’t recall making any comparisons of Doc Ford and Dusky but enjoyed White’s writing.

      I’ve read a handful of JDM and Cinderella (1955) in particular, I saw many similarities to Travis McGee series.

      Are you, Kevin, just doing this as a personal project, trying to find similarities? Now you’ve got me curious.

      • Cathy, I refer to research & development because Sam is McGee-like. IMO he is a precursor to McGee. Here’s another quote from my review:

        “Sam Brice is a husky ex-pro football player. (Check.) He’s living in Florida. (Check.) An ex-girlfriend is in deep trouble, having vanished under mysterious circumstances. (Check.) He’s determined to get to the bottom of things. (Check.) He has a touchy relationship with the local law. (Check.) He has a brainy pal off whom he bounces ideas. (Check.) He sweeps a gorgeous lady right off her feet. (Check.) He’s pretty darned canny and physically capable, even when he’s bound hand and foot with wire and about to be sent to the bottom of the Caribbean. (Check.) He has a nose for shady characters and crooked plots. (Check.)”

    • Thanks, D. R. Up to date, with you guys now. R&D…of course. And can see the similarities but do you also look at the dissimilarities?

      For whatever reason, I was thinking Kevin began the conversation, not that it makes any difference. But now I understand where you’re going with this.

      Thanks again, my friend.

      Oh, wrote short review on Gold. Mainly it quoted Travis’ opinion on big game hunters trying to find ‘their balls’ or something similar…Damn, I love that guy, Travis. You know I do.

      • It is just a personal project, Cathy. I love Travis – and Meyer and the Busted Flush and even Miss Agnes (more on that later); after revisiting the series recently, I miss them, and would like more – even if it is just glimmerings in pre-McGee JDM work or echoes in the work of others.

        In addition, I can’t help being curious about the development of JDM’s ideas and style that led to what I postulate, to disagree with the author of the article in the WSJ, was his penultimate creation as a mass market writer, T. McGee; beloved by you and me and many others.

        I agree with D.R. about Sam Brice being an early version of Travis. It was almost all there. I’d say my criticism has more to do with focus and tempo of the story, than with Sam tying the knot or getting ambitious about work in the epilogue, although Sis goosing him about working harder was supposedly the reason he broke up with her.

      • Thanks, Kevin for clueing me in. I was just trying to keep up with the conversation and admire you for your project.

        Missed the reference to Sis goosing him but not to worry, I need to read the book.

        With that said…I have this innate curiosity about some subjects…as an example, read something (years ago) about Henry VIII and ended up reading about six books or so about him, his wives, the culture at the time…

        I read RWW and had that same curiosity so did some research and found this obscure thesis a fellow had written for his PhD. Recalling as best I can, he was drawing a parallel with the character Doc Ford and preservation of Indian mounds, etc.

        While Doc Ford is indeed, of that ‘flavor’, in my mind he doesn’t come close to JDM and what he wrote re: environmental issues.

        I think I recall that someone wrote a similar thesis re: Travis McGee and the environmental stance as seen through the series.

        A bit verbose here, sorry. But if I see anything, I’ll sure post here and will read that article you and D. R. referred to. Hope it doesn’t piss me off too bad.

        Cheers…or salute or whatever Travis would say!

    • I’ll give you this, Cathy. There is no one on the pages of any novel who is more real to me than Trav. I wish I could have a Boodles martooni with the both of you some day. Do you think he’d invite us onto the Flush for a happy hour?

  2. Are you kidding me? You bet he would and if needed, he would put us up…too many Boodles for me, anyhow. And me swooning the entire time, no surprise to you, I’m sure.

    And conversation? Non-stop with all of us having something interesting to say. Meyers would even stop by for a bit—our knowing how much he’s added to Travis’ effort to do what’s right, always.

    You bet, D. R., you bet.

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