- Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Fawcett (February 20, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0449224422
- ISBN-13: 978-0449224427
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 105 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Deadly Shade of Gold (Travis McGee Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – February 20, 1996
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This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
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From Library Journal
MacDonald, whose 21 Travis McGee novels represent arguably the best U.S. mystery series of the past 50 years, died in 1986, leaving behind a legion of fans. Sadly, Travis McGee seems lost amid today's hip, violent, and politically correct private eyes and series detectives, so much so that most of today's younger mystery readers may never experience this National Book Award-winning series. Yet audio producers seem committed to keeping the series alive for a new generation of readers and audiobook fans, as this example proves. Bright Orange for the Shroud tells of a dangerous confidence scheme that traps one of McGee's friends. Soon, McGee infiltrates the group and takes on its sexy operative, with explosive results. In A Deadly Shade of Gold, McGee comes into possession of an evil-looking, solid gold Aztec icon that leads to a perilous fortune. Reader Darren McGavin, who narrates the entire series for Random Audio, employs a world-weary, laid-back voice that is perfect for the enigmatic McGee. Recommended wherever good mysteries circulate. Random Audio offers the entire Travis McGee line in abridged format; libraries seeking unabridged versions should look to Books on TapeR.?Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
It tends to be later in the Travis McGee series when the tales turn significantly darker (say, after The Tan and Sandy Silence), but this early installment, number five, displays a strong hint of what is to come. It starts, as so many of the 21 novels do, with the appearance, on the deck of McGee’s houseboat, The Busted Flush, of a friend in trouble. This time it’s Sam Taggart, a fellow adventurer committed to living by his wits; unfortunately, Sam’s wits aren’t quite as quick as Travis’, and he has landed in a serious jam south of the border. But if he can just peddle the Aztec idol he has lifted from serious bad guys, Sam should be able to start a new life in Ft. Lauderdale with Nora, the girl he foolishly dumped before leaving for Mexico. There are no new lives to be had. McGee and Nora find Sam dead on the floor of a sleazy motel, his throat professionally slashed from ear to ear. The two of them set off for Mexico to extract several pounds of flesh and, hopefully, salvage the profit that would have been Sam’s from the sale of the idol. So far, so good. We’re on familiar McGee ground here: the salvage operation is afoot; the wounded dove, Nora, is ensconced on a beach in Mexico, prime for some psychic and sexual healing, which Trav delivers with his usual aplomb. And, of course, MacDonald has ample opportunity to rail against the absurdities of American tourists on display in Mexico. But then the wind changes. The bad guys are hard to find, being both too numerous and too ambiguous; the wrong bodies start to pile up; and Travis begins to feel the most unlikely of emotions: intimations of vulnerability. And, finally, a very curious thing happens: our beach-bum hero transforms into the novel’s real wounded dove, a teeth-chattering, head-hanging wreck of a man, in desperate need of rejuvenation. The Aztec idol plot gets a little messy, requiring too much explication to sort out who did what and stole what and from whom, but for committed series readers, this novel offers the first good look at just how shrewd MacDonald can be. Through four books, he has eased his readers into letting the comforts of formula fiction roll over us like a gentle wave: we’re grown accustomed to the rhythms of watching McGee work and play; we’ve chuckled at MacDonald’s sociopolitical commentary; and, best of all, we’ve found little bits of our fantasy selves in Travis’ nonconformity and his unshakable savviness. Now, suddenly, the wave is no longer gentle, and we’re tossed onto the rocks of ugly reality. We bounce free, of course, just as McGee’s teeth eventually stop chattering, but the warning MacDonald has issued is clear: get comfortable, that’s what formula fiction is for, but don’t take comfort for granted. --Bill Ott
Top customer reviews
...I overcame my hesitancy for paying ten bucks for an ethereal book, and am well on my way to adding the entire McGee series to my collection. Most of my purchases have been various translations and editions of the bible, and bible reference books, which actually means that, for me, the series is a guilty pleasure. I had not read "Deadly Shade..." in quite a number of years - probably about two decades, and to opine that they hold up well is, I think, to rather understate the case.
