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Free Fall in Crimson [Mass Market Paperback]

John D. MacDonald
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 20 1996
"McGee has become part of our national fabric."

SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER

This time out, McGee came close to losing his status as a living legend when he agreed to track down the killers who brutally murdered an ailing millionaire. For starters, he renewed an unfinished adventure with a famous--and oversexed--Hollywood actress, who led him into a very nasty nest of murderers involving a motorcycle gang, pornographic movies, and mad balloonists. And Mcgee relearned the old lesson--that only when he came close to the edge of death was he completely alive.

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Review

Praise for John D. MacDonald and the Travis McGee novels
 
The great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”—Stephen King
 
“My favorite novelist of all time . . . All I ever wanted was to touch readers as powerfully as John D. MacDonald touched me. No price could be placed on the enormous pleasure that his books have given me. He captured the mood and the spirit of his times more accurately, more hauntingly, than any ‘literature’ writer—yet managed always to tell a thunderingly good, intensely suspenseful tale.”—Dean Koontz
 
“To diggers a thousand years from now, the works of John D. MacDonald would be a treasure on the order of the tomb of Tutankhamen.”—Kurt Vonnegut
 
“A master storyteller, a masterful suspense writer . . . John D. MacDonald is a shining example for all of us in the field. Talk about the best.”—Mary Higgins Clark
 
“A dominant influence on writers crafting the continuing series character . . . I envy the generation of readers just discovering Travis McGee, and count myself among the many readers savoring his adventures again.”—Sue Grafton
 
“One of the great sagas in American fiction.”—Robert B. Parker
 
“Most readers loved MacDonald’s work because he told a rip-roaring yarn. I loved it because he was the first modern writer to nail Florida dead-center, to capture all its languid sleaze, racy sense of promise, and breath-grabbing beauty.”—Carl Hiaasen
 
“The consummate pro, a master storyteller and witty observer . . . John D. MacDonald created a staggering quantity of wonderful books, each rich with characterization, suspense, and an almost intoxicating sense of place. The Travis McGee novels are among the finest works of fiction ever penned by an American author and they retain a remarkable sense of freshness.”—Jonathan Kellerman
 
“What a joy that these timeless and treasured novels are available again.”—Ed McBain
 
“Travis McGee is the last of the great knights-errant: honorable, sensual, skillful, and tough. I can’t think of anyone who has replaced him. I can’t think of anyone who would dare.”—Donald Westlake
 
“There’s only one thing as good as reading a John D. MacDonald novel: reading it again. A writer way ahead of his time, his Travis McGee books are as entertaining, insightful, and suspenseful today as the moment I first read them. He is the all-time master of the American mystery novel.”—John Saul

