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John D. MacDonald
[1916-1986]

John D. MacDonald with glasses             here on page one:
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       Travis McGee is the protagonist of 21 novels written by John D. MacDonald (whose bio follows this 'bio' of Travis). The first four books were published in 1964, with Korean War veteran Travis already established in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the houseboat that he won in a poker game and renamed the 'Busted Flush'. Travis drives a painted-purple Rolls-Royce pickup truck called 'Miss Agnes' and lives a Sixties fantasy lifestyle – on the surface – fishing and boating and partying with other folk around the Bahia Mar marina and picking up cute females with the net of his looks and charm. But he earns his largely-unreported income by hiring out as a 'salvage consultant' when he must, or when a friend in need calls on his help. For such dangerous work he charges half of the amount recovered.

       1964: In "The Deep Blue Good-By" Travis travels to Texas & Manhattan and eventually restores an inheritence that the client, Cathy Kerr, did not realize existed. In "Nightmare In Pink", Mike, an old Army buddy, asks Travis to investigate the death of the man whose strange death prevented his marriage to Mike's sister; the trail leads to Manhattan and Upstate New York; Travis discovers corruption by financial trustees and a call girl ring, and experiences harrowing confinement (by the bad guys) in a nuthouse.
       Travis's best friend Meyer is introduced in "A Purple Place For Dying": Meyer is a world-class economist, living nicely on investments and lecture fees, aboard the John Maynard Keynes. Travis is hired by a woman from an Old West desert valley, who is shot dead just as Travis arrives to meet with her. "The Quick Red Fox" brings Travis to Hollywood, where he saves movie star Lysa Dean from a blackmailer – with side trips to Big Sur, New York & Las Vegas giving the author opportunity to expound on the excesses of the vulgar rich.
       1965: In "A Deadly Shade of Gold", Travis looks into the murder of a friend over golden Mayan artifacts, leading him to Mexico and a network of venal Cuban refugees. In "Bright Orange For The Shroud", Travis helps a local pal who has been cleaned out by a gang of swindlers.
       1966: In "Darker Than Amber", Travis & Meyer save a proud beauty tossed over a bridge with her ankles tied to a cement block; the threesome bust up a cruise ship murder racket. In "One Fearful Yellow Eye", Travis delves into the Chicago art world, and he and lady-love Heidi narrowly escape death.
       1968: In "Pale Gray For Guilt", the supposed suicide of friend Tush Bannon is not believable, and Travis avenges Bannon's murder by land speculators and also finds true love with Puss Killian, though she leaves him at the end of the book.
       1969: In "The Girl In The Plain Brown Wrapper", classy former love Helena Pearson Trescott dies bringing Travis a message and a check to hire him to save her daughter from corrupt doctors. In "Dress Her In Indigo", Travis & Meyer travel to a remote resort near Oaxaca, Mexico, to investigate the death of the daughter of a friend.
       1970: In "The Long Lavender Look", a redneck rural sheriff finds Travis & Meyer perfect suspects in the murder of a young girl. After his ordeal, Travis finds solace & healing with Heidi.
       1971: In "A Tan & Sandy Silence", a man attacks Travis, demanding the return of his wife; Travis tracks her to Grenada and a psychotic villain. He meets Lady Jillian, turns down her unabashed sexual offers, and becomes fast friends with her (she appears in later books).
       1973: In "The Scarlet Ruse", murder and stamp-collecting drive the plot. Local hustler Willy Nucci is introduced, and Travis recuperates at the end with former client Cathy Kerr.
       1974: "The Turquoise Lament" was the first Travis McGee novel to be published in hardcover before the paperback. Travis helps locate underwater treasure in La Paz, Mexico, and after several murders, goes to Samoa to catch the killer.
       1975: In "The Dreadful Lemon Sky", the story begins with the suspicious death of a marina owner and the murder of an old friend just after she gives Travis a bundle of cash to protect for her. Travis & Meyer infiltrate the town of Bayside and the subcultures of swinging singles, marijuana smuggling, and corrupt small-town politics.
       1978: In "The Empty Copper Sea", Travis & Meyer pose as real estate developers to solve the disappearance (supposedly death-by-drowning) that is blamed on an old pal. Travis fends off a lounge singer's attentions and falls seriously for Gretel Howard.
       1980: In "The Green Ripper", lady love Gretel's suspicious sudden death leads Travis to a religious/militarist cult in Northern California. Travis uses guerrilla skills learned in the Army to destroy the organization and the camp.
       1981: In "Free Fall In Crimson", Travis asks Lysa Dean {see "Quick Red Fox" above} for help investigating a biker movie director's connections to drugs, porn and murder. Meyer is psychologically devastated after being taken hostage, and Travis becomes smitten with Annie, the tiny manager of a Gulf Coast hotel.
       1982: In "Cinnamon Skin", Annie leaves and Meyer is still in shock, so Travis takes Meyer along tracking a serial killer across Texas to Cancun, Mexico, where Travis & Meyer & a Mayan beauty trap the villain.
       1985: In "Lonely Silver Rain", Travis is beginning to feel his age. A wealthy friend asks Travis to find a stolen 52-foot yacht, and Travis does so, but there are dead bodies aboard, so he has to fend off Columbian drug smugglers (who figure Travis a perfect scapegoat) while trying to track down the real killers. At the end, Travis is surprised by a daughter he never knew about, a result of his love affair with Puss Killian {see "Pale Gray For Guilt" above}.

