Friday, November 6, 2009

The JDM Bibliophile

In the summer of 1975 Esquire magazine published an issue with this arresting cover. My father was a subscriber and although I seldom read the magazine, that cover made me take another look. Ignoring the cover story (but not the pictures) I discovered that the issue contained four or five articles on Mystery fiction, and one, titled "The Awesome Beige Typewriter," was about John D MacDonald.

I had recently finished reading every one of MacDonald's novels, with the exception of Weep For Me, which was out of print and unobtainable, and was crazy-in-love with his writing, so the article was an exciting find. The author was Rust Hills, formerly the fiction editor of the magazine who may have been around when MacDonald published two short stories there in 1946 and 1947. The article discussed the popularity of MacDonald's work and the size and devotion of his fan base. "His fans aren't just fans," he wrote, "they're addicts." I could relate.

Hills revealed that MacDonald's work was the subject of an ongoing "newsletter" called The JDM Bibliophile and that it was published by a west coast couple, Len and June Moffat out of their home in Downey, California. He even gave the address, "in case you have a real need." Apparently I didn't, for it wasn't until March of 1979 that I finally sent a letter requesting a subscription. I was informed by Len that he and June no longer ran the Bibliophile, and that its management had been taken over in 1978 by Ed Hirshberg, an English professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The Moffatts were now contributing a column to the new, upgraded version of the newsletter. It was also around this time that Fawcett, the publisher of MacDonald's work in paperback, was sponsoring a "Travis McGee Fan Club," presumably in concert with the publication of the then-new McGee novel The Empty Copper Sea. I sent in my money ($1.50 per issue!) and received my issue, a "Me and Travis McGee" badge, and some sort of certificate I could presumably frame and hang on the wall. God help me, but I still have all three.

The issue of the Bibliophile was a revelation. Hand-published and running 22 pages, it was obviously the work and passion of some very serious people. There were reprints of book reviews of MacDonald's latest McGee, news items about a recent JDM Conference that had been held at the University, a section for people selling and seeking old pulp magazines containing JDM stories ("Wanted: Dime Detective, Oct. 1946") and two multi-page columns: The Moffats' "... & EVERYT
HING" and an even longer column titled "THE SHINE SECTION".

The Shines -- Walter and Jean Shine-- were MacDonald fanatics of the first order. Their love and knowledge of the works of John D MacDonald was obviously a level above the ordinary fan. They had apparently been regular contributors to the "old" Bibliophile, supplying endless information in the form of letters to the editor. The Moffatts eventually relented and, in their last issue as editors, gave the Shines their own column. They were dogged hunters of everything JDM had ever written, authorities and fact-checkers of anything said about MacDonald in print or in the media, and, as a later study of the "Seek and Swap" section revealed, they were the sole contributors to that particular section. Their column in Issue 23 ran four full pages, filled with news and tidbits, quotations from an obscure Clinton, New York Courier column that MacDonald wrote back in 1947, a discussion on MacDonald's expertise in the world of sports, corrections on the actual length of the Busted Flush (52', not 54'!), additions to the Moffatts' "Master Checklist," which was a listing of everything MacDonald had ever written (I knew I would have to get a copy of that!), and a pan of a recent paperback titled The Colorful World of Travis McGee. These guys were obviously "The Experts" in all things MacDonald.

By the next issue the Bibliophile had graduated to a colored cover, a more professional construction and ran a full 50 pages. Throughout the next 14 years fans from all over the world contributed multi-page articles and scholarly papers with titles like "The Athlete & The Armchair Detective," "A Question of Survival: Feminine Narratives in Deep Blue Good-bye" (sic) and "The Gentle Aging of Travis McGee As Reflected in His Emergence as a Writer". There was a letter section (PLEASE WRITE FOR DETAILS, of course...), occasional poetry and, as the printing became more professional, clip-art and photographs. The Shines' column eventually became the centerpiece of each succeeding issue (at least for me) and they continued it up to issue Issue 46 (December 1990), when they left to start their own publication after a falling out with Hirshberg. That idea never came to fruition and, for me, the Bib was never the same. It survived the death of it's subject in 1986 and continued on until Issue 65, published in December 2004, when Professor Hirshberg passed away.

I still have every issue from #22-on, and once owned all of the previous issues, but where they went, I do not know. I look forward to re-reading the ones I have and going back over some very enjoyable times.

1 comment:

  1. I am looking at my Travis McGee Fan Club certificate framed on the wall of my study. I can also see my bottle of unopened Pilgrim Gin. I sold my collection of JDM Bibliophile to a book dealer, so I know they can be purchased. I had an article in one called "Me and T McGee" I think.