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Pale Gray for Guilt (Travis McGee #9)

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  2,784 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
Tush Bannon was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. His measly plot of land just so happened to sit right in the middle of a rich parcel of five hundred riverfront acres that big-money real estate interests decided they simply must have.

It didn’t matter that Tush was a nice guy with a family, or that he never knew he was dealing with a criminal element. They squashed him
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 21st 1996 by Fawcett (first published January 1st 1968)
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Stormy Weather by Carl HiaasenTourist Season by Carl HiaasenThe Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonaldBasket Case by Carl HiaasenSkinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen
Florida Mystery/Thrillers
27th out of 145 books — 77 voters
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonThe Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha ChristieThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Detective Fiction
197th out of 804 books — 939 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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James Thane
Pretend for a moment that it's 1968 and you're a shady, amoral, would-be land developer in some scraggly-ass county in the Middle of Nowhere, Florida. Assume further that you own a couple of hundred acres of land near a waterway and that a big company is looking to acquire the land to build a major plant.

Assume further that there's a guy who owns a small marina on ten acres of land between you and the waterway that is critical to the plans of the big company. You make the marina operator an offe
Cathy DuPont
Oct 09, 2014 Cathy DuPont rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Gray...this is the real Gray, not that stupid book about shades.

How many ways can I say I love, love, love Travis McGee.

He's tough. He can be charming. Can be a macho man who would not ever raise a hand to a woman. Travis, as anyone who knows my reading likes, knows that JDM is my favorite writer and Travis is my guy.

When I read a TM book, it reminds me of the first time I read him and how astonished I was with the storyline, the character and the setting, Bahia Mar, Slip F-18, the site of th
Jun 12, 2011 Kemper rated it liked it
Travis McGee is a Florida boat bum who finances his extended vacations by trying to get back money that has been conned or stolen from people who can’t use legal means to try and recover it. His old buddy ‘Tush’ (1968 Winner For Worst Nickname) Bannon owns a small marina and hotel, but his land stands in the way of some crooked developers, and they’re using their influence with local politicians to squeeze him out. Tush refuses to sell and turns up dead on what is ruled a very messy suicide. An ...more
Victoria Mixon
Sep 23, 2010 Victoria Mixon rated it liked it
Okay, I've been avoiding the mystery writer John. D. MacDonald (not to be confused with mystery writers Ross MacDonald and Philip Macdonald) because of the eye-poppingly sexist crap on his jacket blurbs, wherein naked women and dead people appear to be the only folks populating his world.

But this jacket blurb wasn't like that, so I read it.

Holy crap, do I love John D. MacDonald!

You know what kind of women populate his novels? The kind who can show a cheesy, sexist 1960s ass-grabber exactly how i
Harv Griffin
Nov 28, 2012 Harv Griffin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, own

This is one of my favorite Travis McGee novels. I’ve read it at least 5 times. It might be my second favorite.

A warning for the Ladies, circa 2012: Travis McGee is like a big T-Rex from the Cretaceous Period—excuse me, I mean like a big macho man from the Sixties. You won’t like the way he thinks about women. But us guys just love the way Travis CHOMPS on the Bad Guys. Chomp, Chomp, ROAR!

A warning for the Gentlemen: MacDonald wrote at least twice as many non-McGee novels as McGee novels; I bough
Mar 20, 2012 Cbj rated it liked it
Shelves: pulp-fiction
The villains in PALE GRAY FOR GUILT are more pathetic than the easily fooled Germans in World War 2 thrillers. Wherever Travis McGee lands there are a bunch of bad ass people available and willing to help him. Some of the financial fraud committed by McGee and his economist friend Meyer to get even with the bad guys are preposterous (like when McGee walks into one of the villain's offices and pitches an equity investment idea and they actually accept it!). McGee's girlfriend Puss Killian is irri ...more
Apr 01, 2016 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
I found this 9th entry in the Travis McGee series to be above average -- it had the social commentary that I like so much without the sometimes disturbing 1960s view of women & sex. Don't get me wrong, there are women and sex! But some of the earlier books in the series had a bit too much of a masculine 50s/60s attitude about women which bothered me and I found that happily missing in this one.

