Go to Homepage   Hugh Merrill: The Red Hot Typewriter -- The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald

  Crescent Blues Book Views

Three and one half moon gifThomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover), ISBN 0312209053
Ah, remember the delight of discovering John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee? His semi-tropical, houseboat living, gal chasing adventures were the stuff adolescent dreams are made of. But the proof of MacDonald's genius lay in the way his books continued to thrill the reader on the third or fourth readings.

Book: Hugh Merrill, The Red Hot TypewriterThe Red Hot Typewriter, a well-researched and well-written biography, reads as easy as The Deep Blue Goodbye. Merrill traces MacDonald's writing career from the "pulp" era to the modern hardcover era, grounding the reader not only in MacDonald's personal life but also in the turbulent world of publishing. The book includes reams of MacDonald's letters, articles and journals as well as the papers given during his lifetime to the University of Florida as a special collection.

MacDonald wrote to earn money. He approached writing as a job which required good work habits. MacDonald wrote by a schedule: four hours in the morning, lunch break, another four hours in the afternoon. Then he closed his desk and figuratively went home to enjoy a drink and his dinner. In addition, MacDonald wrote what the market wanted. During the year he lived in Mexico alone, MacDonald published more than sixty short stories in the pulps.

MacDonald's Travis McGee series proved to be a turning point in the hard-boiled genre then dominated by Mickey Spillane. MacDonald wouldn't write copy that degraded women. He also couldn't write sex scenes, and he grounded his characters with a strong sense of honor.

Many a time I wondered how Travis McGee got his name. What did John D. MacDonald think about Kenneth Millar's use of the name John (Ross) Macdonald? Why did John D. MacDonald live on the west coast of Florida and Travis the east? Was the Busted Flush patterned after a boat MacDonald saw? Did MacDonald write a final McGee book, with "black" in the title? Merrill answers these and many others, as well as providing the definitive answer to the biggest question of all: was MacDonald the model for McGee?

Suzanne Frisbee

Click here to share your views.