Wednesday, March 31, 2010

JDM on Tomcats

It's going to be a while before I get around to discussing John D MacDonald's five non-fiction works. Since I'm taking the books in the order they were published, and since MacDonald's first non-fiction book wasn't published until 1965, it means I have over 30 books to go through before getting to The House Guests. That's a shame, because there is some great writing in these volumes, some vivid recollections, sharp observations and many humorous passages.The five non-fiction books are:

The House Guests (1964)
No Deadly Drug (1968)
Nothing Can Go Wrong (1981)
A Friendship: The letters of Dan Rowan and John D. MacDonald - 1967-1974 (1986)
Reading for Survival (1987)

In addition there are hundreds of columns, articles, remembrances and letters out there, many with something worth talking about and bringing to light once again. I'm going to go ahead, perhaps once a week, and do a posting featuring something from some of the non-fiction stuff I have lying around. The books are the richest source -- The House Guests alone contains dozens of quotable passages -- but there's lots of other stuff that I will dig out which may be of some interest to somebody. And since I am getting to the last third of my short story collection, it will keep me posting for a little while longer.

Here is MacDonald's great little paragraph on the subject of tomcats, taken from the beginning of Chapter Three of The House Guests. I remember reading this back in 1975 and thinking "this could be a description of a JDM villain." Re-reading it today reveals a beautifully descriptive bit of writing that still holds up:

"The tomcat is a damned nuisance. He pursues his specialty to the almost complete exclusion of other interests. His is a nocturnal existence so rigorous, he spends his days flaked out, stirring once in a while to go see if anybody has put anything in his dish. He shreds upholstery in the serious business of keeping his claws and shoulder muscles in fighting trim. He develops a voice which will shatter glassware at twenty paces. His eerie howls of challenge disturb the neighborhood. He roams far and is sometimes gone for days in a row, returning sated, surly, smug and bearing the wounds of love and combat. He stakes out his territory with extraordinarily pungent little driblets of urine, and will occasionally stake out the house where he lives, either just for the hell of it or because another animal has been there during his absence. Owning a tomcat is curiously akin to working in some menial capacity for one of the notorious Lotharios of show business."

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