A - F TITLES


SUMMARIES AND REVIEWS OF JDM NOVELS


What follows on the next several pages is a look at the books, in alphabetical order, with the “blurb” from the back cover of each book.  In a few cases I have added a somewhat critical and philosophical overview of the novel.

These  reviews are being done as the spirit moves me, but it will be completed at some point. 

Since one problem is not revealing the "ending" of a book I have chosen to comment on the skeleton of the plot and  the impact of the book as a whole to me. I am on my 6th or 7th  re-reading of most of the books, a process covering much of the past 40 years.


If you've read a particular book and want to share  some thoughts just email me at


 cbranche@earthlink.net


   I’ve heard from D.R. Martin, who is more than an avid reader, and who has a blog devoted to discussing the McGee novels.  Go to this site for more information:


        http://drmar120.wordpress.com/say-hello-to-travis-mcgee/


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DELL:  1957

LOST WEEKENDS IN THE BAHAMAS SUN—AND BENEATH THE RUM-DAZED SURFACE 

OF THE HOUSE-PARTIES RAGED A TITANIC STRUGGLE FOR POWER.


There were enough girls for everyone. And Mike Dean had a use for all of them. He used them as he would his liquor, his sunshine,his hospitality, his own personal magnetism—to take other  men's minds off their troubles, to soften their consciences, to muddy their good sense, to bend them to his will.

But one of his house guests refused to see things Mike Dean's way.

One of them had a mind of his his own, and a heart of his own. One of them wouldn't be bought. 

He is the Hero of this fascinating behind the scenes novel of corporate power and glory and corruption.


 Fawcett:  1954

                  SHE WOULD HAUNT ME FOREVER. . .

         She had taken all I had - using the weapons of her money and her

         demanding hunger for a new man to make me into something less than

         a man. She had condemned everybody who had loved her to a lifetime

         of shame and self-hatred.

         But someone stronger than I had turned on her, killed her, and

         thrown that tantalizing body into the cold lake.

         And now all of us were free at last . . . or were we?


 Dell: 1956


        THE STAGE WAS SET Harry Mullin hit town first. Harry had 

        just made the F.B.I.'s Ten Most Wanted list, and he was a 

        little nervous about being seen  With him at the rented 

        house from which they planned to case the job. 


        With him  was a girl named Sal,  who had fallen into the

         easy sluttish rut of being a good woman to a bad man . . .


        Then Ace  turned up. The Ace had been very good in his 

        day, but he was going a little to flab, and maybe he 

        had lost something in the guts department . . .


        The last one into town was Ronnie. Ronnie had  killed 

        twelve men and two women in the past  seven years, 

        and had gotten to like his  job - maybe a little too much .



Dell:  1954

                 My brother's wife.

                  Weaver of black magic stained with blood.

                 Temptress who haunted my restless nights.

                Wife gloriously beautiful in her widow's weeds.

                 Woman I still wanted with the craving of the damned.


 


     Hodder and Stoughton: 1986

         There are two kinds of men in Mississippi. The make natural

         enemies. And sometimes, but only if the balance between strength

         and weakness tips too far, unnatural allies.


         Tucker Loomis is a hard and dangerous man with a ruthlessness all

         West Bay fears and respects, and an improbable amount of money.


         Wade Rowley is a common man who aspires to honor but gets caught

         up in the footwork of a skilled swindler.


         In a pitiless game with a few harsh rules and just one way of

         keeping score, the wrong man will die and another will get away

         with more than murder.









First published 1959  Fawcett

         

         SURE, LEO RICE WAS A NICE GUY . . .

         But why did he choose our beach? He could have gone ten miles up

         the strip and all of us could have lived happily ever after - with

         no questions asked.






1956 by Popular Library: 1965

               TWO HEADLONG TALES OF INTRIGUE, SUSPENSE, AND MURDER

               BY A MASTER STORYTELLER:


         BORDER TOWN GIRL

         Once, Lane Sanson had been a Somebody - a war correspondent and a

         best-selling author. Now he was a nobody, bumming around Mexico.

