Bright Orange for the Shroud

Bright Orange for the Shroud (1965) is a sixth novel in the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald. The plot follows McGee as he attempts to salvage the money of friend Arthur Wilkinson after the man is defrauded in a semi-legal confidence scheme involving a land deal.

Bright Orange for the Shroud
Bright Orange for the Shroud
First edition cover
AuthorJohn D. MacDonald
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesTravis McGee
GenreMystery
PublisherFawcett Publications
Publication date
1965
Media typePrint (paperback)
Pages190
Preceded byA Deadly Shade of Gold 
Followed byDarker than Amber 

Plot

While enjoying another installment of his "retirement," Travis McGee is visited by Arthur Wilkinson, who had briefly been part of McGee's circle before leaving to get married. Wilkinson is in terrible physical condition, and collapses as he reaches McGee's boat. With the help of Chookie, who dated Wilkinson for a time, McGee learns that Wilkinson has been bankrupted by a land development scheme in which the partners kept demanding greater and greater shares until Wilkinson's bank account was empty and he was heavily in debt to his friends. He also endured a savage beating from the gang's muscle, a rustic psychopath named Boone Waxwell, and was twice jailed and disgraced on fraudulent charges arranged by the gang.

After spending several weeks nursing Arthur back to health, McGee scouts out the lower-level conspirators and forms a guarded friendship with Vivian Crane, whose husband's law practice has been ruined by rumors of his participation in the scam. McGee also pays a visit to Waxwell at his backwoods home, and barely manages to get away whole after besting Waxwell in a vicious brawl.

McGee determines that the only money remaining from Wilkinson's inheritance is the remainder of Waxwell's share, which is buried in jars around Waxwell's house. Before he can execute the plan, however, Waxwell gets the drop on him outside Vivian Crane's house and leaves him in the back of his car. McGee manages to crawl to a hiding place, where he overhears Waxwell raping Vivian. Waxwell flees the scene when he discovers McGee is missing. McGee goes into the house and finds Vivian has committed suicide with a pistol after killing her husband, who lay in a drunken stupor during her rape. McGee alters the crime scene to create the impression that Waxwell killed both Vivian and her husband, then phones in an anonymous report to the police.

Waxwell, now the target of a statewide manhunt, flees into the swamps. McGee recovers a substantial amount of money from Waxwell's hiding places. Arthur and Chookie have become lovers, and McGee decides to give them the full amount as a wedding present. Waxwell, by chance, boards the houseboat and holds them at bay with a gun. After a long, tense period in which it becomes clear Waxwell plans to kill them all after getting clear of the dragnet, the three manage to get the gun away from Waxwell, who accidentally impales himself on a cypress stump while jumping clear of the houseboat. The three leave his body to be discovered by searchers.

Themes

As with all of the Travis McGee novels, the title includes a color that is referenced in the narrative. This book's title refers to the orange bathrobe Vivian Crane puts on before killing herself. McGee comments that this color is not appropriate for death because it is so lifelike.

References

  • Merrill, Hugh (2000). The Red Hot Typewriter: The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-312-20905-6.
  • Geherin, David (1982). John D. MacDonald. F. Ungar Pub. Co. ISBN 978-0-8044-2232-1.
John D. MacDonald

John Dann MacDonald (July 24, 1916 – December 28, 1986) was an American writer of novels and short stories, known for his thrillers.

MacDonald was a prolific author of crime and suspense novels, many of them set in his adopted home of Florida. One of the most successful American novelists of his time, MacDonald sold an estimated 70 million books in his career. His best-known works include the popular and critically acclaimed Travis McGee series, and his novel The Executioners, which was filmed as Cape Fear (1962) and remade in 1991. In 1972, MacDonald was named a grandmaster of the Mystery Writers of America, and he won a 1980 U.S. National Book Award in the one-year category Mystery.Stephen King praised MacDonald as "the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller." Kingsley Amis said, MacDonald "is by any standards a better writer than Saul Bellow, only MacDonald writes thrillers and Bellow is a human-heart chap, so guess who wears the top-grade laurels."

The Deep Blue Good-by

The Deep Blue Good-by is the first of 21 novels in the Travis McGee series by American author John D. MacDonald. Commissioned in 1964 by Fawcett Publications editor Knox Burger, the book establishes for the series an investigative protagonist in a residential Florida base. All titles in the 21-volume series include a color, a mnemonic device which was suggested by his publisher so that when harried travelers in airports looked to buy a book, they could at once see those MacDonald titles they had not yet read. (MacDonald also included color in a further two unrelated novels: A Flash of Green and The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything.)

Travis McGee

Travis McGee is a fictional character, created by American mystery writer John D. MacDonald. McGee is neither a police officer nor a private investigator; instead, he is a self-described "salvage consultant" who recovers others' property for a fee of 50%. McGee appeared in 21 novels, from The Deep Blue Good-by in 1964 to The Lonely Silver Rain in 1984. In 1980, the McGee novel The Green Ripper won the National Book Award. All 21 books have the theme of a color in the title, one of the earliest examples of detective/mystery fiction series to have a 'title theme' (e.g. the Sue Grafton 'alphabet' series; Janet Evanovich's 'number' series of Stephanie Plum books, etc.)

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