John D. MacDonald Recommendations?

So many of the writers I admire (Stephen King especially) talk gushingly about their admiration for the work of John D. MacDonald but I’ve never actually read him myself. I was looking over his bibliography and it’s intimidatingly huge.

Anybody around here read him? Can you suggest a good starting place? I’m looking for the book that you think will make a newbie understand why people think he’s awesome.


The Girl, The Gold Watch and Everything
Cinnamon Skin
Free Fall in Crimson

Second The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything. A great work of science fiction, and it’s funny as hell in some places too.

All of the Travis McGee novels are wonderful; if I have a favorite, it’s probably The Scarlet Ruse.

In addition to his novels, McDonald also wrote a lot of short stories. Sometimes you can find them in Hitchcock anthologies, as well as in other collections.

As an aside, I suggest you read some of McDonald’s books first, and then read some of Carl Hiaasen’s novels. They both write about Florida, but like 30 or 40 years apart. The contrast is sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking. (Hiaasen himself is a big McDonald fan.)

John D. MacDonald is best known for his Travis McGee novels - a series of 21 books featuring a philosophizing Florida boat bum and semi-professional bounty hunter with a remarkable capacity for rescuing stolen fortunes and damsels in distress. The series was written from roughly 1964-1986 and may seem somewhat dated to younger readers. The books, given their “hardboiled” nature and colorful titles, are surprising insightful and well-written - one reviewer termed them “classy trash”, which was meant as a compliment. Most will stand alone as a story - no need to read the whole series to understand them, but also lend themselves to a chronological reading, starting with The Deep Blue Goodbye (1964).

MacDonald was an amazingly prolific writer - aside from the McGee series he published more than fifty novels, several non-fiction works and numerous short stories. The ones I’ve read have all been consistantly well-written and readable, attributes that seem to apply to all of MacDonald’s work. One More Sunday, about murder and skulduggery in an evangelical mega-church is quite good. I think the one that impressed me most favorably, though, was Please Write For Details, an adventure/romance book set in an eccentric art school in Cuernavaca, Mexico in the mid-1950’s. Kind of a “Grand Hotel” type of novel and rather longer than most of MacDonald’s books, it would make a good introductory read.

The Travis McGee novels, in order if possible.
The first is the Deep Blue Goodbye.

They are outstanding!

Any of his books with a color in the title. :slight_smile:

I agree with this post 100%

He also has an enormous thread on how to write and sell novels on a popular writing/authorship website.

Some of his non-Travis books are quite good too:

The Drowner
Area of Suspicion
A Flash of Green
The Executioners aka Cape Fear
One More Sunday
Dead Low Tide
Cancel All Our Vows
Border Town Girl
A Key to the Suite

John D, wrote Cape Fear?

He sure did.

Thanks Everyone! Man, sure wish the Travis McGee novels were on Kindle. Time to head to the book store.

All 21 are available in MP3 format.

Thirded - any of the Trav series. For the first time, read them in order, starting with the Deep Blue Goodbye.

I am currently cruising through my summer tradition of reading all 21 Travis McGee novels, preferably on the beach or in the hammock, with a cold beer at hand. This is probably about my 18th time, and I never get tired of them.

An aside:
A few years ago, I got it into my head that I should just buy anything I could find that was written by John D. MacDonald, and made a valiant effort, picking them up at church sales and thrift shops and online. Got quite a big box full now. So, after reading them all, and concluding that the Trav stuff was still my favorite, I picked up one of the Lee Child Reacher series at my boyfriend’s recommendation.
Now I have to go back through all of the non-Travs to find the paragraph that I am pretty sure Child lifted almost word for word from MacDonald. God damn it, why didn’t I mark that??

I read every Travis McGee book and in my opinion they are pretty much all the same and highly overrated, but I was in the service with a lot of free time. Much better in my mind is Ross McDonald (Lew Archer) though his are fairly similar to each other also.