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John D. MacDonald (1916–1986)

Author of The Deep Blue Good-by

248+ Works 28,234 Members 535 Reviews 85 Favorited

About the Author

John D. MacDonald was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania on July 24, 1916. He received a B.S. from Syracuse University in 1938 and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in 1939. During World War II, he served in the Army. His first novel, Brass Cupcake, was published in show more 1950. He wrote about 70 books during his lifetime including the Travis McGee series, Condominium, No Deadly Drug, Nothing Can Go Wrong, and A Friendship: The Letters of Dan Rowan and John Dann MacDonald. A Flash of Green was adapted into a movie by the same name and The Excuse was adapted into a movie entitled Cape Fear. He received numerous awards including the Ben Franklin Award for the best American short story in 1955, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere for A Key to the Suite in 1964, the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award in 1972, the American Book Award for The Green Ripper in 1980. He died from complications of an earlier heart bypass surgery on December 28, 1986 at the age of 70. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Disambiguation Notice:

Please do not combine this page with that of John D. McDonald. Note the different spelling of the last name. These are two different people. Thanks.


Works by John D. MacDonald

The Deep Blue Good-by (1964) 1,830 copies
Nightmare in Pink (1964) 1,126 copies
The Lonely Silver Rain (1985) 1,076 copies
A Purple Place for Dying (1964) 978 copies
The Quick Red Fox (1964) 943 copies
The Green Ripper (1979) 940 copies
A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965) 904 copies
Cinnamon Skin (1982) 904 copies
Free Fall in Crimson (1981) 879 copies
Bright Orange for the Shroud (1965) 876 copies
Pale Gray For Guilt (1968) 873 copies
The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1974) 869 copies
The Empty Copper Sea (1978) 846 copies
Darker Than Amber (1966) 839 copies
One Fearful Yellow Eye (1966) 804 copies
The Long Lavender Look (1970) 802 copies
Dress Her in Indigo (1969) 792 copies
The Turquoise Lament (1973) 751 copies
The Scarlet Ruse (1973) 740 copies
A Tan and Sandy Silence (1971) 736 copies
Cape Fear (1957) 636 copies
Condominium (1602) 395 copies
Barrier Island (1986) 353 copies
One More Sunday (1900) 352 copies
Wine of the Dreamers (1951) — Author — 273 copies
Ballroom of the Skies (1952) — Author — 224 copies
A Flash of Green (1962) 222 copies
A Bullet for Cinderella (1955) 200 copies
The Brass Cupcake (1950) 195 copies
The Last One Left (1967) 192 copies
Slam the Big Door (1960) 192 copies
The Good Old Stuff (1982) 190 copies
Death Trap (1956) 154 copies
More Good Old Stuff (1984) 151 copies
End of the Night (1960) 145 copies
Murder in the Wind (1602) 145 copies
Dead Low Tide (1953) 141 copies
Please Write for Details (1959) 136 copies
The Neon Jungle (1953) 128 copies
The Drowner (1963) 123 copies
A Key to the Suite (1962) 123 copies
Area of Suspicion (1954) 122 copies
Time and Tomorrow (1979) 121 copies
All These Condemned (1839) 120 copies
The Beach Girls (1959) 117 copies
The Damned (1952) 117 copies
The Price of Murder (1957) 114 copies
The Empty Trap (1957) 113 copies
Deadly Welcome (1959) 113 copies
Reading for Survival (1781) 112 copies
Contrary Pleasure (1954) 110 copies
You Live Once (1956) 110 copies
Soft Touch (1777) 110 copies
The Crossroads (1649) 106 copies
April Evil (1956) 104 copies
The Only Girl in the Game (1960) 101 copies
A Man of Affairs (1957) 99 copies
Judge Me Not (1951) 98 copies
Where is Janice Gantry? (1961) 97 copies
Murder for the Bride (1951) 96 copies
Other Times, Other Worlds (1978) 91 copies
Cry Hard, Cry Fast (1955) 87 copies
S*E*V*E*N (1971) 86 copies
Clemmie (1958) 86 copies
On the Run (1963) 84 copies
Border Town Girl (1956) 83 copies
Cancel All Our Vows (1953) 76 copies
The Deceivers (1958) 75 copies
Shades of Travis McGee (1969) 64 copies
No Deadly Drug (1968) 51 copies
The House Guests (1965) 45 copies
Merry Murder (1994) 39 copies
Weep for Me (1951) 23 copies
I Could Go On Singing (1963) 18 copies
Nothing Can Go Wrong (1981) 18 copies
Strange Tomorrows (1972) 13 copies
Two (1983) 11 copies
The Lethal Sex (1959) — Editor — 11 copies
Six of the Best Short Novels by Masters of Mystery (1989) — Contributor — 9 copies
Escape to Chaos [novella] (1951) 5 copies
Spectator Sport 4 copies
In a Small Motel (2017) 3 copies
Flaw 3 copies
Trojan Horse Laugh (1949) 3 copies
Final Mission (1950) 3 copies
ASSASSINIO NEL VENTO (2022) 3 copies
Linda 2 copies
Playboys Short Shorts 1 (1970) 2 copies
Murder Run-Around (2017) 2 copies
Thriller: fünf ungekürzte Romane (1985) — Contributor — 2 copies
The big contest 2 copies
Vanguard of the Lost (2013) 2 copies
Night Watch 1 copy
Los malditos 1 copy
La foire d'empoigne (1951) 1 copy
Seven 1 copy
Judge Me Not 1 copy
Soft Touch 1 copy
Lik i lasten 1 copy
Strip-Tilt (1964) 1 copy
Betrayed 1 copy
Amphiskios 1 copy
Cosmetics 1 copy
Hit and Run 1 copy
Triangle 1 copy
Miranda 1 copy
The Big Blue 1 copy
Long Shot 1 copy
Blurred View 1 copy
Woodchuck 1 copy
Quarrel 1 copy

