Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D MacDonald
The Deep Blue Goodbye is cool. It’s always fun when you get introduced to a new dirty pleasure you never knew existed. Thanks to friends B & HP in Vancouver, I’m now aware of John D MacDonald the way I’m aware of masturbation, s’mores, or clove cigarettes. None of them really do you any good, but they can be a great deal of fun.
MacDonald is most comparable to either Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard. This novel, starring his famous character, Travis McGee, takes place among the marinas, hotel rooms, and bars of steamy Fort Lauderdale and the Keys in the confusing, fading days of the late nineteen sixties. Hot babes, scuzzy criminals, and the wise cracking hero with a knight errant’s heart fill out it’s too short two hundred pages. This is pulp fiction at it’s best—deeply derivative noir soaked in the sunscreen and cheap gin of the Florida Keys.
For my money, MacDonald is closer to Chandler than Leonard. His dialog isn’t so cropped or trendy as the latter, and his plots and characters are more reminiscent of Chandler’s LA crowd than of the mean streets of Detroit.
There’s plenty of sex, a little bit of violence, and lots of fine quipping to enjoy here. I’ll not bother with a plot summary. If you’ve read the above, you already know the kinds of streets you’ll be winding your way along here.
Highly enjoyable, and I found this morning that MacDonald has about ten or twenty other paperbacks available at the local Half Price Books for about $1.25 each. I just bought them all.
Here’s to guilty pleasures! From MacDonald, through the mouth of McGee, a little bit that could almost be Updike:
“Bless them all, the forlorn little rabbits. They are the displaced persons of our emotional culture. They are ravenous for romance, yet settle for what they call making out. Their futile, acne-pitted men drift out of high school into a world so surfeited with unskilled labor there is a competition for bag-boy jobs in the supermarkets. They yearn for security, but all they can have is what they make for themselves, chittering little flocks of them in the restaurants and stores, talking of style and adornment, dreaming of the terribly sincere stranger who will come along and lift them out of the gypsy life of the two-bit tip and the unemployment, cut a tall cake with them, swell them up with sassy babies, and guide them masterfully into the shoal water of the electrified house, where everybody brushes after every meal. But most of the wistful rabbits marry their unskilled men, and keep right on working. And discover the end of the dream. They have been taught that if you are sunny, cheery, sincere, group-adjusted, popular, the world is yours, including barbecue pits, charge plates, diaper service, friends for dinner, washer-dryer combinations, color slides of the kiddies on the home projector and eternal whimsical romance with the crinkly smiles and Rock Hudson dialog. So they all come smiling and confident and unskilled into a technician’s world, and in a few years they learn that it is all going to be grinding and hateful and brutal and precarious. These are the slums of the heart. Bless the bunnies. These are the new people and we are making no place for them. We hold the dream in front of them like a carrot, and finally say sorry you can’t have any. And the schools where we teach them non-survival are gloriously architectured. They will never live in places so fine unless they contact something incurable.”