John D. MacDonald

Long before there was Sue Grafton with her mnemonic-driven alphabet series (“A” Is for Alibi, “B” Is for Burglar, etc.), there was John D. MacDonald.

John D. MacDonald

John D. MacDonald

MacDonald was a prolific writer of stories in many genres. He was first published while a soldier in World War II. He moved from short stories to longer fiction with his first novel, The Brass Cupcake, a paperback original published by Gold Medal in 1950. He published a number of paperback originals in the 1950s.

The Brass Cupcake, a paperback original

The Brass Cupcake,
a paperback original

Several of his books have been made into films or television programs. His The Executioners was filmed first in 1962 as Cape Fear. It was re-made in 1991 with the same title. He also wrote in the field of science fiction. His Wine of the Dreamers was published by Greenberg in 1951. He followed that with Ballroom of the Skies in 1952, also published by Greenberg.

Ballroom of the Skies

Ballroom of the Skies

Wine of the Dreamers

Wine of the Dreamers

But he is probably best known his novels of crime and suspense starring his famous character, Travis McGee. MacDonald employed a similar mnemonic device with this series using a color in each of his novels, starting with The Deep Blue Good-By published as a hardcover by Lippincott in 1964.

The Deep Blue Good-By, the first Travis McGee novel

The Deep Blue Good-By,
the first Travis McGee novel

In all MacDonald published 21 titles in the Travis McGee series, ending with The Lonely Silver Rain in 1985. In between, he published such “color” titles as Nightmare in Pink, A Purple Place for Dying, Darker Than Amber, The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper, and Dress Her in Indigo, among others. But it was more than the clever use of titles that kept him in print. He wrote really good yarns, although some believe his earlier work, which they describe as darker, was better than the Travis McGee series. Those who were fans of MacDonald including Stephen King, Carl Hiaasen, Kurt Vonnegut, and Dean Koontz who has a character in his Odd Apocalypse that finds himself in 1920, worried about the world with no penicillin, no polio vaccine, no Teflon cookware, and no John D. MacDonald novels.


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