Dead Low Tide: A Novel [NOOK Book]


Dead Low Tide is an iconic early thriller from John D. MacDonald, the mastermind behind Cape Fear and the Travis McGee novels. On the coast of Florida, a working stiff is wrongfully accused of murdering his boss—and must outwit one of MacDonald’s signature villains to save his life.

Introduction by Dean Koontz

A college graduate and amateur fisherman, Andy McClintock is ...
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Dead Low Tide: A Novel

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Dead Low Tide is an iconic early thriller from John D. MacDonald, the mastermind behind Cape Fear and the Travis McGee novels. On the coast of Florida, a working stiff is wrongfully accused of murdering his boss—and must outwit one of MacDonald’s signature villains to save his life.

Introduction by Dean Koontz

A college graduate and amateur fisherman, Andy McClintock is stuck toiling in the office of a construction company. But when Andy tries to quit, his boss offers him a promotion and a raise—and then promptly kills himself with a harpoon gun. At least, that’s what it looks like, until the police rule it homicide—with the murder weapon belonging to Andy.

The harpoon gun had been stolen out of Andy’s garage, and the boss’s wife makes the outrageous claim that she and Andy were having an affair. He’s been set up. To clear his name, he’ll have to find the real killer. But Andy soon discovers that he’s up against more than a two-bit thief—he’s been targeted by absolute evil, a monster with no compassion for his fellow man.

Praise for John D. MacDonald and Dead Low Tide

“John D. MacDonald was the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”—Stephen King

“The writing is marked by sharp observation, vivid dialogue, and a sense of sweet warm horror.”—The New York Times

“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

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for John D. MacDonald
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
“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.”—Jonathan Kellerman
“There’s only one thing as good as reading a John D. MacDonald novel: reading it again. A writer way ahead of his time, he is the all-time master of the American mystery novel.”—John Saul
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307827050
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/14/2014
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 64,631
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet 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.


One of the most influential names in crime fiction, John D. MacDonald (1916-1986) was born in Sharon, PA, received his M.B.A. from Harvard University, and served in the OSS in India during WWII.

MacDonald's literary career began accidentally. While he was still in service, he wrote a short story, purely for entertainment. He mailed it home to his wife, who sent it to a magazine without his knowledge. The story was accepted. When MacDonald was discharged, he decided to try his luck at writing for a living. After dozens of submissions and rejections, he finally sold a story to Dime Detective, one of the popular pulp magazines of the day.

For several years, MacDonald made a decent living writing mysteries, Westerns, crime stories, and science fiction for the pulps. Then, in 1950, just as the demand for paperback books was increasing, he made the crossover to full-length fiction with The Brass Cupcake, a classic hardboiled detective novel featuring mobsters, corrupt cops, and a disaffected loner who falls for a beautiful woman. The writer had found his niche!

During the 1950s and '60s, MacDonald specialized in hardboiled crime novels -- mostly set in Florida, where he and his wife had moved after the war. For a long time, he resisted the siren call of series fiction. Then, in 1964, he succumbed -- introducing his legendary amateur sleuth Travis McGee in The Deep Blue Goodbye. A cynical knight errant and self-described beach bum who lives in Ft. Lauderdale on a houseboat named "The Busted Flush, McGee went on to star in 20 more adventures. His influence as a "type" can be clearly seen in the writing of several contemporary crime writers, including Carl Hiaasen, Lawrence Block, and George Pelicanos.

Throughout his long, prolific career, MaDonald would alternate the McGee books with standalone novels, nonfiction, and short story collections. As a genre stylist, he is without peer; yet most critics agree that his literary skills transcend the limitations of genre. Perhaps the novelist Kurt Vonnegut said it best when he made this shrewd assessment: "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."

Good To Know

Although MacDonald always included a color in the titles of the Travis McGee novels, he never used either black or white.

