The following brief profile of John D MacDonald was published in the Sunday newspaper supplement of the Bradenton Herald on March 31, 1974 and was ironically titled “John D MacDonald: King of the Paperbacks”. Ironic because just a few months earlier the author had published The Turquoise Lament in hardcover and would forever after (excepting a couple of short story anthologies) appear in that medium. There’s nothing new here, and although author Sally Remaley makes it appear as if she met with the author, given the short length of this piece it’s doubtful she did.
Reigning King of the Paperbacks... that's famous Sarasota author John D. MacDonald, who justifiably qualifies as that prestigious potentate and is a favorite with readers all over this country and many others.
For the undisputed ruler of Paperback Land, the prolific MacDonald, has authored pocket novels now in the hands (as well as pockets) of millions of devoted and dedicated subjects.
MacDonald, who lives the good life (when not slaving over his ever-hot typewriter, and he even enjoys that to the hilt) at his oceanside home, has a whole library of his brainchildren now in paperback print and there are always more "in the offing."
But don't ever belittle the paperback route to fame. John D. MacDonald deliberately and sagely, as it proved, chose the paperback realm over the sometimes considered more "snooty" side of the novel-writing business ... at which John D., as he is familiarly known, is an expert.
The Sarasota writer realized he could attain what he wanted most ... a big readership ... by means of the lowly and inexpensive pocket book medium,
He was smart enough to see what many other authors could not, or would not, see. The pocketbook method would bring his novels the greatest circulation, and the quickest.
It worked just as he had anticipated. Mention his name in Timbuctoo, in Trinidad, or in Paducah ... almost everyone knows who John D. MacDonald, "daddy'' of the famous Travis McGee, is.
In fact, it's almost impossible to find someone who doesn't know that John D. MacDonald is literally King of the Paperbacks. Drop in at any news stand and you'll see rows and rows of John D.'s fast-moving adventure titles, with colors in the names to help you remember which ones you've already purchased.
(John D. was the first person to use the color-key idea in publishing.)
And book store owners will tell you that many readers avidly collect John D.'s books. They don't take up much space, and they're inexpensive. Some readers couldn't afford to collect hardcover books, and wouldn't have room for the larger size in their homes."
MacDonald came home from service and read some of the current stories, decided he could write better fiction. He kept saying, “That's lousy writing. I could do better than that.''
One day his wife said, "So why don't you?"
Always one to accept a challenge, MacDonald couldn't let that one pass. He hauled out his typewriter and got busy. Editors agreed his stuff was better than they had been receiving. They bought some 500 short stories and articles from him up to 1950.
Then John D. decided to try the paperback field. It turned out to be the best decision he ever made.
He is completely in tune with paperback readers and has often remarked that "If the objective of writing is to acquire an audience, I can't think of a better place to find it."
MacDonald is also intrigued with paperback writing because of a category which he has developed to the fullest and which he sometimes terms the "why-did-it?"
Most of MacDonald's pocketbook novels are in fact this interesting type of story, in which MacDonald has become a master craftsman.
There is a difference between it and the "who-done-it." He explains it this way: "The thing I prefer about the 'why-did-it' is that the writer, instead of creating or solving problems, tries to establish why this particular chain of events came about."
MacDonald thoroughly enjoys what he's doing, for paperbacks have brought him a lovely secluded home and the opportunity to live the way he wants to live, to write what and how and when he wishes, and to enjoy his favorite hobbies, which include fishing and photography
He also likes to travel, especially all over southern and central Florida, scouting for the backgrounds he uses for his own novels while simultaneously becoming more and more knowledgeable as an environmentalist ... a subject dear to his heart.
MacDonald has a quick, brilliant mind, and talks fluently on a great many subjects ... a handy quality for a writer ... and he admits to having an excellent memory, although adding, I'm not blessed with what is known as 'total recall'."
MacDonald has a keen interest in his home community and in people. And he notes, getting back to his paperbacks, "One reason they go over so well may be that people are existing in a throwaway culture and want light, fast-moving, humorous reading. They can buy these books at low cost, then toss them away after they read them, if they want to."
The exciting thing is that very few readers toss out John D. MacDonald's paperback novels. Knock on any door, walk in, and you're likely to see some of John D's books on the shelf.