Book Review: John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-By

Posted June 13, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-By

The Deep Blue Good-By

on January 8, 2013 and has 240 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

First in the Travis McGee suspense series revolving around Travis, who only works when he needs the money. Based in Florida.

My Take

I found Lee Child’s introduction in this edition edifying. I had no idea of MacDonald’s background or how the war was likely to have influenced his writing. Child also tips us to MacDonald’s environmental stance; it’s subtle within the story, and I suspect I’d’ve missed it if I hadn’t read the intro.

MacDonald’s books ought to be part of a writer’s education on how to write. He’s incredible with his poetic descriptions, how beautifully he paints a scene and creates a person, using words without going into cliché. And no, his words are unique enough that I don’t recall reading them in anyone else’s work. So no excuses that he was able to create the clichés later writers have to avoid!

MacDonald starts off “in progress”, as if Travis has been doing this for some time, and he sets Travis up as lazy, but also a man with a heart and a strong sense of justice. Cathy’s story is sad enough, but it’s Lois’ that will really break your heart. MacDonald makes excellent use of her character and her condition to provide the nasty details about Junior Allen.

I did enjoy Trav’s psychological excursions, listening to him as he figures out how to get inside someone’s mind — mind you, he’s got his cockiness and it gets taken down a peg. Still, I’m going to enjoy reading more of his work…

The Story

Cathy has been morally violated by a ruthless man, and when she gets Travis McGee involved, he discovers more victims in even worse case.

Lois Atkinson is at the end of her rope until Trav steps in and becomes even more determined to stop Junior Allen.

The Characters

Travis McGee is a boat bum doing just enough to get by. When he needs money, he takes on a job retrieving X’s property from Y and splitting the retrieved. He won the Busted Flush in a card game and lives aboard. Miss Agnes is his chopped Rolls Royce pickup. Chookie McCall is a choreographer with heart and Travis’ friend. She manages the Island Dancers who perform at the Bahama Room, Adam Teabolt‘s place.

Cathy Kerr is a mother who has left her son, Davie, in her sister Christine Haason‘s care while she earns a living far from home as a dancer. Cathy’s husband, Wally Kerr, took off. Christine’s husband, Jaimie, was killed. Sergeant David Berry is her father. A sly man who finagled his way through the war only to be jailed for murder when he returns. Leaving the treasure he accumulated vulnerable.

Junior Allen, a.k.a., A.A. Allen, a.k.a., Dads, was in jail with her father and somehow learned just enough. Enough to jerk over the Berry family. And to take a liking for it. He seems particularly talented at finding nasty women who like the hurtin’ as well as those who will break the worst. Deeleen and Corry are two “little sweethearts” Dads is chatting for the next woman he intends to break, Patty Devlan. Pete was the set-up for Patty.

Mrs. Lois Atkinson is one of Junior’s victims, and it’s just horrible the state she’s reduced to. Dr. Ramirez helps Trav get Lois back from the brink. Dr. Harper Fairlea is her somewhat estranged brother; Harp’s wife is Lucille.

Callowell was a pilot who served with Berry for a time. George Brell was one of Berry’s partners. Angie is Brell’s miserable little girl; Gerry is his trophy wife. Lew Dagg is the jerk of a football player who thought he could take Travis on.

The Alabama Tiger “operates the world’s only permanent floating house party”, and Molly Bea and Conny are some of Tiger’s tarts. He’s a good friend who doesn’t ask questions.

Harry is a New York contact who knows the street.

The Cover and Title

The cover is from the 2013 edition and is split in two: the top half is black crumpled paper forming a backdrop for the author’s name, the series, and the title while the bottom half is a photo of a woman’s calves with cute blue sandals dangling in the clear blue of a swimming pool.

I think the title refers to the bad guy when he experiences The Deep Blue Good-By.