The Deep Blue Good-By (Travis McGee Series #1)

The Deep Blue Good-By (Travis McGee Series #1)

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THE DEEP BLUE GOOD-BY introduces John D. MacDonald's alter-ego, the rugged and articulate Travis McGee.

In this initial story, McGee comes to the aid of a lovely lady in soul-deep distress -- a lady who has been dragged through so much mud that she may never feel clean again. The plot concerns some precious stones, "liberated" by McGee's client's father in India during WW II.

As The New York Times stated, MacDonald "is one of the most creative and reliable writers...and is a very good writer, not just a good 'mystery' writer."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780394560625
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/12/1987
Series: Travis McGee Series , #1
Edition description: 2 Cassettes
Product dimensions: 4.36(w) x 7.03(h) x 0.77(d)

About the Author

John D. MacDonald was an American novelist and short-story writer. His works include the Travis McGee series and the novel The Executioners, which was adapted into the film Cape Fear. In 1962 MacDonald was named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America; in 1980, he won a National Book Award. In print he delighted in smashing the bad guys, deflating the pompous, and exposing the venal. In life, he was a truly empathetic man; his friends, family, and colleagues found him to be loyal, generous, and practical. In business, he was fastidiously ethical. About being a writer, he once expressed with gleeful astonishment, “They pay me to do this! They don’t realize, I would pay them.” He spent the later part of his life in Florida with his wife and son. He died in 1986.

Date of Birth:

July 24, 1916

Date of Death:

December 28, 1986

Place of Birth:

Sharon, PA

Place of Death:

Milwaukee, WI


Syracuse University 1938; M.B. A. Harvard University, 1939

Read an Excerpt


It was to have been a quiet evening at home.

Home is the Busted Flush, 52-foot barge-type houseboat, Slip F-18, Bahia Mar, Lauderdale.

Home is where the privacy is. Draw all the opaque curtains, button the hatches, and with the whispering drone of the air conditioning masking all the sounds of the outside world, you are no longer cheek to jowl with the random activities aboard the neighbor craft. You could be in a rocket beyond Venus, or under the icecap.

Because it is a room aboard, I call it the lounge, and because that is one of the primary activities.

I was sprawled on a deep curve of the corner couch, studying charts of the keys, trying to work up enough enthusiasm and energy to plan moving the Busted Flush to a new mooring for a while. She has a pair of Hercules diesels, 58 HP each, that will chug her along at a stately six knots. I didn’t want to move her. I like Lauderdale. But it had been so long I was wondering if I should.

Chookie McCall was choreographing some fool thing. She had come over because I had the privacy and enough room. She had shoved the furniture out of the way, set up a couple of mirrors from the master stateroom, and set up her rackety little metronome. She wore a faded old rust-red leotard, mended with black thread in a couple of places. She had her black hair tied into a scarf.

She was working hard. She would go over a sequence time and time again, changing it a little each time, and when she was satisfied, she would hurry over to the table and make the proper notations on her clip board.

Dancers work as hard as coal miners used to work. She stomped and huffed and contorted her splendid and perfectly proportioned body. In spite of the air conditioning, she had filled the lounge with a faint sharp-sweet odor of large overheated girl. She was a pleasant distraction. In the lounge lights there was a highlighted gleam of perspiration on the long round legs and arms.

“Damn!” she said, scowling at her notations.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing I can’t fix. I have to figure exactly where everybody is going to be, or I’ll have them kicking each other in the face. I get mixed up sometimes.”

She scratched out some notes. I went back to checking the low tide depths on the flats northeast of the Content Keys. She worked hard for another ten minutes, made her notes, then leaned against the edge of the table, breathing hard.

“Trav, honey?”


“Were you kidding me that time we talked about . . . about what you do for a living?”

“What did I say?”

“It sounded sort of strange, but I guess I believed you. You said if X has something valuable and Y comes along and takes it away from him, and there is absolutely no way in the world X can ever get it back, then you come along and make a deal with X to get it back, and keep half. Then you just . . . live on that until it starts to run out. Is that the way it is, really?”

“It’s a simplification, Chook, but reasonably accurate.”

“Don’t you get into a lot of trouble?”

“Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Y is usually in no position to make much of a fuss. Because I am sort of a last resort, the fee is fifty per cent. For X, half is a lot better than nothing at all.”