       Contrary to the persistent rumor, John D. MacDonald neither planned nor wrote a book with 'Black' in the title, about the death of Travis McGee.

       John Dann MacDonald was born 24 July 1916 in Sharon, Pennsylvania. Childhood illness confined him to bed, where he found escape thru books (much as did Robert Louis Stevenson & others). He was educated at Wharton, Syracuse & Harvard. He married Dorothy Mary Prentiss in 1937, producing a son, Johnny, in 1940.
       John enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940 as a lieutenant, was posted to India, and eventually made the rank of lieutenant colonel. While overseas, he sent his wife stories rather than letters, which she submitted to pulp magazines. His first success – a $25 sale to the prestigious Story Magazine inspired him to a career as a writer. After his discharge, he wrote feverishly, and a string of stories were published from 1947 to 1952, many under several pseudonyms. The pulp fiction magazines were by that time dying out, so John began writing for and selling to better magazines, though book publication proved elusive.
       Brothers Roscoe and William Fawcett founded Fawcett/Gold Medal books in 1949, and quickly established a market for original paperback novels. "The Brass Cupcake" [1950] was the first of 36 popular John D. MacDonald novels published by Fawcett. Dell published 9 paperback novels and the anthology "The Lethal Sex" between 1954 & 1959. In the early 60's, competition began to be felt at Fawcett, so the editor asked John to write a series, and the result was Travis McGee & Meyer and 21 very successful books.
       John added a series of best-sellers – "Condominium" and "Barrier island" and "One More Sunday" and others – for a lifetime total of 21 McGee novels, 45 other novels, scores of short stories, and a dozen other books. He died 28 December 1986 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after a heart bypass operation.
       The Travis McGee series has never been out of print at Fawcett/Gold Medal, and the many other John D. MacDonald paperback and hardback books are worth the chasing after.

       ADDED 3/2015: After one produced but unsuccessful Travis McGee feature film, two Travis McGee TV movies, and a swarm of attempts to get a Travis McGee movie made, Fox's new feature film of "The Deep Blue Good-By" may soon start principal photography. Christian Bale & Rosamund Pike are attached, the most recent script is by Dennis Lehane, James Mangold (who helmed "3:10 To Yuma" with Bale) will direct; most recently, dwarf Peter Dinklage (as sidekick Meyer) and ingenue Nicola Peltz are in talks to join the cast; filming is set to start this May in Puerto Rico & Florida.

The Travis McGee Series
Books are Fawcett / Gold Medal editions unless otherwise noted

★     ★     ★     ★     ★

"The Deep Blue Good-By"  [#1 = 1964]
Deep Blue Good-By novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee travels to Texas & Manhattan and eventually restores
an inheritence that the client, Cathy Kerr, did not realize existed.

7x4 pb [7/95] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [1/83] for $36.00
BooksOnTape ABR audio [9/2001] for $29.95
Random House ABR audio [6/87] out of print/used

"The Deep Blue Good-By" feature film [Fox DUE 2016?]  
Originally announced in 2008, then bumped several times; co-produced & directed by Oliver Stone; based on "The Deep Blue Good-by"; to star Leonardo DiCaprio;
as-of 5/2013: Stone & screenwriters Dana Stevens & Kario Salem are out, author Dennis Lehane is hired to write a new script adaptation; producers now include DiCaprio, Peter Chernin, Jennifer Davisson-Killoran & Amy Robinson; added 3/2015: script by Lehane, to be directed by James Mangold, cast appears to include Christian Bale {as Travis}, Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage {as Meyer} & Nicola Peltz • latest info from IMDb

