Friday, March 9, 2018

Soft Touch

Florida’s John D. MacDonald was best known for his popular 'Travis McGee' series, but he also wrote a slew of stand-alone crime fiction paperbacks worth reading. His 1958 heist novel, “Soft Touch”, was among the best from that era of his career. 

Our hero Jerry hates his job, his wife and his life. He wants money, freedom and the hot secretary at work. Then a long-lost war buddy shows up with a foolproof plan that could change Jerry's life: a multi-million dollar heist that will allow Jerry to upgrade both his life and his wife.

Because this is a crime novel of the 1950s from Florida's literary noir master, you can guess that everything doesn't go as planned. This is familiar territory previously mined by Harry Whittington, Gil Brewer and other contemporaries from the Fawcett Gold Medal era, but MacDonald keeps it fresh with vivid characters and crisp writing.

The malaise of suburbia with irritating in-laws and busy-body neighbors was well illustrated. The fallacy of “money that no one will ever miss” is put to the test. And while the short novel's ending was imperfect, the ride to that conclusion was filled with compelling bumps in the road for our anti-hero to navigate.

Recommend without hesitation to fans of the genre and John D. MacDonald’s early work.