Associated Works

Night Shift (1976) — Introduction, some editions — 8,856 copies
Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales (1963) — Contributor — 449 copies
The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century (2000) — Contributor — 444 copies
Galactic Empires, Volume Two (1976) — Contributor — 387 copies
Science Fiction Omnibus (1952) — Contributor — 337 copies
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (2013) — Contributor — 265 copies
The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction (1996) — Contributor — 233 copies
100 Dastardly Little Detective Stories (1993) — Contributor — 205 copies
Masterpieces of Mystery and Suspense (1988) — Contributor — 184 copies
Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories (1995) — Contributor — 181 copies
10th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F (1965) — Contributor — 176 copies
A Century of Great Suspense Stories (2001) — Contributor — 154 copies
The Master's Choice (1979) — Contributor — 147 copies
Worlds to Come (1942) 141 copies
Galactic Empires {complete} (1976) — Contributor — 122 copies
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery (1968) — Contributor — 117 copies
Science Fiction Stories (1979) — Contributor — 116 copies
Science Fiction of the 50's (1971) — Contributor — 108 copies
Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 10 (1948) (1983) — Contributor — 106 copies
Time Wars (1986) — Contributor — 101 copies
Stories to Stay Awake By (1971) — Contributor — 98 copies
A Treasury of American Horror Stories (1985) — Contributor — 94 copies
Best SF: 1968 (1969) — Author — 90 copies
The Great SF Stories 12 (1950) (1973) — Contributor — 89 copies
Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949) (1984) — Contributor — 79 copies
A Century of Noir: Thirty-two Classic Crime Stories (2002) — Contributor — 79 copies
Great American Mystery Stories of the 20th Century (1989) — Contributor — 71 copies
The Mammoth Book of Pulp Action (2001) — Contributor — 68 copies
A Treasury of Modern Mysteries Volume 2 (1973) — Contributor — 67 copies
Purr-Fect Crime (1989) — Contributor — 65 copies
Women on the Edge (1992) — Contributor — 60 copies
Great Tales of Mystery and Suspense (1981) — Contributor — 60 copies
Baker's Dozen: 13 Short Mystery Novels (1987) — Contributor — 56 copies
The Arbor House Treasury of Mystery and Suspense (1981) — Contributor — 51 copies
The Mists from Beyond (1993) — Contributor — 48 copies
The Shape of Things (1965) — Contributor — 42 copies
65 Great Murder Mysteries (1983) — Contributor — 41 copies
I Want My Mummy (1981) — Contributor — 39 copies
Baker's Dozen: 13 Short Espionage Stories (1969) — Contributor — 35 copies
Dimension 4 (1964) — Contributor — 32 copies
Tomorrow 1 (1971) — Contributor — 29 copies
Human? (1954) — Contributor — 28 copies
101 Mystery Stories (1986) — Contributor — 26 copies
Tales of Dungeons and Dragons (1986) — Contributor — 23 copies
The Delights of Detection (1961) — Contributor — 21 copies
