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A Tan and Sandy Silence [Mass Market Paperback]

John D. MacDonald
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 9 1996 Travis McGee Mysteries
From a beloved master of crime fiction, A Tan and Sandy Silence is one of many classic novels featuring Travis McGee, the hard-boiled detective who lives on a houseboat.
 
Travis McGee is unnerved when he receives an unexpected guest—real estate developer Harry Broll, who is convinced that McGee is hiding his missing wife. Angry and jealous, Harry gets off a shot before McGee can wrestle his gun away. The thing is, McGee hasn’t seen or heard from Mary Broll in three years, and it isn’t like her to keep troubles to herself—if she’s alive to tell them.
 
“As a young writer, all I ever wanted was to touch readers as powerfully as John D. MacDonald touched me.”—Dean Koontz
 
McGee is a heartbeat away from crisis. He’s getting older, Lady Jillian Brent-Archer is trying to make him settle down, and he’s just been shot without fair warning. Nervous that he’s losing his touch, McGee decides to get Harry off his case and prove he’s still in top form all in one fell swoop.
 
McGee’s search for Mary takes him to Grenada, where he’s soon tangling with con artists and terrifying French killers, not to mention a slew of mixed motives. No longer wallowing in self-pity, McGee has more pressing concerns—like saving his own skin. 
 