As I have mentioned in some of my other reviews of the McGee books, Travis McGee is clearly the for
May 04, 2011 Ed rated it really liked it
Travis McGee, dashing beach bum and salvage expert, helps out the widow of murdered friend. His attitudes toward women are a bit creaky, he's fond of overexplaining his world philosophy, and this time I out couldn't follow all the financial workings to his con job. But I still enjoy reading his capers from time to time, as I did with this title.
Sep 05, 2010 Corq rated it it was amazing
Shelves: detective-noir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 08, 2013 Tony rated it liked it
Shelves: thrillers
PALE GRAY FOR GUILT. (1968). John D. MacDonald. ***.
Travis McGee is in the salvage business. His usual fee is 50% of the value of the material that he recovers. Sometimes his business dealings are not so simple, like in this adventure. McGee meets with an old friend from years back. He and his wife have been trying to make a go of a small resort establishment and marina, but things have been going wrong for them. It seems that his ten acre site is smack in the middle of a desirable riverfront ac
Bobby Underwood
May 02, 2016 Bobby Underwood rated it really liked it
I'm re-evaluating this particular McGee after many years and have given it an additional star, upgrading my rating to four. It's probably closer to four and a half, with the half removed for MacDonald taking McGee out of his element -- not geographically as much as the story-line's delving into the world of finance, which MacDonald himself was interested in. That's usually Meyer's line of work, but in this one, it becomes McGee's as well. That minor caveat aside, this is a powerful Travis McGee ...more
Feb 02, 2011 Derek rated it really liked it
It's written with complexity: Travis McGee is both one nails-tough customer and a sort of armchair philosopher capable of being hurt. After he's sprung the cold steel jaws of his vengeance on the callous and strangely pathetic people responsible for his friend's death, you can see the personal cost of both his lifestyle and his profession.

The machinery of his plan was a joy to behold.
Greg McClay
Feb 07, 2014 Greg McClay rated it really liked it
I think this is the first Travis McGee book I've read cover to cover. I listened to a few audio books a long time ago and started Deep Blue Goodbye a few times. I've always liked the concept, the salvage expert, the Busted Flush, Meyer, the ongoing retirement... there's a lot of originality mixed in with what can seem pretty boilerplate stuff these days. This one was first published in 1968 and is 9th in the series I believe. Any books or movies I've come across from the 60s show a very raw time ...more
Jun 18, 2011 NanCy rated it really liked it
Page turner with likable folks and some nuanced bad guys. Mystery not quite predictable. Florida setting a delight! Travis McGee is a bit over the top in brawn and physicality but still captures my attention. No wonder author was role model to so many good writers!
Oct 19, 2008 Tabitha rated it really liked it
One of the best. If you can make it to the end of the series, this book will be a strong reminder and you will want to read it again. The book leaves the reader full of emotions and yearning to know more about Travis.
Andrew Dugas
Feb 17, 2009 Andrew Dugas rated it it was amazing
The quintessential Travis McGee mystery. If there is only one Travis McGee mystery you should read, this is it.
Dennis D.
Jun 24, 2010 Dennis D. rated it really liked it
This is number nine in the Travis McGee series, John D. MacDonald’s collection of thrillers/mysteries featuring one Travis McGee, “salvage consultant”. Just as mobsters are often euphemistically described as “waste management specialists”, McGee the salvage consultant is actually an unlicensed private eye of sorts, who helps people get things back that have been taken (or swindled) from them.

This time out, Trav is called upon to help a friend (a guy named Tush - seriously) whose tiny marina busi
Jul 06, 2013 DR rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John D. MacDonald’s Harvard MBA is showing in this 9th adventure featuring iconoclast boat bum Travis McGee, which involves a “salvage” job requiring stock manipulation, real estate fraud and other financial malfeasance.

An old football buddy of McGee’s, a giant sweetie and family man named Tush Bannon, is “smashed flat, plucked clean” (p241) by a Florida cabal of small-town Chamber of Commerce types. A closer look shows that Tush’s demise is not just a result of avarice and misuse of political p
Aug 15, 2013 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How could you not like a book that contains a passage like this?

"Picture a very swift torrent, a river rushing down between rocky walls. There is a long, shallow bar of sand and gravel that runs right down the middle of the river. It is under water. You are born and you have to stand on that narrow, submerged bar, where everyone stands. The ones born before you, the ones older than you, are upriver from you. The younger ones stand braced on the bar downriver. And the whole long bar is slowly mov
Another McGee novel and a pretty good one. I don't know what I can add that hasn't already been commented on by other reviewers. The plot is a little unrealistic (though perhaps more plausible in 1968) and the usual florid prose pops up when it comes to McGee and his relationship(s) with the female characters. However there is the always entertaining sharp and sardonic observations on (1968) modern life in Florida ,and the United States in general, that makes reading MacDonald such a pleasure. I ...more
Jul 08, 2008 Joan rated it it was amazing
My first Travis Mc Gee book I ever read, Pale Gray for Guilt, was something I picked out of a trunk full of old books that Dr. Simons had stored in Egypt to read while he was there on his expeditions. So, I read this in my tent and I was hooked. Even though this is technically not the 1st Travis McGee book, it is where I started. I suggest you start with the first one, though if you haven't read any (The Deep Blue Goodbye). And yes, they all have a color in their title, how cool is that?

