A Purple Place for Dying by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
MacDonald's Travis McGee novels are such pulpy fun. The language, though dated, sexist, and otherwise political incorrect, has its own rhythm and poetry to it. McGee is somewhat the reluctant knight-errant. He describes himself as salvage expert; and that has three meanings. He lives on a houseboat in the Keys, so there is the maritime connection. But the main meaning is that he primarily makes his money by recovering wealth or goods for his clients (he keeps half of what is recovered). The deeper meaning is that, in each of the three stories I've read so far, McGee's real salvage work is the female protagonists. There is the element of knight-errant saving the damsel in distress; but MacDonald, though trading in sexist stereotypes of his time, does a good job of making sure the women have agency. There are not there merely to be saved; McGee helps them to get on a better path by showing them their own strength, and it is their own agency that gets them there.
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