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Goodbye to All That

Travis McGee's long one. John Kerry's shorter one. Is there hell after life? Plus much more.

8.30.04

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TRAVIS TREAT
Re: Lawrence Henry's Travis McGee Says a Long Goodbye:

Many thanks for Mr. Henry's thesis on the last of the Travis McGee books by the incomparable John D. MacDonald. Discovering and reading these tales has been one of the consolations of middle age for me. Fans should also become familiar with Robert E. McGinnis cover art for the original paperbacks, which are as evocative of the "sexy Sixties" as they are of the titles.

I have one bone to pick with Mr. Henry's analysis, though -- I find I re-read The Lonely Silver Rain fairly frequently, as one of the best books in the series. Not because I'm a guurl and swoon on the daughter reunion, but because the perspective on human violence is raw, the image of the allegedly respectable "community business leaders" suddenly reaping the whirlwind in a drug war is Sophoclean in its intensity, and some of the most remarkable prose of McDonald's career is displayed. Offhand, I happen to like:

"Cap'n Davenport," he said.

"Wes, this is McGee. Travis McGee."

"You kilt someone again, pardner?"

"I've managed to hold back."

"Builds character."

Nuts. Now I may have to start a re-read from the top...
-- Alexandra Haropulos
Rockville, Maryland

Thanks to Lawrence Henry for making my week! What a treat to relive the exploits of McGee and the superb writing of John D. MacDonald, not to mention the winding down of the McGee saga! I'm a MacDonald fan since the '60s and have read and reread just about everything the master wrote; my dog eared shelf of paperbacks bear me witness. What a storyteller! What an incisive analyst of human nature! He is indeed missed.
-- Frank Stevenson

My husband & I share in Mr. Henry's love affair with Trav McGee (and we always wanted to name a male dog Meyer the Hairy Economist -- maybe we still will). My in-laws introduced us to McGee & MacDonald, through books on tape of all things. We borrowed a couple to take on a road trip and were completely entranced, not just by Travis and the pace and style of MacDonald's writing, but also by Darrin McGavin, who reads all the Trav books. When we began reading the books themselves, we heard McGavin's voice, especially when McGee's women spoke... McGavin had an absolutely charming falsetto he used whenever he read the words "Oh Trav!"

As brilliant as McDonald and his McGee stories are, McGavin's reading of them is equally so... he truly inhabits the role, and becomes the voice of Travis McGee. The "I'm reading a book to you" quality of the whole books on tape genre completely disappears here... listening to McGavin gave me the same engrossed satisfaction as actually reading the books myself (which is really hard to do!).

My husband and I had always hoped someone would option some of the books for film... what wonderfully fun movies they'd make! But we always knew we'd be disappointed with whoever they'd cast as Trav... no one would have That Voice, and so he could never truly be Travis McGee.

Thanks for a great article... I've been looking for something to read, and I think I'll start with McGee again, from the beginning!
-- Julie Sweeney
Wausau, Wisconsin

"The Long Goodbye" is the name of a novel by the superb noir writer Raymond Chandler, whose works, although sometimes uneven, never fail to stun me with their dark beauty. When you finish with MacDonald, by all means try Chandler!
-- Michel Fleuette

Lawrence Henry replies: Let me correct Mr. Fleutte's impression as gently as I can. I am of course familiar with Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, indeed, with every book in his oeuvre, all of which I have already read and re-read. Chandler and Dashiell Hammett are justifiably credited with bringing the mystery novel up to the stature of literature, and with setting the standard for all writers to follow. They are indeed so widely credited that Chandler's title, The Long Goodbye, has entered the English language on its own, as a ready image, and is widely used without credit, simply because everybody knows it. See also any number of phrases from Shakespeare, such as "the dogs of war."

CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST
Re: Patrick Hynes's Self-Inflicted:

"BUT DEZENHALL WARNS REPUBLICANS not to plan their family vacations to the national capital around a second Bush inaugural just yet. "Don't forget that August is always scandal season. John Kennedy once said that no president survives his first August. By engaging this issue right now, there's a good chance it will be out of the way before the real campaign starts," he said."