Several of MacDonald's novels have been adapted for movies -- most famously his 1958 novel The Executioners, which was filmed twice as Cape Fear.

Carl Hiaasen wrote this in the introduction to the 1994 reissue of The Deep Blue Goodbye: "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."

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    1. Date of Birth:
      July 24, 1916
    2. Place of Birth:
      Sharon, PA
    1. Date of Death:
      December 28, 1986
    2. Place of Death:
      Milwaukee, WI
    1. Education:
      Syracuse University 1938; M.B. A. Harvard University, 1939

Read an Excerpt


I worked pretty late on the estimate. The lady wanted to know how much the ten-unit motel was going to cost her, and John Long, my boss, had worked on her, so of course nobody else in the world could possibly put it up except John Long, Contractors. She already had her piece of land fronting on the Tamiami Trail, and it was September, and she wanted the motel up before the season began and the tourists started wandering around with money falling out of their pockets.

It was September, like I said, and hotter than hell’s hinges, so my fingers left smudges on the paper and sweat rolled down my bare chest, and all I wanted in the world was to get finished and put the top down on the car and drive thirty miles to Sarasota and sit in a booth in line with the air conditioning and have Red bring me a Mule, which I would drink with my hand around the chilled copper, while Charlie Davies played “Body and Soul” for me. I was fed up with John Long, and tired of making estimates without either the proper knowledge or experience, and weary with chasing around after cement here and cinder blocks there and cull cypress the next place. John Long had given me the big talk about opportunity, so rich it left my eyes glazed, so I’d started in the office, answering the phone and typing on two fingers. A year of it and I still answered the phone, typed on four fingers, and made estimates and chased materials and got twenty bucks more a week than a year ago.

Gordy Brogan and Big Dake were the foremen and one of them would handle this job, this motel, for the lady, while John Long went ahead with his Key Estates. And if the lady got restless, somebody would tell John and he’d come down in the Cadillac and bellow at the crew for twenty minutes, and give the lady that big ripe boyish grin and that would keep her happy for a couple of weeks, because he could do that with just the grin, and knowing when and how to use it. And I knew that if any profit came out of the motel it would go right into Key Estates, because that was where John Long had decided he would make the killing he’d waited for.

Anyway, my eyes had slowly got unglazed, and I had got lately into the habit of talking to myself in a most formal fashion. “Andrew Hale McClintock, exactly what in hell are you doing here?”

For the kind of building she wanted, it was a case of multiplying out the square footage and multiplying that by a cost factor which John Long had decided would give him a decent profit margin, then figuring the extras, and then rounding the total off to the next highest round number. Then there was a kid John knew who was working in a grocery store and taking a correspondence course in architecture. Given the working drawings, he would whip up a drawing of a front elevation that would look pretty, professional, and very impressive. John gave him ten bucks apiece for those drawings.

It got so dark I had to turn on the fluorescent desk lamp, and it seemed to make the room hotter. When the door clacked shut behind me I lifted about six inches off the chair, since I hadn’t heard it open. I turned but I couldn’t see well into the darkness because of the white glare of lamp on the paper I had been working on.

She came closer and I saw that it was Mrs. John Long. I jumped up and grabbed for my shirt, and she said, “No, don’t bother. It’s too hot in here for a shirt, Andy.”

John had introduced me to her after I had gone to work for him. I would see her in the office once in a while, and we would nod and show our teeth, and I had seen her around town at sundry civic functions and those places of entertainment where the common people mingled with the gentry. I kept seeing her picture in the paper, for charity drives and things going on at the Beach Club and all that sort of thing. She is one of those dark-haired Alabama girls, a kind of a stringy little girl, dark, and, if you look closely, feature by feature, you can see that she is not pretty. But her face is so alive all the time that afterward you would swear she is pretty. There are no kids, and I would say she is thirty, to John’s forty.