About the Author

John D. MacDonald was an American novelist and short-story writer. His works include the Travis McGee series and the novel The Executioners, which was adapted into the film Cape Fear. In 1962 MacDonald was named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America; in 1980, he won a National Book Award. In print he delighted in smashing the bad guys, deflating the pompous, and exposing the venal. In life, he was a truly empathetic man; his friends, family, and colleagues found him to be loyal, generous, and practical. In business, he was fastidiously ethical. About being a writer, he once expressed with gleeful astonishment, “They pay me to do this! They don’t realize, I would pay them.” He spent the later part of his life in Florida with his wife and son. He died in 1986.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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WE TALKED past midnight, sat in the deck chairs on the sun of the Busted Flush with the starry April sky overhead, talked quietly, and listened to the night. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a great book if you're in the mood for a philosophy lesson on the meaning of life and how to maintain it. John D. MacDonald knows how to keep the action flowing, without hitting the reader over the head. It's nice to be treated as if you are an intelligent reader, which is why I keep coming back to the McGee series. Travis helps out a man whose father was killed, shortly before cancer would have taken him anyway. As Travis pokes around, he finds a web of dispicable characters hiding behind the entertainment industry. Justice is served to the guilty, as usual. Unfortunately, some of the innocent do not come out of this one, but only those who are not as careful as our houseboat hero. This is definitely one of the better entries in the McGee series, but one should read "A Quick Red Fox" first.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars The sky's the limit in this MacDonald thriller! June 20 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In "Free Fall in Crimson," the 19th Travis McGee episode, author John D. MacDonald refuses to be tied up with boundaries. In fact, this book seems a great deal like a geography lesson, as the plot takes him from Ft. Lauderdale, to other Florida parts, to Beverly Hills, and, finally, to Iowa for the climactic scene!
However, readers should not let that put them off another top-flight installment in the McGee series--this time involving, yes, a murder and other corruption, a hot
air balloon competition.
The plot is set aloft when Ron Esterland approaches Travis for help--seems he's been completely cut out of his inheritance when his father was murdered two years earlier (most of the estate has been left to his estranged wife and her filmmaker friend). Ron wants Travis to find the truth about the murder, suspecting that the wife and friend had much to do with it.
Travis' pursuit then takes him cross country, eventually landing in Roseland,
Iowa, where a film is being made about a hot-air balloon meet. As with the other McGee stories, MacDonald keeps us on the edge until the final pages. It is not that we don't know the guilty party; it is just that Travis must find a way to secure justice--usually his own brand--as many of the guilty are "out of bounds" to legal prosecution.
Readers will not be disappointed in either the story or McGee! While the series does not require a chronological reading, the earlier books establish the characters (especially McGee and economist friend Meyer). The first book is "The Deep Blue Goodby"--and it's a good place to get started, to "channel" the McGee interest. But regardless, "Free Fall in Crimson" merely adds to the charm of the series and of the character--it will leave you grasping for air!
(Billyjhobbs@tyler.net)
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars gone but not forgotten March 28 2000
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Dishing out heavy doses of moral philosophy, McDonald always keeps the reader entertained and thought provoked. Not quite on par with some of the earlier McGee's, but never-the-less, vintage McDonald. 30+ years of reading his novels, one can only morn the loss that Travis, Meyer and the rest won't have a new tale to tell.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sky's the limit in this MacDonald thriller! June 20 2000
By Billy J. Hobbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In "Free Fall in Crimson," the 19th Travis McGee episode, author John D. MacDonald refuses to be tied up with boundaries. In fact, this book seems a great deal like a geography lesson, as the plot takes him from Ft. Lauderdale, to other Florida parts, to Beverly Hills, and, finally, to Iowa for the climactic scene!
However, readers should not let that put them off another top-flight installment in the McGee series--this time involving, yes, a murder and other corruption, a hot
air balloon competition.
The plot is set aloft when Ron Esterland approaches Travis for help--seems he's been completely cut out of his inheritance when his father was murdered two years earlier (most of the estate has been left to his estranged wife and her filmmaker friend). Ron wants Travis to find the truth about the murder, suspecting that the wife and friend had much to do with it.
Travis' pursuit then takes him cross country, eventually landing in Roseland,
Iowa, where a film is being made about a hot-air balloon meet. As with the other McGee stories, MacDonald keeps us on the edge until the final pages. It is not that we don't know the guilty party; it is just that Travis must find a way to secure justice--usually his own brand--as many of the guilty are "out of bounds" to legal prosecution.
Readers will not be disappointed in either the story or McGee! While the series does not require a chronological reading, the earlier books establish the characters (especially McGee and economist friend Meyer). The first book is "The Deep Blue Goodby"--and it's a good place to get started, to "channel" the McGee interest. But regardless, "Free Fall in Crimson" merely adds to the charm of the series and of the character--it will leave you grasping for air!
(Billyjhobbs@tyler.net)
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Free Fallin' Oct. 29 2005
By Clare Quilty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
One of the things I like about the McGee series is the strange authority MacDonald brings to it. He had a very strict, intelligent mind and a disdain for shoddy work that rivaled Hemingway's, which often gave his descriptions and depictions a shrewd authority. Even when you may not fully buy what's going on on the page, you can buy that the author and the characters believe it, which is often enough to go on.

But with "Free Fall in Crimson," the authority is a little flimsy. The book, published in the early 80s, is the first McGee that just does not convince on several key levels.

Most of that has to do with McGee's brief dip into California outlaw biker culture in his attempts to track down a murderous Hell's Angel named Dirty Bob. Nothing about the scenario -- not the crime McGee investigates, not the people he meets along the way, not the stilted dialogue he engages in, not the situations he encounters -- feels convincing.