Great detective stories (1998) — Contributor — 20 copies
Famous Short Short Stories (1966) — Author, some editions — 16 copies
Galaxy Science Fiction 1952 October, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2004) — Contributor — 15 copies
Great Mystery Stories (1960) — Author, some editions — 15 copies
Galaxy Science Fiction 1951 January, Vol. 1, No. 4 (1951) — Contributor — 14 copies
Bakers Dozen: 13 Short Detective Novels (1987) — Contributor — 11 copies
52 Miles to Terror and Other Stories of the Road (1966) — Contributor — 11 copies
Inward Journey (1987) — Contributor — 11 copies
Astounding Science Fiction 1948 09 (1948) — Author — 10 copies
Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1978 (1978) — Contributor — 8 copies
Astounding Science Fiction 1948 05 (1948) — Contributor — 8 copies
Astounding Science Fiction 1948 02 (1948) — Contributor — 8 copies
Astounding Science Fiction 1948 10 (1948) — Contributor — 7 copies
Startling Stories, September 1951 (1951) — Contributor — 7 copies
American Crime Stories (1991) — Contributor — 5 copies
Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1949 — Contributor — 5 copies
Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1949 (1949) — Contributor — 5 copies
Science Fiction Stories 8 (1971) — Contributor — 5 copies
Super Science Stories, Vol 8, No 2, June 1951 (1951) — Contributor — 5 copies
ULLSTEIN 2000 SF STORIES 11 (1972) — Contributor — 5 copies
Best crime stories. 4 (1971) — Contributor — 4 copies
The Best from Cosmopolitan — Contributor — 4 copies
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine - 1954/11 — Contributor, some editions — 4 copies
Child's Ploy (1984) — Contributor — 4 copies
Super Science Stories, Vol 7, No 1, July 1950 (1950) — Contributor — 4 copies
Super Science Stories, Vol 6, No 4, May 1950 (1950) — Contributor — 4 copies
Super Science Stories, Vol 5, No 4, September 1949 (1949) — Contributor — 4 copies
Startling Stories, September 1949 (1949) — Contributor — 4 copies
The Saturday Evening Post Stories 1962 — Contributor — 3 copies
Super Science Stories, Vol 5, No 3, July 1949 — Contributor — 3 copies
Science Fiction Stories 9 (1971) — Contributor — 3 copies
Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1953 (1953) — Contributor — 3 copies
150 anni in Giallo (1989) — Contributor — 2 copies
Weird Tales Volume 41 Number 4, May 1949 — Contributor — 2 copies
Best Detective Stories (Volume 2) (1964) — Contributor — 2 copies
Super Science Stories (UK): No. 6 — Contributor — 1 copy
Super Science Stories (UK): No. 4 — Contributor — 1 copy
Best American Detective Stories of the year-1956 (1957) — Contributor — 1 copy
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine - 1967/10 — Contributor — 1 copy


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Common Knowledge



I was a little disappointed by this. It was a good hard-boiled yarn, with a good hard-boiled narrator - things I'm usually a sucker for, and I did tear through the book.

