By  Mike Miller Updated May 1, 2024

Travis McGee was introduced to me in 1964 by my father, who was visiting me in Florida. 

He was reading "Nightmare In Pink", and had just finished"The Deep Blue Good-by", which he gave to me.

Both books were written by John D. MacDonald .

Travis McGee and the Busted FlushTravis McGee and the Busted Flush

I have now been a Travis and John D. MacDonald fan for more than 50 years.  I have read all 21 of the McGee novels at least twice, some more.  Travis became my alter ego.  

Travis McGee is different than most other "detectives" you encounter in mysteries and crime fiction.

He is not a policeman or a licensed private investigator. Instead, he describes himself as a salvage consultant.

He recovers property that has been stolen, swindled, or otherwise misappropriated from his clients. He charges a fee for this service.

The Busted FlushThe Busted Flush

Travis lives on a 52 foot houseboat named "The Busted Flush".

The name comes from a poker game in which Travis won the boat from an unfortunate millionaire that he bluffed out when Travis only had four of the requisite five cards to make a flush. 

The "Flush" is berthed at Slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, Fort Lauderdale . In 1987 a plaque was erected at the marina that memorialized the slip and its famous resident. 

The plaque was removed some years ago by new owners that didn't appreciate the literary landmark.

Travis calls himself a beach bum who takes his retirement in installments. He prefers to take on new cases only when the cash fund hidden in a hidey hole in the Flush gets low.

This Might Be Travis McGee's Miss AgnesThis Might Be Travis McGee's Miss Agnes

He also owns an old Rolls Royce that somebody long ago converted into a pick-up truck. The truck is painted a horrible blue by the guy who did the conversion.

Travis McGee calls this vehicle "Miss Agnes" after his grade school teacher who had hair the same color.

Most of Travis's salvage consulting business is from word of mouth by satisfied clients.

His clients have usually had something stolen or swindled from them, usually by unethical and often legal means. They have no legal way to get it back.

This is where Travis comes in.

His usual fee is half of whatever he recovers, plus expenses.

If the prospective client gripes about this being too high, Travis always reminds them that half of something is better than nothing at all.

In many of his cases, Travis takes revenge on the guilty parties. He is physically equipped to do so.

Travis McGee is about 6 foot 4, and packs 205 lean muscular pounds on his long lanky frame. He has a perpetual deep water suntan.

He is a veteran of the Korean War, and was a star tight end on his college football team. He went on to play pro football for a few years until a knee injury forced him into early retirement.

He's much stronger than he looks, and observant thugs thinking of fighting with him often notice that he has exceptionally thick wrists and long arms.

The smart ones back off or figure out a way to hurt him without getting too close.

Travis has a 33 inch waist, and wears a 46 long sport jacket, and wears a 17 1/2 by 34 shirt.

He stays in shape by swimming against the current in the Fort Lauderdale ocean and running on the beach across the street from Bahia Mar.

He is not above admiring the bikini clad sandy bottomed beach bunnies he sees along the way.

Travis is popular with women, and has bedded a few dozen lovely ladies during his 21 novel lifetime. If he falls in love, the poor gal usually gets killed or goes back home after Travis's special therapy.

Travis never loses his senses of honor, obligation, and indignation. He always treats women with respect.

Bahia Mar, Fort LauderdaleVintage Postcard Bahia Mar, Fort Lauderdale


Travis was one of Florida's earliest environmentalists, voicing his author's concern about what was happening to the state by unbridled development.

His best friend is Meyer, a world renowned economist who lives on his cabin cruiser, "John Maynard Keynes", at Bahia Mar. Meyer is a gentle stocky hairy bear of a man.

The "Keynes" gets blown up in one of Travis's adventures and Meyer gets a new one named "Thorstein Veblen" and moves aboard.

We don't know if Meyer is a first or last name, although some people call him Dr. Meyer. My guess is that it's his last name.

Meyer's boats are loaded with books, not just on economics but in many areas of his expertise. He is a chess master and an amateur psychologist.

Meyer is not only Travis's best friend, he is his sounding board for ideas and his walking encyclopedia.

Meyer also likes the beach, and the beach bunnies find him fascinating. He has a habit now and then of bringing a gaggle of these beautiful little gigglers back to the marina for a drink or two.

He also sometimes helps Travis scam the scammers.

Travis McGee may be the first great modern fictional Florida hero.

He was the prototype for characters created by Florida authors like Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, James W. Hall, Les Standiford and Randy Wayne White.

The Library of Congress's "Center for the Book" commissioned a short work by MacDonald, an essay entitled "Reading for Survival".

The essay takes the form of a dialogue between Travis McGee and Meyer on the importance of reading to the survival of the human species.

The 26-page essay was released in a limited edition of 5,000 copies and was available for a small contribution to the Center for the Book. I am lucky enough to have a copy.

Each of the 21 Travis McGee novels has a color in its title.

