Monday, June 18, 2012

My First Literary Love by Laura K. Curtis

I grew up in a small town. Tiny, even. We did have a movie theater, but the movie changed every other week (the drive-in the next town over also changed every couple of weeks) and we didn't have anything approaching "reception" on the television. If my brother was willing to stand, holding the rabbit ears in position and ground the signal, we could watch Starsky and Hutch. But no one was willing to do that very often. In the summers, my siblings went to camp, but I did not. I stayed home and read. And read. And read.

Pretty soon, I'd finished all my own books and all those my siblings had read and all those my mother had hanging about from her own youth (Betty Wales, Betty Gordon, etc) and I began ransacking the grown-up shelves. I was about 13 or 14 when I discovered my father's collection of John D. MacDonald books and I read the first one for one very simple reason: they were shorter than anything else on the shelf. How hard could a little book like that be to get through?

Not very hard at all, as it turned out. The slightly salacious cover (I am pretty sure this one is the one we had) made promises more than fulfilled by the book, and I met my first literary hero, my first literary crush: Travis McGee.

McGee was everything I wanted in a hero: he lived on a houseboat (I lived 3/4 of a mile from the ocean, and loved it), worked for himself as a "salvage consultant," and drove a vehicle comprised of the front end of a Rolls Royce and the back end of a pickup truck. In true hero fashion, he was also former military, with an excellent physique (in most of the books) and fantastic reflexes.

McGee—who only worked when he had to or when a case intrigued him enough—would recover anything from physical objects to items as intangible as personal honor. There were always women involved in some way, shape or form (this is pulp, after all) but he never had an actual girlfriend. Although he had a good friend and sort of sidekick, Meyer, who also lived on a houseboat, McGee was very much a loner.

He was, and still is, the perfect hero in my book. There's never been anyone quite like him, and though I've seen both of the movie versions, neither of them even comes close to the McGee of my imagination.

Curious to know more about Travis McGee? You can read about all of his books on this pretty cool website created by Travis McGee  HERE!

Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and 3 dogs who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill. She is the community manager for the Criminal Element website, blogs at Women of Mystery, and maintains an online store at TorchSongs GlassWorks. She can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

"... though I've seen both of the movie versions, neither of them even comes close to the McGee of my imagination."

I find that with all the book to movies I've seen. I wonder why the movie people don't consult us before casting people... still not sure what I'm going to do when I show up to find Tom Cruise playing the man of my dreams, Jack Reacher. *sigh*

Great post! I owe you for this!

Anita Page said...

Oh, those summers of reading. I remember riding my book the dozen blocks back from library, reading as I peddled along. Luckily I've got good balance and managed not to break my neck.

And I know what you mean about Travis' appeal, Laura.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Laura, what great memories! And who didn't/doesn't love Travis McGee?

Anita Page said...

Interesting slip there, 'riding my book.'

Linda Rodriguez said...

Great post, Laura! And I, too, wonder why they cast some of the people they cast as the beloved heroes of our books!

I found McDonald's books as a young mother and devoured them, longing for the freedom Travis had.

lois karlin said...

Thanks for the tribute, and the link. I'm a great McGee fan.