Saturday, September 06, 2014

McNeil and McGee

Email from McNeil! "Reading DARKER THAN AMBER (1966)," he writes. "I'm 3 pages into it and Travis [McGee] is just as sexist as he was in the last novel (DRESS HER IN INDIGO). So that's comforting," McNeil adds sardonically, though he does note for the record that "someone is referred to as owl-like" in the latter. He also says INDIGO has a noticeable "gay streak... everyone is gay. It's like drug use = gayness." I'm not sure what he means by that last equation. I think he's saying that the book posits a direct correlation. I'll ask! (I did ask, and McNeil replied that the characters in the book "on the wrong side of the law - and even those who walk near the border of illegality - engage in a homosexual act at some point, whether they actually take drugs or not. I think even these characters - the non drug takers - administer drugs or sell them, though. I may be wrong about it, but that's the way I remember it.") Another email from McNeil, contemplating a blurb about John D. MacDonald, author of the Travis McGee series: "'He's the Dickens of mid-century America' - Boston Globe. I wonder which Dickens book they had in mind? Reading DARKER THAN AMBER now (at work). On page 20." McNeil then summarizes DARKER THAN AMBER up to page 20 as "The regular McGee on steroids." He notes that McGee's hairy sidekick goes around introducing McGee as "the handsome one." "It must be nice," McNeil muses wistfully. I'm going to try to get Ace Atkins to comment on all this. McNeil and I were talking about the (SPOILER ALERT) baroque death scene of McGee's romantic interest in A DEADLY SHADE OF GOLD and it reminded me of the time Ace actually managed to spoil the entire Travis McGee series for me! Which I am about to do for you in turn. We were at Megan Abbott's apartment when she was living here in town. I think it was the night we watched SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. Ace told me THE TURQUOISE LAMENT was unusual because "the woman doesn't die." And then he told me the terrible secret of every Travis McGee novel: "The woman always dies," said Ace. (And now I am remembering a conversation that Ace and I had a while back, in which he noted MacDonald's penchant for getting McGee together with physically powerful women, which I had already noticed in a secondary relationship in A DEADLY SHADE OF GOLD. Ace mentioned a book - I can't remember which one - in which McGee becomes involved with a woman who can lift a car.)