That's right; and then we finally get to explore Kerry's abysmal Senate record! Then we have the debates! I feel like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning!
-- Bill Kearney
Knoxville, Tennessee

As we'd say down South, John Kerry and his crew stepped in something that's a lot messier and offensive smelling than a rotten onion. They're now up to their knees in it and sinking fast, too.

Given it took three or so weeks for Kerry to admit -- of course, the mainstream media missed it -- that the Swiftees correctly criticized his first Purple Heart, it'll be about July 4th of next year, if that soon, when he finishes addressing all criticisms.

As to his response to the Swiftees, the expert who said it's been mismanaged and the other one who said the Swiftees could've been marginalized both missed the mark. Kerry and his campaign appear inept, ineffectual and weak not just because they are these things, but also this: They're trying to defend lies. They can't.

I laughed reading that the anonymous Democrat complained that Kerry's "signature" issue, which they'd spent months portraying as "war hero, war hero," has been compromised. Get serious. They didn't do their homework. They're getting served just desserts for promoting a candidate whose war experiences are fictional or semi-fictional and whose political baggage includes a 20-year lackluster Congressional career and no vision for America's future.

There's divine payback in this. The Dems were against Vietnam at its end. If memory serves, they advanced a candidate in 1992 that not only dodged the draft, but criticized America while on foreign soil. And their current candidate said Vietnam shouldn't be part of that presidential campaign.

Compared to them, the Keystone Cops look sophisticated, focused and expert.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

I confess to personal delight at seeing John Kerry implode, unravel, wind down, and whatever else he is doing to himself. I think that it all boils down to two things: 1. As is now painfully no secret, Kerry has wrapped himself in the straitjacket of his Vietnam experiences -- the real and the unreal -- and, 2. He and his campaign / party have bought into their own propaganda that Bush and his people are all village idiots. In a word, they have completely misunderestimated their foe. They should have learned from their own failed attempt at a coup in Florida that they were not dealing with fools. The Democrat snobs can go on and on all they want about Bush's lack of gravitas and nuance, but he is far from the stupid, feckless man they try to make of him. Kerry, on the other hand, has nuanced himself right into a corner. It would be painful to watch if I were not enjoying it so much.

Incidentally, average people don't appreciate candidates or pitch men using words they have to look up in the dictionary. And really, nuance sounds an awful lot like nuisance -- and I'm beginning to feel that the Kerry campaign has become a public nuisance.
-- Steve Hayes
Utah
average person

Mr. Hynes' article on Kerry's response to the Swift Boat Veterans' advertisements was interesting and informative. My personal (nonpolitical) opinion is that Mr. Kerry could have minimized the increasingly large problem that this group poses by ignoring it (a point made by experts in the article).

However, I also believe that Kerry very likely couldn't have ignored the Swift Boat Vets. I mean that he was psychologically unable to do so.

If, as is charged, he went to Vietnam for "political" reasons, and if, as charged, he "gamed" the system to acquire his medals, (not to mention the very real possibility that he married -- twice -- for something other than love), then we know that, on a deep psychological level, Kerry is a phony with a very insubstantial personality. I don't mean that he's insane, or even neurotic; only that the public attributes of his personality are built on half- (or un-) truths. Thus, he has numerous reasons to feel insecure about his life, and particularly, his putative heroism.

My guess is that, on some level, the Swift Boat Vets knew that their "comrade" Kerry would not be able to resist putting of some sort of defense, no matter how weak. He simply must take the bait if only to stop the psychological leaking. Too much in his shallow life is at stake here. He's not just the normal, run-of-the-mill mendacious politician, he's a guy whose entire identity appears to be formed from lies, misrepresentations and faux-heroism. Such a shallow person must respond to these very effective attacks, simply to keep his personality together.

Contrast him with Clinton who lied, but who didn't seem to really care when he was caught out. He accepted his own identity as a stranger to the truth.

OK. Enough with the pop-psychotherapy. Commendations all around. Read the website daily and the magazine religiously.
-- John Shea

Doesn't this man ever face the facts honestly? First he blames Richard Nixon for placing him in Cambodia for Christmas when Nixon wasn't even calling the shots yet and now he blames President Bush for attacks on him concerning the Swift boat issue when the people who are saying this are as easily identified as Lyndon Johnson was when reviewing who was where and when in Cambodia. What an idiot.
-- Roger Ross

Sorry. I've been a reader of TAS for far too long to let slide the notion that the Clinton spinsters are out of practice.

