Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Last McGee

I was at Half-Price the other day and two people, Travis McGee readers, asked the me The Inevitable Question. I still get asked this off-line fairly often. So here's my post from June 2007
The last McGee

Ed here: The last few days that most excellent site Rara-Avis has been filled with speculation about a partially finished "final" Travis McGee novel that John D. MacDonald may or may not have left behind. The subject seems to have come up because of something that appeared in Time magazine long ago.

Here's a typical question from the site:

It would appear that John D. MacDonald is confirming the existence of
the rumored final Travis McGee novel. Has the existence of this
manuscript, completed or not, ever been confirmed? Was MacDonald
having some fun, or did he actually write a novel where McGee dies?
Has anyone on the list done any research on this, or know of anyone
who has?

Ed here: I asked Judi Rohrig, a fine dark suspense writer and a good friend of mine, what she thought of the possibility of such a manuscript. Judi has been involved for many years with people who knew JDM in Florida and staged numerous celebrations both during JDM's life and following his death.

Morning Ed.

I had the opportunity to ask Ed Hirshberg about this several years ago. Ed -- for those who may not know -- was a friend of JohnD's and the brother of an even closer friend. He was also one of the last major keepers of the light via his editorial responsibilities for the JDMBibliophile, a fanzine JohnD even contributed to. According to Ed, JohnD himself asked if it would be okay if this last Travis novel -- the BLACK BORDER FOR MCGEE -- could be dedicated to Hirshberg. Of course, Ed consented. Ed's dead now, and not around to ask anymore.

Cal Brandenberg, who has also been one of major keepers of the light, told me in an interview I did with him that was never published, that Walter Shine (ALL JDM loyal should bow their heads in honor of this man and his wife, Jean, for their work) and several others scoffed at these claims. If anything, JohnD was pulling Ed's leg.

As far as anyone I know has been able to determine, there is no manuscript. Certainly, there doesn't appear to be one at the Smathers Library archive at the University of Florida in Gainesville which has over 300 boxes of manuscripts, cards, personal notes, pictures, and books (all of which JohnD donated).

I guess only JohnD's son would know, and he only makes himself known when publishing matters arise.

In my own opinion, there is no BLACK BORDER book. Read THE LONELY SILVER RAIN again, especially the end.

Finally, Meyer and Travis talk about Jean, the daughter of McGee and Puss:

"How much went into the trust" he asks.
"Everything," I say.
He stares in consternation. "Everything? Everything?"
"Well, I saved out about four hundred bucks, and so I've got to scramble around and find some slvage work real soon."
He puts his hand on my arm, beams at me and says, "Welcome to the world."

What more could possibly be said? The era JohnD captured better than any home movie or documentary could offer had ended. A new one was beginning, but just like Moses never made it into the Promised Land, JohnD was leaving the telling to others. Dean Koontz? Stephen King? He enjoyed very much what little he had seen of their writing.

But I digress.

Somewhere out there is the Busted Flush and ole Trav, still trying to shuck the pretty ladies out their shorts and stomping out bad guys. I hope.

I hope.




Anonymous said...

Ah, the joys of Travis McGee. In the mid 1980s, just as I was breaking into the mystery field, I encountered JDM and his works, and devoured them all... a pity that he's nearly forgotten nowadays.

Some time ago, I was in Florida with the missus, and we took a drive to Ft. Lauderdale, just so I could go to the Bahia Mar Marina. Found the plaque for the Busted Flush, and got a Bahia Mar baseball cap, which I wore for my first book jacket photo in 1994...

Thanks for the posting, Ed.

Unknown said...

If you go to my JDM Webpage and look under The Last McGee you will see what JDM had to say....tyoe n John D. MacDonald in your browser and the will come up--usually just under the Wikipedia link.

I doubt very much that JDM would have dedicated a book to Ed Hirshberg. They were not that close, and it was more as a favor to Hirshberg's brother that JDM spent time talking to Ed.

I've read the comments JDM made re Hirshberg in a letter in the Collection.