Books by John D. MacDonald

BARRIER ISLAND by John D. MacDonald
Released: June 16, 1986

The prolific, ever-readable John D. returns to the subject of unscrupulous land-development deals on the Gulf Coast; and this time he keeps things far leaner and sharper, without the emphasis on romantic/sentimental subplots that made Condominium a bit bland. . .and so widely popular. The oddly sympathetic villain here is yearning wheeler-dealer Tuck Loomis, a near-60 womanizer who has almost achieved the wealth and respectability of a full-fledged tycoon. All he needs is for one more big deal to come through: his Bernard Island scam. Loomis, you see, bought this island on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, began an elaborate (largely phony) development scheme, just waiting for the US Park Service to declare the land part of the National Seashore. And now Loomis is awaiting the trial that will determine how much the federal government will have to pay him for appropriating his land and mining his supposedly grand development-plan. While Loomis dispenses a few more bribes and gloats in anticipation, however, real-estate man Wade Rowley—whose firm handled the sales of Bernard Island plots for Loomis—realizes that many of those land-sales agreements were fraudulent. So, being a noble hero much like the one in Condominium, Wade turns his evidence over to a US attorney—despite the ragings of Wade's shady partner Bern Gibbs (a Loomis stooge). And when Loomis' desperate efforts at cover-up lead to the inadvertent murder of pathetic partner Bern, Wade does all he can to bring about Loomis' total downfall—with crucial help from one of Loomis' ex-girl. friends. MacDonald's ecology message is, again, rather heavily laid on. And one or two of the compressed subplots—e.g., the adolescent turmoil of Wade's teen-age son—seem extraneous. Overall, however, MacDonald fills out his essentially simple plot with just enough twists and just the right textures: the quirky pathos of the assorted, uncliched bad guys; the edgy touches that keep the supporting players (Wade's devoted wife, Bern's ambitious mistress) from becoming soap-opera types; the resonant ironies—like the fact that both mastermind Loomis and one of the sad bribe-takers are taking care of stroke-victim relatives. Slow to get started, tougher and darker and slighter than Condominium—but ultimately satisfying and quietly compelling. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 31, 1984

Less varied, less engaging than The Good Old Stuff (1982): a further sampling of late-1940s stories from MacDonald's Dime Detective/Black Mask period. Mobsters and con-men dominate too many of these unoriginal, usually overlong pieces, with some of the same formula-twists on display in Mickey Spillane's recent gathering of pulp-work. (Tomorrow I Die, p. 329.) There are dim echoes of James M. Cain and Dashiell Hammett in tales of husband-murder and city corruption. Other pieces show the (somewhat more freshly used) influence of Cornell Woolrich. And throughout there's MacDonald's often-dated interest in abnormal psychology—with a frontal lobotomy, a couple of amnesiacs, and a loony-bin/blackmail operation. Okay by pulp standards, with glimmers (just glimmers) of the lean, quick MacDonald style to come—but not nearly as bright or crisp as the first collection. Read full book review >
LONELY SILVER RAIN by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 28, 1984

Travis McGee, Florida's favorite beach-bum adventurer and hero of 22 MacDonald novels, is having long, moody thoughts on middle age and absent friends—when he's persuaded by super-rich Billy Ingraham to try to find his stolen million-dollar yacht. McGee finds it all fight, with the slaughtered bodies of three young people aboard, one of them the daughter of a Peruvian diplomat. Furthermore, some high-level drug trafficking seems to be involved—and before long Ingraham is murdered in an elaborately faked natural death. Can attempts to kill McGee himself be far behind? Of course not. So he's soon forced to explore the seamy byways of the drug trade. . . and, with help from undercover drug-agent Scott Browder, finally gets off the hook. True, it all sounds like a standard replay, and originality is definitely not the drawing card here. But MacDonald makes the old story seem freshly readable—with expert plotting, canny suspense-building, on-target dialogue, and credibly kooky/kinky characters. . . including a new lady guaranteed to put old Trav into a more cheerful frame of mind. Read full book review >
ONE MORE SUNDAY by John D. MacDonald
NONFICTION
Released: March 26, 1984

