Posted by on Aug 20, 2008 in Writing |

As I’ve noted before, I’m rereading my favorite series of all time – John D. MacDonald‘s Travis McGee – in order. Just wrapped up book 10, The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper. This will be the last one I read for awhile, indeed the last fiction of any sort I read for awhile; I’ve just begun earnest work on the third Conway Sax novel, and I prefer to read nonfiction while I’m writing a first draft.

Just in the nick of time: Brown Wrapper is a real dog of a book. For starters, it’s about 90,000 words, which is 15,000 too many for a McGee. The real problem, though, is the plot. McGee swoops into a fictitious Florida town to find out why an old friend’s daughter keeps (apparently) trying to kill herself. He then engages in 80,000 words of go-nowhere dialog with anybody who’ll sit still. He then sits down before a DA’s tape recorder and explains every mushy clue, every vague pointer, every paper-thin theory. He then gets the bad guy – whose identity we all guessed 60,000 words ago.

Lesson 1: Probably not a good idea to read 10 books in a row by any author.

Lesson 2: Great time to switch to some juicy history and biography.

Lesson 3: MacDonald wrote about 65 novels. It would be silly to expect each to be a masterpiece.