But not out. It’s only a temporary thing–“it” being an angry swarm of deadlines that’s had me in solitary confinement all weekend. If I were a quarterback, this week would be a blitz, and I’m trying to do a little better than just throw the ball away. And I’m not yet quite out of danger of being sacked (strictly metaphorically speaking, I think). (Speaking of football, congratulations to the Edmonton Eskimos on winning the Canadian Football League’s storied Grey Cup, which, as Colby Cosh explains here, has it over the Lombardi Trophy for colorfully checkered history and sheer longevity: number XCI!)
I almost forgot to link to last week’s Washington Post appreciation of one of my favorite guilty pleasures, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee crime novels. I discovered McGee some years ago when a friend brought The Long Lavender Look to my sick bed. I was skeptical, but the only alternative was my course reading, which was probably Fredric Jameson or some such thing. And the epigraph caught my eye:
When I play with my cat, who knows but that she regards me more as a plaything than I do her? –Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
The hook had grazed me. Twenty pages into the mystery proper, I was on the line for all twenty books in the series.
I even got Terry to read the McGee novels. He was not very impressed, but even his more discerning critical judgment was not enough to keep him from gobbling them up like so much buttered popcorn. Terry’s some fast reader; I think he gave over three or four days of his life to McGee, cursed me heartily, and moved on.
But I’ll never be done with McGee, and Jonathan Yardley’s piece gives a vivid sense of why this is. While the romanticized, impossible Travis “I bed at least one new girl every book, but I’m a highly principled gentleman” McGee may be a silly character (Parker would eat him for lunch), the plots of the novels give off the authentic whiff of mundane reality. They are Floridian through and through, revolving around prosaic real estate development schemes and small-time swindles. The book Yardley focuses on, The Dreadful Lemon Sky, is a very good choice. But you’re going to have to read all of them anyway, so why not take his advice and start at the beginning with The Deep Blue Good-By?