Scandals, hypocrisies, and inter-personal tensions at the headquarters of a big-bucks TV preacher—in a competent multi-plot novel that's unexciting in its melodrama, serviceable in its soap opera, and far too preachy (and predictable) in its ironic-expose viewpoint. Rev. John Tinker Meadows, having taken over for his now-senile father, is the centerpiece of the Meadows Center in a small Southern town—home of the Eternal Church of the Believer, complete with TV-Tabernacle, computerized investments, PR machine, etc., etc. The handsome, pious Rev, of course, is secretly sleeping with a married parishioner; the assistant pastor is a repressed sex-maniac who (it becomes clear about halfway through) killed Lindy Owen—an investigative reporter from N.Y. whose body doesn't turn up for a while. Furthermore, the Rev's imperious sister, Reverend Mary Margaret, is a fat neurotic with a father complex; the Church's computer-expert is not only a thief but a seducer of choir-girls; the head of the mailroom is a secret lesbian; and everyone's involved in power-plays, blackmailings, and coverups. Sounds like a trashy TV series? It does indeed. But MacDonald is a solid, classy enough storyteller to maintain steady interest as he sketches in all these subplots—along with the one centered on stockbroker Roy Owen, who's staying at a nearby motel and quietly sleuthing the case of his missing (murdered) wife Lindy. There are intriguing vignettes along the way—like the tense, un-cliched scene between computer-expert/womanizer Rev. Joe Deets and the angry mother of his latest conquest. And MacDonald offers convincing details on the Church's super-technology, including a phone-solicitation program using the synthesized voice of senile Rev. Meadows Sr. (The woman who engineers these programs finally quits in disgust.) Eventually, however, it becomes clear that the various plot-strands aren't going to interweave in a suspenseful way, and that each of the storylines will be given a pat, trite resolution: the murderer commits suicide; Roy finds new love with a quirky local girl; the Church's smarter employees happily quit; the womanizer finds God; and a genuine preacher shows up Rev. John and Rev. Mary Margaret for the hypocrites they are. Without the realism, the tension, or the engaging people of Condominium (1977): a minor MacDonald melodrama, on a far-from-fresh subject (cf. Harold Robbins' Spellbinder, etc.)—but readable enough to attract that big built-in readership. Read full book review >
THE GOOD OLD STUFF by John D. MacDonald
Released: Oct. 13, 1982

Volume I of MacDonald's best work for the pulp-mystery magazines—murder, crime, and adventure tales written between 1947 and 1952 for such journals as Doc Savage, Detective Tales, and New Detective. And are they indeed the "good old stuff?" Well, yes and no. By pulp standards, certainly, they are masterpieces of understatement—more Cain than Spillane, with crisp, straight storytelling instead of hard-boiled mannerisms. By more general mystery-story standards, they're a mixed lot. And, for Travis McGee fans, there's the fun of spotting early McGee prototypes. The standouts: a longish but well-paced murder case for insurance investigator Darrigan, the most McGee-ish of the heroes; and "Death Writes the Answer," a short, ironic, husband-out-to-kill-wife winner. The weakest: the very draggy "They Let Me Live," in which a WW II vet sleuths around the world, trying to clear the name of an old, dead buddy; and two mysteries solved by Park Falkner, a corny super-hero. (The most surprising: "Miranda," a tricky psychological thriller that almost works.) Don't expect McGee or greatness, then—but, despite some uneasy attempts at updating, this is good-enough old stuff for low-key pleasure. Read full book review >
CINNAMON SKIN by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: June 2, 1982

Travis McGee's 20th—which finds him enjoying life on his Florida houseboat, trying to keep his affair with hotel-manager Anne Renzetti on an even keel. But then best friend Meyer's niece Norma dies violently—when she and her charming new husband Evan go for a honeymoon trip on Meyer's cruiser. . . which blows to smithereens. The question for McGee and Meyer: was Evan on board when the explosion hit? There's enough evidence to the contrary to send them on the trail into Evan's past—which involves pseudonyms, stripped bank accounts, unsolved disappearances, and a string of "accidental" deaths. Eventually, then, the sleuths wind up in upstate N.Y. with Evan's sister Helen June, a slatternly trailer-dweller surrounded by rust and junk. And her confessions lead McGee to Mexico, gorgeous Barbara Castillo (an indirect victim of the murderer), and a plan to trap the culprit. Surprises? Very few. But if MacDonald's formula varies little, the shrewd vignettes of places and people continue to be vividly engaging—and his masterly pacing ensures absorbing, taut reading every time around. Read full book review >
FREE FALL IN CRIMSON by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 29, 1981

