Some of my work on Updike was discussed on The Dish with Andrew Sullivan.
Some of my work on Ross Macdonald was discussed on Pretty Sinister Books.
Here is my interview with superstar music impresario Wendy Starland.
Here is my interview with Pulitzer Prize nominee Olympia Vernon.
Here is my interview with the editor of Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor.
Here is my interview with acclaimed artist Emil Kazaz.
My musing on John D. Macdonald, Travis McGee, and the chicks was picked up on The Rap Sheet.

John D. MacDonald: The Quick Red Fox

This novel is horribly dated in a couple of ways.  Firstly, the discussion of lesbianism will appall just about everyone today, though it looks to have been acceptably mainstream at the time of publication.  Secondly, the idea that a celebrity would be so upset at some sexually compromising photos in today’s world is laughable.  Another notable characteristic – there’s a long tradition of American novelists hating on Hollywood, and that attitude is much in evidence here.

THE REFERRAL – Someone sends McGee the client.  He doesn’t find the client on his own. Walter Lowery in San Francisco sent Lysa Dean, via Dana Holtzer, to McGee.  A secret code word is discussed, but no mention of how Lowery knows McGee.

THE WOMEN – The Travis McGee novels, in essence, are about his various kinds of relationships with various kinds of women.  The crime and recovery elements are almost incidental.  Lysa Dean, Dana Holtzer; Skeeter; Ulka Atlund M’Gruder.  There is also a lesbian couple and a scene and some commentary on them that I don’t believe could get published today, because of political correctness and accusations of bigotry.

THE GROUP SCENE – Some sort of party or orgy figures importantly in the case.  There are two: the initial orgy, where the incriminating photos are taken, that takes place before the body of the fiction, ‘offscreen’ as it were, and then the get together at the Barnweathers where Travis confronts Ulka.

THE MOTIVE FOR THE INITIAL CRIME  – Always greed, always lust for money – the other main motivations for criminal behavior, jealousy and revenge, are never present.  The photographer D.C. Ives has the pictures and blackmails Lysa Dean.

“DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?” – This, or a variant, is asked by McGee of the woman he has gotten romantically involved with in the course of the story, or she asks it of him, right before they break up.  Dana Holtzer to Travis: “It was all…mixed up and crazy.  It wasn’t me, really.  I don’t know how to tell you.  I’m not like that.  I’m married.  I don’t even know how I could have been so…so silly.  I think it was because of working for her,maybe.”

THE SOCIAL COMMENTARY – Remarks, usually negative and disapproving, about the way society is going.
Numerous examples exist; here’s just one:
“Their radio is unspeakable.  Their television is geared to a minimal approval by thirty million of them.  And anything thirty million people like, aside from their private functions, is bound to be bad.  Their schools are group-adjustment centers, fashioned to shame the rebellious.  Their churches are weekly votes of confidence in God.  Their politicians are enormously likable, never saying a cross word.  The goods they buy grow increasingly more shoddy each year, though brighter in color.  For those who still read, they make do, for the most part, with the portentous grumblings of Uris, Wouk, Rand and others of that witless ilk.”

THE PHILOSOPHICAL COMMENTARY – Remarks about humanity and human nature on the whole. Numerous examples exist; here’s just one:  “The grotesque ultimate of togetherness is the final loneliness of the human spirit.”


  1. I'm enjoying your analysis! As a student of MacDonald's Travis McGee novels, where do you stand on Christian Bale starring as Trav in the upcoming adaptation of The Deep Blue Good-by?? I'm following the film's progress at Chapter1-Take1; as you may know Rosamund Pike has been cast as Lois.