Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Jonathan Yardley has an excellent piece in today's Washington Post about John D. MacDonald and the Travis McGee series. It's refreshing to see a genre author get this kind of critical respect. MacDonald was definitely one of the best, not just in the mystery field, but in fiction generally.

MacDonald wrote in a direct, laconic style that was deceptively simple, using the cynical McGee as his voice to comment on (and criticize) the world as he saw it. Although the books had their share of suspense, sex and violence, they were much more about life and society than they were their relatively simple plots.

Yardley recounts a terrific quote from MacDonald about the state of fiction, circa 1976 (but still apropos today): "I just cannot read people like Leon Uris and James Michener. When you've covered one line, you can guess the next one. I like people who know the nuances of words, who know how to stick the right one in the right place. Sometimes you can laugh out loud at an exceptionally good phrase. I find it harder and harder to find fiction to read, because I either read it with dismay at how good it is or disgust at how bad it is. I do like the guys like John Cheever that have a sense of story, because, goddammit, you want to know what happens to somebody. You don't want a lot of self-conscious little logjams thrown in your way."

Travis McGee (and his creator) are still very much missed.