If you l
Joed Jackson
Aug 23, 2016 Joed Jackson rated it it was amazing
Where do I begin? This guy has a bluntly imaginative way of saying things that just makes me laugh out loud. His protagonist is entirely screwed up and fun to ride along with. The supporting cast is dialed in and the whole work is in sinc. and really entertaining. It felt to me like I was reading a real life event out of the weekend news or something. Everything just connected. It was full of depth and human emotion, very solid plot and wonderful characters. I highly recommend this one.
Mar 12, 2015 Lynette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deeply satisfying... I continue to be a big fan of this series - it's funny, intriguing, unexpected (mostly) and just far enough outside the law to make me rub my hands together with glee... Ahhhhh
Sure do enjoy JDMacD character definitions.

On male friendships after marriage:You make my husband feel wistful about the debts he has and the girls he hasn't. When you come near my nest, just by being here, you remind my man of the gaudy grasshopper years, and somehow you turn me into some kind of guard, or attendant, or burden.

On marriage: Every marriage at one time or another is going to run through some heavy weather. Heavy weather comes in all kinds of flavors. Slowly going broke, slowly los
Jun 02, 2015 wally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: macdonald
#42 from macdonald for me...just finished The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper...don't know if that is #8...this one is #9 and I've read 8 or 9 travis mcgee stories now. i have not found any spoiler type thingies from one story to another...although there is some merit to the idea of reading these in line...trace the evolution if any of our hero mcgee.

1 jun 15
finished. good story. there's a curious quote before story begins, title page, perhaps no one can be really a good appreciating pagan who h
Larry Hostetler
Mar 01, 2015 Larry Hostetler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Grabbed this book off my shelf at random to read on my flights to and from Las Vegas. With a five-hour delay getting home (due to weather in Dallas) I came close to finishing it. These books are good, quick reads, a guilty pleasure on my part.

Having read it first in 1996 and again in 2010 it had a familiar ring to it, but the exact plot was thankfully gone from my memory, so I got to enjoy it again.

The one part of the McGee series I enjoy the least is the seemingly pugilistic requirement for th
Jeff Yoak
This one started out extremely slowly, but ended as the strongest yet. It is the first in which Meyer plays an active role. Travis and Meyer undertake a major long con to settle a score and thus the plot is more entertaining and complex than is usual. The poetic descriptions of human nature and Florida in the sixties are firmly in place and make the reader feel at home in a McGee novel.
M Boughner
Nov 04, 2012 M Boughner rated it it was amazing
I really enjoy the Travis McGee novels. Set in Fort Lauderdale, these always remind me of the sites, sounds and pace of the gold coast. These are a great beach read if you are looking to escape for a little while with a good mystery. Travis McGee is the beach bum/ salvage expert/ cynic/investigator; the tough righter of wrongs. If Travis had a son, he would be Jack Reacher.

This is my choice for one of the best Travis McGee books. MacDonald's hero, who takes his retirement incrementally rather than wait for old age, investigates the death of a friend. As usual in a McGee story, he helps those in need and encounters the banal evil of small time creeps trying to cut to the head of the line.
Peter Herrmann
May 11, 2015 Peter Herrmann rated it did not like it
This is the 10th of Travis McGee that I've read. Couldn't get much beyond the beginning because I realize life is too short to waste my time on this bad literature. Also, that if you've read one Travis McGee, you've read them all. I began reading them as sort of a nostalgic trip back into the 1960's. But as I've progressed through the series (in chronological order as published) it's become more and more of a slog. The smugness of McGee irks me more and more. He's paternalistic to all the women; ...more
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John D. MacDonald was born in Sharon, Pa, and educated at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Syracuse and Harvard, where he took an MBA in 1939. During WW2, he rose to the rank of Colonel, and while serving in the Army and in the Far East, sent a short story to his wife for sale, successfully. After the war, he decided to try writing for a year, to see if he could make a living. Over 500 short stor ...more
More about John D. MacDonald...

Other Books in the Series

Travis McGee (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • The Deep Blue Good-By (Travis McGee #1)
  • Nightmare in Pink (Travis McGee, #2)
  • A Purple Place for Dying (Travis McGee #3)
  • The Quick Red Fox (Travis McGee #4)
  • A Deadly Shade of Gold (Travis McGee #5)
  • Bright Orange for the Shroud (Travis McGee #6)
  • Darker Than Amber (Travis McGee #7)
  • One Fearful Yellow Eye (Travis McGee #8)
  • The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper (Travis McGee #10)
  • Dress Her in Indigo (Travis McGee #11)

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