enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: John D. MacDonald, Soft Touch

I read this book about 22-Aug-2001. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1958. This note was last modified Thursday, 04-Mar-2004 22:30:12 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Another non-Travis McGee book. And twice now I've tried to typo that as "Magoo". Ick!

The copyright notice gives the date as "MCMLVIII"! I know movies did that for years, some still do I think, but I'm really not used to seeing it in books. (This is a Fawcett Gold Medal book, number dl894, list price 50 cents.)

This book showed its age in the plot and structure at least as much as in the details of life. In fact it felt more like a mid-60s book than a 50s book in terms of details, except (I just realized; didn't notice when reading the book) that there isn't one single mention of television anywhere in it. But there are cars that don't seem strange, and air conditioning (which I didn't get access to even intermittently until the late 60s, grumble grumble), and shopping centers, and car theft, and lower-class criminals, and Florida land booms, and so forth.

But in the plot, now, he does something that I wouldn't expect in a modern mainstream mystery. The book is form the point of view of somebody who makes the decision to go back to being a "bad guy" (he was in the OSS in War II, and they were mostly bad guys in some sense), ends up killing two people. And then finds he can't handle the stress, gets a head injury, goes crazy (the order there is somewhat ambiguous), gets tortured, and ends up accidentally leading the authorities to one of the bodies he buried. The book ends there, but clearly this represents "coming to a bad end". Looks like a required 50s morality-play ending. But structuring the whole book around somebody who turns out to be the bad guy is sitll pretty startling.

Kind of refreshing, really.

In the front of this one, they list about 40 other books he wrote, plus a shorter list of the Travis Magee books. With a few exceptions like Condominium, mostly later works, his non-Magee books don't seem to be lasting as well as that series.

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David Dyer-Bennet