Wow… in these “Travis McGee” novels y’all have been reading… what color is the sky? (And no, don’t say “a dreadful lemon color.”)
Seriously, I can’t connect many of these comments to the novel series, which I know forwards and backwards for reasons beyond being a reader/fan. They strike me much like the simplistic “Heinlein is a fascist” strain of literary crit - stemming from a shallow reading of part of the series.
McGee is a racist? You’ve got to be kidding. As terentii put it, McGee was a friend to all those worthy of being a friend, and a terror to those who weren’t… but race never came into the picture. There are several novels in the late 1960s where he deals with “Darktown” - the black side of town where the servants and manual laborers come from - and his descriptions and attitude are less than 2014-PC, but the observations are true to the era and expressed from the viewpoint of a character born ca. 1930 and an author born in 1916. The country as a whole was coming to terms with civil rights in that era and while his words are painfully earnest and clunky from way out here, I can’t think of a single sentence from or describing McGee that says “racist.”
McGee uses and dumps women? Name one. I can’t think of an instance that doesn’t fall into one of these categories:
[li]The woman dies, leaving McGee heartbroken.[/li][li]The woman leaves, leaving McGee heartbroken.[/li][li]The relationship drifts to a mutual-disinterest end but They Remain Friends.[/li][li]The relationship is a one-time affair but They Remain Friends.[/li][li]The woman is filthy rich in some way and wants McGee to abandon his lifestyle to be her pet. He says no.[/li][li]The relationship is tied to the story line and the woman is (or turns out to be) one of the bad guys - to be used like any other asset in resolving the case.[/li][li]The relationship is a one-time or short-time affair with some form of “beach girl,” little or no emotional involvement.[/li][/ul]
You could argue that the many incidences of the last are “using” and/or “dumping” women, but I don’t recall a one that was heartbroken or even emotionally impacted by moving on to the next beach stud. You could get deeper into the culture of that kind of sex in that era - fictional, real, Playboy, imaginary or historical - but in any case McDonald made McGee a creature of that time and place… and Travis was often left with a case of the guilts and the lonelies when he indulged in the “pretty plastic ladies.”
McGee gets people around him killed because of his ego and limitations, or some such? Maybe. These are thriller crime novels. The stories are usually set up so that those involved have no alternative - going to the police or simply getting on a jet plane to wherever is not an option. There are lives, fortunes, children and sometimes larger victims at stake, and McGee is their best chance at survival and success. Accepting that these are fictional setups, list the situations where McGee’s ego, by itself or in very large part, got someone needlessly killed or damaged.
His desire to keep a low profile rarely (I’m tempted to say “never”) got anyone killed; that card usually came into play after the mayhem, when he was dealing with The Smart Cop to nail The Bad Guy at the cost of covering up some of his illegal acts. Name an instance where his desire for anonymity directly led to a Good Guy’s death or damage.
As others have said, McGee is a fascinatingly complex character, especially for the time and genre, and anything but a pure white hat. He was lazy, misanthropic, misogynist in some cases, surly, lonely, a borderline drunk and convinced that his worldview trumped all others. That can add up to ‘asshole’ - but I think in the end he’s far more small-time hero, and I find his (McDonald’s) many asides and ruminations about society and the world amusing and challenging. I can see how younger readers might find his comments tedious and out of sync… but those, as with the whole series, have to - have to - be judged in context of the times. You can’t condemn a 1964, or 1968, or 1974, or even 1980 character for not conforming to 2014-think, any more than you can condemn Huck Finn for the blatantly racist aspects of his speech and actions.