I can't say for sure the year I discovered Travis McGee but it was sometime in the early 1980's. I was somewhere around 13-15 and drove my bike to the mall during the summer. Wandering around I found myself at a B Daltons and was perusing through the displays when I chanced upon A Tan and Sandy Silence. It was from the Signet editions that were small and all the covers were white with a small, color picture relating somehow to the story.
I cannot remember what made me decide to purchase it. At this point in my life I was not a prolific reader and didn't chose books by authors so much as what sounded like a good story. But this book somehow resonated with me. I liked this McGee's style and attitude. The words flowed much better than anything I had read before.
Being young I just assumed there would be a limitless supply and there was no rush to read them or concern myself with who John D. Macdonald was and his station in life. I read others from the series here and there in high school, in no particular order. I was accepted at the University of Florida and headed off to Gainseville to study.
It was there that I realized how much I loved these books. While taking classes and reading many "literature" writers and "classics" it dawned on me how well John. D's works held up. I tore through the series and started to read his other books. At some point I found out that John D. had died recently. I was chagrined to learn that he lived so close to where I grew up and that when I discovered him earlier in the decade he was nearing the end of his life.
I regretted not paying more attention and somehow felt a lost opportunity to honor him while he was still alive. Having learned a bit about the type of man he was, I know he probably wasn't receptive to fans dropping in, but I thought maybe he would have got a kick out of a kid-fan. But, as MacDonald once wrote (or possibly quoted), sentimentality is unearned emotion.
I am now 43 and still read-- and re-read --his work. Every now and than I stumble on virgin material. Just today I found "Reading for Survival" on the web. I knew this existed but never read it and had no idea it was set in a McGee format. What a pleasure to read that first paragraph and have it begin much like a McGee novel.
I now have many authors I read but John D. has never been unseated as my favorite. And this is in spite of the many, for lack of a better word, shortcomings of his books. His plots were pretty simple, the romantic relationships a bit cheesy, the bad guys cardboard cut-outs- but that voice, the observations, the philosophy of what counts, of being alive and the finality of death- nobody did it better.
Gordon Hammond, Portland OR
I picked up my first Travis McGee novel when I was 14 or 15 as a second hand paperback from the 60s with great artwork on the cover. It was The Quick Red Fox. I then rediscovered Travis in my late twenties after my PhD in English literature and that was the point when I started appreciating how good those books actually were. Ever since I have been rereading them every couple of years and they still give me tremendous pleasure.
Dr. Thorsten Krings
Sadly not too spectacular a story. A boss I worked for told me about the Travis McGee series and I was hooked from the start.
The primary outfall from that association (aside from enjoyable reading) was a conversion of the local lunchtime places to Plymouth Gin. (Tanqueray had previously been the gin of choice). Now this was a time when the three martini lunches were in fashion. Very soon all the local eateries knew when we arrived to greet us at our table with a Plymouth Gin over ice with the rim of the glass rubbed with lemon peel and the twist squeezed over the ice (but then thrown away).
We never tried it with the sherry pre-rinse. It took a while to get all the places to stock Plymouth but our regular consumption (and 'conversion' of guests) made it worth their while.
But that was just about Travis.
The expansion of interest in JDM's work came some time later on a vacation in Sierra Nevada mountains at a lodge owned by the Sierra Club. We were staying for a few days and I went into their library looking for something to read and found The Last One Left. Of course I couldn't finish it in the few days at hand so I (hate to admit it) 'borrowed' the book and took it home. Some time later I felt guilty and while not telling the Sierra Club why, I made a generous donation to the Club. (In my mind that was 'atonement'). At any rate that was the first of the non-Travis books and became the foundation the collection of the rest. (Which I have to this day).
I first encountered McGee and his inventor JDM in 1971 when I was a young medic in Viet Nam. There was a program that involved people in America donating used paperback books to be read by soldiers in Viet Nam. I was waiting to get on a Huey to go back out in the jungle for 12 days (after 2 days in the rear) and I picked up a paperback called The Long Lavender Look .
I began reading and the narrator (Travis McGee) told of driving down a highway at night in Florida and being on the lookout for raccoons, not wanting to run over one. And he said urban Florida was using the rabies myth to get rid of them, and the areas where raccoons were wiped out were soon overrun with snakes. Anyway, MacDonald wrote something like: "The average raccoon is cleaner, thriftier and more intelligent than the average meathead who wants them wiped out." And I was hooked, right on the spot, then and forever. Long live Travis McGee, Meyer, and I wish John Dann MacDonald was still alive.