Reconsidering Travis McGee

Somehow, I have gone through my crime fiction reading career without really reading a John D. MacDonald novel. I know I picked up one of the Travis McGee books a million years ago but – for whatever reason – I didn’t care for it. This is a gap I need to fill, and soon, if only because I’m curious how I would consider the 21-book series through contemporary filtration via Travis’s literary descendants.

Clearly, MacDonald and his most famous creation are on the minds of others, if Scott Timberg’s LA Times piece last weekend is anything to judge by. The pretext is a tad flimsy – Amy Robinson, who produced Martin Scorsese’s sorely underrated 1985 movie AFTER HOURS, is trying to get THE DEEP BLUE GOOD-BY made for Fox, even though the project “is not greenlighted and there is no director or talent attached” – but the thrust is more substantive: why hasn’t Travis made it to the movies in a real way (Sam Elliot’s 1983 turn doesn’t really count; Rod Taylor’s earlier stint is long-forgotten) when clearly, he has the goods to be a viable franchise? 

Well, maybe this part of the article is answer enough:

Lovers of the books are most concerned, of course, with who will play
McGee himself. The Internet has included speculation that Robert Downey
Jr., fresh off his portrayal of the upcoming "Sherlock Holmes," might
take on the role. Ideally, the actor would have to be young enough to
hold on for a franchise that could run for close to a decade.

"I'd like to see someone like Daniel Craig," said Penzler. "A real man,
macho, someone with swagger, or a young Russell Crowe. A young Harrison
Ford. Not Tom Cruise or someone like that. If they get the right guy,
there'll be five or six of them."

Robinson, who herself played Teresa in Scorsese's "Mean Streets," won't
name any actor, past or present, who reminds her of the burly
Floridian. "You want someone who's masculine and intelligent," she
says. "A man's man, a man who loves women but doesn't mind being by
himself. He's kind of a classic movie character."

  Quick, name an actor under the age of 40 who fits the bill. Daniel Craig is 41; Clive Owen is 45. Shia LeBouf is too young and he hardly made a convincing case as Indiana Jones' son. Christian Bale is Batman, even when he's not. Matthew McConaughey tried to be Dirk Pitt and that didn't exactly work out so great. Masculine and intelligent men have been selected against in Hollywood; else why it's been awfully difficult to bring a more recent example of masculine thriller archetype, Jack Reacher, to the screen (or why there haven't been too many whispers of reviving Parker for the movies, but maybe my hearing isn't so hot out here in NYC.)&#0160;

  That doesn't mean Robinson & company shouldn't try, just that, as George Diskant, literary agent for the MacDonald estate, said: "It's the movie business. Even with material like this, it's difficult to get it made. A lot of things have to come together."