The men who killed Tush Bannon knew he was a nice guy with a nice wife and three nice kids - trying to run a small marina on the Florida coast. They also knew he was in the way of a big land development scheme. Once they killed him, they figured they were on easy street. But Tush Bannon was Travis McGee's friend, and McGee could be one tough adversary when protecting a widow and her kids.
©1968 John D. MacDonald Publishing, Inc. (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
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"My Favorite Book In My Favorite Series"
McGee is a conflicted but essentially moral man and his rage at what happened to his friend is very nearly palpable. It infuses the book with a tension it wouldn't have if the protagonist had been a disaffected third party investigator.
Another thing is the realness of the plot. As someone quite familiar with criminal activity, I am always struck that the action in this book follows the law of unintended consequences that we often see in street crimes. Other authors (Elmore Leonard and John Sandford come immediately to mind) use the technique in contemporary fiction but MacDonald did it first and does it best.
When a reader cares about the characters, he cares about what happens to them. MacDonald creates characters so real that each one of them could walk off the page and sit down on the next bar stool. We care, of course, about McGee's knight on a spavined steed but we also care about his friends, particularly Tush Bannon. How could you read the early description of the man and not see a decent guy? What happens to him is tragic...and thus the essence of the plot. We want to see justice.
The scene where McGee cons a description of what happened to his friend Tush out of an unwitting phone repairman.
I have also always been moved by McGee's simplified visualization of life and death. I don't want to spoil it for the uninitiated but, suffice to say, I read it the first time when I was about 12 and it's stuck with me for nearly fifty years.
"It Still Works"
Another excellent McGee mystery that still works even though it was written in 1968. Once again there is a old friend in trouble. To quote Travis "Tush Bannon was the best friend I ever had." This despite the fact that that he is never so much as mentioned in the first eight books in the series. Bannon; his wife and three children are living on the water in their motel attached to his marina. It's a nice little business but it's unfortunately in the way of a large piece of property that both local and statewide big shots want to get their hands on. So using the power of local government they drive him into bankruptcy; then he is killed. Though they attempt to make it look like a suicide McGee has the body sent to a lab where he has another friend who hasn't appeared in any of the other McGee novels. It's not a suicide; it's murder.
So McGee and Meyer swing into action to con every penny possible out of the local big shot (Preston LaFrance) and the state, even national big shot (Gary Santo.) They are aided if only slightly by McGee's love interest in this book Puss Killian. (An obvious ode to Pussy Galore from the Bond film Goldfinger) She is a more serious girlfriend than most of the McGee paramours and is thus marked for death. Her explanation for leaving is convoluted and delivered in a letter in the conclusion of the book and strains credulity.
Despite a few far fetched scenarios the book is written well enough to make up for some lack of realism in the characters.
"Classic Travis McGee"
Travis loses a friend, wreaks havoc on the bad guys, and collects new scars, all the while treating us to his sardonic view of 1960s America. Nothing is safe from his acid wit, from the Detroit automakers and high-rolling "investors" to hippies and macho-men, Travis tells it like it is - in his opinion.
"Hooray! Travis McGee is back!"
It's a joy to find John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series available on Audible. I first read Pale Gray for Guilt in the 60s when the book turned up in my Peace Corps book locker. Immediately, I was hooked on Trav, his philosophy and adventures. I collected and read all the novels more than once. Dog-eared paperbacks still have a place in my library. Later when the stories emerged on tape read by Darren McGavin, I collected those, too, and wore them out. Pale Gray for Guilt still remains a favorite for the intricacies of the plot, the fun of taking down the con men, and the fact that Travis' friend Meyer has a nice role. Always loved Meyer. The story stands up surprisingly well after all the years.
If you've enjoyed the stories of Carl Hiaasen, you'll probably enjoy Travis McGee's adventures. Hiaasen has stated that John D. MacDonald's series influenced his writing.
Robert Petkoff does a fine job of narrating the stories as if he were McGee telling the tales as opposed to reading a book written in the first person. He's a fine successor to the late Darren McGavin.
It's easy to listen to this book all at once. Audiobooks accompany me while I do chores, yard work or exercise and the plot and characters of this one will keep you motivated. The story is interesting; there's plenty of action and strong writing. Best of all are the characters. You like them and care what happens to them.
In an age where we are urged to work longer hours and for more years, Travis' philosophy of taking his retirement a bit at a time instead of grasping for more and more money may seem strange or out of step. His way of thinking caused me to think seriously about what I wanted and how much money I needed to achieve it. I've applied it to my own life without regrets. Enjoy.
I am so addicted to this man. What will I read after the last book?
Love Meyer and Trav!!!
This is one of the best books in my all-time favorite series of mysteries.
Meyer is always a favorite of mine.
Petkoff brings great skill as a reader but also an actor's insight into individual character. He does a superb job of bringing this cast of characters to life.
Thanks to audible for presenting the entire Travis McGee series in excellent audio productions --and for getting the whole series done and made available so quickly! Bravo!
"Strangers make the Best Clients"
"In all emotional conflicts, dear girl, the thing you find the hardest to do is the thing you should do."
-- John D. MacDonald, Pale Gray for Guilt
A good solid Travis McGee romp. MacDonald's novels, like his titles, don't stray from his themes very far. But like a seafood restaurant you know well, and go to for its quality and execution, the Travis McGee novels are well-executed variations on the same themes: revenge, woman-in-peril, etc.
This one is focused on revenge. Travis along with his trusty economist Sancho Panza seeks to get even with a conspiracy of men who have done a bad deed to an old friend. McGee is challenged in this novel because he is doing his job, but for a friend. As he says, "Strangers make the best clients. Then I can play the odds and stay cold. Here I'm too emotionally hung up. I'm too angry, too sick at heart."
This isn't his best. I'd recommend it to those who love MacDonald and are looking for a bit of escape. If you aren't a hardcore John MacDonald fan, I'd skip this one.
"No One Like Travis McGee"
It is a fine thing to hear Travis tell his story, and Mr. Petkoff does a reasonable job with the various voices. Unfortunately, he does not bring the gravitas; the wry, cynical irony; the hard-won wisdom that the late, great Darren McGavin brought to the original, albeit abridged original recordings. I am spoiled…
Nonetheless, I'm pleased that Audible saw fit to record these full leg versions
"A long story that is overly described"
Trav is a different fellow. I'm enjoying the references to the 1960s and the things that are so similar to current times.
This is certainly written during the sexual revolution.
"Not one of the better McGee books but a good read."
I love these Travis McGee novels but this is one of the slower ones. More technical than entertaining. Worth the read but no real high and exciting points. Just a through and through book.
"Bright Play for Me and McGee"
Yes. Over and over again, for the thrill, skill and wit of the writing.
Mcgee's reading of the letter from Puss, the one love-of-his-life that got away before he did. The contrast of his joy from at last hearing from her with his despair at learning what she has to say.
McGee, the man himself - a one off, just as the voice suggests. Writer and Performer in perfect harmony: as individual the moment, as American as mayhem.
When Con, the beaten-down, recently widowed wife of McGee's good friend - the pivot for the story - knowingly kills the killer of her husband. And by taking on the responsibility of revenge restores herself.
It attacks all the senses. Suspenseful, sexy, violent, sensitive - ingenious in its plotting and fresh as NOW in its telling. Truly a story and a half.
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