The book closet: A huckster blonde in a green knit suit. February 23, 2011 10:09 3 Comments

A former co-worker (read Michael Dickson's excellent ex-pat blog, The Zapata Tales) recently raved about John D. MacDonald. Naturally, I was skeptical. So very. But because I am so open-minded (keep those snarky comments to yourself, please) I checked a few of his books out at the library. While my heart still belongs to Raymond Chandler, I find that I like John D. In fact, I think I'll toy with him for a bit. Cheat on Chandler for a brief affair. I especially love MacDonald's descriptions.

Of course, I dress the characters when I read. I do. Surprised, dear readers? Of course you aren't.

I see Alma/Almah, a companion to a shady millionaire, a woman whose intentions are perhaps less than honorable, in Butterick 3621, circa 1960s, View A. This passage is from A Deadly Shade of Gold, published in 1965:

She was walking slowly, barefoot, fastening the side of a green knit skirt, her head angled down so that a heavy sheaf of shining blonde hair obscured her face. She wore a white bra covering small breasts. Her upper torso was golden tan, with the narrrow and supple look of youth. She fixed the skirt as she reached the foot of the chaise. She threw her hair back with a toss of her head, and stood and looked at the man with a cool, unpleasant expression. It was a very lovely face. I could guess that her earliest memories were of being told how pretty she was. It was a cool and sensuous face. The springing blonde hair, with a few tousled strands across her forehead, fell in a glossy heaviness in two wings which framed the sensitive and bad tempered face. I had seen her before, and I groped for the memory, and finally had it. She had stared very earnestly at me many times, looked deeply into my eyes, held up a little squeeze bottle and told me it would keep me dainty all day long. Despite all rumors to the contrary, these huckster blondes are not interchangeable. I knew this one because her eyes were set strangely, one more tilted than the other.

She said something to the man. The curl of her mouth looked unpleasant. He lowered the book, said something, lifted it again. She shrugged and turned away, and walked out of my field of vision . . . When she appeared again she was fastening the top half of the green knit two piece suit and she wore shoes. She had that contrived walk of the model . . . the business of putting each foot down in direct line with the previous step, toeing outward slightly, to impart a graceful sway to the body from the waist down. She was not tall. Perhaps five-four. She made herself look tall.

She stopped on the right side of the chaise and perched one hip on it, facing the man. She spoke to him. I could hear the very faint cadence of her voice. She was intent, persuasive, half-smiling. It was like a commercial with the volume turned down. As she talked, he put two cigarettes between his lips, lit them, handed one to her. She stopped talking and looked expectantly at him. He reached and caught her wrist. She sprang up and wrenched her wrist away, her face ugly with sudden fury. She called him a ten letter word, loud enough for me to hear it through the doors. She was no lady. She strode out of range in the opposite direction, and I heard a door slam.

She left with the look of somebody who was not coming back immediately. There was no profit in watching a hairy man read a book.

Love it, love it, love it. The passage. The pattern. The book. The writing. Absolutely. 

And, yes, this pattern is available at The Blue Gardenia. But you knew that. You did. The details: It's complete. Uncut. $22. Rush over. Buy it. Have a John D. MacDonald moment. Or two. Or three. To quote Carl Hiaasen: 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.

So. There ya go. Buy the pattern. Buy the book.