★     ★     ★     ★     ★

"Nightmare In Pink"  [#2 = 1964]
Nightmare In Pink novel by John D. MacDonald  Mike, an old Army buddy, asks McGee to investigate the death of the man engaged to Mike's sister; the trail leads to Manhattan and Upstate New York; McGee discovers corruption by financial trustees and a call girl ring, and experiences harrowing confinement (by the bad guys) in a nuthouse.
7x4 pb [2/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [1/83] for $36.00
BooksOnTape ABR audio [9/2001] for $29.95
Random House ABR audio [8/96] out of print/used

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"A Purple Place For Dying"  [#3 = 1964]
Purple Place For Dying novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee is hired by a woman from an Old West desert valley, who is shot dead just as he arrives to meet with her. First appearance of neighbor & best friend Meyer, a world-class economist living nicely on investments and lecture fees, aboard the John Maynard Keynes.
7x4 pb [6/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [6/77] for $36.00
Random House ABR audio [8/96] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Quick Red Fox"  [#4 = 1964]
Quick Red Fox novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee takes on a case in Hollywood, where he saves movie star Lysa Dean from a blackmailer – with side trips to Big Sur, New York & Las Vegas giving the author opportunity to expound on the excesses of the vulgar rich.
7x4 pb [8/95] for $7.99
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [1/83] for $36.00
Random House ABR audio [8/96] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"A Deadly Shade Of Gold"  [#5 = 1965]
A Deadly Shade Of Gold novel by John D. MacDonald  Travis looks into the murder of a friend; golden Mayan artifacts lead him to Mexico and a network of venal Cuban refugees.
7x4 pb [10/96] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [3/78] for $64.00
BooksOnTape ABR audio [9/2001] for $29.95
Random House ABR audio [11/88] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"Bright Orange For The Shroud"  [#6 = 1965]
Bright Orange For The Shroud novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee helps a local pal who has been cleaned out by a gang of swindlers.
7x4 pb [12/96] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [9/78] for $48.00
Random House ABR audio [4/89] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"Darker Than Amber"  [#7 = 1966]
Darker Than Amber novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee & Meyer save a proud beauty tossed over a bridge with her ankles tied to a cement block; the threesome bust up a cruise ship murder racket.
7x4 pb [2/97] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [12/78] for $42.00
Random House ABR audio [95] out of print/used
1970 feature film
Directed by Robert Clouse, starring Rod Taylor, Theodore Bikel & Suzy Kendall
video/DVD not available; full credits from IMDb

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"One Fearful Yellow Eye"  [#8 = 1966]
One Fearful Yellow Eye novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee delves into the Chicago art world, and he and lady-love Heidi narrowly escape death.
7x4 pb [2/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [7/83] for $36.00
Random House ABR audio [5/90] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"Pale Gray For Guilt"  [#9 = 1967]
Pale Gray For Guilt novel by John D. MacDonald  The supposed suicide of friend Tush Bannon is not believable, and McGee delivers vengeance against the land speculators who killed him; McGee also finds true love with Puss Killian, though she leaves him at the end of the book.
7x4 pb [2/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [12/84] for $48.00
Random House ABR audio [6/97] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Girl In The Plain Brown Wrapper"  [#10 = 1968]
Girl In The Plain Brown Wrapper novel by John D. MacDonald  Classy former love Helena Pearson Trescott dies bringing McGee a message and a check to hire him to save her daughter from corrupt doctors.
7x4 pb 2/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [8/84] for $42.00
Random House ABR audio [10/97] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"Dress Her In Indigo"  [#11 = 1969]
Dress Her In Indigo novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee & Meyer travel to a remote resort near Oaxaca, Mexico, to investigate the death of the daughter of a friend.
7x4 pb [3/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [7/80] for $56.00
Random House ABR audio [10/97] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Long Lavender Look"  [#12 = 1970]
Long Lavender Look novel by John D. MacDonald  A redneck rural sheriff finds McGee & Meyer perfect suspects in the murder of a young girl; after McGee's ordeal, he finds solace & healing with Heidi.
7x4 pb [3/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [6/84] for $48.00
Random House ABR audio [4/94] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"A Tan and Sandy Silence"  [#13 = 1971]
A Tan & Sandy Silence novel by John D. MacDonald  A stranger attacks McGee, demanding the return of his wife; McGee tracks the woman to Grenada and a psychotic villain; McGee meets Lady Jillian, turns down her unabashed sexual offers, and becomes fast friends with her (she appears in later books).
7x4 pb [2/96] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [11/84] for $48.00
Random House ABR audio [3/93] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Scarlet Ruse"  [#14 = 1973]
Scarlet Ruse novel by John D. MacDonald  Murder and stamp-collecting drive the plot; local hustler Willy Nucci is introduced, and McGee recuperates at the end with former client Cathy Kerr.
7x4 pb [2/96] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [1/85] for $48.00
Random House ABR audio [5/90] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Turquoise Lament"  [#15 = 1973]
Turquoise Lament novel by John D. MacDonald  The first Travis McGee novel to be published in hardcover before the paperback
McGee helps locate underwater treasure in La Paz, Mexico, and after several murders, goes to Pago Pago, Samoa, to catch the killer.
7x4 pb [2/96] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [11/83] for $48.00
Random House ABR audio [3/93] out of print/used
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Dreadful Lemon Sky"  [#16 = 1974]
Dreadful Lemon Sky novel by John D. MacDonald  The suspicious death of a marina owner and the murder of an old friend – just after she gives McGee a bundle of cash to protect for her – leads to the town of Bayside and the subcultures of swinging singles, corrupt politics, and marijuana smuggling.
7x4 pb [4/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [4/77] for $57.99
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Empty Copper Sea"  [#17 = 1978]
Empty Copper Sea novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee & Meyer pose as real estate developers to solve the disappearance (supposedly death-by-drowning) that is blamed on an old pal; McGee fends off a lounge singer's attentions and falls seriously for Gretel Howard.
7x4 pb [4/96] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [5/79] for $48.00
Random House ABR audio [9/87] out of print/used
1983 "Travis McGee" TV movie
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen; script by Stirling Silliphant, based on "Empty Copper Sea";
starring Sam Elliott & Gene Evans; video/DVD not available; full credits from IMDb

