The business card reads: “Travis McGee: Salvage Consultant. But he doesn’t do the sort of salvaging you expect.
If your property or money has been wrongfully taken from you, McGee will do all he can to get it back to you and he charges a flat fee of half of its value. Fair enough; it’s a hazardous trade McGee practises.
But he will only do it if he likes you, and if he isn’t successful you pay nothing. He takes his retirement in instalments, when he’s young enough to enjoy it, and only usually works when the money is running low.
This serious of books, by John D. Macdonald, are all written in the first person, (at least the ones I’ve read are) and in them McGee often goes off on a tangent on the messed up world he lives in.
He is part idealist and part cynic but he knows how the world works, especially when dealing with the thieves, sharks, and con men, and their victims. Even back then in the ‘60s, he has concerns about the environment and what mankind was doing to it.
The Deep Blue Goodbye is the first book in the series, first published in 1964. Catherine Kerr’s father, a soldier, smuggled home a great deal of money after World War 2 and buried it somewhere on the family farm.
Just before his discharge he drunkenly killed an officer and went on the run. But the army caught him and went to jail for life, where he meets the psychotic Junior Allen, who finds out about the money.
When he finishes his sentence, Allen goes out to the Kerr farm and oils his way into Catherine’s affections, while he searches for the money. He finds it one day, and he’s away. Now he has expensive clothes and a nice new boat.
Catherine tells McGee this aboard his houseboat Busted Flush, which he keeps moored at Fort Lauderdale, a few miles up the coast from Miami Beach:
“She looked at me with soft apologetic brown eyes, all dressed in her best to come talk to me. The world had done its best to subdue and humble her, but the edge of her good tough spirit showed through. I found I had taken an irrational dislike to Junior Allen, that smiling man. And I do not function too well on emotional motivations. I am wary of them.
And I am wary of a lot of other things, such as plastic credit cards, payroll deductions, insurance programs, retirement benefits, savings accounts, green stamps, time clocks, newspapers, mortgages, sermons, miracle fabrics, deodorants, check lists, time payments, political parties, lending libraries, television, actresses, junior chambers of commerce, pageants, progress, and manifest destiny.
I am wary of the whole dreary deadening structured mess we have built into such a top-heavy structure that there is nothing left to see but the glitter, and the brute routines of maintaining it.
Reality is in the enduring eyes, the unspoken dreadful accusation in the enduring eyes of a worn young woman who looks at you, and hopes for nothing.”
Junior Allen turns out to be a very nasty piece of work and McGee has taken on a very dangerous job. Of course, I’m not going to tell you how it ends up; I don’t do spoilers.
If you like the Reacher books by Lee Child, you will like these. Indeed, in this YouTube video Lee Child cites the Travis McGee books as a great influence. You will notice that all the books in the series have a colour in the title; One Fearful Yellow Eye, The Green Ripper, and Nightmare in Pink, the second book, are just three of them.
The Deep Blue Goodbye is a good place to start reading about Travis McGee's adventures; unlike many characters, he ages as time goes by and changes over time like we all do.