A millionaire goes to buy a little hash and takes gold Krugerrands to purchase the drugs? McGee is made an honorary member of a bike tribe ("The Fantasies") and given a special pin to use... if he ever needs it? A character on the run who needs to hide his identity suddenly gets a terminal illness that allows him to drop 100 pounds in two months?

The second half of the book -- McGee's visit to a debauched, coked-out 80s-era film set, where a Dennis Hopper-esque auteur is having a big budget meltdown as he tries to make an existential thriller (about balloon pilots?) -- is a little more convincing than the biker stuff, but the dialogue still smells too much like exposition, the film crew's lines sound transposed from research.

I did enjoy the nightmarish riot that begins the last act; and I liked the creepy section in which McGee slowly, gradually figures out that his prey has turned around and is coming after him; and, oddly, I was completely convinced that McGee could survive a leap from a runaway balloon hovering 50 feet off the ground (just remember: land on the balls of your feet, tuck your chin, roll forward with your right shoulder out and down, hit the ground running....)

But as far as the series as a whole goes, this is probably one of the weaker entires I've read. But, should I ever fall or jump out of a hot air balloon, I seriously think I'll know what to do.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McGee tangles with motorcycles, balloons and movie producers Feb. 15 2002
By Paul Skinner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a great book if you're in the mood for a philosophy lesson on the meaning of life and how to maintain it. John D. MacDonald knows how to keep the action flowing, without hitting the reader over the head. It's nice to be treated as if you are an intelligent reader, which is why I keep coming back to the McGee series. Travis helps out a man whose father was killed, shortly before cancer would have taken him anyway. As Travis pokes around, he finds a web of dispicable characters hiding behind the entertainment industry. Justice is served to the guilty, as usual. Unfortunately, some of the innocent do not come out of this one, but only those who are not as careful as our houseboat hero. This is definitely one of the better entries in the McGee series, but one should read "A Quick Red Fox" first.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gone but not forgotten March 28 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Dishing out heavy doses of moral philosophy, McDonald always keeps the reader entertained and thought provoked. Not quite on par with some of the earlier McGee's, but never-the-less, vintage McDonald. 30+ years of reading his novels, one can only morn the loss that Travis, Meyer and the rest won't have a new tale to tell.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 stars, only because of McGee (really 2 otherwise) April 13 2012
By Ravenous Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
So, what exactly do I mean by the title of this review? Well, what I love and hate about the Travis McGee series is that the development/evolution of the McGee character is both wonderful and dreadful depending on which book is read (earlier books, the better). To put it frankly...DO NOT START YOUR McGEE / JOHN D. MacDONALD ADVENTURES WITH THIS BOOK. I've read from other writers of fiction series characters that they try to get a good mix of story and background development/character development in something like the 70 / 30 range. In other words the series can be picked up with any book and the reader would find the story is what pulls them forward to complete the book where further character exploration (soap opera portion) would take second seat and perhaps drive some to pick up another book in the series. Well, Free Fall in Crimson (FFC) just plain misses this mark. In fact, the central story gets a bit lost at times and tends to wander a bit. Yes, we start seeing more of the older and wiser McGee that certainly still has "it", but he's starting to question his "retirement in stretches" and contemplate more stable and safer career paths than that of "Salvage Consultant". The only problem with all this is that this whole dilemma (which is really the catalyst for McGee's whole quest in FFC) is going to ring a bit hollow unless the reader has already spent some time with McGee and Meyer already.

Now, as far as the story goes, well it's one of MacDonald's weaker imaginations. It's as if he had taken a hot air balloon ride, thought it is was cool, and wanted to get it into a story in one of the most contrived ways possible. Granted, there's some deeper commentary by MacDonald at work here (balloon as symbol and metaphor) regarding the whole idea of creating art and the Hollywood effect (amongst other themes), but by the end of the book it just seems hollow and actually starts making McGee look a bit pathetic. In FFC it almost seems as if the times are starting to pass MacDonald and McGee by while they're wearily grasping for that brass ring while looking to keep centered in a world that's getting a bit crazier with in the arms of a woman.

Travis McGee is perhaps one of my favorite fictitious genre characters, but FFC just starts to make him look a bit pathetic...but perhaps that's what ole John D. had in mind. No doubt that in my eyes, FFC serves testament to the waning creative joy and juices that MacDonald once had for possibly the most overlooked and underestimated American pulp hero.
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