He's a self-described beach bum who won his houseboat in a card game. He's also a knight errant who's wary of credit cards, retirement benefits, political parties, mortgages, and television. He only works when his cash runs out, and his rule is simple: he'll help you find whatever was taken from you, as long as he can keep half. Nothing that John D. MacDonald wrote is better loved and more enduring than the 21 books in his series about Travis McGee, the Florida-based “salvage consultant” who recovers property for a fee so he can take his retirement “a piece at a time”. Narrator Robert Petkoff, hand-chosen to narrate with the approval of MacDonald’s estate, brings McGee’s world of the Busted Flush (his houseboat, which he won in a poker game) and “Miss Agnes” (his custom Rolls-Royce pickup truck) to vivid life.
"[T]he great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller." (Stephen King) "[M]y favorite novelist of all time." (Dean Koontz) "[W]hat a joy that these timeless and treasured novels are available again." (Ed McBain)
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I bought this book because of the comments from truly outstanding crime, mystery, thriller writers including Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, and many others,and I can see why these successful writers admire the character details McDonald uses in the book. His fascination and brilliant presentation of tiny specifics of dress, mannerisms, dialogue and silences speak volumes about the characters and unspoken moments that bring emotion to a character. I also watched the videos from Lee Child and Carl Hiaasen. All this led me to believe it was a crime thriller at its heart, which was, in hindsight, an erroneous conclusion. The authors praise, now in re-reading it, is for character development. Audible even said in its intro "...And forget about the genre of mystery..." and quotes praises for being a novelist.
Since I have no history of the McGee character, no emotional connection with earlier publications and editions, as most of the readers who posted here apparently have, I came to it expecting a thrilling read. What I took away was a story which was about ninety percent relationship between Travis and two broken women whom he nursed or attempted to nurse back to health. The last bit of the book became a mystery, action, thriller but I had early on predicted the outcome of the two central characters and, even though the action ending was exceptionally well written, it came too late in the game for me.
Since I am reading the book today, not years ago when it was written, I winced at the weak and apparently helpless women portrayed at every turn of events, all dependent on Travis to rescue and help them. Perhaps for fans who read the book when it was released it calls up memories of characters prevalent in those days, but it simply felt very old fashioned and overly heroic for me, to the extent that I grew anxious and irritated and began wondering why I was listening to it. The extremely whiny voice given to the main female lead enhanced my discomfort. That being said, I have enjoyed many books with strong male lead characters, it's the consistent and overtly weak and helplessness of the females that just doesn't click (with me). Reminds me of the earlier days of cinema when love stories were about the strong man tricking or exploiting the sexy woman to be his.
I work in film and am well aware of successful directors who have been inspired and influenced by earlier filmmakers ( ex. Max Ophuls who Stanley Kubrick said inspired his vision of filmmaking, Alfred Hitchcock who deeply admired Henri-Georges Clouzot) and can appreciate how mystery writers can admire character techniques McDonald employs in his work. But for this reader, the character technique in this book doesn't fulfill my needs for a strong and engaging crime or mystery story.
I have read all 21 of the Travis McGee books over the years. I still have most of them in well worn paperback. They are timeless and exciting detective stories from a master yarn spinner.
The audio versions, to date, are not that great due to a bad selection of narrators; this series included. Robert Petkoff drones on in a monotonous monotone with no heart and less enthusiasms for the part. Why the audio book publishers keep picking lousy narrators for the voice of Travis McGee is beyond me. There are literally hundreds of fully qualified people who would jump at the chance to take on this series. It's a shame that none of them were chosen for the part.
Audio book publishers, you won't sell "Me" anymore of John D. MacDonald's work until you pick a decent narrator for the part. Audio versions of stories MUST have the proper actors to make them properly come alive. Why else make them into audio books?