No amount of practice could have prepared them to run interference for the American version of Hyacinth Bucket they've got for a presidential candidate. John "I served in Vietnam" Kerry gets tripped up about as often as Hyacinth "I'm often mistaken for aristocracy." And for basically the same reason. The resemblance between these two congenital embellishers is uncanny.
-- Mrs. John B. Jackson III (Janet)
Grosse Pointe, Michigan

In his well considered article Mr. Hynes quoted David Carney. "(W)here are all the Clinton spinsters?" Where indeed? The Clinton White House were unparalleled masters at obfuscation, misdirection and overall distraction. Why aren't they out and about? For years the media has speculated about the "vast right-winged conspiracy." Following the old principle of hiding in plain sight; what if there is a left-winged conspiracy? One whose ultimate goal is to put the junior senator from New York back in the White House in 4 years. Might explain why the junior senator from Massachusetts is receiving so little assistance from the acknowledged experts.
-- Frank White
Albuquerque, New Mexico

John Kerry says he's a leader. Then why has he begged President George W. Bush to help save him when challenged by just 254 former brothers in arms?

President Bush hasn't asked begged Sen. Kerry to save him from the likes of Michael Moore.
-- Gail Keasling
Millington, Tennessee

Unless the Kerry campaign is sewing seeds on something like a jacket or shirt, the word is "sowing".

I liked the article very much and it's very well written. I'm just surprised that your editors missed this.
-- Carol K. McCrary
Master of Science in Library and Information Science

HERNANDO'S HIDEAWAY
Re: Neil Hrab's Gaming the World's Poor:

In The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, author Hernando de Soto "in strong opposition to the popular view that success is determined by cultural differences, finds that it actually has everything to do with the legal structure of property and property rights. Every developed nation in the world [including the US] at one time went through the transformation from predominantly informal, extralegal ownership to a formal, unified legal property system. In the West we've forgotten that creating this system is what also allowed people everywhere to leverage property into wealth."

De Soto also states that economic aid to developing and former communist countries is doomed to failure until they legitimize their structure of property and property rights.

He makes a very compelling thesis.
-- Gordon

THE EYES HAVE HAD IT
Re: Pete Peterson's Little Saigon Eyes Kerry:

This guy Kerry is too much. His campaign is trying to stifle the swift boat vets. I have news for anybody who thinks you can make these veterans go away before the election. I do not care about charges democrats have made about opening old wounds. One of the reasons that these wounds ever existed were because of people like Kerry, testifying before Congress in 1971. These vets no doubt felt betrayed, and they have been waiting for 30+ years to make sure the real story is told. So do not expect these people to go away. These people were tough then, and they are still tough. They will be heard. As far as the story goes about Kerry betraying the Vietnamese Americans, that just fits his real agenda. John McCain tries to condemn the Swift Vets and supports Kerry's record. Hey John, who said your record was without blemishes. He authored legislation to seal the records of all those MIA's. Thanks for that John.
-- Dave Vascek
Maple Heights, Ohio

If Van Tran can get a degree in political science from UC Irvine and not end up as a Marxist, he's got to be truly dedicated to his beliefs. Having attended that honorable institution, I am amazed that he didn't fall for the indoctrination that goes on there.

One of my close friends was a professor at UC Irvine and she retired early as she got tired of the Marxist colleagues in her department. Students from countries with leftist governments would come to her and complain that they were being subjected to the same Marxist philosophy that they had in their home country...and why did they have to put up with it here.
-- Pete Brittain
Sandpoint, Idaho

VAST RIGHT THINKING
Re: The Washington Prowler's The Slime Offensive:

Good job by the Prowler of getting the information on the Democrats "Slime Offensive."