         Lost, lonely, hungry for hope, he was a pushover for a border town

         B-girl - the perfect fall guy for a lethal frame-up.


         LINDA

         She was born with the morality gene missing. As beautiful, as

         inviting, as treacherous as the sea around her, Linda is one of

         the most compelling women yet created by John D. MacDonald.



 

    FAWCETT:  1950

         

         Take a hard-boiled ex-cop named Cliff Bartells.

         Take a beautiful girl with the unlikely name of Melody Chance.

         Take the death of of one Elizabeth Stegman of Boston,

         Massachusetts.

         Take her missing jewels insured for seven hundred and fifty

         thousand dollars.

         Add them all up and what have you got? Murder for profit. Cold

         blooded, premeditated murder . . .


  Dell: 1955

                  HER VENEER WAS BIG CITY . . .

         But one look and you knew that Toni Raselle's instincts were

         straight out of the river shack she came from.

         I watched her as she toyed with the man, laughing, her tumbled

         hair like raw blue-black silk, her brown shoulders bare. Eyes

         deep-set, a girl with a gypsy look.

         So this was the girl I had risked my life to find. This was the

         girl who was going to lead me to a buried fortune in stolen loot.



 




Fawcett:  1958


          She was very young. She was dangerous.

         She was a girl who lived too close to the edge of violence.

         She hunted trouble. She was an exhibitionist, a body-worshipper, a 

        sensualist.

         She was without morals, scruples, ethics. She was beautiful. 

         She was CLEMMIE . . .






Appleton-Century Crofts: 1953



         FOR FIFTEEN YEARS THEY HAD BEEN MARRIED.

         Fletcher and Jane  Wyant. They had built a perfect marriage - -two wonderful kids, 

         a  beautiful home, their own private never-ending love affair.


         Fletcher thought he knew Jane completely. No dark secrets. No

         hidden past.


         Then one hot summer week everything changed. And suddenly,

         brutally, Jane became a cold stranger.


         CANCEL ALL OUR VOWS is a vivid, shocking novel of lawless love and

         shattering desires - -desires that bring men and women to the

         brink of disaster.







Lippencott: 1977


Welcome to Golden Sands, the dream condominium built on a weak foundation 

and a thousand dirty secrets. JDM’s powerful novel is a panoramic look at the 

shocking facts of life in a Sun Belt community: the real estate swindles and political

 payoffs, the maintenance charges that run up, and the health benefits that run out,

 the crack-ups and marital breakdowns, the disaster that awaits those who play in

 the path of a hurricane.


(Note:  read this and Murder In The Wind  and you just might stay away from Florida during Hurricane season.)










Appleton-Century:  1954   


          EVIL CASTS A LONG SHADOW . . .

         and touches the innocent along with the guilty in this powerful,

         probing novel of a family who can no longer hide from the world or

         each other.

         For years the Delevan image reflected only the best of everything

         - wealth, position, influence, and the kind of expensive good

         looks that takes generations to cultivate.

         No one dared suspect that their glittering facade, their cherished

         privacy masked hidden lusts, furtive pleasures, and twisted dreams

         which would soon erupt into a pattern of strange violence that

         threatened to destroy them all.




Simon and Schuster:  1959


          Anton Drovek started The Crossroads Corporation forty years ago

         with a shack and a petrol pump. Now it is a flourishing,

         still-expanding motel.

         The endless stream of trucks and cars, Maine-to-Florida and back,

         stop here while their drivers eat, sleep, fill up and roll on.

         'The crossroads is a smoothly managed oasis for the hungry

         motorist and tired trucker. It's a booming little city, owned and

         run by the tightly-knit, hard-driving Drovek family.

         But all is not smooth beneath the surface. Sylvia, Peter Drovek's

         wife, tells a young employee how he can steal Papa Drovek's

         $200,000 in cash, though she doesn't mention that it is someone

         else's cold, calculating plan.

