During the course of his life, prolific author John D. MacDonald, wrote novels and short stories, many of which dealt with crime and suspense. The estimated sales of MacDonald’s work are 70 million books sold. Although born in Pennsylvania, the World War II veteran set many of his stories in Florida, where he resided for a number of years. In 1972, the Mystery Writers of America bestowed their highest honor on MacDonald. They awarded him the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement, which is given to an author who produces work of constant quality. (As an aside: Agatha Christie received the first Grand Master Award in 1955).
One of MacDonald’s most well known works was “The Executioners” published by Simon & Shuster in 1957. The book was made into the 1962 film “Cape Fear.” The movie was directed by Oscar nominee J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone). The screenplay was written by Oscar winner James R. Webb (How the West Was Won). Oscar winner Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird), Oscar nominee Robert Mitchum (Story of G.I. Joe), and Emmy winner Polly Bergen (The Winds of War) starred in the film. In 1991, Oscar winner Martin Scorsese (The Departed) remade the film. Scorsese directed the film from a screenplay written by Wesley Strick (Wolf). The film featured two time Oscar winner Robert DeNiro (The Godfather Part II); Golden Globe winner Nick Nolte (The Prince of Tides); two time Oscar winner Jessica Lange (Tootsie); and Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (From Dusk till Dawn).
“The Green Ripper” was number eighteen in a series of twenty-one books that MacDonald wrote, that centered on the character of Travis McGee. The book was published by Harper Collins Publishers in September of 1979.
Salvage expert, and often utilized detective, Travis McGee, lives on his houseboat ‘The Busted Flush.’ He has come to an unlikely decision. Not one to settle down, McGee knows that he is in love with his girlfriend Gretel Howard. He doesn’t want to lose her, so he has decided that he wants to marry her. The attractive, intelligent and athletic Gretel works for the Bonnie Brae Fat Farm, which doubles as a real estate development property. Among other responsibilities, Gretel runs with, and teaches tennis to those who are attempting to get in shape.
One of the owners of the property gets into a fatal bicycle accident. Two days after the accident, Gretel falls ill. She is in the hospital with an infection that baffles the doctors, who can’t identify what it is. If that weren’t strange enough, prior to her hospitalization and death, Gretel saw a person form her past. She informs McGee that years earlier, her ex-husband’s sister joined a fanatical, California based religious sect called The Church of the Apocrypha. Gretel’s ex attempted to rescue his sister from the sect, but it was to no avail. One of the people involved with the sect, Brother Titus, has come to purchase twenty acres of undeveloped land on behalf of investors.
McGee is outraged that his love is dead. He sets out on a mission of revenge, with not much to go on. Before departing, he takes on a new identity. From that moment forth, until he is either successful or killed while trying, he takes on the persona of Tom McGraw, an unemployed commercial fisherman. McGraw’s backstory is that he is in search of his estranged daughter Katherine, who last he heard had joined the religious sect. This, McGee hopes, will gain him access into the sect, who are not trusting of outsiders. In addition to the aforementioned, there are government agents, who may or may not be legitimate. Furthermore, McGee’s best friend Meyer, who implores him not to undertake what he feels is a futile mission, but will, nonetheless, provide him all the help he needs. All these characters and elements make for a page turner.
“The Green Ripper” draws the reader in. The engaging, well plotted and paced book perfectly captures the tension filled situations that McGee often finds himself in. The book won the 1980 U.S. National Book Award for Mystery. The award that honors the best in American literature has been given annually since 1936. Recommended for fans of MacDonald’s work, readers who are looking for another series to get into, as mentioned earlier, twenty-one books center on the character, Travis McGee, as well as those readers, who like characters who are faced with impossible odds, but will do whatever is needed to win.