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Pale Gray For Guilt by John D. MacDonald

Pale Gray For Guilt (1968)

by John D. MacDonald

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Travis McGee, if you are unfamiliar with his world, lives on a houseboat, The Busted Flush, in the Bahai Marina in Florida. It is an endless string of parties in a world unlike that of the 9 to 5 Joe. McGee doesn't necessarily work in the general sense, but does collect salvage for people who have been wronged and for who the laws and the system will never make whole. These are not hardboiled detective novels, but somehow they are imbued with the spirit of the lone avenger who all on his own is out to unmask the bad guys. These books contain the most amazingly spot-on characterization as well as capturing so much of a certain time and place.

This particular McGee features the shock of watching a friend ruined and murdered all because he wouldn't give up his tiny piece of land to a cutthroat developer. While McGee can't bring his friend back from the dead, he can make this animal bleed and so, with the help of Meyer and a tall redhead, he sets up an elaborate sting. This could have simply been titled The Sting. A throughly enjoyable adventure brilliantly conceived. Great stuff, indeed. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
Overall, this is a pretty good tale of revenge in 1960s small town Florida. There's a few details that kinda of ruined it for me though - the plastic villains who just fall in line with McGee's plans, like the finance guru who is sucked into a pump & dump scam that has him losing most of his capital whilst our characters scamper off with hundreds of thousands. It also took a little while to get going, once it did though it was a pretty good romp in typical McGee style. ( )
  HenriMoreaux | May 8, 2017 |
I found this 9th entry in the Travis McGee series to be above average -- it had the social commentary that I like so much without the sometimes disturbing 1960s view of women & sex. Don't get me wrong, there are women and sex! But some of the earlier books in the series had a bit too much of a masculine 50s/60s attitude about women which bothered me and I found that happily missing in this one.

As I have mentioned in some of my other reviews of the McGee books, Travis McGee is clearly the forerunner of the TV show Leverage; his job is to help out the guy who has been 'done wrong' by the rich & powerful. Usually the deal is for McGee to "recover" what was taken for a 50% cut but this time what was taken was his college buddy Tush Bannon's life. Perhaps the con he arranges with the help of his friend Meyer to punish the men who were trying to snatch Bannon's property is illegal or immoral but the reader is rooting for McGee to succeed all the way. ( )
  leslie.98 | Apr 1, 2016 |
Another great book in the Travis McGee series by John MacDonald. McGee financially ruins two people who tried to take his good friend's land. McGee finds out that his friend was murdered instead of committing suicide. He come face to face with the murderer. ( )
  terrygraap | Jun 24, 2015 |
PALE GRAY FOR GUILT starts out dark and stays that way. An old high school football teammate of McGee, who has moved to Florida and bought a small motel and marina on a river, is being squeezed by local land developers and crooked politicians who want to pay him a pittance for his land and who have systematically destroyed his business in an attempt to run him, his wife, and their three kids off. It gets worse from there, and pretty soon McGee is investigating his supposed suicide. There isn’t much McGee won’t do to avenge an old friend, and if it means breaking a few dozen laws along the way, no problem. While it is a pleasure to see McGee running one of his con schemes with the aid of his good buddy Meyer, he really pulls out the plugs this time, and the book’s feeble explanations of how he and Meyer can end up scot free and unthreatened at the end don’t convince.

The treatment of women in this book is marginally better than usual, with Connie, a widow running an orange plantation coming across particularly strong. Janice, the wife of McGee’s dead friend, emerges with her dignity intact as well. The private secretary to one of the bad guys is an interesting amoral character, which gives McGee free rein to pontificate for several pages about women who are willing to use their bodies as part of their work. There are also detours to discuss how unexciting American cars are (circa 1968), rock ‘n’ roll, different ways of protesting against a corrupt society, and so on. Every time I return to MacDonald’s work, I am reminded of how consistently pessimistic it all is. And the McGee books have their recurring annoyances, such as the need to get rid of his lady friend in one way or another so that she isn’t an encumbrance for the next book. This book tries yet another approach, since it might be improbable to have another one meet a fatal accident of some sort or another (a shard from an explosion or whatever).

Despite these shortcomings, the book is very readable, and behind the too-frequent overwritten bombast it does have a few things to say about greed and the transformation of much of the Florida coast from a sparsely populated wilderness to what it has now become. MacDonald’s settings are as well drawn as always, giving this flawed book a depth that few genre writers could achieve. ( )
1 vote datrappert | Mar 26, 2012 |
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The next to the last time I saw Tush Bannon alive was the very same day I had that new little boat running the way I wanted it to run, after about six weeks of futzing around with it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449224600, Mass Market Paperback)

With an introduction by CARL HIAASEN


"...the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller."

"...a master storyteller, a masterful suspense writer."

"...a dominant influence on writers crafting the continuing series character."

"...my favorite novelist of all time."

"...the consummate pro, a master storyteller and witty observer."

"...remains one of my idols."


"...one of the great sagas in American fiction."

"...what a joy that these timeless and treasured novels are available again."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Travis McGee's old football buddy Tush Bannon is resisting pressure to sell off his floundering motel and marina to a group of influential movers and shakers. Then he's found dead. For a big man, Tush was a pussycat: devoted to his wife and three kids and always optimistic about his business-- even when things were at their worst. So although his death is ruled a suicide, McGee suspects murder-- and a vile conspiracy" -- from publisher's web page.… (more)

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