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Pale Gray for Guilt

(Travis McGee #9)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  4,137 ratings  ·  148 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 didnt 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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Acutemporary The name of the dancer on Meyer's boat who wins the dance contest after 70 minutes is Junebug (sorry for all the extra words, I tried to just type…moreThe name of the dancer on Meyer's boat who wins the dance contest after 70 minutes is Junebug (sorry for all the extra words, I tried to just type "Junebug" and GR said my answer was too short and I needed to add more detail).(less)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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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
Jul 02, 2008 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 cant 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 theyre 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
Cathy DuPont
Nov 10, 2011 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
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Looking good, Meyer!

Feeling good, Travis!

Just like Louis and Billy Ray from the 1983 John Landis film starring Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy and also reminiscent of the 1973 George Roy Hill film The Sting starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, Travis McGee and his friend Meyer turn the tables on some Florida good ole boy businessmen when Travis old football buddy gets sideways in some shady Florida land deals.

First published in 1968, and set in Travis home state turf, this also made me think of
Dec 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, crime, 2016, american
"In all emotional conflicts, dear girl, the thing you find the hardest to do is the thing you should do."
-- John D. MacDonald, Pale Gray for Guilt


A good solid Travis McGee romp. MacDonald's novels, like his titles, don't stray from his themes very far. But like a seafood restaurant you know well, and go to for its quality and execution, the Travis McGee novels are well-executed variations on the same themes: revenge, woman-in-peril, etc.

This one is focused on revenge. Travis along with his
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A truly fine Travis McGee novel. McGee runs a complex real estate and stock market con on the men responsible for his friend's death. In fact, it's incredibly ambitious, straining credulity that he and his accomplices believe they can pull it off so readily. Yet my biggest issue is simply Travis McGee burnout. As always, MacDonald's writing is wonderful, the prose at times sublime. And McGee's pithy social and cultural observations are timeless gems. Yet there's something deeply irritating in ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars
Sad and clever stuff, one of his best.

As usual with my reviews, please first read the publishers blurb/summary of the book. Thank you.

A book of the long con, orchestrated by Travis and Meyer. Complex, sad, workmanlike. There's little joy in this con of multiple revenge, but there are some fine characters, and too many losses. McGee's final request of Meyer at the end:
I told him that we were going to take his little cruiser because it could take more sea than a houseboat, and we were
Victoria Mixon
Sep 23, 2010 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
T. Sullivan
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent plot and characters, one of the better McGee books.
Benjamin Thomas
Tush Bannon, an old football buddy of Travis McGee, has been murdered and made to look like a suicide. Indeed, the man had been in financial difficulty as he tried to put together a nice marina/motel on the coast of the Florida Straits, but he just isnt the type to take his own life, especially considering a lovely wife and a couple of kids left behind. McGee soon discovers that the marina/motel property happened to be the last hold-out in a large real estate deal and the fact that Tush wouldnt ...more
Harv Griffin
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, own

This is one of my favorite Travis McGee novels. Ive 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 Periodexcuse me, I mean like a big macho man from the Sixties. You wont 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 bought
Carla Remy
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this as much as I love the color gray, but it was truly on the boring side. So many details about real estate, so very long before there was real action (this is not atypical of this series). John D. MacDonald may be my favorite writer, but his Travis McGee books sometimes seem like a lot of filler. Depends. A few of them are amazing.
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: detective-noir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charles  van Buren
Charles van Buren


5.0 out of 5 starsRegret and revenge

January 14, 2019

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

John MacDonald was more than just a mystery writer. If you read mysteries just for the puzzle, you may not like this one. MacDonald writes of time, place, human nature and offers observations of same in addition to there being a mystery. In this one there is a clear message that most of our regrets concern things we didn't do rather than things we did. As a result this is
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.