But it was a little misogynistic, even in this damsels-in-distress genre; all the women either needed saving or else were beyond saving. A touch of the Houllebecqs in his female characterisation, I thought. On top of that, the book would have had a lot happier ending if the hero had just thought to tie up the bad guy, which just didn't ring true. I enjoyed the reading of it though, and would give MacDonald another chance.
… (more)
thisisstephenbetts | 47 other reviews | Nov 25, 2023 |
Amongst the many MacDonald books I have read, this is the most unsatisfying. Unlikable characters, no humour and an ending that leaves all unsatisfied. Not recommended.

Floyd Hubbard is of to a convention where his firm has a section. His job is to fire one of the salesman who has been under preforming. That salesman plans to set up and embarrass Hubbard with a call girl and have him back off. Too many other men at the convention have plans to satisfied their own desires which mostly involve women to make the planning go well. This is a dismal description of business ethics in the 1960's.… (more)
lamour | 4 other reviews | Nov 21, 2023 |
Good book. Dense with many large paragraphs of JDM waxing philosophical and giving sometimes too much details on characters and character background. Al the pieces were there and they almost fit but there could have been a little more to some and a little less to others. not really much action either but it was a good look at 1960s Florida and the people who lived there. Definitely sexist and patronizing but its 1966. RK and Cisca even went to a Bond movie. You could sense Travis McGee around the corner or on the next dock down.… (more)
JBreedlove | 6 other reviews | Nov 5, 2023 |
“All her symptoms of near-death had been physical, but emotionally she seemed to have an acceptance of it so placid as to be a little eerie. As if she knew the world as a place where sooner or later they heaved you off a bridge.”

Once John D. MacDonald wrote A Deadly Shade of Gold, the Travis McGee series began to take on a resonance that separated it from others of its ilk. Over the course of twenty-one books, Travis McGee became one of the most enduring and beloved characters in mystery fiction. Praise for this tremendous saga comes from nearly every great mystery writer in MacDonald’s chosen genre, and many great writers outside his genre. These include many female mystery writers, who give their praise without reservation, and with nary a whisper about misogyny; because it simply does not exist.

Praise from these female writers, and a public still devouring this series decades after it first hit bookshelves proves, in my opinion, just how misrepresented this series and its protagonist, Travis McGee, has become in some quarters. If you know a little about life, you’ll often feel like you know some of the people in MacDonald’s influential series — both the males, and especially the females — as well as the protagonist himself. And that is certainly the case with this very dark entry in the series, part of a three-book section in the series (A Deadly Shade of Gold, Bright Orange For the Shroud, Darker Than Amber) of such high quality, that only later in the series, when the resonance was even deeper, did we get three that surpassed them (Free Fall in Crimson, Cinnamon Skin and, as it turned out, the final entry, The Lonely Silver Rain). In between there were good to great ones, always enjoyable, but never a three-book stretch like the former, or the latter.

Darker Than Amber begins with a great opening line, and lives up to it. Amber is a tawdry and unpleasant look at women pretty on the outside, but so rotten at their core, they are capable of disconnecting themselves from the crimes they commit. Meyer emerges in Amber as the important character he will be for the remainder of this legendary series. It is in fact Meyer who talks about the complete disconnect from empathy these outwardly attractive women share:

“That pair disposed of fourteen objects, not fourteen brothers. Their unease comes not from pity, not from any concern for the dead objects, but merely from their awareness that society frowns upon such actions.”