Features a new Introduction by Lee Child

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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.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I just can't stop reading these things Sept. 13 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Another Travis McGee book. This one seemed to take forever to get going, to set up the problem, and then as soon as you understood the problem, MacDonald popped you a good one, and the rest of the book was a catch-up from that moment. But that's the simple "mystery" of this McGee novel, and as such is never that special. The attraction of McGee, at least in these later books, are MacDonald's comments within them on the human condition, both specifically with regard to the Quixotish nature of McGee, as well as a general feeling of malaise which centers around money and violence. The McGee novels are as much about philosophy--ethics, particularly--as they are about mystery. Or maybe the point is that the philosophy is the mystery, and as we get to know McGee better, we understand more about his philosophy. I seem to remember the Spenser novels of Robert Parker to be similar to this as well. Are there other mystery series in which the character growth is as important, if not more so, than the particular story of the time?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fun in the sun March 14 2002
By Veejer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Over the years I've read hundreds of novels in a variety of genres, but for pure fun and enjoyment it's hard to beat Travis McGee. Some of the books are better than others, but they're nearly all worth a couple of lazy summer days. They are the ultimate summer time, quick-read beach books. At their core, they're good mysteries. But Travis McGee is such a great character, with such a wry outlook on life, that often the mystery seems secondary to McGee's views on whatever topic author John D. McDonald has selected for his soap box. Most of them take place in Florida, (a Florida no one will ever see again given they were written mostly in the 60s and 70s) and all have a color in the title. Don't take them too seriously, just have fun in the sun.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Bland and Silent Story May 5 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If this was your first Travis McGee book, don't worry. Most of them are much, much better. This book suffers from an overload of the author's rambling commentary on society. After the introduction to jealous husband, you have to slug through 100 pages before you begin to get into typical Travis McGee action. The action is often illogical, and too often Travis - err - Gavin stumbles into old friends at the most unlikely places, bailing him out of trouble. Sorry, this one just didn't click for me. In many ways, it reminded me of the Pale Gray for Guilt story, but there was much less action in this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite up to snuff May 1 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This was my fourth or fifth Travis McGee novel, and I have to say I was a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong, MacDonald is still MacDonald and the book is well written and engaging, but I thought overall "Tan and Sandy Silence" was lacking somehow. Maybe it's that this is obviously one of his later books and he was getting bored or tired, or maybe it's just something I didn't notice in his other books, but he seemed to take the easy way out a few times. For instance, when McGee interviews people the conversations don't seem realistic--the people volunteer too much information: If you just met someone and they asked what you knew about your next-door neighbor would you say, "Well, not a lot other than she just opened an account at the Blah-Blah Bank and her loan officer is John Blah"? (How convenient!) Also, there was an element of predictability that may have come from reading his other books; I knew certain characters were going to die, and even is one or two instances HOW they would die. Some of McGee's encounters seemed too coincidental and lucky, with old friends showing up at just the right time and place to save his skin. Finally, the ending appeared rushed and illogical and didn't tie up all the loose ends.
But even with all that, there was enough fun and suspense and McGee-ism to make this a worthwhile read. You could certainly do far worse.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite up to snuff May 1 2000
By Robert Schiller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This was my fourth or fifth Travis McGee novel, and I have to say I was a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong, MacDonald is still MacDonald and the book is well written and engaging, but I thought overall "Tan and Sandy Silence" was lacking somehow. Maybe it's that this is obviously one of his later books and he was getting bored or tired, or maybe it's just something I didn't notice in his other books, but he seemed to take the easy way out a few times. For instance, when McGee interviews people the conversations don't seem realistic--the people volunteer too much information: If you just met someone and they asked what you knew about your next-door neighbor would you say, "Well, not a lot other than she just opened an account at the Blah-Blah Bank and her loan officer is John Blah"? (How convenient!) Also, there was an element of predictability that may have come from reading his other books; I knew certain characters were going to die, and even is one or two instances HOW they would die. Some of McGee's encounters seemed too coincidental and lucky, with old friends showing up at just the right time and place to save his skin. Finally, the ending appeared rushed and illogical and didn't tie up all the loose ends.
But even with all that, there was enough fun and suspense and McGee-ism to make this a worthwhile read. You could certainly do far worse.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun in the sun March 14 2002
By Veejer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Over the years I've read hundreds of novels in a variety of genres, but for pure fun and enjoyment it's hard to beat Travis McGee. Some of the books are better than others, but they're nearly all worth a couple of lazy summer days. They are the ultimate summer time, quick-read beach books. At their core, they're good mysteries. But Travis McGee is such a great character, with such a wry outlook on life, that often the mystery seems secondary to McGee's views on whatever topic author John D. McDonald has selected for his soap box. Most of them take place in Florida, (a Florida no one will ever see again given they were written mostly in the 60s and 70s) and all have a color in the title. Don't take them too seriously, just have fun in the sun.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Character Study Disguised As Mystery Feb. 6 2012
By Bill Slocum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It's 1971 and a little more than halfway through the Travis McGee series when we meet our hero here, brooding about the passage of time and a growing sense of his own mortality. Time for him to stop risking his neck in the "salvage consulting" business, perhaps?

"I think you've been doing it for too long, darling," he is warned early on by a wealthy woman who wants him to settle down as her catamaran companion. "One day some dim little chap will come upon you suddenly and take out a gun and shoot you quite dead."

One of the worst things you can do with a Travis McGee novel is read that little bit of text on the back cover before you read anything else. You know, those two or three sentences that give you some idea what this mystery is about. Especially with "A Tan And Sandy Silence." Here, a big part of the pleasure is discovering as Travis does just what is up, as the story takes its time setting itself up and unfolds rather magnificently.

The first chapter gets us off with a bang, or rather six of them, all fired at Travis by an enraged husband who demands to know where his wife is. Travis for once is innocent, but the episode leaves him shaken. Could he nearly have gotten his ticket punched by an out-of-shape palooka like Harry Broll? And where is his wife, anyway? Since she is one of Travis's old flames, he wonders if he should find out. And keeps wondering for a few chapters. Meanwhile, we wonder what this novel we are a fifth of the way through is going to be about. Unless we read the back-cover blurb, anyway.

