Before embarking upon a truly iconic career as a novelist, John D. MacDonald cut his teeth perfecting the art of the short story. This powerful collection assembles thirteen of those early mysteries, tightly wound gems of noir fiction that herald the arrival of an American original. Featuring early prototypes of his signature character Travis McGee, many of the characters are explorations into the types of people that would obsess MacDonald throughout his life’s work: professional criminals and city cops, adventurers and amateur sleuths. Throughout, the inimitable touch of a master at work is on shining display.
This collection includes “Murder for Money,” “Death Writes the Answer,” “Miranda,” “They Let Me Live,” “Breathe No More,” “From Some Hidden Grave,” “A Time for Dying,” “Noose for a Tigress,” “Murder in Mind,” “Check Out at Dawn,” “She Cannot Die,” “Dead on the Pin,” and “A Trap for the Careless.”
Features a new Introduction by Dean Koontz
Praise for John D. MacDonald
“The great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”—Stephen King
“My favorite novelist of all time.”—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
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 24, 1916
Date of Death:December 28, 1986
Place of Birth:Sharon, PA
Place of Death:Milwaukee, WI
Education:Syracuse University 1938; M.B. A. Harvard University, 1939
Read an Excerpt
Murder for Money
Long ago he had given up trying to estimate what he would find in any house merely by looking at the outside of it. The interior of each house had a special flavor. It was not so much the result of the degree of tidiness, or lack of it, but rather the result of the emotional climate that had permeated the house. Anger, bitterness, despair—all left their subtle stains on even the most immaculate fabrics.
Darrigan parked the rented car by the curb and, for a long moment, looked at the house, at the iron fence, at the cypress shade. He sensed dignity, restraint, quietness. Yet he knew that the interior could destroy these impressions. He was in the habit of telling himself that his record of successful investigations was the result of the application of unemotional logic—yet his logic was often the result of sensing, somehow, the final answer and “then retracing the careful steps to arrive once more at that same answer.
After a time, as the September sun of west-coast Florida began to turn the rented sedan into an oven, Darrigan pushed open the door, patted his pocket to be sure his notebook was in place, and walked toward the front door of the white house. There were two cars in the driveway, both of them with local licenses, both of them Cadillacs. It was perceptibly cooler under the trees that lined the walk.
Beyond the screen door the hallway was dim. A heavy woman came in answer to his second ring, staring at him with frank curiosity.
“I’d like to speak to Mrs. Davisson, please. Here’s my card.”
The woman opened the screen just enough for the card to be passed through, saying, with Midwest nasality, “Well, she’s resting right now.… Oh, you’re from the insurance?”
“Yes, I flew down from Hartford.”
“Please come in and wait and I’ll see if she’s awake, Mr. Darrigan. I’m just a neighbor. I’m Mrs. Hoke. The poor dear has been so terribly upset.”
“Yes, of course,” Darrigan murmured, stepping into the hall. Mrs. Hoke walked heavily away. Darrigan could hear the mumble of other voices, a faint, slightly incongruous laugh. From the hall he could see into a living room, two steps lower than the hall itself. It was furnished in cool colors, with Florida furniture of cane and pale fabrics.
Mrs. Hoke came back and said reassuringly, “She was awake, Mr. Darrigan. She said you should wait in the study and she’ll be out in a few minutes. The door is right back here. This is such a dreadful thing, not knowing what has happened to him. It’s hard on her, the poor dear thing.”
The study was not done in Florida fashion. Darrigan guessed that the furniture had been shipped down from the North. A walnut desk, a bit ornate, leather couch and chairs, two walls of books.
Mrs. Hoke stood in the doorway. “Now don’t you upset her, you hear?” she said with elephantine coyness.
“I’ll try not to.”
Mrs. Hoke went away. This was Davisson’s room, obviously. His books. A great number of technical works on the textile industry. Popularized texts for the layman in other fields. Astronomy, philosophy, physics. Quite a few biographies. Very little fiction. A man, then, with a serious turn of mind, dedicated to self-improvement, perhaps a bit humorless. And certainly very tidy.
Darrigan turned quickly as he heard the step in the hallway. She was a tall young woman, light on her feet. Her sunback dress was emerald green. Late twenties, he judged, or possibly very early thirties. Brown hair, sun-bleached on top. Quite a bit of tan. A fresh face, wide across the cheekbones, heavy-lipped, slightly Bergman in impact. The mouth faintly touched with strain.
“Mr. Darrigan?” He liked the voice. Low, controlled, poised.
“How do you do, Mrs. Davisson. Sorry to bother you like this.”
“That’s all right. I wasn’t able to sleep. Won’t you sit down, please?”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll sit at the desk, Mrs. Davisson. I’ll have to make some notes.”
She sat on the leather couch. He offered her a cigarette. “No, thank you, I’ve been smoking so much I have a sore throat. Mr. Darrigan, isn’t this a bit … previous for the insurance company to send someone down here? I mean, as far as we know, he isn’t—”
“We wouldn’t do this in the case of a normal policyholder, Mrs. Davisson, but your husband carries policies with us totaling over nine hundred thousand dollars.”
