Sunday, January 15, 2023

Review: The Good Old Stuff

The Good Old Stuff The Good Old Stuff by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This collection published in hardcover in 1982 and paperback in 1983 includes thirteen stories culled from the hundreds of stories MacDonald published in the pulp magazines between 1946 and 1952. They are the stories he considered the best and worthy or republication. So that right there makes this a must read for MacDonald fans. I thought the most interesting thing about this collection were the two stories that MacDonald, in his introduction, described as having a hero “who in some respects seems like a precursor to Travis McGee.” The stories - Breathe No More and From Some Hidden Grave - both feature Park Falkner, who in looks and skills does seem similar to McGee. Falkner doesn’t live on a boat at a marina but in a mansion on a private island. These two stories are a variation on the mystery formula of locking all the suspects in a room until the guilty party is found out. MacDonald’s wrinkle in these stories is that Park Falkner picks a crime to solve based on some chivalrous criteria and then invites the suspects to his private island so he can go to work breaking them down. I enjoyed these stories and their “formula” a lot. Park Falkner, and his sort of girlfriend and crime solving partner, Taffy Angus, are intriguing characters and it is clear from the writing that MacDonald had some affection for them. A bit surprised that he didn’t write more stories around these characters, but perhaps there was only so much he could do with the formula of bringing the suspects to the island. McGee as a “Salvage Consultant” who was free to roam certainly worked better to anchor a series. MacDonald's 1957 novel A Man of Affairs employs a variation on this private island theme and his 1959 release Please Write For Details brings all the characters to a mountain retreat in Mexico. So it is interesting to see MacDonald honing his techniques in these early stories. In 1984 he released More Good Old Stuff, which collected 14 more stories and the 27 stories in these two volumes represent all the early work MacDonald felt deserved preserving. Both are worth checking out.

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