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Green Ripper"  [#18 = 1979]
Green Ripper novel by John D. MacDonald  Lady love Gretel's suspicious sudden death leads McGee to a religious/militarist cult in Northern California; he uses guerrilla skills learned in the Army to destroy the organization and the camp.
7x4 pb [4/96] for $6.29
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [3/80] for $42.00
BooksOnTape ABR audio [9/2001] for $29.95
Random House ABR audio [8/2000] out of print/used

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"Free Fall In Crimson"  [#19 = 1981]
Free Fall In Crimson novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee asks Lysa Dean {see "Quick Red Fox" #4 above} for help investigating a biker movie director's connections to drugs, porn and murder. Meyer is psychologically devastated after being taken hostage, and McGee becomes smitten with Annie, the tiny manager of a Gulf Coast hotel.
mass pb [4/96] for $7.99
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [5/81] for $48.00
Random House ABR audio [11/93] out of print/used

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"Cinnamon Skin"  [#20 = 1982]
Cinnamon Skin novel by John D. MacDonald  Annie leaves and Meyer is still in shock, so McGee takes Meyer along tracking a serial killer across Texas to Cancun, Mexico, where a Mayan beauty helps them trap the villain.
7x4 pb [4/96] for $5.39
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [8/82] for $48.00
Bantam ABR audio [8/2000] for $9.99
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The Lonely Silver Rain"  [#21 = 1985]
Lonely Silver Rain novel by John D. MacDonald  McGee is beginning to feel his age. A wealthy friend asks him to find a stolen 52-foot yacht, and he does so, but there are dead bodies aboard, so he has to fend off Columbian drug smugglers (who figure Travis a perfect scapegoat) while trying to track down the real killers. At the end, Travis is surprised by a daughter he never knew about, a result of his love affair with Puss Killian {see "Pale Gray For Guilt" #9 above}.
7x4 pb [4/99] for $6.99
BooksOnTape UNABR audio [2/86] for $42.00
Random House ABR audio [12/89] out of print/used

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The World According To Travis McGee" by R. Ackroyd
Amereon HB [12/2004] out of print/rare

"The Official Travis McGee Quiz Book" compiled by Jim Brogan
out of print per Amazon.com

"John D. MacDonald & The Colorful World of Travis McGee"
by Frank D. Campbell, Jr.
Borgo Press pb [1/77] out of print    |    hardcover [3/77] out of print

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

1985 omnibus book of John D. MacDonald novels  Five Complete Travis McGee Novels [omnibus 1985]
contains "A Tan and Sandy Silence" [1971], "The Dreadful Lemon
Sky" [1974], "The Empty Copper Sea" [1978], "The Green Ripper"
[1979], and "Free Fall In Crimson" [1981]

Avenel 9x6 hardcover [12/88] out of print/used
Random House leather-bound hardcover [9/86] out of print/scarce

Links

Travis McGee entry at Wikipedia
John D. MacDonald entry at Wikipedia
John D. MacDonald's credits [since 1950] at Internet Movie Database

John D. MacDonald Archives at University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida
S. Rufener's Travis McGee Synopses Page
Big Bill's John D. MacDonald fansite


more John D. MacDonald novels & stories on Page 2



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