“And you keep it all sort of quiet.”

“Chook, I don’t exactly have business cards printed. What would I say on them? Travis McGee, Retriever?”

“But for goodness’ sake, Trav, how much work like that can you find laying around when you start to get so broke you need it?”

“So much that I can pick and choose. This is a complex culture, dear. The more intricate our society gets, the more semi-legal ways to steal. I get leads from old clients sometimes. And if you take a batch of newspapers and read with great care, and read between the lines, you can come up with a fat happy Y and a poor X wringing his hands. I like to work on pretty good-sized ones. Expenses are heavy. And then I can take another piece of my retirement. Instead of retiring at sixty, I’m taking it in chunks as I go along.”

“What if something came along right now?”

“Let’s change the subject, Miss McCall. Why don’t you take some time off, and make Frank highly nervous, and we’ll assemble a little group and cruise a little houseboat party on down to Marathon. Let’s say, four gentlemen and six ladies. No drunks, no whiners, nobody paired off, no dubious gender, no camera addicts, nobody who sunburns, nobody who can’t swim, nobody who . . .”

“Please, McGee. I’m really serious.”

“So am I.”

“There’s a girl I want you to talk to. I hired her for the group a couple of months ago. She’s a little older than the rest of us. She used to dance, and she’s working back into it very nicely, really. But . . . I really think she needs help. And I don’t think there’s anyone else she can go to. Her name is Cathy Kerr.”

“I’m sorry, Chook. I’ve got enough right now to last for months. I work best after I begin to get nervous.”

“But she thinks there is really an awful lot involved.”

I stared at her. “She thinks?”

“She never got to see it.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“She got a little drunk the other night and very weepy, and I’ve been nice to her, so she blurted it all out to me. But she should tell you herself.”

“How could she lose something she never saw?”

Chookie wore that little fisherman smile which means the hook has been set. “It’s really too complicated for me to try to explain. I might mess it up. Would you just do this, Travis? Would you talk to her?”

I sighed. “Bring her around sometime.”

She padded lithely over to me and took my wrist and looked at my watch. Her breathing had slowed. Her leotard was sweat-dark and fitted her almost as closely as her healthy hide. She beamed down at me. “I knew you’d be nice about it, Trav. She’ll be here in twenty minutes.”

I stared up at her. “You are a con artist, McCall.”

She patted my head. “Cathy is really nice. You’ll like her.” She went back to the middle of the lounge and started her metronome again, studied her notations, and went back to work, leaping, thumping, making small grunts of effort. Never sit in the first row at the ballet.

I tried to get back to channel markers and tide levels, but all concentration was gone. I had to talk to the woman. But I was certainly not going to be shilled into some nonsense project. I had the next one all lined up, waiting until I was ready. I had enough diversions. I didn’t need more. I was sourly amused that Chook had wondered where the projects came from. She was living proof they popped up all the time.

Promptly at nine there was a bing-bong sound from the bell I have wired to a push button on the pier piling. If anybody should ignore the bell, step over my chain and come down my gangplank, the instant they step on the big rope mat on the transom deck there is an ominous and significant bong which starts many abrupt protective measures. I have no stomach for surprises. I have endured too many of them. They upset me. The elimination of all removable risk is the most plausible way of staying alive.

I flicked on my rear deck lights and went out the aft doorway of the lounge, Chookie McCall gasping behind me.

I went up and unsnapped the chain for her. She was a sandy blonde with one of those English schoolboy haircuts, where the big eyes look out at you from under a ragged thatch of bangs. She had overdressed for the occasion, the basic black and the pearl clip and the sparkly little envelope purse.

In explosive gasps Chook introduced us and we went inside. I could see that she was elderly by Chook’s standards. Perhaps twenty-six or -seven. A brown-eyed blonde, with the helpless mournful eyes of a basset hound. She was a little weathered around the eyes. In the lounge lights I saw that the basic black had given her a lot of good use. Her hands looked a little rough. Under the slightly bouffant skirt of the black dress were those unmistakable dancer’s legs, curved and trim and sinewy.

Chookie said, “Cathy, you can go ahead and tell Travis McGee the whole bit, like you told me. I’ve finished up, so I’ll leave you alone and go back and take that bath, if it’s okay, Trav.”

“Please do take a bath.”

