The Brass Cupcake a “runaway bestseller”? All his paperbacks published by Crest? Its a quick read, written at a time when JDM emerged from his office to help publicize the film Cape Fear.
By BEATRICE WASHBURN
Herald Staff Writer
It is difficult to escape John D. MacDonald.
His name, his picture loom forth from 40 books - books you'd find in any airport, drug store, book store or supermarket from Key West to Seattle. In both paper and hard back versions.
This handsome author of whodunits is director of 1,200-member Mystery Writers of American Association.
He was brought up in Sharon, Pa., and got an M.A. from of all places, Harvard Business School.
"I don't think they are too happy about it," he admits ruefully. "I destroyed the image."
After six years in the Army, he decided to try a typewriter instead of a rifle and the result was The Brass Cup Cake, which became a runaway best seller almost on appearance.
MacDonald's work appears frequently in magazines. In fact you can hardly pick up a paperback or a magazine without seeing his name - but he prefers books. He explains that magazine editors like to tailor you to fit the taste.
His paperbacks have all come out in Crest editions; most of his hard backs, in Simon and Schuster.
MacDonald doesn't think there is anything special about writing mysteries -- so don't ask him. It's a question of people, he declares. Catch your people live and then see what happens to them,
Violence? No, we're not teeming with it, he says. Many of us are gentle as doves.
His movie, Cape Fear, taken from the novel The Executioners, makes its world premiere in Florida State Theaters this Thursday - and it is NOT gentle.
MacDonald didn't follow his book to Hollywood. He let the experts have their way and thinks they made a fine job of it. No complaints - especially of Robert Mitchum who is the hero, or you might say the protagonist.
It's a story of psychotic revenge - take that how you will - but all of MacDonald's books aren't revengeful. Some of them are just good novels.
I put my foot deep between the teeth by saying I thought women made better mystery writers.
Predictably, he doesn't agree.
MacDonald is always two or three books ahead. When he gets tired of one plot, he turns to another. He uses a typewriter, works about six hours a day and has enough novels teeming in that busy brain to last until he is over 100.
His son, John P., attends Cranbook Academy (an art school) and his daughter-in-law is a Mount Holyoke graduate. The MacDonalds have lived in Florida about 12 years, specifically Sarasota.
There are no rules for mystery writing, says MacDonald. To some people life IS a mystery and maybe they get the most fun out of it. The plot, the narration is difficult to learn, he admits. It is best to be born with the knack.
Once in my callow youth, I asked Mischa Elman how he slanted his bow to get that tone. Since then I've learned. Elman didn't know.
And neither does MacDonald. Like most successful people, he can't tell you how he does it.