Ever-resilient Travis McGee, on the mend from yet another lost love, is asked by Ron Esterland to find out who killed his wealthy, cancer-ridden father Ellis two years ago. Suspects include Ellis' long-estranged actress wife Josephine—who inherited the family fortune when the first heiress, their daughter Romola, died only weeks after Ellis' death. And, as McGee backtracks with the help of Ellis' live-in secretary Anne Renzetti, he digs up some connections to motorcycle gangs—the subject of movies made by Josephine's longtime lover, off-the-wall movie director Peter Kesner. The couple's current film project, however (using the last of the Esterland loot), is about a hot-air balloon meet—and McGee goes on location, to a small Iowa town, using chumship with star Lysa Dean to gain entree and soon exposing an explosive situation involving pornography, drugs, violence, and local teenagers. The ensuing action: the enraged townspeople's attack on the movie crowd; McGee's escape via balloon; and a murder-rampage by a nasty leftover from Kesner's motorcycle movies. Not quite as wham-bamtense as The Green Ripper, but all the necessary MacDonald ingredients are on the premises: fast pace; incredibly sordid doings which impinge on McGee's blue skies; a terrific windup; and a new love, Anne, who's probably good for at least one more book before she, too, like previous McGee ladies, bites the dust. Read full book review >
THE SCARLET RUSE by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 14, 1980

First published in paperback in 1973, this is non-vintage but very drinkable MacDonald—as Travis McGee does his sidekick Meyer a favor by coming to the assistance of Hersh Felderman, an elderly Miami stamp dealer. Felderman has been conned by a sleek mobster in league with Felderman's assistant, Junoesque brunette Mary Alice McDermit (who has a shady past and a short-lived magnetism for McGee); and then Jane Lawson, Felderman's other assistant, is found murdered in her ransacked apartment. Can McGee sort out the motivations (lots of lust and greed), catch the killer, retrieve Felderman's fortune, and keep himself (and Meyer) alive all the while? Need you ask? The plotting here is absolutely dandy, as are the seedily rounded characters; the primary catch is the MacDonald preaching on life values—which has happily become implicit (rather than, as here, hortatory) in recent McGees. Still, MacDonald is MacDonald, and that means top tension and fine detail—qualities that surely deserve hard-cover preservation. Read full book review >
GREEN RIPPER by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 17, 1979

Travis McGee, aging and mellowing, is ready to settle down at last with the lusciously tall Gretel (The Empty Copper Sea)—who may just agree to marry him. But—alas and alas—her boss at Bonnie Brae, a fat farm and real estate development, has a fatal bicycle accident one morning, and two days later Gretel is dead of a strange and devastating fever. The autopsy brings Government agents to question McGee and crony Meyer—and McGee soon realizes that his lover was murdered, innocent victim of some Dark Force. Revenge! Following his only real lead to the derelict camp of a religious sect deep in the California mountains, he discovers a terrorist cell of ten with an awesome arsenal. And, using a characteristically solid cover story (he says he's a recently widowed fisherman looking for a lost daughter), McGee lulls the suspicions of the group and then, in a taut few hours, wipes them out, one by one. Revenge is sweet—and here, utterly convincing; so we leave McGee savoring life once more, soon ready, we hope, to give us more of the preaching and poetry, action and introspection, that make up the storytelling bravura of the splendid John D. Read full book review >
EMPTY COPPER SEA by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 25, 1978

Travis McGee #17—and everything's ship-shape down Florida way. Well, maybe the case itself is just fair-to-middling: what happened to on-the-skids tycoon Hub Lawless of Timber Bay when he fell (or jumped) off his yacht? Did he drown—or run off to Guadalajara with his assets and his secretary? Less than earth-shaking, but it's a pleasure to watch McGee and sidekick Meyer go into action, posing as corporate real-estate aides ("Tools of the power structure"). Along the way, McGee makes two women happy: a face-lifted saloon piano player (she turns ugly when Tray fails to appreciate her rendition of "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy") and 6'1" Gretel—can this be at long last love? Little action, mostly talk, but good talk, and MacDonald's see-it/smell-it sense of place and people is intact; who else bothers to give you a precise sense of a town's geography—and can do it in one effortless paragraph? Reliable plus. Read full book review >
CONDOMINIUM by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 21, 1977