She gave me a pretty good rap behind the ear and went off and closed the master stateroom door behind her.

I could see that Catherine Kerr was very tense. I offered her a drink. She gratefully accepted bourbon on ice.

“I don’t know what you can do,” she said. “Maybe this is silly. I don’t know what anybody can do.”

“Maybe there isn’t a thing anybody can do, Cathy. Let’s just start by assuming it’s hopeless and go on from there.”

“I drank too much one night after the last show and told her and I guess I shouldn’t have been telling anybody.”

In her light, nasal voice I could detect some of that conch accent, that slightly sing-song way the key people talk.

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The Deep Blue Good-By (Travis McGee Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Edgar_Alan_Poet More than 1 year ago
Is it possible that I alone would buy this whole series (again) if only the publisher would offer it for the nook? As far as the books themselves, you either know what you'd have to look forward to--or, if you're new to the series I envy you the first reading. These are great books, written by a grand storyteller in his prime. John D. was among the first writers to mention the environment in more than a casual way. His true concerns though center on "the human condition." He wrote hard-boiled prose, but his heart was kind. He was like his invention, Travis McGee, a knight in shining armor--but with less tarnish. Please join me in requesting the publisher to release these wonderful novels for the nook. Thanks and I only hope you enjoy them as much as I have and hope to again.
McCarthy92 More than 1 year ago
This is the first in the highly-regarded Travis McGee saga by John D. MacDonald. A while ago I started it but I wasn't in the mood for this kind of book so I stopped but don't let that stop you. Once I started it again, I couldn't stop. McGee is a great character and I can see why he is almost a cult figure in a way. He's like a philosopher, not just an Eastwood-like tough guy which is still awesome and entertaining (I actually prefer Stark's Parker series to this) but it made McGee a much more unique male character. Wonderful prose, a great mystery, an amazing lead character and a surprisingly good supporting cast, McGee's first adventure invites readers to continue his long trek through Florida life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you love suspense, murder and wonderful characters, then read any of the Travis McGee books. I read them all 15 years ago and I'm re-reading them again now. I had forgotten how enjoyable these books are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Another great book that gives you the feel of Florida. Mr. MacDonald is always fun to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read all the Travis McGee books years ago. One of the best detective series ever written. I am starting back through with this book. This book is one you can't put down and one of my favorites.
tardisbleu More than 1 year ago
I enjoy all of the Trais McGee books. I have read them all many times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The baseline as a comparative for all mystery novels. The details from the Marantz stereo to the ills of Florida. The concept of being a salvage expert with just enough money to enjoy retirement a little bit at a time. Staying in shape and environmental concerns long before it was cool. It was a line in a jimmy buffet song that got me interested. Thank you jimmy. "Travis McGee sailed on to Cedar Key. Thats what old John MacDonald said" and if you just pay close enough attention to some of the philosophy, you will be better for it. True that!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MacDonald tells a highly entertaining story, but it's the insights into human nature and various aspects of life that make his books truly exceptional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I suppose Travis McGee would be classified as a private eye, but he doesn't advertize. He operates unofficially, only taking cases when he runs out of money. He's usually the last resort for his clients, so his fee is 50% of whatever he recovers for them. After all, 50% is better than nothing. The first Travis McGee novel finds Trav helping a friend of a friend. He's reluctant at first, but something about the trail of damaged women Junior Allen leaves behind gets under his skin.Travis McGee reminds me of The Equalizer or The A-Team with Jim Rockford's personality. He's also a bit of a philosopher:These are the playmate years, and they are demonstrably fraudulent. The scene is reputed to be acrawl with adorably amoral bunnies to whom sex is a pleasant social favor. The new culture. And they are indeed present and available, in exhausting quantity, but there is a curious tastelessness about them. A woman who does not guard and treasure herself cannot be of very much value to anyone else. They become a pretty little convenience, like a guest towel.Although this isn't my usual type of crime novel, the strong sense of place in South Florida and McGee's depth of character will eventually draw me back to the series.
EBT1002 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a re-read for me. I was addicted to the Travis McGee series in my late teens/early 20s. I still enjoyed it, but long for literature with a bit more meat. The descriptions of Florida are wonderful (I grew up there) and MacDonald writes a great action/suspense scene. And I find myself wanting to re-read more of them. That's why the extra half-star.