For me, the pleasure of MacDonald's story construction was more than a little compromised by a weakish mystery, full of improbable standoffs and left-field coincidences. The positive is that McGee is interesting company throughout, nowhere more so than when he must face some unhappy truths about his situation in the company of one of those nasty female characters MacDonald drew so uncomfortably well. When we meet her, well into the story on the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, it's easy to fall into the trap of wanting Travis to give her the business. He sort of does, but pauses long enough to discover the potential of a better person under her hard shell. Then everything changes all at once, and the story gets harsher and colder.

The action of the story gets more implausible as it goes on, but the core of it remains interesting, especially to McGee fans: Our hero is beginning to doubt his own abilities. Worse, after years of bedding women, he is beginning to lose his taste for employing his masculinity so casually. MacDonald puts us on notice here that McGee is a man of flesh and blood, able to feel not only pain but fear. It sharpens the narrative substantially.

Which is a good thing when the story gets a bit slack here and there. The weakest part is a ship full of happy prostitutes who remind us what an unabashed male fantasist MacDonald could be, even when it hurt his story. The best part is a deepening of McGee's tie with his financially minded companion, the wry Meyer, who makes for a worthy sounding board for the book's longer philosophical stretches. There is a lot of philosophizing here.

"The real guilt is being a human being," MacDonald has McGee observe. "That is the horrible reality which bugs us all. Wolves, as a class, are cleaner, more industrious, far less savage, and kinder to each other and their young."

Better McGee novels tie down such thoughts to firmer narratives, but "A Tan And Sandy Silence" is a gripping read even when it's not holding together that well as a story. As a visit with an old friend who is facing the prospect of getting older with less than his usual suavity, "Tan" has a good deal going for it. If you are following the McGee series, and don't mind a few loose ends, you may feel your interest for Travis deepening after reading this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love it or hate it, you will not forget it. June 11 2008
By Michael G. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A Tan and Sandy Silence is certainly not the best book John D. MacDonald ever authored. In fact, some may find it way too dark and unsettingly disturbing. Others may object to it for a host of very legitimate reasons. But I daresay that even those readers who find themselves hating this Travis McGee novel still will have to admit it is a substantive, unforgettable read.
The unevenly paced narrative revolves around McGee's efforts to locate Mary Broll, a former lover whom no one seems to have seen in over three months. His search takes him to the tropical island of Grenada where the case takes on an entirely different trajectory. As others have already accurately pointed out, the novel starts off slow, climaxes with some very macabre events and has somewhat of a rushed ending. Along the way, the reader is treated to large helpings of Travis McGee's introspection on a wide range of topics having to do with modern life. After a while, this inner monologue, though at times clever, becomes tiresome and gives the impression of too much self-indulgence on author MacDonald's part.
Other objectionable aspects of this book include its incorporation of an excessive amount of amateur psychology into the plot and the fact that McGee never, ever fails to completely captivate members of the opposite sex.
The positive attributes of this book would have to include MacDonald's very evocative and original brand of prose and the presence of a number of characters who come off as quite believable.
John D. MacDonald was unquestionably a great writer, but A Tan and Sandy Silence is one of his lesser works. He was capable of much better.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Phoned in McGee Feb. 11 2012
By David C. Read - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've read all but one of the Travis McGee novels, and this is the only one that felt like John D. was just going through the motions. I think he was burned out, and it really shows. He was too prolific to maintain high quality. This was the 13th book in an 8 year span (in addition to several non-McGee novels); by contrast, the last 8 books in the series are spread out over 14 years, which helped MacDonald keep the quality high.

I can understand why MacDonald need to write this book: so he could write off the cost of a trip to Grenada (a small island in the southern Caribbean that President Reagan later made famous by liberating it from a Marxist dictatorship). But I cannot recommend that anyone read it.

There's stuff in here that wouldn't have made it into a James Bond film even during the Roger Moore years, like McGee floating out to sea on a rip tide and being picked up by a sailing yacht/floating bordello crewed by beautiful naked young ladies. But no need to detail all of the nonsense in this book. Suffice it to say that no one hits a home run every time at bat. The series as a whole is still great stuff.
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