Meeting Travis 3
Travis McGee and JDM played a huge part in my early years. My father introduced me to the series in a last attempt to get me to read consistently. It worked better than a Meyer investment idea. I have often wondered if there was an F-18 and hoped to understand more about Travis and JDM.
After a 20 year hiatus, I have recently picked up a couple of Travis McGee books and reread them with joy and commitment – as fresh and interesting as the 3-4 times I devoured them in my teens. I am 52, my son 10, and only a couple of years away from our own introduction.
Thank you so much for the site and the memories!
I was in 10th grade, Athens High School (Georgia). Between classes I greeted my friend Harry Rudy. Under his arm were a few textbooks, and on top was Nightmare in Pink. The cover art showed a nude woman, sitting, with legs crossed so that she was just the decent side of showing pink. The prurient side of me sparked the question, “What’s that book about?” Harry’s answer: “It’s a series about a guy who steals from thieves.” I immediately thought, “series,” “guy who steals from thieves,” Christ, anybody who can steal from thieves and live to do it for a series must be one clever dude. Of course I read them all, repeatedly. One of my favorite McGee quotes (roughly), “Arthur Wilkinson was a bore. What’s a bore? Someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company.”
Since it was a training command, there was no library at the base in Pensacola in the mid-1960s. There was, however, a municipal library.
Tanya, one of the assistant librarians, wore horn-rimmed glasses and had a snaggle tooth. She certainly wasn't ugly, nor was she plump, pleasingly or otherwise. But neither was she at the high end of any of the scales by which a sailor might measure such things. But my own tastes at the time tended more toward brains and geniality than to measurements or availability. (It wasn't till I was transferred overseas that that all changed!)
We had become just friendly enough to converse easily, so it was a surprise when, one evening, she asked if I would walk her home when the library closed. As it turned out, she was being harassed by an ex-boyfriend and was in need of an escort. It wasn't until we had reached her home that I actually saw the guy. We were sitting on the porch steps when he drove by in a car full of buddies. But he didn't stop, and I've never dwelt on the incident. But apparently Tanya felt that the jerk drove on without stopping simply because I was there.
A few moments later, she said as she passed me a glass of lemonade, "Thanks, Trav. The only thing I can give you half of is this." She toasted me with the whole pitcherful.
Since she knew that my name wasn't Trav, I had to ask what on earth she was talking about. And she explained about John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee.
It wasn't until weeks later that I realized that this was in fact the same John D. MacDonald whose books I had years before shoplifted more often than any other from the paperback rack at the drugstore as I walked home from church, youth group, and choir practice. Way back when the price of paperbacks was 20 to 35 cents.
Upshot: I've known about and enjoyed the works of JDM for about 50 years and started in on the Travis McGee books shortly after he first appeared. I've re-read the complete series several times since then, but it's been more than 15 years now, mainly because I was for so long unable to separate the chaff of sexism from the wonderful story-telling.
While cleaning out the garage a few weeks ago, I came across the 17 that I have in paperback and, beginning another re-read, am dismayed that I waited so long! And I now carry in my wallet a memo with the 4 missing titles, hoping to find them at a yard sale or thrift shop.