I’m also rereading John D. MacDonald’s books which include the popular Travis McGee series. I read his books, not just to be entertained, which they certainly do, but for craft. MacDonald coined his writing stye as “unobtrusive poetry.” Unobtrusive, because no author wants to draw attention to his style of writing. Here’s an excerpt from a Travis McGee book, Darker Than Amber:
She sat up slowly, looked in turn at each of us, and her dark eyes were like twin entrances to two deep caves. Nothing lived in those caves. Maybe something had, once upon a time. There were piles of picked bones back in there, some scribbling on the walls, and some gray ash where the fires had been.
You know you’re reading about a woman who has lost her way.
One more example from The Empty Copper Sea:
Van Harder was a lean, sallow man. Tall, silent, and expressionless. I had never seen him without a greasy khaki cap with a bill. Florida born for generations back, from that tough, tireless, malnourished, merciless stock which had scared the living daylights out of the troops they had faced in the War Between the States. His eyes were a pale, watery blue. He was about fifty, I guessed.
I can just see the man.
Lee Child of the Jack Reacher series said this of MacDonald:
I read the Travis McGee novels five years before beginning my own Jack Reacher series and for the first time I was given a sense of "the skeleton beneath" the writing. I could see what MacDonald was doing, how he was compelling me to read on. I was left with the impression that if I needed to write a book, I could.
If it works for Lee Child...
I read craft books, then I read examples of what the craft books teach. And John D. MacDonald has some of the best examples of description around. And a pleasure to read.
By the way, while he’s known for the Travis McGee books, he also wrote The Executioner. It was later turned into a movie starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum—Cape Fear.
If you’re a fan of mysteries, then I think you would enjoy a John D. MacDonald novel. They are general market and while mostly clean, especially the later books, they are secular in nature.
Leave me a comment, telling me if you’ve ever read one of his books, and I’ll enter you in a drawing for one of his novels--The Empty Copper Sea. (Or if you prefer, a $10 Amazon gift card) This one features a born-again Christian as his client.