JDM on the Creation of Travis McGee

In the course of his research about Travis McGee and his place in noir fiction, guest blogger Kevin Comer uncovered an engrossing article that JDM wrote for The Writer  just months after McGee took his first bow in May of 1964. JDM recounts the arduous process of getting to the McGee we know and love. What’s fascinating is that, at that point in time, the author didn’t know if his great series character would be a success.

“I am keeping an eye on McGee,” he wrote, “and checking up on his progress. What if he doesn’t make it out there? At least I shall be able to stop wondering if it was wise to attempt a series… No matter what I write from now on, McGee will, in one limited sense, be staring over my shoulder, pleasantly skeptical, waiting for the times when I try to make my fictional people do things inconsistent with their identities, and suddenly find them dragging their feet. His smile will be ironic.”

To view the PDF of “How to Live with A HERO” just click here: TW How to Live with a Hero

JDM’s article was originally published in The Writer in 1964 and was reprinted in the July 2008 issue. It’s offered here at no cost with the magazine’s permission. And thanks again to Kevin, for his McGee/noir posts and finding this little gem.

And be sure to check out The Writer website. It’s full of great information for writers and readers alike.

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2 thoughts on “JDM on the Creation of Travis McGee

  1. Thanks for this. I recall long ago seeing another JDM article (in TV Guide IIRC) in which he surveyed then-current TV detective series with an eye to which characters did (or did not) have what it took to succeed as a paperback series hero. As I recall JDM felt The Rockford Files felt closest in both format and characters to a successful print series premise, with Simon & Simon having some potential also. His comments on what is required for a series to succeed were worth noting even though TV Guide was not aimed at the writing community.
    Thanks for this series on JDM and McGee. Glad to see you posting frequently again.
    I have mixed feelings about the JDM heirs not wanting to license a continuation of Travis. Of course I’d love to have more, and wish some unpublished MSS would appear; Black Shroud perhaps.
    But there was only one JDM. The Bond sequels were mostly ‘weak tea’ IMHO and missed Fleming completely (and I think Fleming would have been appalled). The GWTW licensed sequel was a disaster in every sense, and I can only assume the Mitchell executors wanted to get one final bang out of a wasting asset nearing copyright expiration. The DUNE sequels by Herbert’s son and his partner have never appealed to me, despite that they seem to make more effort than most.
    I imagine JDM’s estate has thought all this through carefully. It’s too bad the movie attempts at Travis were such ill-conceived flops. But they were, and I’m sure that weighs against the idea of licensing the characters.
    A print sequel could be just as ill-conceived a mockery of JDM’s creation as the movies were.
    Perhaps all we McGee fans should be careful what we wish for, and grateful for ‘unanswered prayers’.

  2. Hi Guys:

    Interesting and fun article to read. An added bonus was that JDM wrote it himself so to me, it has more validity than another person writing about JDM and TM.

    Thanks for including it.

    Cathy D.

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