The condominiums that Marty Liss built stand on Fiddler Key in the Gulf and seem to offer the dream retirement oasis, but life at the Golden Sands could be a lot dreamier. In fact, the place "stinks of fear": the monthly fee is growing, the adjoining scenic jungle has been razed to make way for another Liss condo, the lazy super/stud can't be fired, and Gus Garver in 1-C—a reluctantly ex-engineer—is feeling uneasy about things like water tables, lateral stress, and a sloppy concrete pour. Uneasy he should feel. Marty's bribes to local politicos have allowed him to erect a doomed pleasure dome, and all we can do is wait for much-heralded Hurricane Ella to arrive and lay waste. Well, not quite all. While waiting, we can learn—from a storytelling natural—the lives lived in retirement. Tennis for keeping fit, Heath-kits for keeping busy, hospitals and homes for the spouses who collapse, medical benefits that run out, connubial quirks and greater madnesses that rise to the surface when there's all that time to kill. Add these senior citizens to the familiar MacDonald adulteresses and shysters—and it's an immense, varied cast, all talking some of the solidest Middle-American dialogue in print. Too much business deal detail as usual (John D.'s a Harvard MBA after all), and readers will probably resent the disaster-movie ending that renders everything moot. But MacDonald has brought off his move to a broader Florida canvas, producing a 450-page book that seems too short, leaving the mystery-suspense pigeonhole far behind. Read full book review >
A PURPLE PLACE FOR DYING by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 22, 1976

Here's that man again, that 110 proof man in his third appearance—it came out in paper. Aficionados—and the census would have trouble taking a count—will notice the difference: the writing is tighter;there are those existential insights dropped like incontestable truths ("Remorse is the ultimate in self-abuse"). However characters disappear for good before they barely cross the page—a rich woman, the husband who'd been covertly cleaning out her estate; her gentle lover and his sister (she's also an almost). Then a dingy, surrogate domestic situation is revealed. Exigent as ever, particularly with McGee in his leaner, hungrier, younger days. Read full book review >
NIGHTMARE IN PINK by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 11, 1976

That Harry O-ish beach bum Travis McGee comes to New York to straighten out Nina Gibson, the grieving kid sister of his disabled vet buddy Mike. Was her fiance accidentally killed by muggers after all. . . or was he onto the siphoning of the Armister family's 70-million-dollar fortune? Tray's wholehearted involvement with Nina proves to be a mindblower even before he finds himself a patient in a private clinic specializing in lobotomies. The pink perfume lingers on and McGee's in his prime in this 1964 reissue. Read full book review >
THE DEEP BLUE GOOD-BY by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 8, 1975

McGee, graying around the edges of his sideburns (at least he talks that way), assumes his simplest job to date. It's a search-and-destroy mission against one Junior Allen who comes out of prison with some money which belonged to lifer Kerr, whose daughter is one of two consecutive, willing victims. With The Dreadful Lemon Sky way up there on the best-seller list, you don't need to wonder or even think about the fact that the story reduces to less than he's ever handled. After all there's still that lovely sheen of sun and sex which is what counts most. Read full book review >
A DEADLY SHADE OF GOLD by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 7, 1974

L'homme ultimate sensuel, McGee (this is a 1965 reissue) decides to exact reparations for the death of his friend Sam, brutally killed at the moment of his reconciliation with his girl, Nora — leaving behind him the evidence of one of those priceless pre-Columbian gold statuettes. The search for others in a collection belonging to a Cuban, now immobile and incommunicado in a wheelchair, takes them both to Mexico on a trail — more straightforward than most McGee stories — with a body count you can hardly add up. Not the best — but full value in the series with that man at the height of his puissance. Read full book review >
QUICK RED FOX by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 11, 1974

. . . who has to jump is a motion picture star who has bought, and bought, and bought up some skin candids which could destroy her altogether. McGee is hired to find out just who there are others on the negatives — is responsible among a number of people whose emotional destitution or moral corruption is just about unbeatable. The story's not all that much (it's one of the early ones) but for many people McGee's sunburned macho is very operative however much you suspect it's only mantan. Read full book review >
THE DREADFUL LEMON SKY by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Feb. 26, 1974

A new one (i.e., the second to appear originally in hardcover) and even if the story leaves something to be desired, McGee of course does not as two young women put themselves in his soothing to stimulating hands — the first leaving a box with $94,000 in bills before her apartment is trashed and she is killed. All of this involves a busy operation in grass and there are five chainsmoked fatalities before the air is cleared. . . . Assume and you won't be wrong that McGee no longer needs a vehicle — he just emanates like Brut. Read full book review >
TURQUOISE LAMENT by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 30, 1973

