Book Report: Slam the Big Door by John D. MacDonald (1960)

Book coverIt’s funny: I like John D. MacDonald a whole lot, and although I have a number of his paperbacks on the to-read shelves, I don’t delve into them too often–it’s been a year since I read End of the Tiger (on a different vacation, no less) and then A Tan and Sandy Silence and Two Other Great Mysteries. In preparation for my recent trip to Florida, I started this book and finished it on the plane en route to the keys of southwest Florida. Not the Florida Keys, mind you, but definitely some other cays ‘n’ bays.

At any rate, in this book, an ex-newspaperman whose wife just died from quick moving cancer visits an old Army war friend in Florida. The friend used to live in the city and was a big honcho for an advertising agency (akin to the fellow in “Hangover” in End of the Tiger, come to think of it), but he had a self-destructive urge to dissipation, which caused him to turn to drink and to a loose woman, costing his job and his marriage. After a bit of time finding himself, the friend became a builder in Florida and married into a piece of money which allowed him to try a larger development. However, a group of native businessmen want to usurp the development en media res, so they start applying different sorts of pressure to create money problems for the wartime friend. The appearance of the loose woman from New York and the trouble with the development lead the man back into a dissipation spiral.

Which the antagonist tries to stem with mixed results.

There’s not a lot of crime in the book; it’s more of a character study and a business/land development story, but it’s still told with MacDonald’s characteristic ease and comfort. The characters are believable, and the story has depth as the antagonist muses on growing old (at 40 something).

I don’t know when I’ll pick up another MacDonald book. They’re a fixed quantity, and when I’ve read them all, I shall be sad. Except there are so many, I can re-read them with some freshness. But my to-read stack does not allow much re-reading unless it’s accidental.

Toward the end of the book, someone recommends that the protagonist and a young lady visit Marco Island, which has a nice beach. I took that recommendation! What’s interesting about this allusion in this book is that the book was published in 1960, which is a couple years before the developers made Marco Island into what it is today (as we shall see later in the week or as you’ve already seen if you’re reading this blog backwards chronologically from sometime a week or so hence). So it’s written before the developers that MacDonald often lambasts had their turn at a destination he mentions.

At any rate, I recommend the book if you are old enough to understand books without cell phones and computers in them.

Good Book Hunting: Florida 2016

You might have noticed it was quiet around here for the last week or so, gentle reader. If you live in Southwest Florida, you might have noticed it was a little louder. That’s because I took a trip down to Sanibel Island and Marco Island for some important sunburn time. Although we did only found one “used book store” (actually a stall in an antique mall in Naples), I managed to pick up some Florida-themed reading at Wickham’s Books South as well as some of the other retail bookstores in the area. Most of them, actually, came from the Barnes and Noble discount rack, where I thought if a book looked interesting, it would cost more to buy on the Internet later (where it would not be 75% off), so I bought it. The thinnest of pretexts.

Here’s what I got:

  • The Optimists’ Handbook/The Pessimists Handbook, a bit of humor.
  • Beggars, Cheats and Forgers, a compendium of Beggars and Cheats and Forgers, apparently.
  • Insane City by Dave Barry. I enjoyed Big Trouble at full price because I’d run though almost my whole stack of brought and bought books by the time we got to Barnes and Noble. Of course, when I found other discounted books to read, I kept this one. Because Dave Barry.
  • I Will Fight My Own Damn War, a self-published World War II memoir by a pilot.
  • A Brief History of Sanibel Island, a book about the history of the first place we stayed in Florida. I must learn the history of everywhere I go so I can tell my children about it, even if it’s a couple hours later.
  • The Last Paradise: The Building of Marco Island, a history of Marco Island, the other place we stayed on vacation.
  • The Sanibel Sunset Detective by Ron Base, the first book in a series of mysteries set on Sanibel Island.
  • The Sanibel-Cayman Disc by Thomas D. Cochrun, the second in a series of international thrillers tied to Sanibel Island. This Sanibel Island sounds kinda dangerous. It’s a good thing I didn’t get these books before I went.
  • Garage Sale Diamonds, a book somewhere in a series about garage sales and mysteries. It was discounted.
  • Taichi: The Story of a Chinese Master in America. I’m hoping it’s a touch above the Kung Fu tie-in paperbacks, but it’s self-published.

I spent more than I normally would, but that’s par for anything on vacation. Also, note I have already read three of these books, so you’ll get them in more detail presently. Or you already have if you’re reading multiple posts in reverse chronological order.