I recalled reading something similar about something called "Brown Books" (damaging personal information on the Swift Boat Vets) being passed around by Democrats to the media. This article was from the anti-Kerry website www.crushkerry.com. Here's the original story from August 8, 2004, called "Dems Plan Assault on Vets":

Then today I read the article "Self-Inflicted" by Pat Hynes, whose bio says he runs www.crushkerry.com the site that originally broke the story -- and was proven right by the Prowler and yesterday's article in the New York Daily News here:

Since neither Hynes or www.crushkerry.com was credited in The Prowler's article one of two things is true: Your staff doesn't talk to each other, or Pat Hynes is "The Prowler."
-- Ernie F. Ormick
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Kerry said "Bring It On." Then it was brought on and we get a great "girly mon" impression from him. (Perhaps Arnold can talk about "girly mons" at the convention. What the headline should really be on the front pages of the major newspapers is "Kerry yells no mas!"
-- Norman Astwood
Peoria, Illinois

TO HELL AND BACK
Re: Michael Korhonen's letter ("Apocalypse Now") in Reader Mail's Judgment Day:

So, once again, conservatives are compared to Hitler, only in an underhanded manner. Mr. Korhonen, say what you really mean instead of hiding behind the "nuanced" term National Socialists. President Bush released every record involving his service, down to dental records. Have your man, John Kerry, do the same, and we'll talk.
-- Mary Myers
Fort Myers, Florida

P.S. I do believe God is watching and judging as well. Spewing hate
instead of debating facts probably isn't too high up on His list, either!

Michael, you have unwittingly played into our hands. In truth, we are more like the Nazis than anything in your worst nightmares. This election is nothing but a sham to help us identify all the liberals in the country.

On October 31 George Bush will declare himself Emperor, suspend the Constitution and all elections. We will then round up all the liberals identified in the campaign season and "resettle" them into concentration camps located at Boston, Hollywood, Berkeley and Manhattan Island. Once "resettled", we will force you to listen to the recorded speeches of our beloved Emperor 24 hours a day. We will also have his image pasted on every surface. The resulting massed hate and anger will create a thermal bloom that our scientists say will be seen from Mars.

For the past 2 years, Enron (you really thought they had gone away, didn't you) has been perfecting technology to allow us to capture that heat and convert it into energy, thus allowing us to continue wasting it in a way unfair to the rest of the world.…
-- unsigned

To the "Patriot": Just because you don't believe in hell, doesn't mean you won't be going there!!
-- Janis Johnson
Independence, Missouri

FORTUNATE AND FAME
Re: Ron Schoenberg's letter (under "Hang Him High") in Reader Mail's Judgment Day:

Ron Schoenberg (from Seattle; another hot bed of liberal stupidity) whines about Bush getting Fortunate Son "suppressed" by writing, "The Bush campaign on the other hand succeeded in getting the publisher to withdraw Fortunate Son and recall its copies."

Sorry Ron, the publisher VOLUNTARILY decided to withdraw the book when they were shown FACTS that the main contentions and accusations against Bush in the book were 100% false and the only source was an ex-convict and drug addict with an axe to grind.

The publisher was embarrassed they had green-lighted such a shoddy manuscript and instead of tainting their future revenues they pulled the plug simply because it was sold as fact when it wasn't.

The Swift Boat Vets, 60-64 of them with over 200 signing off, were there and remember things differently than Kerry. There are no facts to ascertain because most, if not all, of the military records released or used by Kerry were written by Kerry. Don't you think if Kerry was so heroic in any of the situations he claims that at least one of the 200-250 fellow veterans would have put him in for an award? The odds say that would be the case. Even Rassmann, the guy he pulled out of the water and on the Kerry campaign payroll, didn't file any paperwork for the incident.

And what Kerry is trying to suppress is the free speech of men that have different recollections from the ones Kerry touts. If Kerry has the actual facts then he should sign the forms and have ALL the records released and not just the select few that paint him in a favorable light. Wouldn't these records have corroborating testimony?
-- Greg Barnard
Franklin, Tennessee

KEYLESS
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Judgment and Character:

Just want to mention that you absolutely "nailed it." If people would spend one hour of research on this guy, they wouldn't even let this guy drive their car. Yet, here we are putting him in a viable position of giving him the keys to our country.
-- Donald Anderson
Harrisville, Rhode Island

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