The most notable thing here is that this is the first time MacDonald has appeared initially in hardcover, although as he idles along, you might wonder what happened to what's happening since MacDonald has been so well established as one of the real hellbent storytellers in the business. Anyway it has something to do with fishing, of course, and salvage, of course, and upper case life and sudden death and a flippy girl who keeps telling him it's for keeps if he would only take what's she's saying about' her husband — he's a killer — more seriously. But there's a smashing scene at the end to make up for all that lost time when in McGee's own inimitable words life has been ""running out the bottom of the tube. Read full book review >
GIRL IN THE PLAIN BROWN WRAPPER by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 12, 1973

That salvage consultant McGee attempting to reclaim desperate characters once again after Helena, whom he once loved, dies of natural muses but asks him to try and save the life of a daughter who seems determined to end it. There are others who precede her (a doctor, a nurse) and while the story seems overly complicated and diffused this time, ho one can knock its flushed allure since McGee's powers to persuade or seduce seem more puissant than ever. Read full book review >
BRIGHT ORANGE FOR THE SHROUD by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 11, 1972

The shroud's a housecoat, worn to her death by the young woman used as a decoy by Travis McGee in his attempt to retrieve some of the money Arthur Wilkinson, a nice guy but a schnook all the same, had misspent. In fact he had been skinned by the woman he fell in love with and one of those syndicates. The story seems simpler to begin with but it's edged with that hard gloss virulence everyone knows and likes so well. Read full book review >
THE LONG LAVENDER LOOK by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: March 27, 1972

. . . is deep purple and dark red in Cypress County (Florida) when a girl, one of Travis McGee's youthful voluptuaries, runs across the road and puts his car underwater while he ends up in the inflexible hands of the local sheriff. Lew Arnstead, one of the sheriff's helpers, beats up Meyer and from then on it's an almost hopelessly confusing business where everything kills including speed and even those palmetto leaves can cut your throat. McGee is as muy macho as ever which is all his advocates and Heidi — she's back at the end — want. Read full book review >
PALE GRAY FOR GUILT by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 7, 1971

Travis McGee with "his full complete share of mouth," and Meyer, philosophizing all the way, try to help the widow of an old friend who had been squeezed and then altogether eliminated in a real estate project. Travis has his own romantic troubles this time as he loses a girl before he was ready to dispose of her. This is not MacDonald's best in his established colorfast series but he's still way ahead of the competition. Read full book review >
DARKER THAN AMBER by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: April 9, 1970

Travis McGee is the single successor to Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe and in some ten paperback appearances has acquired an open-end following. This is one of his earlier cases in which he retrieves a creamy Eurasian girl with amber eyes thrown off a bridge. She's a hooker whom he hopes to salvage otherwise—only she's killed—and he's unwilling to forget her or forget why. . . . The action is overwhelming and then there's that spanking display of the vernacular. Read full book review >
NO DEADLY DRUG by John D. MacDonald
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 6, 1968

Here we go again. In reporting Holmes' The Trials of Dr. Coppolino (p. 84) we made the safe bet that there would be others soon. This covers only the New Jersey trial, which cleared Coppolino of the charge of murdering his aging ex-paramour's husband. So, Holmes' is the better book in that it covers not only the New Jersey case but Coppolino's later conviction in Florida for the murder of his wife. (In each trial the barely detectable drug succinylcholine was considered a main agent of death and evidence given about it was central to the creation in New Jersey and the suppression in Florida of reasonable doubt.) The level of writing in both books is about the same. Both are the stuff of subjective feature writing and, while MacDonald is not quite so taken by Coppolino as Holmes, he's even more puffingly praiseful of F. Lee Bailey, Coppolino's attorney in both actions. MacDonald's Foreword explains that he's attempting to give readers a front row courtroom seat. To that end, he's abstracted the highpoints from the records of the preliminary hearing in Florida, the jury selection in New Jersey, and the trial, then stitched them together with commentary on witnesses' behavior or reactions and courtroom procedures. Trial trivia moves briskly in and out of libraries, but this promises to see its greatest sale from paperback racks. Read full book review >
THE LAST ONE LEFT by John D. MacDonald
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 20, 1966

