My favorite writer

And a truly great Floridian . . .

It’s no secret that my favorite author is Stephen King, but I do believe there is a difference between an author and a writer, although a dictionary may not agree with me.

I’d distinguish between the two by saying that my favorite author is the creator of the books I love the most, and my favorite writer is the person whose style of placing words on the page gives me the most enjoyment.

And so I’ve determined that my favorite writer is John D. MacDonald.

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He’s also the creator of my favorite literary character, Travis McGee. McGee has the life every guy dreams of – living on a house boat, a life that teeters between life-threatening excitement and lazy days in the sun, interesting friends, and plenty of  girls.

At first glance, McGee may seem shallow, but once you get into the thick of one of his tales, you find out that he in anything but. I’m not sure the uniqueness of a single character has ever been captured so perfectly as MacDonald captures McGee.

It’s like when you hear the first few seconds of a song by your favorite band. Even if it’s the first time you’ve heard the song, you just know it’s them. Likewise, when you read a few lines of McGee, it is unmistakable.

It’s his frequent musing about things like the destruction of Florida’s natural landscape, economics, corporations, and tricks he’s picked up from law enforcement and con men that make these novels stand out from other mystery/crime fiction. McGee has a unique take on almost everything.

And while some of McGee’s ideals seem quite dated, such as his clear sexism and penchant for womanizing, you have to keep in mind that he’s merely a product of his time. The prevailing attitudes in society are in constant flux, of course, and you’d be best to tell yourself that when you start to roll your eyes at some of the souped-up masculinity.

I kinda feel the same way about McGee as Sam Elliott’s character feels about The Dude in the The Big Lebowski. I take comfort in knowing he’s out there.

I hope someone reads this post and decides to take a chance and pick up one of his novels, mostly because I probably wouldn’t have given him a second thought if I hadn’t read the praise he’s gotten from some of the best names in the business, including King, Vonnegut, Koontz, and Hiaasen. Certainly the book covers and the synopses on the back wouldn’t have grabbed me. In fact, they’d have most likely sent me in the other direction. But one day, I decided to take a chance and pick up the first McGee novel. I’m now on number 9 (of 21), and have also taken in some of his non-serial books.

I love them all.

Perhaps I’m a little biased because MacDonald loves to write about his home, which became Florida in his later life. He’s able to portray perfectly the beauty and the ugliness.

Incidentally, I’ve just learned that Leonardo DiCaprio is going to play McGee in an upcoming film, and I think it’s a great choice. I just hope he can pull off a little Southernness in his accent.

So if you’re in need of some good summer reading, you now know where to look.


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