Obviously the existence of e-publishing, with its flexibility and low overhead, is what makes this new MacDonald edition possible, but as one who still reads books only if they’re printed on real paper, I welcome the trade-paperback MacDonalds with gratitude and enthusiasm; e-book readers doubtless will be happy to pay $11.99 apiece for the titles. For some years it has been my conviction that, even as MacDonald’s reputation has risen considerably over the past few decades, he remains pigeonholed as a genre writer although there is far more to him than that: a fluid, economical prose stylist, a mordantly witty cultural and social critic, a sympathetic but clear-eyed observer of the human comedy — and a comedy, despite all the violence and human meanness that course through his work, is just what he knew it to be.
MacDonald, a purposeful and organized man, set the stage for Travis McGee in the opening pages of “The Deep Blue Good-by” and adhered to it throughout the series. Each of the books is similar (he color-coded the titles to help readers remember which they had and hadn’t read) in much the way that each Jeeves and Wooster novel is similar: In the latter it’s boy meets girl, girl chases boy, boy escapes by the skin of his teeth, while in the former it’s Travis at ease, Travis visited by someone who desperately needs help, Travis takes on the case, Travis rides to the rescue. But beyond that each novel is different, with twists of plot — and usually with one or more twisted characters — that invariably are surprising and often border on the hilarious.