This is one of John MacDonald's long-playing accounts of crime and punishment, heavily plotted, thinly characterized, well timed while supporting some five stories simultaneously. The main fuse deals with the sinking (an explosion) of a Bahamas-bound luxury yacht which belongs to operator Bix Kayd. Aboard are a few passengers, as well as eight hundred thousand dollars of money to be used as a bribe in a real estate transaction. Aware of this is Cissy Harkinson, who has wasted her once young, still beautiful body, on a Senator, a coronary fatality, and now arranges with Staniker, the boat's captain, to cache the cash, sink the yacht. Assorted romances—Cissy's maid, a Spanish grandee's daughter; a girl aboard the boat, her brother and his momentarily estranged wife—all synchronize and MacDonald, a professional when it comes to telling this kind of story, keeps it commercial with a number of carnal/venal stimuli. Read full book review >
A FLASH OF GREEN by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: June 15, 1962

A housing development's plan to fill in the bay of a Florida small town brings aroused action, not only on the part of home-with-a-view owners, nature lovers, and do-gooders, but also Kat Hubble, whose husband has just died and who had once defeated the project. But the conservation fight seems to be a losing one this time; Elmo blackmail to outright violence. And Jimmy Wing, a newspaperman, who, in a mistaken attempt to protect Kat, is bullied by Bliss into purveying the necessary information, betrays her and is willing to lose his job, and Kat, too, in a latterday expose.... John MacDonald's readers will be able to assess the property value here; it's prefabricated but commercial, the taxation is low; and conservatives may want a few zoning restrictions. Read full book review >
THE CROSSROADS by John D. MacDonald
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 10, 1959

At the crossroads of Florida's Highway 71, the four children of Charles Drovek have built a motel-shopping center empire, but while they are very successful- they have their personal troubles; the oldest, Charles, is married to a hopeless alcoholic and in love with another woman; the youngest, Pete, has a swivel-hipped wife; etc., etc. So that the plan to steal the savings of old Pop Drovek, while it is carried out — by his daughter-in-law and her lovers, and while it leads to a double murder, is only one of several points of interest here. Slick- and sexy stuff. Read full book review >
PLEASE WRITE FOR DETAILS by John D. MacDonald
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 15, 1959

Some high to broad comic caricatures and a set-up situation ease off- into romance- and offer a vista of a Summer Workshop in Cuernavaca where some thirteen students come for a month to paint. Under the tutelage of Gam Torrigan (no longer in tasis and "dealing entirely in the balance of tensions through luminosity and focal levels") and a hefty virgin, Agnes Partridge Keeley ("she should be painting pansies on the sides of teapots") the summer seance dissipates into a Life Class. Barbara Kilmer, young, pretty and recently widowed, resists all intrusions on her grief until John Kemp makes an understanding approach; Parker Barnum, the victim of a divorce action and a crack-up, appeals to the protective interests of a young girl from Texas; and a young honeymoon couple, two widows from Elmira, Ohio, a retired Colonel and an aggressive Don Juan provide some assorted activities and vary the dalliance from the sophisticated to the sentimental. But all in all, it adds up to more effort than entertainment. Read full book review >
CAPE FEAR (FORMERLY TITLED THE EXECUTIONERS) by John D. MacDonald
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: May 1, 1958

Sam Bowden, a lawyer, lawyer, happily married, the father of three, and a peaceable man is also a defenseless one when Max Cady, a soldier whom he had helped to convict during the war on a rape charge, is released from jail and threatens to kill him six times over. The police can offer him little protection; his dog is poisoned; one of his kids is shot at- and grazed; and his own efforts to hire a team to work on Cady fail. Finally offering Carol, his wife, as a live target, he is able to end a long ordeal.... A likable family-very vulnerable at the hands of a vicious killer- this has a real menace and momentum. Read full book review >
CONTRARY PLEASURE by John D. MacDonald
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 23, 1954

Not quite as tight a narrative as Cancel All Our Vows (1953), this spreads its interest over the lives and loves of the four Delevans- and their children, and is an assured and accomplished reconnaissance of a middle western, middle class community- with the comforts- but not the security- which money can buy. Benjamin Delevan, the oldest brother, heads the family and its textile business and at 50 is nagged by the notion that the "good years and the taut muscles" have gone- but where. Quinn, in his late thirties, inept and impotent vis a vis his wife's aggressive desirability, finds a certain rejuvenation with a girl in the office. Alice, his twin, after 14 years of marriage and a sense of restless inadequacy, finds a new and never known vitality in her relationship with her husband. Robbie, the youngest, returns home with a bride. Brock, Ben's son, has been bounced out of college for stealing money and Ellen, his sister, straightens out on her own. . . . All of this is a not too bella vista of the suburban set, of human nature which is both recognizable and fallible, and there are some sweet-sour notes of personal discernment and disillusion. Rentals, certainly (but without censure), and a women's market as well. Read full book review >