2018: This is the one that gives Meyer's first name! Ludwig!
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Travis McGee, if you are unfamiliar with his world, lives on a houseboat, The Busted Flush, in the Bahai Marina in Florida. It is an endless string of parties in a world unlike that of the 9 to 5 Joe. McGee doesn't necessarily work in the general sense, but does collect salvage for people who have been wronged and for who the laws and the system will never make whole. These are not hardboiled detective novels, but somehow they are imbued with the spirit of the lone avenger who all on his own is ...more
Mar 31, 2016 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
Mar 04, 2012 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 ...more
Apr 26, 2011 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.
Maggie K
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
ok, sometimes these books are a little hard to review. You need to keep in mind they were written in the 60s, and some of the outlooks regarding women are considered a little pre-historic by todays standards. But if you truly read the whole book, you will also see how dang STRONG these women are!
And really, if a woman wants to have sex with someone who she isnt in a committed loving relationship with, isnt that okay? Seriously, a guy in a two-way, respectful tryst isn't taking advantage of
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love Trav but all the high finance was a little dull for me. So sorry he lost his lady early but it was a great read
Mike Glaser
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
You have to love John D. MacDonald. Every time I think that I have him figured out, he throws me a curve ball. As always, a good read that keeps you guessing.
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read
Great on the ins and outs of Florida land deals, even better on stock market scams. Meyer comes into his own in this oldie-but-goody.
Bruce Hatton
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-crime
Motel and marina owner Tush Bannon is killed when he refuses to sell out his small property to a bunch of greedy speculators. Unfortunately for the bad guys, Tush Bannon is a dear and longtime friend of Travis McGee.
The ninth novel in this iconic series sees McGee, with invaluable assistance from best friend Meyer, set up a sting operation to bankrupt the two main villains. The nephew of one of them turns out to be the actual murderer and he gets turned into shark-food in the penultimate
COUNTDOWN: Mid-2oth Century North American Crime
BOOK 208 (out of 250)
"Mostly I'm called Trav. Short for Travis. And we stock milk, because there is very little damn else you can put on cornflakes."
Hook=2 stars: The opening pages discuss the operation of McGee's new toy: a boat named 'Munequita' (Little Doll). It takes a while for the central plot to kick in.
Pace=2: At times, the pace of this story feels uneven, perhaps a bit padded at 103,000 words.
Plot=2: Underhanded, perhaps illegal land
Angered when he finds that his old pal Tush Bannon is the apparent victim in a real estate scheme, McGee investigates and in Jack Reacher fashion brings justice.
May 31, 2015 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
Apr 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Travis McGee is salvage expert. Not the kind that recycles metal or dives for sunken treasure. Travis is a finder, a recovery expert, for hire. If someone has been swindled or cheated out of money or objects and all conventional means of recovery have been unsuccessful, or legal means are unavailable or unacceptable, Travis steps in and takes 50% of what he recovers in payment. But in this book Travis isn't hired, this is personal. A childhood friend is being squeezed by powerful men who want ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Not my favorite of the first 9 Travis books. This is familiar territory for MacDonald, who has an axe to grind with anyone willing to desecrate his beloved Florida. In his way, MacDonald was an environmentalist as much as he was a champion for the little guy, which is great, but the pacing here was slow for me.

Tush Bannon is an old friend and former football teammate of Trav's who's trying to make a go of it with a little motel and marina. Trouble is, Tush's land is the final puzzle piece in a
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
You don't want to be the person who crosses one of Travis McGee's friends. Worse yet, you don't want to be the person who kills one of Travis McGee's friends. McGee may take his lumps, but you will forever regret what you did, because McGee will make you pay heavily for it.
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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. He served in the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. ...more

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)

News & Interviews

April is the most hopeful of months, promising warm days and sunshine just around the corner. The weather is a little unpredictable, sure, but tha...
58 likes · 12 comments
“Such gratitude! It hurt me to see you lose your professional standing, McGee. Like you were going soft and sentimental. So, through my own account, I put us into Fletcher and rode it up nicely and took us out, and split the bonus right down the middle. It's short-term. It's a check. Pay your taxes. Live a little. It's a longer retirement this time. We can gather up a throng and go blundering around on this licentious craft and get the remorses for saying foolish things while in our cups. We had a salvage contract, idiot, and the fee is comparatively small but fair."
"And you are comparatively large but fair."
"I think of myself that way. Where did the check go? Into the pocket so fast? Good." he looked at his watch. "I am taking a lady to lunch. Make a nice neat deck there, Captain." And away he went, humming.”
“It's a tricky, complex, indifferent society, Puss. It's a loophole world. And there are a lot of clever animals who know how to reach through the loopholes and pick the pockets of the unsuspecting.” 1 likes
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