The Inspiration Behind the Mac Travis Series
Travis McGee, the main character of John D MacDonalds books is the reason that I am here, maybe even the person I have become. Without Travis, I don’t know if I would ever have become a reader and certainly never a writer.
High school English was certainly not an introduction to a life of reading. Lord of the Flies. Death of a Salesman, The Great Gatsby were all required reading then and now. Would an active teenage boy with a rebellious side ever read for pleasure if one thought these were the offerings available? Teenage boys want to be cool and to read was not part of that equation,
Enter John MacDonald. He created a world I could not only get into, but dreamed of being in. Travis McGee. Now here was a character that could inspire. He was cool – really – a guy in a book could be cool. He lived on a houseboat in Ft Lauderdale, drank when he wanted and was good with the ladies. He worked when work found him – and that usually involved treasure and beautiful women. It’s been called throwaway fiction, but it worked for me. I don’t remember a lot of what I have read over the years, but the opening scene from Darker than Amber is etched in my mind. Two guys were fishing under a bridge in the Florida Keys and save a beautiful woman. Now that’s something a teenage boy could handle.
Ever since reading that first Travis McGee book somewhere around 1977, I have had a book by my side. You could ask me the question: What are you reading, every day since and I could give you an answer. I became a prolific reader, eventually seeking out some of the classics by choice. My genre of choice is Men’s Adventure Thrillers. I discovered Robert Ludlum, Clive Cussler, Wilbur Smith in the 1980’s and read their entire libraries.
At that time, back in the olden days, you had to walk into a bookstore or go to a library and browse the shelves to find new titles. The stories I remember were smaller, no ten thousand foot Barnes and Nobles. The publishers steered you to what they wanted you to read, unless you were willing to browse spines, something I’ve never had the patience for. Traditional publishing would only release a title a year by major authors then. This left me in a bit of a bind. Do the math here. I can easily read a book a week. Round it up to a book every two weeks, and you have twenty-five books a year. If I had ten favorite authors, I would have to seek out a few more each year and then start reading their back catalogs. I followed this pattern for years.
By the mid-1990’s, I thought I was out of books to read. I know that’s not possible. I had wandered into historical fiction and more mainstream fiction by then, but I like what I like. Part of my problem was that I was only willing to suspend my disbelief to a point. This was about the same time that I think Clive Cussler jumped the shark. His books became unbelievable.
‘I can do this’ started to creep into my mind. Not write like a pro, but at least create characters and develop stories that were interesting and mostly believable. I started Woods Reef around 1995, wrote about 50,000 words and became a father.
Fast forward to 2012. My daughters grown to be a wonderful, responsible teenager – with a drivers license (read: freedom for me). I once again have the time to write. I went to find the old printed manuscript and floppy disks that I thought the book was saved on, and they were gone. I was distraught. To have something so close become so far away was disheartening, to say the least. ‘Chin up’ is one of my mottos, so that’s what I did. I sat down and started to write again in the spring of 2013 and completed a version of what I had written.
Along the way, I needed a name for the main character. I started thinking about the characters that I remember: Travis McGee, Dirk Pitt, Jason Bourne. I recalled that first chapter from Darker than Amber and turned Travis McGee into Mac Travis. It is meant as a compliment and thank you to John D MacDonald.