Over at her blog, Patti Abbott is hosting John D. MacDonald Day in her weekly feature “Friday’s Forgotten Books.” I thought I’d write up a little something.
I first encountered MacDonald in 1992 when I read THE EXECUTIONERS, the basis for both movie versions of CAPE FEAR. I liked it, but didn’t feel compelled to seek out more of his work. Then, at the turn of the Millennium when I really started getting into mystery fiction, I was introduced to MacDonald’s series character Travis McGee. I can get a little obsessive when it comes to books and movies and I still remember the look on the book store clerk’s face when I walked up to the counter with a stack of twelve used, musty paperbacks. Ironically, even though I have all twenty-one McGee books, I’ve only read five of them.
For “Friday’s Forgotten Books,” I chose to read the novella “Border Town Girl.” This story was originally published in 1950 in DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE under the less provocative title “Five Star Fugitive.” It was later paired with another novella, “Linda,” to become the Gold Medal paperback BORDER TOWN GIRL.
This is noir fiction at its finest! The plot revolves around smuggling drugs across the border from Mexico, but I doubt that that’s what I’ll remember about this modest gem. What will stick with me are the noir tropes: the desperate man, the desperate woman, a creepy carnival strongman, hard-bitten dialogue, double-crosses and that oh-so-important ethereal feeling of doom. Unfortunately, it all comes to a very cheesy end. In all of my remembrances of this tight little story, I’ll try to forget the last two pages exist.
As an added bonus, here’s a 1976 article Roger Ebert wrote about meeting John D. MacDonald.