Cover image for Darker than amber
Darker than amber
MacDonald, John D. (John Dann), 1916-1986.
Publication Information:
Greenwich, Conn. : Fawcett Gold Medal, [1966]

Physical Description:
190 pages ; 18 cm.
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FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

On Order



A great bestseller starring Travis McGee, a real American hero--and maybe thestar of a new movie franchise! Copyright © Libri GmbH. All rights reserved.

Author Notes

John D. MacDonald was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania on July 24, 1916. He received a B.S. from Syracuse University in 1938 and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in 1939. During World War II, he served in the Army.

His first novel, Brass Cupcake, was published in 1950. He wrote about 70 books during his lifetime including the Travis McGee series, Condominium, No Deadly Drug, Nothing Can Go Wrong, and A Friendship: The Letters of Dan Rowan and John Dann MacDonald. A Flash of Green was adapted into a movie by the same name and The Excuse was adapted into a movie entitled Cape Fear. He received numerous awards including the Ben Franklin Award for the best American short story in 1955, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere for A Key to the Suite in 1964, the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award in 1972, the American Book Award for The Green Ripper in 1980.

He died from complications of an earlier heart bypass surgery on December 28, 1986 at the age of 70.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

There are two very good things about this seventh entry in the Travis McGee series. The first is the opening line: We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge. That's good, very good, but the second thing is even better: after a couple of brief cameos, Meyer, the hirsute economist and resident guru to the beach denizens of Bahia Mar Marina, who lives aboard The John Maynard Keynes (birthed a couple of slips down from McGee's Busted Flush), takes his first turn as a fully fledged supporting character. A McGee novel is never less than entertaining, but the books in which Meyer has a substantial role are always a cut above. Here's McGee describing his pal: You can watch the Meyer Magic at work and not know how it's done. He has the size and pelt of the average Adirondack black bear. He can walk a beach, go into any bar, cross any playground, and acquire people the way blue serge picks up lint, and the new friends believe they have known him forever. Consider yourself a piece of lint because after encountering blue-serge Meyer, you, too, will want to sit cross-legged at his feet and listen to him opine about the world something he does plenty of in the course of helping McGee help the girl who was tossed off the bridge. (The pair were wrapping up a night's snook fishing and happened to be idling their boat under the bridge from which the woman was thrown.) It turns out the nearly drowned victim is no ordinary beach girl but, rather, a piece of bait in a deadly cruise-ship scam in which pigeons are plucked from the flock, shorn of their cash, and unceremoniously tossed overboard. The lady wants out of the game, and McGee and Meyer set out to help her, which requires their booking a Caribbean cruise themselves and outconning the cons. McGee on a commercial cruise ship seems wrong in a hundred different ways, but it does give MacDonald the opportunity to decry the spectacle of hundreds of overstuffed, sunburned Iowans waddling about a lumbering, creaking vessel in search of the next buffet. This is a pivotal entry in the series, though, not because of the story but because it gets Meyer into the game and gives the sedentary intellectual a chance to develop his con-man chops. As McGee explains it, he needs Meyer's orderly brain . . . to balance the McGee habit of bulling my way in and breaking the dishes. --Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist



One   We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge.   They came to a yelping stop overhead, out of sight, dumped her over the bridge right and took off.   It was a hot Monday night in June. With moon. It was past midnight and just past the tide change. A billion bugs were vectoring in on us as the wind began to die.   It seemed to be a very final way of busting up a romance.   I was sitting there under the bridge in a skiff with my friend Meyer. We were under the end of the bridge nearest the town of Marathon, and it is the first highway bridge beyond Marathon on your way to Key West--if you are idiot enough to want to go to Key West.   My bachelor houseboat, The Busted Flush, was tied up at Thompson's Marina in Marathon. It had been there since Saturday afternoon. After I got in I phoned Meyer at Bahia Mar in Lauderdale, where he lives aboard his cabin cruiser. I'd been gone a little longer than I'd planned, and I had one small errand for him to do, and one small apology for him to make for me. I said that in return, if he wanted to come on down to Marathon by bus, I could put him into a good snook hole at the right time of year, tide and moon, and then he could come on back to Bahia Mar with me aboard the Flush, and we'd get in late Wednesday afternoon, probably--not that it mattered.   Meyer is the best of company, because he knows when talk is better than silence, and he tries to do more than his share of all the less interesting chores.   Until I asked him to join me, and heard him say yes, I had thought I wanted to be completely alone for a few days.   I'd just finished spending ten days aboard the Flush with an old friend named Virginia, known as Vidge. She had come rocketing down from Atlanta, in wretched shape emotionally, trying to find out who she used to be before three years of a sour marriage had turned her into somebody she didn't even like anymore. In the old days she'd never been skyrockets--just a quiet, pretty, decent gal with a nice oblique sense of fun and games, and the manifest destiny of being a good wife.   After three years of Charlie, she was gaunted, shrill, shaky, and couldn't tell you what time it was without her eyes filling with tears. So I took her cruising. You have to let them talk it out. She felt enormous guilt at not being able to make the marriage work. But the more she talked, the more I realized she hadn't had a chance. She was too passive, too permissive, too subdued for an emotional fascist like Charlie. He had leaned too hard. He had eroded her confidence in herself, in everything she thought she was able to do, from meeting people to cooking dinner to driving a car. Finally he had gone to work on her sexual capacities. Were the sexes reversed, you could call it emasculation. People like Charlie work toward total and perpetual domination. They feed on the mate. And Vidge didn't even realize that running away from him had been a form of self-preservation, a way of trying to hang fast to the last crumbs of identity and pride.   At first she talked endlessly, but she couldn't get all the way down to it. She kept saying what a great guy he was and how she had failed him in everything. The third evening, at anchor in a quiet corner of Florida Bay, I managed to get enough of Dr. Travis McGee's truth serum into her. Clean, pure Plymouth gin. By arguing with her, contradicting her, I edged her ever closer to the truth. And in the final half hour, before she passed out, she broke through the barrier and described how much she truly hated that destructive, domineering son of a bitch Charlie. It was very graphic, and she had no idea I was taping it. When she passed out I toted her to the guest stateroom and tucked her in. She slept a little better than around the clock, and was subdued and rueful the next day. That evening she started handing me the Charlie-myth again, and what a failure she was. I played her tape for her. She had hysterics which settled down into a good long hard cry. And after that she was famished enough to eat twenty ounces of rare steak. She slept the clock around again, and woke up feeling that maybe it would be pointless to give the marriage another big try. Vidge and I had a private history of a small affair way back. It would have been better if we had both wanted the same things out of life. But we had kidded ourselves and each other for a time--before reality set in.   The attempt to relive that pleasant nostalgia was a clumsy failure. Charlie had so thoroughly insulted her womanhood she was far too nervous and anxious to be reached. She was certain she had become frigid. I attempted another of Dr. McGee's famous nostrums. I roused her early, and I gave her a full day of swimming, fishing, beachcombing, skindiving and maintenance and housekeeping chores aboard the Flush. I gave her a day that would have reminded any marine of boot camp. That night, with the waxing moon at the half, and a good breeze keeping the mosquitoes away from the sun deck, she was too sodden with exhaustion to think of being nervous or anxious or apprehensive when I moved over onto her sun mattress and gently shucked her out of her shorts. She made small purring sounds, half contentment and half sleepy objection. When the sudden awareness that it was working for her brought her wide awake she was too far along to choke herself off with all those anxieties Charlie had built, and when it was done she was happy enough and confident enough to keep chuckling now and again until her breath deepened into sleep.   I lugged her dead weight down to my master stateroom where, many hours later, in the orange-gold light of the morning sun coming through the curtained portholes, she proved to herself it hadn't been a fluke.   When I put her ashore in Flamingo, she looked two years younger. Her tan was good. She had started to fill out again. Her hands were steady and her voice had lost the edge of shrillness. She smiled to herself quite often. I had gotten her sister on the ship-to-shore through the Miami Marine Operator, and the sister had driven down to Flamingo to pick her up there. I managed to get the sister aside and tell her that if Vidge weakened and went back to Charlie, he might well destroy her completely. The sister, in a calm, dry, unexcited tone, said that if Vidge showed the slightest hint of going back to that monster, she, personally, would giftwrap Vidge and send her back to me in Lauderdale, prepaid. I guess she noticed my alarm at that prospect.   Sure, there had been some pleasure in the missionary work, but dealing at close range with a batch of acquired neuroses can make your ears ring for weeks. She was a good enough memory to set up a gentle nostalgia, but not so great that I would have gone looking for her. Most of all, I think that my nerves were frayed by having to edit everything I said to the lady for the ten days. I was trying to build back some morale and independence, and the wrong comment at the wrong time would have sent Vidge tumbling back down.   You can be at ease only with those people to whom you can say any damn fool thing that comes into your head, knowing they will respond in kind, and knowing that any misunderstandings will be thrashed out right now, rather than buried deep and given a chance to fester.   Vidge, like so many other mild nice people, was a natural-born victim. Life had treated her so agreeably during her first twenty years she'd never had to plant her feet and swing at anything just to maintain her identity. She was loving and giving. And she would have made a delightful permanent package for some guy able to appreciate it. Lots of Vidges never have to find out they're victims. They land with the right people. But when one of them has the bad luck to mate with a Charlie, she gets gobbled up. You see them in the later years, those vague, translucent, silent women who stand over at the edge of life, with the nervous smile that comes and goes, and the infrequent and apologetic cough. Charlie is the squat florid one with the loud laugh and the bright neckties and the scatological jokes and the incipient coronary accident.   Chugging away from Flamingo at low cruise after dropping my passenger, I had the dreary feeling Charlie was going to snare her again and extract double penalties for the little attempt to escape. I was getting oil pressure fluctuation on the starboard diesel, and had a friend in Marathon who would take a look at it without trying to find some plausible way to pick my pocket, so I aimed her in that direction.   Excerpted from Darker Than Amber by John D. MacDonald All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.