About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pale Gray for Guilt (1968) by John D. MacDonald

(17. – 649.) Pale Gray for Guilt (1968) by John D. MacDonald – With adequate funds on deposit in his houseboat, The Busted Flush, Travis McGee is enjoying one of his periods of retirement. It has been a long lazy hot summer and fall. McGee has been enjoying a lovely redhead, Puss Killian, sharing the houseboat.
Visiting his old football teammate, Tush Bannon, McGee finds his friend is struggling to make a go of a small marina / motel business as movers and shakers in the County want his place to complete an industrial development. Bannon choses not to ask McGee to undertake him as a salvage operation to recover what McGee can for him.

McGee is left with regrets when, just before Christmas, Bannon is killed by an engine block falling upon him. McGee knows it was neither a suicide (the official reason) nor an accident (too far fetched). Bannon’s widow, Janine, is devastated.

McGee, with the aid of Puss and Connie Alvarez – Janine’s friend – and Meyer, plot a salvage operation. They act promptly to secure the return to Janine of her foreclosed property by retaining a wily old Florida lawyer. She sells the property to McGee which lets him deal directly with the men who set up the failure of the Bannons.

McGee and Meyer develop an actual scheme. Unlike many simplistic modern blood soaked revenge mysteries they come up with a sophisticated con operation.

The bad guys are not cardboard figures. At the top they are clever businessmen. Those near the bottom are scrambling through life making deals. McGee plays on the inherent greed of all the crooked.

McGee is a master manipulator enjoying the plan he has concocted. There is a mix of intrigue, chicanery, skill and violence. MacDonald does very well balancing the scheme with violence. While McGee would prefer to use brain over brawn he is always ready to get physical.

By the story staying in Florida I found it a better plot than Sanibel Flats where Doc Ford heads to Central America to rescue a child from an army of revolutionaries.

As always in the McGee series there are apt observations and philosophical musing.

Meyer contributes one of his laws advising Puss:

“In all emotional conflicts, dear girl, the thing you find the hardest to do is the thing you should do.”

Meyer’s law sums up in a sentence a lot of self-help advice.

McGee looks into the psyche of a killer:

“I had seen something cold in his face just as he had flicked the lead against her skull. It has been a moment of change and revelation, showing a pleasure of erotic dimensions, of sensual pleasure ….. They are the dark brothers of the slackened flesh, turned on in some soiled way by a total vulnerability.”

I will continue re-reading the series. I plan to stay reading in Florida for a mystery by another Florida author this month. (Apr. 3/12)


  1. Bill - I've always liked the philosophising in the McGee novels. You've also touched on another thing I like in this excellent review of yours: the way that McGee uses brains as much as brawn to achieve his goals. Not that he's afraid of fisticuffs, but I do appreciate it that he doesn't "swing first and ask questions later." His character is a thoughtful one and I couldn't imagine him living and working anywhere but Florida.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. You are right. I think of Florida when I think of Travis McGee. He is a part of Florida.

  3. A few years ago I read THE DEEP BLUE GOODBY and thought to myself - why did I ever wait over thirty years to read a Travis McGee book? It was surprisingly modern for a book from the 1960s - meaning that it wasn't tied to that era. It seemed like I was reading a book set in the present day. Plus it was so true to the spirit of Florida, a state unlike many in the U.S. south. MacDonald's command of regional dialects and slang impresses me. That kind of writing always enhances the reading experience for me.

    This coming Friday is a JDM celebration for the "Friday Forgotten Books" feature Patti Abbot hosts. There are sure to be a few Travis McGee books reviewed, but I chose one without him - THE DROWNER. The protagonist has several McGee-like traits.

  4. John: Thanks for the comment. I have always considered the McGee series an outstanding group of mysteries.

    I agree that the series has aged well. I belive they will be read long into the future.

    MacDonald had a strong grasp of life in Florida.

    I look forward to your review of The Drowner. I am not familiar with the book.

  5. I am going to steal this for our John D. MacDonald week tomorrow. HOpe that is okay.


  6. Patti: Thanks for coming by the blog. No problem with stealing the review. I have been thinking I should start dropping by Friday's Forgotten Books.

  7. I'm glad Patti stole your review of PALE GRAY FOR GUILT. Excellent review of one of the best Travis McGee novels!

  8. George: Thanks for the kind comment.

  9. Bill:

    After reading your JDM review I went to the one for Sanibel Flats and saw the mention of Murder on the Beach. I live in Winnipeg, but have travelled to Florida many times in March for spring training. Actually I tell people I go for baseball and books, not beaches. Over the years I have read most of the Travis McGee books and I own all the Randy Wayne White books in hardcover. Unfortunately my first of Sanibel Flats is an ex-lib from the Thompson MB library. I had read Sanibel in PB and got my first edition of his second book, The Heat Islands, right out a shipping box in a bookstore in Clearwater FL. While I was Florida this spring, I drove up to Delray Beach from Fort Lauderdale as Randy was signing his latest at Murder on the Beach.

    I made my first visit there last spring and think it's a terrific store. Did you get a chance to look thorugh the shelf of %5.00 deals as both years I found some treasures there. Also they have books in the back that your have to ask to see. This year I picked The Styx, a historical novel by Jonathon King who writes a series set in the Everglades and Fort L, and the latest by Christine Kling. Also found a $5.00 signed copy of 1-990- Dead by New Orleans writer Tony Fennelly that I have been lookng for. Last year I found a new book by Tom Corcoran, a Key West writer that I like. Without question it is the place for Florida authors.

  10. Kent: Thanks for a very interesting comment.

    I also love baseball and books. I am in North Battleford this weekend for a meeting of the Selection Committee of the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame.

    I wish I could have been at the bookstore to hear and meet Randy. It would be the perfect setting.

    I did not get any books from the $5.00 shelf or out of the back. I already had 4 books before I reached the discount shelf and reluctantly said it is time to stop buying today.

    I think you have a wonderful holiday plan for Florida between spring training and books. Surely you do spend some time at the beach reading your finds.

  11. Bill:

    Just read your latest Friday's Forgotten Books review and went back to this thread and read your reply. That's interesting about you serving on the selection committee. I used to get the newsletter from Dave Shury. Did you ever review Alison Gordon's Prairie Hardball? I have served on the selection committee for the Manitoba Sports HOF for years and was the founding chair of the Manitoba Softball HOF and Museum and am the research chair for the Manitoba Hockey HOF. When you get a moment please contact me directly at tkmorgan@mts.net as I have some questions plus some comments about booking in Florida.

  12. Kent: Thanks for the comment. I will be sending you an email today. I did read and review Prairie Hardball. Here is a link to the review - http://mysteriesandmore.blogspot.com/2011/12/prairie-hardball-by-alison-gordon.html. It can also be found on the blog by clicking on either the Saskatchewan mysteries or author fiction pages and then clicking on the listed review.