John Grisham tells a tale right well, but not as well as Macdonald, in my opinion. The latter knew how to patiently build a story while holding the reader's interest with the inner dialogue - the thoughts - of the main character. Some of the most memorable moments of observation while vicariously living inside McGee's head are his stop-and-smell-the-roses musings, and the roses often stink.
For those of us who are also audio enthusiasts from 'way back, the occasional mention of Marantz receivers and AR speakers evoke fond memories of Ye Olden Record Shoppe, and when a motel room is rented for $5 per night that sounds right to us. Someone going out of his way for a one-dollar tip makes sense... some of us remember when we'd pull into a thing known as a service station and the plop-Ring over the pneumatic hose summoned an Attendant (you can trust your car to the man who wears the star, the bright red Texaco star) who filled your tank, checked your oil, washed your windshield and tried to sell you a belt or hose - often successfully - which was installed by the mechanic as you waited.
You won't read of McGee being blown by a gigantic explosion 300 feet thru the air, to grasp the last car of a fast train, then crawl down the length of the roof, under;machine-gun fire, to grapple with his nemesis who strikes him several blows about the face and head until he disarms the villain, and somehow survives all this without shedding one drop of blood, or showing a single bruise, without even a single coiffed hair out of place. No, Travis bleeds, hard blows to his noggin knock him out, and sometimes Death is breathing at his neck. Yes, he wins in the end, but sometimes it is a Pyrrhic victory.
The plot is driven, from a distance, by fallout from Castro's takeover of Cuba. We learn that McGee almost participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion, but he was stopped by "a nervous little C.I.A. man with glasses and a rule book...It occurred to him that I wasn't a Cuban." A theme of betrayal is established with reference to the grisly fate of many who initially supported Castro but then turned against him and suffered consequences. The theme continues to American hedonists who couldn't care less about the details of Caribbean politics, but who are entrapped by their own greed.
McGee is approached by Sam Taggart, an old friend he hasn't seen in a couple years, who is much the worse for wear. Taggart shows McGee one of a large set of solid gold figurines he came by fairly honestly when down in Mexico, and wants McGee to help him recover the rest. Soon Taggart is out of the picture, brutally murdered in a cheap motel room with a knife. After a quick research expedition up to New York (wherein he beds a prim Bostonian antiquities dealer), McGee sets off to Mexico with Nora Gardino, Taggart's ex-fiancee, to poke around and maybe recover the figurines, and maybe get some revenge. Soon, of course, Nora & Trav wind up in the sack; in fact in this one McGee has an impressive bedpost notch count of five!
McGee sports nastier attitudes than we've seen from him in the series thus far. Here he is regarding Felicia, a Mexican prostitute/kitchen help that Taggart shacked up with (and McGee's #3): "As one is prone to do with animals, it was a temptation to anthropomorphize this girl past her capacity, to attribute to her niceties of feeling and emotion she could never sense, merely because she was so alive, had such a marvelous body, had such savage eyes and instincts. She was just a vain, childish, cantankerous Mexican whore, shrewd and stupid, canny and lazy. She had done all her mourning for Sam Taggart, and had enjoyed the drama of it. She was not legend. She did not have a heart of gold, or a heart of ice. She had a very ordinary animal heart, bloody and violent, responsive to affection, quick in fury, incapable of any kind of lasting loyalty."
McGee indulges in some melodramatic sadism as he ties a girl up between two trees, arms stretched out, to interrogate her. Here the book continues the theme at the center of The Quick Red Fox of orgies & kinky sex. The girl describes the scene at Cal Tomberlin's, the ultimate target: "I don't mind fun and games. But that got a little too rich for me, believe me. He had a lot of kids up there that weekend. I knew most of them. It got crazy up there. You couldn't walk without stepping on a jumbled up pile of kids and getting pulled down into a lot of messy fooling around. I got out of there." In this scene we see how he enjoys inflicting pain, to try to make people understand the hurt they have caused others. "She would have to learn how to imitate defiance. There wasn't any of the genuine article left. It had crawled off into the brush behind the clearing to die and rot. I wondered if she could sense how it was all going to be for her from now on. The jackals can always sense that kind of vulnerability. Imitations of defiance amuse them. They travel in packs. They would hand her around. She wouldn't last very well." Charming. And of course she doesn't.