         None of the three persons who execute the robbery knows all that

         the other two have in mind. The reader knows more than any of

         them, but even he can't foresee the final violent explosion - an

         ending which for some of the Droveks is a new beginning.




Popular Library: 1955


          A GUNMAN ON THE RUN

         A SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD CHICK

         A USED-UP B-GIRL

         A GUILT-STRICKEN WIDOWER

         A LEFTOVER MISTRESS

         ALL ZEROING IN ON - A ROUTE TO SUDDEN DEATH


         A shattering six-car smashup is the explosive core of this head-long story.

         In typical MacDonald fashion, we are introduced to a fascinating cast of characters 

        and shown what happens to them inside and out, before, during, and after the crash.





1952 by Fawcett

         THE HEAT HIT THEM ALL . . .

         the scorching heat of Mexico, and it ate at their nerves. The

         stalled ferry held them in the heat until they could stand no

         more.

         The honeymooners fought, and loved and fought again. The

         pretty little tramp clawed her married lover's eyes. The 

         trembling killer looked behind and knew his time was short.

         There were others waiting, too, some good, some bad, but all

         of them tormented by the shape of disaster to come.

         Time gave them all a second chance.

         Most of them stepped on the face of time.





1953 Fawcett

         Set in Florida. It is the story of McClintock, a bitter man who 

        has taken refuge on the keys and shut away the world that had

        scarred him.

         But the world came after him—in the shape of a manic killer 

        who threatene  McClintock's house of cards and taught him 

        how to love again.






 Dell : 1959

         

          Ramona Beach, Florida, was a dangerous place to mix 

           business with pleasure. Strangers usually meant

         trouble, and the local sheriff echoed the town's 

        sentiments with a blackjack.

         Once Ramona Beach had been my home, as a kid--but 

        now they'd railroaded me out of town. "Can't trust trash," 

        they said. I'd  never been back.

         But that was then and this was now. Now I'd been sent 

        home by my employer, the Defense Department, to locate 

        a particular scientist and bring him back alive. But 

        Ramona Beach had a long memory, and

        so did I . . .




 Dell:  1957

         In life, Jane Ann never had much use for a halo, but 

         in her violent death she finally earned one.

         When they found a suspect, everyone relaxed, except me.

         Maybe I should have stayed out of it, but I owed a big 

        debt to the patsy they were sending to the electric chair in

        a week.

         And I would have stayed out of it if I'd known what my 

        own chances were of coming out alive.





        Dell:  1958

         A Stunning Novel of Modern Morals

         Her name was Cindy, and she was his neighbor's wife - the

         woman next door in the kind of suburbia that didn't make

         headlines. No cheap scandals here - no wife-swapping, no 

        key games. These  were real people, nice people like Cindy

         and Cark who fought with the desperation of the damned to 

        keep from wanting each other.


         Had a perfect opportunity not presented itself, perhaps 

        nothing would have happened. But suddenly it was the right

         time, the right place. And there was no room left for 

        pretense. 

        In that moment,  all innocence drained out of their lives. Two

        real people, two nice people, became creatures of passion - 

        and guilt.




        Fawcett:  1963

         Lucille Hanson had rid herself of the wrong man - her rich 

        husband who lived casually and loved carelessly. Then she 

        found another man she hoped would be right. She was

        putting together the pieces of her life - determined not to 

        make the old mistakes, the foolish ones which had almost

        wrecked her the first time around - until all of her hopes 

        came to rest at the bottom of a lake where her body was

        found. It must have been an accident, was what others

        wanted to think. But among her mourners just one person 

        refused to  believe it was anything but murder.





1952 by Fawcett

         THE HEAT HIT THEM ALL . . .

         the scorching heat of Mexico, and it ate at their nerves. The

         stalled ferry held them in the heat until they could stand no

         more.

         The honeymooners fought, and loved and fought again. The

         pretty little tramp clawed her married lover's eyes. The 

         trembling killer looked behind and knew his time was short.

