Well, it seems it’s been a while since my last entry here. I went dark for a few months there (no Internet access) due to COVID-19 financial stress. I’m sure many of you can relate. Anyway, I’m back for now…

For you more mature folks (read as “old farts”) out there, you may remember and have read some of the legendary mystery writer John D. MacDonald‘s books. If so, you’re probably familiar with is style of writing and how he ofttimes veers slightly off topic to rant on about something or to state some deep philosophical tidbit. That’s what I’m going to post here in a moment or two.

MacDonald wrote many excellent mystery novels in his time. He was very prolific and extremely talented at twisting up a seriously intricate plot in just a little over 200 pages. If you’ve never read any of John D.’s work, I cannot recommend him enough to you. Grab one of his books. It’s a ride. You’ll get hooked.

MacDonald is semi-famous in many a mystery aficionado’s reminiscences due to a series of books (21, I think) that he wrote about a laid-back beach bum type named Travis McGee. Trav was a man’s man, in the macho sense of that phrase… and a helluva lady’s man, too. He was buena gente (good people), as they say in my neck o’ the woods.

Anyway, many years ago, my uncle Aaron (mother’s brother) gave me the entire set of Travis McGee books. I read them back then… one after another till I finished them; all too soon, sadly. They are stupendous. I’m currently re-reading them. Hell, nothing else much to do during COVID isolation, right?

I was inspired to read the McGee books again by another modern author’s works that I had recently finished reading. His name is Craig Johnson and he writes the Longmire series of mystery books. I definitely DO recommend these, by the way. I liked them so much, I actually wrote Johnson a fan mail letter. I’ve only done that twice in my life; the other author I wrote to was Nelson DeMille. The reply from DeMille was classic, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

I had told Craig Johnson in that letter that the very first Longmire book made a deep impression on me because it was so well-plotted and carried out in just the short 200+ pages of that little paperback. It impressed me because it reminded me of John D. MacDonald’s talent for tight plotting.

To the point, though…

I’m currently reading Pale Gray for Guilt, the 9th in the McGee series. In that book earlier this evening John D. did one of his patented digressions into philosophical speculation. I’m going to type that passage in here for you right now. I hope the owners of the copyright will forgive me this little slip.


…and too many others were gone, and I sought chill comfort in an analogy of death that has been with me for years. It doesn’t explain or justify. It just seems to remind me how things are.

Picture a very swift torrent, a river rushing down between rocky walls. There is a long, shallow bar of sand and gravel that runs right down the middle of the river. It is under water. You are born and you have to sand on that narrow, submerged bar, where everyone stands. The ones born before you, the ones older than you, are upriver from you. The younger ones stand braced on the bar downriver. And the whole long bar is slowly moving down that river of time, washing away at the upstream end and building up downstream.

Your time, the time of all your contemporaries, schoolmates, your loves and your adversaries, is that part of the shifting bar on which you stand. And it is crowded at first. You can see the way it thins out, upstream from you. The old ones are washed away and their bodies go swiftly by, like logs in the current. Downstream where the younger ones stand thick, you can see them flounder, lose footing, wash away. Always there is more room where you stand, but always the swift water grows deeper, and you feel the shift of the sand and the gravel under your feet as the river wears it away. Someone looking for a safer place can nudge you off balance, and you are gone. Someone who has stood beside you for a long time gives a forlorn cry and you reach to catch their hand, but the fingertips slide away and they are gone. There are the sounds in the rocky gorge, the roar of the water, the shifting, gritty sound of sand and gravel underfoot, the forlorn cries of despair as the nearby ones, and the ones upstream, are taken by the current. Some old ones who stand on a good place, well braced, understanding currents and balance, last a long time. A Churchill, fat cigar atilt, sourly amused at his own endurance and, in the end, indifferent to rivers and the rage of waters. Far downstream from you are the thin, startled cries of the ones who never got planted, never got set, never quite understood the message of the torrent.*


There it is, folks. This passage had an effect on me as I was reading it. Bourbon may have had a little to do with that… Heh! Nah. 😉 It was just so beautiful, yet sad. I had to post it here for others to see and think about. I hope you liked it and I hope you’ll pick up a John D. MacDonald book next time you’re at the library. I tend to doubt you will ever regret it; except for its addictive qualities.

All for now. Please keep yourselves safe and HEALTHY!

*©1968 by John D. MacDonald1

  1. I was not able to determine current copyright ownership now that MacDonald is deceased. I always try to give credit where credit is due in my blogs. ~vtel

About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

2 responses »

  1. I “discovered” J.D. 20 years ago and have read all 21 three times. His insights on everything human and in most academic areas are spot on. If memory serves, he (J.D.) may have been the economist sidekick to Travis and is considered his (J.D.) alter ego.
    I had a page and a half of one Travis McGee books READ AT MY MOTHER’S MEMORIAL SERVICE.
    Eric, I “worship” all things Demille. I am, this very minute, looking at and holding a 1st edition hardback of The General’s Daughter. It has the personal autograph on title page (not the”mass produced” signature box that “they” did for this book.
    Both authors were geniuses in addition to being really “fun” reads.
    I look forward to catching up with you one day soon, friend. Thank you for the above tributes. I will order Johnson tonight from library or GASP Kindle.

    • Damn, Terry… I had this long, intricate reply to your comment here all typed up and I hit the wrong button. Dammit! It’s late. I’m tired, I guess.

      Anyway, great to see you, brother!

      Grab those Craig Johnson Longmire Series books. You’ll like ’em. His writing style is his own, of course, but he’ll remind you of J.D.M. and also Tony Hillerman a bit, if you’ve ever read any of his stuff (Leaphorn and Chee series – https://www.goodreads.com/series/40758-leaphorn-chee). Great stuff!

      Hey, the Cabin’s still going. Stop on by if you get a chance. 🙂

      Also, got a Paypal notification a while ago. Thanks! Every cent means a lot to me these days, I can assure you! 🙂

      Take care… Stay HEALTHY!


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