And earlier, we get this exchange between Vangie and Meyer:

“You are the nicest, Meyer. So nice you'd have to blow the whole bit, and it would mess up my girlfriends and keep the law looking for me forever. If I get my hands on that money, I want to stay dead, thank you.” — Vangie

“Knowing that your...friends are still murdering for profit?” - Meyer

“People are dying all over the place for all kinds of reasons, Meyer, and if I'm out of this one, it couldn't bother me less.” — Vangie

But that’s getting ahead of things. Before McGee gets tangled up in the affairs of Vangie/Tami Western, he reminisces about Vidge, a broken bird who had come to stay with McGee for a bit. She had married the wrong man — as women are so often prone to do — and, as McGee notes, he nearly destroyed her soul:

“Finally he had gone to work on her sexual capacities. Were the sexes reversed, you could call it emasculation. People like Charlie work toward total and perpetual domination. They feed on the mate. And Vidge didn't even realize that running away from him had been a form of self-preservation, a way of trying to hang fast to the last crumbs of identity and pride.”

McGee is patient, waiting for her to stop blaming herself for everything, and finally explode. Yes, as other readers have noted — and made far too much of — there does comes a point when he sleeps with her. McGee gives back to Vidge her self-confidence, allowing a trampled flower to spring back to life, toward the sunshine. The situation and the solution resonate with the ring of truth. There is nothing predatory here by McGee at all. MacDonald the writer simply understood the psychological underpinnings of the situation he’d created, and had his character do likewise; and I might add, at a personal cost to himself, reflected by this comment late in the narrative:

“Vidge had soured me a little, and Vangie had dropped off the bridge and accelerated the process, and then I had really put the lid on it by trapping that dumb empty punchboard into a life sentence.”

McGee's rescuing of Vangie from the water after someone has tried to kill her has no fairy-tale ending whatsoever, because Vangie, as McGee eventually discovers, is a hooker into something very nasty; so nasty that she obviously expected to come to a bad end one day:

“All her symptoms of near-death had been physical, but emotionally she seemed to have an acceptance of it so placid as to be a little eerie. As if she knew the world as a place where sooner or later they heaved you off a bridge.”

There is money involved, a lot of it, and a string of homicides to go with it. All Vangie wants is the money, and to disappear. McGee, despite his experience, develops a grudging sort of admiration for Vangie; not so much because there is more to the Hawaiian beauty than other girls like her, but because once, there might have been:

“In the silence I tried to sort her out. Her twelve years on the track had coarsened her beyond any hope of salvage. Though I know it is the utmost folly to sentimentalize or romanticize a whore, I could respect a certain toughness of spirit Vangie possessed. She had not howled as she fell to her death. She had not flinched or murmured as we cut the hooks out of her leg.”

Vangie tries to protect not only McGee and Meyer, but herself when they offer to help:

“Oh, h*ll, Travis, it isn’t so much finking out as keeping you guys from knowing how lousy I really am.”

Because McGee nearly lost his own life beneath the water simply because Vangie had grabbed his wrist, and because he eventually gets her horrific backstory — Vangie is 26 and has been a pro for 12 years — he feels an obligation when things end badly for her — very badly. There is a wonderful piece of writing as MacDonald describes a youthful dance by Vangie aboard the Busted Flush. It culminates in this melancholy observation by McGee:

“When the flesh is taut, the dance becomes strangely ceremonial. It is a rite that celebrates the future, and it was eerie to see how accurately it could be imitated by a woman who had left any chance of love so far in the past.”

What we get when McGee and Meyer decide they can’t let any more men fall prey to this deadly sea carnival, is a tawdry and violent and insightful look at the heartless and wicked. Trying to con his way into the lives of the men and women running the deadliest of games, McGee nearly loses his life right off the bat in a violent duel with one of the men involved. He buries him and tries to deal with the emotional repercussions even as he and Meyer continue pressing toward their objective. In essence, this is a dark tale of predatory men and predatory women with no conscience, at least not as the rest of us understand such. MacDonald does an especially wonderful job of capturing with honesty the essence of the women:

“It was interesting to me in a clinical way that in the distance from the table to the street door she managed to sway a tautly fabricated hip against me three separate and insistent times, though she'd had no trouble with sway or balance on the way in. With instant practicality, she'd changed masters. Now it was merely a case of firmly cementing the new relationship in the only way she knew how.”