After this episode, McGee proceeds to get drunk with an uncomprehending villager: "Drink to me, my friend. Drink to this poisonous bag of meat named McGee. And drink to little broken blondes, and a dead black dog, and a knife in the back of a woman, and a knife in the throat of a friend. Drink to a burned foot, and death at sea, and stinking prisons and obscene gold idols. Drink to loveless love, stolen money, and a power of attorney, mi amigo. Drink to lust and crime and terror, the three unholy ultimates, and drink to all the problems which have no solution in this world, and at best a dubious one in the next." On this drunk, he bangs Felicia--the first time we've seen McGee betray his imagined nobility in the bedroom.
The body count really piles up in this one, and I'll admit to having a hard time keeping all the characters dead and alive straight. This problem has led me to finally institute a practice, which I believe I will continue in all my further reading, of underlining the name of each character upon first appearance in a book.
Finally we get to L.A. and the stalking of Cal Tomberlin. McGee is struck by the amount of noise surrounding him upon his return to the States. Here's a nice passage where McGee/MacDonald sums up of the feel of 1965 America: "There is a spurious vitality about all this noise. But under it, when you come back, you can sense another more significant and more enduring vitality. It has been somewhat hammered down of late. The bell ringers and flag fondlers have been busily peddling their notion that to make America Strong, we must march in close and obedient ranks, to the sound of their little tin whistle. The life-adjustment educators, in strange alliance with the hucksters of consumer goods, have been doing their damnedest to makes us all think alike, look alike, smell alike and die alike, amidst all the pockety-queek of unserviceable home appliances, our armpits astringent, nasal passages clear, insurance program adequate, sex life satisfying, returement assured, medical plan comprehensive, hair free of dandruff, tie payments manageable, waistline firm, bowels open.
"But the other vitality is still there, that rancorous , sardonic, wonderful insistence on the right to dissent, to question, to object, to raise holy hell and in direst extremity, to laugh the self-appointed squad leaders off the face of the earth with great whoops of dirty disdainful glee. Suppress friction and machine runs fine. Suppress friction, and a society runs down." Kind of a foreshadowing, no, of the way the rest of the decade is going to play out? Although I think we'll see that McGee has real problems with the kinds of rebellion that do take place.
Nice bit right after that : "I could almost breathe the air, late April air, compounded of interesting hydro-carbons."
McGee/MacDonald has an interesting habit in the early books of using the word "stoned" to mean "drunk". I think it did mean that for a time in the sixties, before marijuana became prevalent.
OK, one more great passage, wherein Trav looks on the upside: "...except for Nora, the whole thing had seemed like a long bath in yesterday's dish water. The house lights faded the stars, but I looked up at them and told myself my recent vision of reality had been from a toad's-eye view. The stars, McGee, look down on a world where thousands of 4-H kids are raising prize cattle and sheep. The Green Bay Packers, of their own volition, join in the Lord's Prayer before a game. Many good and gentle people have fallen in love this night. At this moment, thousands of women are labor with the fruit of good marriage. Thousands of kids sleep the deep sleep which comes form the long practice hours for competitive swimming and tennis. Good men have died today, leaving hearts sick with loss. In quiet rooms young girls are writing poems. People are laughing together, in safe places.
"You have been on the underside of the world, McGee, but there is a top side too, where there is wonder, innocence, trust, love and gentleness. You made the decision, boy. You live down here, where the animals are, so stay with it."
From here, there are just a few more sexual encounters and deaths to go. For me: quite satisfying.
A great book. A great series. I'm thrilled they are being republished and especially as Kindle books.