She sat down in a chair near my desk, sat down a bit heavy and tired. She had on a sort of blue denim play suit thing, and she slouched in the chair and crossed her thin brown legs and asked for a cigarette. Her face was in shadow, and when I held the light for her I saw her face looked sort of dulled. It wasn’t alive, the way I had always seen it before, and there wasn’t much lilt in her voice.

She said, “I was driving around, going no place, and I saw the light. I sure hope I haven’t kept you from finishing something, Andy.” Always before, it had been Mr. McClintock. Maybe guys without shirts revert to first names.

“I just finished,” I lied. It didn’t seem in character for Mrs. John Long to be driving around doing nothing. According to the papers she couldn’t have too many free minutes in a day.

“Do you like working here, Andy?”

“I like it fine, Mrs. Long.”

“How did you happen to land here, Andy?”

I wondered if she was spending a hot evening improving employee morale, by getting the serf to talk about himself. “I answered an ad in the paper.”

“I mean before.”

“The whole history?”

“Andy, don’t you sound so all bristly now. I really want to know.”

The appearance of genuine interest always seems to soothe us. “Well, Mrs. Long, I graduated from Syracuse University three years ago. Business Administration.”

“Only three years out of college?”

“I was an old college boy. The class called me ‘Daddy.’ I’m twenty-eight now. A war got in the way of my education. Anyway, I went to work for a big corporation in Buffalo. I found out that made me nervous. It was just too big. It was like a special form of social security. All I had to do was keep my hair combed for thirty years and get myself retired. So I saved some money, took off like a bird, and came down here to the Land of Opportunity. The New Frontier.”

“Any girl, Andy?”

“You’re getting quite a dossier, Mrs. Long. They come and go. I cook pretty good, and I’m pure hell at pressing a pair of pants.”

“I’ve wondered about you.”

“Why, Mrs. Long?”

“You call me Mary Eleanor, hear? That Mrs. Long makes me feel awful old.”

“O.K., Mary Eleanor.” The southland seems to insist on giving the ladies two names. “Why were you wondering about me?”

“I don’t know, for certain. John has always had such little old dumb ugly people in the office. And you’re big and nice looking and smart. But he doesn’t pay much, I guess. So I—”

“Mrs.—Mary Eleanor, just what have you got on your mind? We’re having a nice visit, but what do you want?”

“It’s awful darn hot in here, Andy. If you’re finished up like you say, come on for a ride.”

The last thing I wanted to do was go for any rides with the boss’s wife. That’s frowned on in schools of business administration. Bosses’ daughters they approve of—not wives. Something was chewing on Mary Eleanor, and she didn’t want to come right out with it. I know now that if my heap, my old Chevy convertible, had been parked out in front instead of being incarcerated in Gadgkin’s Repair Garage for an overdue ring job, I would have pleaded a date. But it was a hot night, and I was carless, and perhaps careless. The vehicle would save me a hike to the bus stop, and another hike down my road. And, as another extenuating circumstance, I had my shirt off and I was getting fatly weary of John Long and unfulfilled promises, and what was this anyway—the Middle Ages? Can’t the boss’s young wife give me a lift? And if something was chewing on her, wasn’t it a good deed?

“Tell you what, Mary Eleanor, I would dearly appreciate a lift home. Wait a minute while I do some sorting.”

She sat quietly while I shuffled the papers and put them in the desk drawer. I stood up and put on my shirt, reached over and snapped out the desk light. Streetlights came through the big front window. Day or night, that office is a goldfish bowl. Her little black MG was parked forty feet away, with the top down. She swung ahead of me and got behind the wheel and I got in beside her.

“I live at that Shady Grove Retreat place,” I said.

“I know.”

I’d seen her go by in that little jet car, but this new viewpoint was more distressing. Anything in the road ahead of her was a personal challenge. She went scooting up the trail. I opened my mouth when we were a quarter mile from the turnoff, but we were by it before I could even say “Hey.” I concentrated all my efforts on trying to act relaxed. We were five miles up the trail in something less than five minutes. She slowed for a patch of neon that was rushing at us, slewed into the parking area, skidded the back end, and parked with the hood shoved halfway into a flowering bush.