ckNikka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Think 1964... 44 years ago... you have to get in the mid set of the author... it is not politcally correct writing but it is classic Noir... "Home is the Busted Flush", 52-foot barge type houseboat, Slip F-18, Bahia Mar, Lauderdale".... like 411 Baker Street the home of our Hero Travis McGee. Our knight in tarnished armor... a Korean War Vet... good vs. evil... commentary on the times ... interesting plot twists and good writing... "Cathy introduced us. Christine stood there inside her smooth skin, warm and indolent, mildly speculative. It is that flavor exuced by women who have fashioned an earthy and simplified sexual adjustment to their environment, borne their young, achieved an unthinking physical confidence. They are often placidly unkempt, even grubby, taking no interest in the niceties of posture. They have a slow relish for the phyical spectrum of food, sun, deep sleep, the needs of children, the caresses of affection. There is a tiny magnificence about them, like the sultry dignity of she-lions."... My dad turned me on to John D ... so long ago... I reread them all every few years... it is always worth the trip.
datrappert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this in one day. A perfect antidote for Peter Rabe's awful "Kill the Boss Goodbye". I have read perhaps 10 other MacDonald books, but I have been saving the McGee novels until I had the complete set. I'm still lacking one, but it is well into the sequence. This is typical MacDonald, with McGee uttering the same sort of moral pronouncements that MacDonald the author or his other lead characters do in the other novels. It has the same flowery prose whenever a love--scratch that--sex scene rears its head. And it has the same compelling fascination that makes you keep turning the pages. Because despite his faults, MacDonald is an author who knows what he is doing. This book is exciting, it is exasperating, it is heartbreaking, and it will keep you so engrossed that you won't regret the time you spent with it. And perhaps it will give you the illusion that you've actually done a bit of living yourself.
caklr650 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought a few old J. MacDonald books secondhand because I read that Dean Koontz has read everything he's ever written multiple times. This one is part of a series about a sort of PI from Florida, I only got through about half of it before I put it down for good. Too many good books to read out there to waste time on ones that really don't move you.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book has blurbs on the back cover praising it from King, Higgins Clark, Parker, Koontz, Grafton, Kellerman, Parker, McBain--and I can understand why. This is very much in the hard-boiled detective style--first person with a protagonist who deals with shady characters, a mysterious past with hints of personal pain--a femme fatale or two. But told with an unusual lyricism, quotable lines, snappy dialogue, and more than a touch of sensuality. And the hero-narrator Travis McGee is intriguing and is embedded in an indelible setting. As the second line of the novel tells us his home "is the Busted Flush, 52-feet barge-type houseboat, Slip F18, Bahia Mar, Lauderdale." His ship is "named after the poker hand" which led to the streak that won it for him. He describes himself as a "boat bum" and a "retriever." He only takes jobs when he's running low on funds--he finds things stolen that can't be legally regained, and splits the proceeds when he returns them. His latest project has him on the trail of one of the most despicable and memorable villains, Junior Allen, I've ever encountered in fiction--and that was the case before Travis finally catches sight of him about three-quarters through the book, just on the basis of the human wreckage Allen leaves behind in the form of abused women. Travis himself is a complex mixture of the compassionate and tender with the ruthlessly violent; he calls himself "wary of all earnestness" but despite his cynicism has a streak of protectiveness and more than a hint of vulnerability. He's not politically correct--and some of his takes on women make me go "Huh?" Particularly when Travis seems puzzled why a raped, abused women should be traumatized since her rapist "had become her lover, and had, in time, induced sensuous response in her." Given her own reactions and description of her time with the man, not exactly how I'd see it... Nevertheless, there's something about the character that (unlike Chandler's Marlowe) makes me forgive the chauvinistic streak. (This was written in 1964 and is very much of its time.) I'm certainly interested in seeing how McGee might develop in the later books of the series. On the other hand, so far just about every woman in this book is a victim or predator--if that's the case in the next book, well, I doubt I'll continue to read in the series.
JimBrewington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good wisdom and humor. Parts are farfetched, but a fun read. Set in Florida, nautical. I would like to read more by MacDonald.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The lee child preface was facinating as I learned much about J. D. McDonald. The story was fun.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed. The characters do not have any depth and the plot is very weak.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it again and again.
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