But conning their way in is only part of the problem. McGee, though you rarely hear about it — perhaps because it doesn’t fit a narrative some want to paint — was often turning down opportunities with the opposite sex, and here does so more than once. But even then, MacDonald uses McGee’s reactions to make insightful observations every man of a certain age understands all too well:

“The thing that astounded and disheartened me was to find a very real yen to take a hack at this spooky little punchboard. There had been a lot more to Vangie in both looks and substance, but she hadn't tingled a single nerve. I wanted to grab at this one. Maybe everybody at some time or another feels the strong attraction of something rotten-sweet enough to guarantee complete degradation.”

But McGee shakes it off and goes forward. Along the way, we get to meet Merrimay Lane, a character so wonderful she almost — but not quite — offsets the bad taste left by the other women encountered in this one. From what is supposed to be a safe distance, McGee and Meyer have her impersonate Vangie, just to rattle a brutal guy named Terry. And it does, leading to a very violent end. There is some other stuff in between, including observations on the races and their interactions, and this wonderful gem about a woman’s wrist:

“The wrist of a woman and the small tidy forearm always seemed to have some tender and touching quality, a vulnerable articulation unchanged from the time she was ten or twelve, perhaps the only part of her that her flowering leaves unchanged.”

This is a terrific entry in the series, though without a doubt it’s one of the more seedy story-lines due to the parade of hideous men and women with whom McGee crosses paths. Lee Child has admitted that Jack Reacher is a stripped down version of Travis McGee, but to me the things he left out are what makes McGee stand head and shoulders above nearly all others in the genre. John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series resonates, and more often than not it’s deadly accurate when it comes to human interactions and motivations. Darker Than Amber, which makes reference to Vangie’s eyes, is itself very dark, but also involving. I’ll end this one with a quote from Meyer about McGee, because it sums up not only this entry, but the series itself:

“One of the last of the romantics, trying to make himself believe he’s the cynical beach bum who has it made. You permit yourself the luxury of making moral judgements, Travis, in a world that tells us man’s will is the product of background and environment. You think you’re opportunistic and flexible as all h*ll, but they’d have to kill you before they could bend you. That kind of rigidity is both strength and weakness.”
… (more)
Matt_Ransom | 8 other reviews | Oct 6, 2023 |



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Associated Authors

Georges Simenon Contributor
Jack Higgins Contributor, Author
Michael Gilbert Contributor
Ed McBain Contributor
Ira Levin Author
Cornell Woolrich Contributor
Robert Bloch Contributor
D. Jenkins Smith Contributor
Carolyn Thomas Contributor
Jean Potts Contributor
Margret Millar Contributor
Margaret Manners Contributor
Bernice Carey Contributor
Anthony Gilbert Contributor
Ursula Curtiss Contributor
Nedra Tyre Contributor
Gladys Cluff Contributor
Christianna Brand Contributor
Juanita Sheridan Contributor
John Brunner Contributor
Michael G. Coney Contributor
Carl Hiassen Introduction
Lee Child Introduction
Dean Koontz Introduction
Don Brautigam Cover artist
Martin Harry Greenberg Editor, Introduction
Paul Bacon Cover designer
Dick Bruna Cover designer
Richard M. Powers Cover artist
Neal McPheeters Cover artist
J. B. de Mare Translator
J. Ferrer Translator
Rod Dunham Cover artist
Wulf H. Bergner Translator
George Gross Cover artist
Jean Shine Editor
Heinz Nagel Translator
Sepp Leeb Übersetzer
Leni Sobez Übersetzer
Brigitte Straub Übersetzer


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