“Really! I knew Temple had quite a bit, but I didn’t know it was that much!”
He showed her his best smile and said, “It makes it awkward for me, Mrs. Davisson, for them to send me out like some sort of bird of prey. You have presented no claim to the company, and you are perfectly within your rights to tell me to be on my merry way.”
She answered his smile. “I wouldn’t want to do that, Mr. Darrigan. But I don’t quite understand why you’re here.”
“You could call me a sort of investigator. My actual title is Chief Adjuster for Guardsman Life and Casualty. I sincerely hope that we’ll find a reasonable explanation for your husband’s disappearance. He disappeared Thursday, didn’t he?”
“He didn’t come home Thursday night. I reported it to the police early Friday morning. And this is—”
He opened his notebook, took his time looking over the pages. It was a device, to give him a chance to gauge the degree of tension. She sat quite still, her hands resting in her lap, unmoving.
He leaned back. “It may sound presumptuous, Mrs. Davisson, but I intend to see if I can find out what happened to your husband. I’ve had reasonable success in such cases in the past. I’ll cooperate with the local police officials, of course. I hope you won’t mind answering questions that may duplicate what the police have already asked you.”
“I won’t mind. The important thing is … to find out. This not knowing is …” Her voice caught a bit. She looked down at her hands.
According to our records, Mrs. Davisson, his first wife, Anna Thorn Davisson, was principal beneficiary under his policies until her death in 1978. The death of the beneficiary was reported, but it was not necessary to change the policies at that time as the two children of his first marriage were secondary beneficiaries, sharing equally in the proceeds in case of death. In 1979, probably at the time of his marriage to you, we received instructions to make you the primary beneficiary under all policies, with the secondary beneficiaries, Temple C. Davisson, Junior, and Alicia Jean Davisson, unchanged. I have your name here as Dinah Pell Davisson. That is correct?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Could you tell me about your husband? What sort of man is he?”
She gave him a small smile. “What should I say? He is a very kind man. Perhaps slightly autocratic, but kind. He owned a small knitting mill in Utica, New York. He sold it, I believe, in 1972. It was incorporated and he owned the controlling stock interest, and there was some sort of merger with a larger firm, where he received payment in the stock in the larger firm in return for his interest. He sold out because his wife had to live in a warmer climate. She had a serious kidney condition. They came down here to Clearwater and bought this house. Temple was too active to retire. He studied real estate conditions here for a full year and then began to invest money in all sorts of property. He has done very well.”
“How did you meet him, Mrs. Davisson?”
“My husband was a sergeant in the Air Force. He was stationed at Drew Field. I followed him here. When he was sent overseas I had no special place to go, and we agreed I should wait for him here. The Davissons advertised for a companion for Mrs. Davisson. I applied and held the job from early 1974 until she died in 1978.”
“And your husband?”
“He was killed in a crash landing. When I received the wire, the Davissons were very kind and understanding. At that time my position in the household was more like a daughter receiving an allowance. My own parents died long ago. I have a married sister in Melbourne, Australia. We’ve never been close.”
“What did you do between the time Mrs. Davisson died and you married Temple Davisson?”
“I left here, of course. Mrs. Davisson had money of her own. She left me five thousand dollars and left the rest to Temple, Junior, and Alicia. Mr. Davisson found me a job in a real estate office in Clearwater. I rented a small apartment. One night Mr. Davisson came to see me at the apartment. He was quite shy. It took him a long time to get to the reason he had come. He told me that he tried to keep the house going, but the people he had hired were undependable. He also said that he was lonely. He asked me to marry him. I told him that I had affection for him, as for a father. He told me that he did not love me that way either, that Anna had been the only woman in his life. Well, Jack had been the only man in my life, and life was pretty empty. The Davissons had filled a place in my life. I missed this house. But he is sixty-one, and that makes almost exactly thirty years difference in ages. It seemed a bit grotesque. He told me to think it over and give him my answer when I ws ready. It occurred to me that his children would resent me, and it also occurred to me that I cared very little what people thought. Four days later I told him I would marry him.”
Darrigan realized that he was treading on most dangerous ground. “Has it been a good marriage?”
“Is that a question you’re supposed to ask?”
“It sounds impertinent. I know that. But in a disappearance of this sort I must consider suicide. Unhappiness can come from ill health, money difficulties, or emotional difficulties. I should try to rule them out.”
“I’ll take one of those cigarettes now, Mr. Darrigan,” she said. “I can use it.”
He lit it for her, went back to the desk chair. She frowned, exhaled a cloud of smoke.
“It has not been a completely happy marriage, Mr. Darrigan.”
“Can you explain that?”
“I’d rather not.” He pursed his lips, let the silence grow. At last she said, “I suppose I can consider an insurance man to be as ethical as a doctor or a lawyer?”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although one of my favorite authors the material was somewhat dated.
*walks out cursing about electronics*