John D. MacDonald
Low-life detective Travis McGee owes
a lot to a writer who shares nearly none of the ne'r-do-well's personality traits--his
very life, for instance.
Mystery novelist John MacDonald invented the famous mythical gumshoe, who lives on a
houseboat he won in a poker game, years ago; and he's been selling well ever
MacDonald was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania, in 1916.
He began to read after nearly dying in childhood of scarlet fever. He
spent more than a year in bed, whiling away the hours by voraciously
consuming every book he could find.
MacDonald's education included an MBA from Harvard
University and traveling the world as on OSS officer stationed in the Far
East during World War II. His literary career began coincidentally
after he wrote a short story for his wife's amusement and mailed it home.
She liked it so much that she sent it off to Story magazine, where it was
published. After the war, MacDonald took four months' of military pay
and began writing non-stop. He generated one story after another for
the pulp magazines, including mysteries, science fiction, and Westerns.
By the end of his first year as a writer, he was making a comfortable living
from his work.
Just as the pulps were dying
out in popularity in the early Fifties, the paperback
boom struck. Everybody began reading again, and MacDonald was able to
parlay his thriving literary
career into writing long fiction. His first novel, The Brass
Cupcake, was published in 1950 by Fawcett Publications' Gold Medal
MacDonald is known for creating protagonists who are often
intelligent and introspective, although sometimes with a worldly cynical
streak. Travis McGee, his "salvage consultant" and "knight in rusting
armor," was all of that and more. He made his first appearance in the
1964 novel, The Deep Blue Good-by, and was last seen in 1985's The
Lonely Silver Rain. The novels usually feature an appearance by a
sidekick known only as "Meyer," a retired economist, along with an
ever-changing array of female companions. McGee's trademark digs
consisted of a houseboat named Busted Flush, after the poker hand with which
he won it, docked at Slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, in Fort Lauderdale,
MacDonald used his mystery novels to criticize what he
called American junk culture: fast food, bad TV, and suburban development.
He said, "I am wary of a lot of things, such as...time clocks, newspapers,
mortgages, sermons, miracle fabrics, deodorants...pageants, progress, and
During his lifetime, MacDonald sold over six hundred
stories to many different magazines. He was published in crime pulps
such as Detective Tales, Dime Detective, Dime Mystery, Doc Savage,
Justice, Mammoth Mystery, The Shadow Magazine and even Black Mask, and in
slicks such as Collier's, Esquire, Liberty, Playboy, This Week and
Cosmopolitan. He wrote sports stories, science fiction,
adventures, romances, westerns, and mysteries. Often more than one of
his stories would appear in the same magazine, so he was forced to use a
pseudonym. The July 1949 issue of of Fifteen Sports Stories,
for example, carried four stories by MacDonald under various names.
John D. MacDonald, whom author Stephen King once called
"the great entertainer of our age and a mesmerizing storyteller," wrote his
last tale on December 28, 1986. He was 70 years old.
Discover John D. MacDonald
Yourself - Check Out Today's Best-Selling