The Travis McGee novels, in order of publication are:

  1. The Deep Blue Good-by (1964)
  2. Nightmare in Pink (1964) 
  3. A Purple Place for Dying (1964)
  4. The Quick Red Fox (1964)
  5. A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965)
  6. Bright Orange for the Shroud (1965)
  7. Darker than Amber (1966)
  8. One Fearful Yellow Eye (1966)
  9. Pale Gray for Guilt (1968)
  10. The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper (1968) 
  11. Dress Her in Indigo (1969)
  12. The Long Lavender Look (1970)
  13. A Tan and Sandy Silence (1971)
  14. The Scarlet Ruse (1972)
  15. The Turquoise Lament (1973)
  16. The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1974)
  17. The Empty Copper Sea (1978)
  18.  The Green Ripper (1979) 
  19. Free Fall in Crimson (1981) 
  20. Cinnamon Skin (1982)
  21. The Lonely Silver Rain (1984)

John D. MacDonald died in 1986, and later that same year my father spent his last night in a nursing home in St. Cloud, Florida. He was heavily medicated for pain and quite confused.

His last words to my mother shortly before he died were for me. He told her to tell me "Nightmare In Pink". He said I would understand.

I did.  And if you read "Nightmare In Pink", you will too.

All 21 of the novels are available at Amazon.  I believe everything MacDonald wrote is still in print.


Although John D. MacDonald died in 1986, there is a wealth of information about him and Travis in libraries and on the internet.

I have selected a few just to illustrate the lasting appeal of the author and his creations.

    Who Is McGee? - This fellow does a very good job of capturing the essence of Travis.

    Homage To McGee - This is a tribute by a very articulate man, Doug Johnson. You will learn more about Travis here. The website is very slow loading, so be aware.

    McGee's Little Black Book - We all know Travis bedded down quite a few lovely ladies in his career. This thoughtful author has come up with a list of names.

    The Trap of Solid Gold - This is a blog created and maintained by Steve Scott. He does a wonderful job celebrating the work and life of John D. MacDonald.

Mike and Sugar on Silverheels 1997Mike and Sugar on Silverheels 1997

That is not Travis in the photo above.  It's me and my dog Sugar on my sailboat in 1997.  I've always identified with Travis and you will too when you get to know him.


John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, spanning 22 novels, is a treasure trove of mystery and adventure set in the vivid backdrop of Florida. Here’s a brief overview of each novel:

  1. The Deep Blue Good-by (1964): Travis McGee, a self-described "salvage consultant" who recovers others' lost properties for a fee, helps a woman retrieve her stolen treasure from a manipulative ex-lover.

  2. Nightmare in Pink (1964): McGee heads to New York City to assist the sister of a war buddy. Her fiancé has died under mysterious circumstances, and her own life is in danger.

  3. A Purple Place for Dying (1964): In a remote desert town, McGee investigates the disappearance of a millionaire's wife, unraveling a complex web of deceit and murder.

  4. The Quick Red Fox (1964): McGee is tasked with finding compromising photos of a Hollywood starlet, leading him through a trail of murder and betrayal.

  5. A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965): When an old friend is murdered over a rare gold Aztec idol, McGee sets out to solve the murder and recover the artifact.

  6. Bright Orange for the Shroud (1965): A scam involving real estate and a damaged friend pulls McGee into a deadly confrontation with a band of serial exploiters.

  7. Darker than Amber (1966): McGee rescues a young woman from drowning, only to find she's tangled in a lethal scheme involving professional seducers and murky financial dealings.

  8. One Fearful Yellow Eye (1966): In Chicago, McGee probes the mysterious depletion of a late doctor’s estate, which threatens the financial security of his widow.

  9. Pale Gray for Guilt (1968): McGee helps the family of a dead friend tackle a corrupt land developer who swindled them out of their property.

  10. The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper (1968): McGee investigates the apparent suicide of an old flame, uncovering deeper layers of mental instability and foul play.

  11. Dress Her in Indigo (1969): A trip to Mexico to uncover the details of a young woman's secretive and tragic last days leads McGee into danger and darkness.

  12. The Long Lavender Look (1970): A car accident throws McGee and his companion into a deadly chase involving a small-town police conspiracy.

  13. A Tan and Sandy Silence (1971): McGee searches for a missing wife and uncovers a tale of deceit, betrayal, and hidden motives.

  14. The Scarlet Ruse (1972): McGee delves into a case of counterfeit rare stamps that leads him into a nest of insurance fraud and mob connections.

  15. The Turquoise Lament (1973): A young woman's fear about her erratic, globe-trotting husband sparks McGee's journey across the Pacific to unravel a possible deadly scam.

  16. The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1974): Tasked with safeguarding a dying woman's suspicious inheritance, McGee is drawn into a case that spirals into murder and corruption.

  17. The Empty Copper Sea (1978): McGee investigates the disappearance of a wealthy businessman, which appears as a boating accident but hides a scheme of financial fraud.

  18. The Green Ripper (1979): The brutal murder of his girlfriend leads McGee on a vengeful trail against a shadowy terrorist group.

  19. Free Fall in Crimson (1981): McGee is hired to solve the murder of a wealthy man, uncovering a complex plot tied to motorcycle gangs and movie stunts.

  20. Cinnamon Skin (1982): In the wake of his friend's mysterious disappearance, McGee discovers a plot involving identity theft and violent criminals.

  21. The Lonely Silver Rain (1984): McGee stumbles upon a stolen yacht with a hidden cache of drugs, leading him into a deadly conflict that brings unexpected changes to his life.

Each novel showcases MacDonald's masterful storytelling and deep understanding of human nature, making Travis McGee one of the most enduring characters in American crime fiction.

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