         There were others waiting, too, some good, some bad, but all

         of them tormented by the shape of disaster to come.

         Time gave them all a second chance.

         Most of them stepped on the face of time.





1953 Fawcett

         Set in Florida. It is the story of McClintock, a bitter man who 

        has taken refuge on the keys and shut away the world that had

        scarred him.

         But the world came after him—in the shape of a manic killer 

        who threatene  McClintock's house of cards and taught him 

        how to love again.






 Dell : 1959

         

          Ramona Beach, Florida, was a dangerous place to mix 

           business with pleasure. Strangers usually meant

         trouble, and the local sheriff echoed the town's 

        sentiments with a blackjack.

         Once Ramona Beach had been my home, as a kid--but 

        now they'd railroaded me out of town. "Can't trust trash," 

        they said. I'd  never been back.

         But that was then and this was now. Now I'd been sent 

        home by my employer, the Defense Department, to locate 

        a particular scientist and bring him back alive. But 

        Ramona Beach had a long memory, and

        so did I . . .




      




Popular Library: 1957

         

         Lloyd Wescott was a big boy, and he knew that big money doesn't smell like roses. When he was hired to build and run the Green Oasis, he didn't have to ask the pedigree of its owner or where the backing came from. He didn't care, as long as the place was legit and he could run it clean as a whistle.

         But just try to whistle when the Big Man moves in, when skimming is the least of what's going on in the casino, when the quiet luxury is crawling with contract guns, and when a soft, beautifulwoman - beaten to within an inch of her life - looks at you with love and fear and the desperate longing to escape . . .





 First published 1960 by Simon and Schuster

         

                         THE WOLF PACK MURDERS

         Three men and a beautiful girl on a cross-country terror spree - a coast-to-coast rampage of stealing, kidnapping, rape and killing.

         Who were they? Where did they come from? Why did they do it? Who were their victims?

         With chilling detail John D. MacDonald unwraps the grotesque inner world of these four drug-crazed young sadists and brings into terrifying focus those random, violent lusts that lie hidden between mischief and madness - waiting unseen for some innocent and helpless stranger at THE END OF THE NIGHT.


 

The  first edition in 1957 by Fawcett brought great reviews.  It was later re-issued under the title of Cape Fear, and the film version with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum was very successful.  Most JDM fans prefer this film to that released in the 90’s with Robert DeNiro playing the villain.

Max Cady has spent 14 years in a cell, plotting his revenge against the man who put him there, attorney Sam Bowden.  Bowden’s teen-aged daughter may be the way Cady achieves his evil aim.  There is a great deal of tension which is built by way of MacDonald’s skill in writing. Cady’s pursuit of the daughter is quite chilling. This is one of JDM’s best novels.








1962 by Simon and

         Schuster

         

A GRIPPING NOVEL OF SMALL-TOWN CORRUPTION AND TWO PEOPLE WHO FIGHT IT.

         Jimmy Wing was only trying to help his friend's 

        widow. At leasT that's what he told himself after 

        he warned Kate Hubble that the beautiful bay that

         she and her neighbors had struggled to save was

         now going to be sold to developers.  He knew he 

        shouldn't have told her anything. He was a 

        reporter, trained to reveal nothing. But he

         was falling in love with her.


         The corruptors had taken over Palm City. Silent 

        and deadly like the snakes that infested the nearby

        swamps, they lay hidden from view, waiting for 

        the right moment to strike. Political treachery

         and private greed had already softened up the

        town for the big sell-out.

    

     All that had to be done now was to silence a few

     stubborn citizens. Kate Hubble was one of them and

     blackmail was their favorite weapon.


Note:  This is often cited by readers as being a  MacDonald favorite. 

Also, it was adapted and directed by Victor Nunez  into a film, in 1984.  

JDM visited the film location one day and apparently felt that Nunez’ interpretation was  very close to what he had in mind when writing the novel.



















        





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