Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Man From Limbo by John D. MacDonald

The Man From Limbo By John D. MacDonald
Short Story, Dime Detective Magazine
April 1953

Like many of the successful post-war American mystery novelists, John D. MacDonald got his start writing for the popular pulp magazines. There are some who believe here is where you'll find his best work, and I might agree with that statement. Try reading stories like "Finders Killers" or "In a Small Motel," and you'll find characters and plots with smothering situations that explode from the pages. "The Man From Limbo" appeared in the Apr. 1953 issue of Dime Detective. It may not be the best MacDonald short story, but it sure is a fascinating one. The story starts with shell-shocked ex-GI Dolph Regan, struggling within his inner darkness and fears, being constantly tormented by events from the war. He takes on a job as a traveling salesman, which lands him in a town where he finds his old platoon sergeant is running for mayor. Before we know it, Regan is on the run for a murder rap and his war buddy is out to kill him. All this has to do with the future control of corruption in the town and an amnesiac mystery from the past. Along the way he bumps into a couple of dames, one is out to help him and the other is there to harm him. MacDonald creates a hell of a setting and scraps it all together into a quick ending.

I do have favorite novels by John D. MacDonald, they are the non-Travis McGee novels. And it was through the pounding on that typewriter, writing for the pulps, that rooted those novels and made them extraordinary.

"The Man From Limbo" can also be found in the 1992 crime anthology containing 23 Dime Detective Magazine stories titled, HARD-BOILED DETECTIVES.


OlmanFeelyus said...

Yeah, I'm with you on MacDonald's non-Travis McGee novels. McGee is a lot of fun, but he is also a bit of a fantasy figure for the time period. His other novels tend to be really dark and intense and in a wider range of interesting contexts.

Walker Martin said...

I like Travis McGee but he can be a real pain when he gets on his soapbox and starts preaching. Plus I hate it when he starts seducing women in order to help them out, etc.