Friday, May 15, 2015

Alec Leamas Meets Travis McGee

Burton as Le Carre's Alec Leamus
“Went to bed and read a ‘Travis McGee’ thriller by a very competent American writer called John D. MacDonald. He is one of those prolific writers like Simenon and Erle Stanley Gardner and so on who seem to turn out a book a month. MacDonald is a cut above most, however, and tries to be unsentimentally tough about the decaying morality and mass-production mania and advertising nightmare of the American way of life. Ends up with a lump in his throat about the occasional innate nobility of man.
“McGee is a thoroughly detestable man in his pretended cynicism and muscular pretension and despises with a tired dismissal anybody who is not ‘machismo’ and ‘mucho hombre’ and an inexhaustible stud.
“There are fairly sick-making lines like ‘he patted her girl-rump’ and ‘he responded to the rampant woman in her.’ Another occasion for bile is that this McGee — who is enormous 6 ft 5 and as fast as a cat —is called ‘Trav’ by his friends. 
"However, I’ve learned to skip the sermons when they come up and the yarns and the inconsequential but authentic-seeming descriptive backgrounds are very readable.
“I envy anyone’s capacity for such sustained and for the most part sound writing. If he wrote one book a year instead of 10, he could be considerable.
“I don’t think I could write a thriller. I don’t think I want to even if I could. Such books are meant to be read, not written. Read fast and quickly forgotten and therefore readable again in a couple of years.”
— Richard Burton’s journal, June 1970

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