Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Review: Seven

Seven Seven by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting collection published in 1971 as the popularity for MacDonald’s Travis McGee series was taking off. The four shorter stories were published in Playboy and likely solicited. “Dear Old Friend” has an epistolary structure where through four shifting attempts at a dictated letter we learn the story. “The Annex” is sort of a white light story or a dream of a dying man. “Quarrel” is a bit of hilarity about an “accidental play” via tape recording. “Double Hannenframis,” my favorite of the shorter stories, is a neat noir about an executive caught insider trading and siphoning cash. The three longer stories were all previously unpublished. “The Random Noise of Love” can best be summed up by what a friend says to the protagonist: “Don’t lose your head for a piece of tail.” Oops, too late. The story has a five-page obsessive description of the girl as she comes out of the shower, gets dressed, does her makeup, etc. Yes, he’s lost his head. “The Willow Pool” is novella length with multiple narrators each describing their view of the events, which is a good technique for broadening the scope of the narrative in ways it couldn’t otherwise. “Woodchuck” seems the class of the collection, with MacDonald at the top of his craft using concrete descriptive writing, insightful psychology, and wicked characterization via action in this long story about a man cynically seducing the wife of a man who works for him. The woodchuck of the title is a story within the story and MacDonald even pulls that digression off and makes it work thematically. Three of the stories I’d give five stars, but the others are not to that level.

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