The Green Ripper

This was the second reread of 2011 and I have a feeling that I’ll do a few more. I made a visit to the Brown Elephant in Oak Park and walked out with this paperback along with ones by Alistair Maclean (Athabasca) and Len Deighton (SS-GB). These are books that I only marginally enjoyed as a kid, but my tastes have changed considerably since then and I’m expecting to get a little more enjoyment out of them this time around now that I’m all growed up.

I’m off to a great start because the The Green Ripper was a heckuva lot better than I remember.


The most distinct memory I have of this book was this feeling: There’s a gun and dead body on the front cover, but the only action is a gunfight that takes place in the second-to-last chapter.

That encapsulates what a little idiot I was. What was I expecting? Did I just want a 300 page shootout? What I got was a short but intense shootout at the end that took place over about a chapter (of a total of 15 chapters). I vividly recall McGee referring to the day of carnage and revenge as his “John Wayne day.” As a kid, I loved John Wayne movies so that made the book worthwhile back then.

This time, I didn’t struggle through the buildup like I did as a kid. I relished MacDonald’s McGee, who is a classic, hardcore, private investigator living on a houseboat called The Busted Flush in South Florida. McGee’s cohort is his buddy and resident genius Meyer, who hangs around to talk sense into McGee and occasionally provide some comic relief. This is the kind of classic crime novel that I love and I’ll be reading all of the Travis McGee novels. However, I don’t know if I’ll be reading them order. I’ve read a few and I don’t seem to recall it being that important to read them in order. I’ll have to do a little research on that.

Finally, as I do with many of the crime novels, I like to pick out a thought or a rant by the main character that embodies their take on the world. Here are McGee’s thoughts on a middle-aged guy (Herm) whom McGee thought died from over exherting himself:

… In the meanwhile, poor Herm had succumbed to the age of the jock. The mystique of pushing yourself past your limits. The age of shin splints, sprung knees, and new hernias. An office-softened body in its middle years needs a long, long time to come around. Until a man can walk seven miles in two hours without blowing like a porpoise, without sweating gallons, without bumping his heart past 120, it is asinine to start jogging. Except for a few dreadful lapses which have not really gone on too long, I have stayed in shape all my life. Being in shape means knowing your body, how it feels, how it responds to this and to that, and when to stop. You develop a sixth sense about when to stop. It is not mysticism. It is brute labor, boring and demanding. Violent exercise is for children and knowledgeable jocks. Not for insurance adjustors and sales managers. They do not need to be in the shape they want to be, and could not sustain it if they could get there. Walking briskly no less than six hours a week will do it for them. The McGee System for earnest office people. I can push myself considerably further because I sense when I’m getting too close to the place where something is going to pop, rip, or split.

Ah, the soliloquy of the crime noire hero. It’s a thing of beauty. I’m glad to welcome back Travis McGee after about 30 years. I’m looking forward to more.