Sunday, July 24, 2016

MacDonald’s Century: Closing Arguments

Above: The 15th Travis McGee tale, The Turquoise Lament (1974, with artwork by Robert McGinnis). Below, right: The Drowner (1969, featuring artwork by Stanley Zuckerberg).

Today marks 100 years since the birth, in Sharon, Pennsylvania, of John Dann MacDonald, the business school grad who grew up to become famous as crime and thriller novelist John D. MacDonald.

After spending the last two weeks celebrating MacDonald’s centennial with a series of book-cover posts on this page, what I have come to realize is just how little experience I’ve had with the breadth of MacDonald’s fiction. Yes, I have enjoyed a number of his colorful 21 novels starring larger-than-life “salvage expert”-cum-detective Travis McGee. Additionally, I have read probably a handful of his standalone novels, including Murder in the Wind (1956), The Executioners (aka Cape Fear, 1958), and The Drowner (1963). But MacDonald published more than twice as many non-series books as he did McGee adventures—some of which have earned acclaim from authorities such as Ed Gorman—and most of those, I haven’t so much as touched yet. It seems I have many years of catching up to do. Spurred on by Killer Covers’ recent observance of MacDonald’s birthday, I am enthusiastic about getting on with that task, familiarizing myself not only with more of his novels (including the science fiction he wrote), but also with the short-story anthologies he produced during his almost 40-year career.

Since I cannot be in Sarasota today—the Florida town where this author lived and wrote for many years before dying in Wisconsin in December 1986, at age 70, and where commemorations of his centennial are set to take place—the next best thing is for me to build on Killer Covers’ display of vintage MacDonald book fronts. There are far too many to feature them all, but if you scroll down you’ll find 74 façades that have decorated his novels and non-fiction books over the years. On top of the 14 I have recently posted on this page, and others I’ve highlighted here over the years, I feel pretty good about representing MacDonald’s literary range. Among the artists whose work appears on the covers below are Bill Johnson, Barye Phillips, Stanley Borack, George Gross, James Avati, Jerry Allison, Darrel Greene, Owen Kampen, Ron Lesser, Mitchell Hooks, Victor Kalin, Barbara Walton, Samuel Peffer, Charles Binger, and of course Robert McGinnis. Enjoy the show!

READ MORE:John D. MacDonald Before Travis McGee,” by Lee Sandlin (The Wall Street Journal); “Who Is Travis McGee?” by Prakriti (To Be or Not to Be).


J. Kingston Pierce said...

An astute reader asked me about the cover, located near the end of this post, that focuses primarily on a woman’s bikini bottoms. The title reads ’N Seegraf Vir ’n Meisie. According to the aptly named blog John D. MacDonald Covers, that book was published in South Africa in the 1980s. Its title translates as A Sea Burial for a Girl, but it is really the Afrikaans edition of MacDonald’s The Scarlet Ruse. Find out more here:


Corby's Orbit said...

Tom Waits' favourite writer. No higher tribute needed.