Publisher's Summary

Van Harder, once a hard drinker, has found religion. But that doesn't keep folks from saying he murdered his employer, Hub Lawless, whose body hasn't been found. To clear his name, and clear up the mystery, Van asks friend-in-need Travis McGee to find out what really happened. What McGee finds is that Timber Bay is a tough town to get a break in when you're a stranger asking questions. But what he also finds is that, dead or alive, Hub Lawless is worth a lot of money. Some are eager to get a piece of that action - and some are willing to take more than a piece out of anyone who gets in the way.
©1978 John D. MacDonald (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
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5 out of 5 stars
By Me & My Girls on 12-01-12

One of John D's best.

This selection is one of my favorite MacDonald books. The ennui that Travis feels in the early chapters in the book are familiar to those of us who have faced the transition between an elongated adolescence and adulthood. The change in his state of mind is another one of the touchstones that is familiar to those who hit their mid thirties single. There are a few of the contrived or overly dramatic elements that are one of the few weaknesses of the McGee novels. An excellent read for those who are fans of the genre.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Darwin8u on 06-18-18

Turned Around 17 Times

"A man needs only to be turned around once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost."
- Thoreau

This was John D. MacDonald's 17th novel (I'm not sure how many total novels he had published by 1978), but he had been punching them out about 1 per year since 1964, until 1974. So, The Empty Copper Sea came after the biggest McGee break of all. There was a sense of crisis in this novel, and McGee malaise that was diagnosed by Meyer (economist side kick) and fixed by a woman (almost an inverse of McGee's usual sexual healing).

The book takes place mostly in Timber Bay, FL (fictionalized), inside of Dixie County (real), high up the gulf-side, above Clearwater. The town has been rocked by a business man who faked his death and disappeared leaving everyone (wife, kids, business associates, and the captain of the boat he "fell off" high and dry. McGee and Meyer are trying to salvage the reputation of captain (an old friend) and untangle the ugly knot left behind. Essentially, it seems almost like a man in the midst of a writing crisis (JDMcD) is writing a novel where the hero is sorting through his own mortality crisis (McGee) while trying to solve the mess created by a man who tried to ditch his obligations after having his own crisis (Hub). Oh, and perhaps Florida is also having its own crisis caused by growth, tourism, and environmental issues caused by growth.

It was a solid McGee novel. Some of the same feminist traps as most his other McGee novels, but not so deep. With Philip Roth recently dying it is also interesting to observe what Sir Kingsley Amis once said about John D. MacDonald (and probably gets at the root of why, even when I get frustrated with MacDonald, I keep coming back). According to Amis, MacDonald "is by any standards a better writer than Saul Bellow, only MacDonald writes thrillers and Bellow is a human-heart chap, so guess who wears the top-grade laurels." Now, I'm a big big fan of Saul Bellow, so I'm not sure I would go THAT far, but I think we do a disservice when we dismiss good genre fiction too quickly.

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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