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: Darker Than Amber



As in the previous A Deadly Shade of Gold, MacDonald keeps the outrageousness at fever pitch here.  This is the first novel in which Meyer, the economist, takes an active role in helping Travis McGee with a case (though he does appear in previous novels, he doesn’t much participate).  I’m a little surprised at the way McGee and Meyer throw words like “bitch” and “wench” around here, and McGee kills a man (Griff) and leaves the body buried face down in sand, not telling anyone the details.  The severity of the crimes the prostitution ring rings up – fourteen dead – lends this novel a somewhat more lurid atmosphere than the previous McGees.  And this is the first novel in which McGee comments on race relations.

ADDENDUM: I am out of order!  Bright Orange for the Shroud is actually the sixth novel in the series, so I will get to that next; anything mistaken in the above should be adjusted accordingly.  My apologies.

Here is my usual McGee blueprint rundown:


THE REFERRAL – Someone sends McGee the client.  He doesn’t find the client on his own. None here; McGee and Meyer stumble onto the case on their own in a right place, right time kind of way.  However, an old client of McGee’s, Jake Karlo, ‘refers’ Merrimay into the case.


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.  Vangie; Noreen; Del; Merrimay; and there are several excellent minor portraits as well. 


THE GROUP SCENE – Some sort of party or orgy figures importantly in the case.  The closest thing to this here is the cruise aboard the Mona D. 




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.  Here the greed is particularly ugly and widespread – fourteen Johns murdered by the prostitution gang.



“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.  It’s totally false, and McGee means to set Del up from the beginning and hand her over to the cops, but he consistently leads her on in this manner, for example “It will be four or five days before I can wind up a few things hanging fire.  There’ll be all the time in the world to get acquainted then, Del.


THE SOCIAL COMMENTARY – Remarks, usually negative and disapproving, about the way society is going.
Numerous examples exist; here’s just one: McGee tells us of Meyer poking fun at Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Robert Gover’s The One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding: “He had been inventing a parody of Ginsberg, entitled “Snarl,” making it up as he went along, and he had also made up a monologue of a Barnard girl trying to instill the concept of social significance into the mind of the white slaver who was flying her to Iraq, and he titled that one “The Two Dollar Misunderstanding.””



THE PHILOSOPHICAL COMMENTARY – Remarks about humanity and human nature on the whole. Numerous examples exist; here’s just one:  When McGee sees Vangie’s dead body he recalls a poem on death by W.H. Auden, a wry meditation that he deems most appropriate to the situation.





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