“I don’t live here, Mary Eleanor,” I said, only a bit faintly.

“You can have a drink with me, can’t you?” she said as she got out. She walked toward the door of the place. It would be a bit fantastic, I decided, to sit out in the car and sulk. I began to realize why girls carry mad money. I untangled myself from the MG and followed along. As I walked behind her I became aware that in spite of her being a scrawny type, she wagged very pleasantly and cutely in the blue demin outfit, giving me a sort of vague suicidal hope that this was one of those tabloid jobs where the boss’s young wife picks a playmate out of the office. I unloaded that notion quickly. Considering the size of the town, and what John Long measured around the forearms, if she started to nibble at me I was going right up a palm tree and squat in the top with the rats.

We got to the door at the same time, and I reached around her and pulled the screen open. I wondered who would be in the place, and I tried to figure out what kind of expression I ought to wear. Business-like, perhaps. A beer-joint conference on matters of great moment.

We went in. Some fans were humming. I gave a self-conscious, “Yo” to a couple of commercial fishermen I knew. There was a creepy blonde singing drunky music at the bar. The owner-manager-bartender seemed to recognize Mary Eleanor, as she got a large hello, but he took a half hitch in his eyebrow as he looked at me, which didn’t please me since I have paid him beer money as good as anybody’s. It then occurred to me that, nibble or no, just being seen with her wasn’t the happiest way to spend an evening.

Mary Eleanor went crisply down to the very last booth in sort of an alcove across from the door of the ladies’ room. I put up the window and the fans made some of the night air move in across our faces, so it wasn’t bad.

Owner-manager-bartender waddled back and took her order for bourbon and water on the side, and mine for a bottle of Miller’s. As soon as he went away she dug in a small white purse and took out a ten and pushed it across at me.

“I can handle it,” I said, maybe a bit on the stuffy side.

“Please, Andy. Or I won’t enjoy my drink.”

“Dutch, then.”

She nodded. It was the first time I’d ever had a good chance to look at her face. Big bright black eyes, and just a shade too much in the tooth department, so she had a very faint look of coming out of one of Disney’s woodland dells. She had a little mesh of wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, and her underlip was about three times the thickness of the one on top. Her ears were little and they grew flat to her head. Her hands were small, with spidery fingers and sort of lumpy knuckles. But, all in all, I would say, an attractive item. First you saw the thin look, and then you saw that her breasts looked high and sharp, and as I have mentioned, there was a nice side to side wave of the seat of the blue denim as you happened to walk behind her. I guess I was giving it too close a study. It leaned back in the booth.

“Andy—I went over everyone, thinking, and you’re the only . . .”

The drinks came then and she shut up. They were on a pay-as-you‑go deal, so he took the ten and brought the change back. By the time he got back with it, her shot of bourbon was gone, and so was one sip of the water, and she pushed the shot glass toward him. He picked it up and went off with it.

The interruption had given her time to think that maybe there was a better way of edging up on the subject, but I was beginning to think I was a little too placid about the whole thing, and a little loss of balance wouldn’t hurt, so I said, “The only what?”

“What? Oh—the only one who’s usually in the office.”

You don’t call your boss’s wife a liar, even when she is. The new shot came and she was still holding it, rim-full, rock steady, when the change came back. She threw it down with a hard toss, and one ripple of her throat, and took a little sip of water. They do something to those little dark girls. Maybe it’s a special course at Sweet Briar. All night they can drink, and nothing happens. Plying them with same is bad technique, because whatever happens, it happens to you, and they take you home and in the morning your head rattles like a broken transmission.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2014

    interesting story

    I enjoyed this story, it keptme involved the total story

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2014


    Pads in.

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