By Mike Jastrzebski
Hemingway would be a great response, but the truth is I didn’t become a fan of the man until I was in my forties. I love his work, but the truth of the matter is by the time I started reading his books my tastes were already set.
How about Frank Dixon? Edward Stratemeyer came up with the idea for the Hardy Boys books in 1926. He hired a Canadian writer, Leslie McFarlane, to write the books under the pen name Frank Dixon for $125.00 each. Stratemeyer also came up with the idea for Nancy Drew.
When I was ten years old I couldn’t get enough of the Hardy Boys. The books were on the top of my Christmas and birthday lists for several years. The sad thing was at the time, my local library refused to stock them and as a result I never did finish reading the entire series.
As a side note, I also enjoyed Nancy Drew, but it was 1959 and no self-respecting boy would ask their parents for Nancy Drew books. Of course Nancy Drew could never replace the Hardy Boys on those lists anyway. Fortunately, I had a friend with sisters and he shared some of their books with me.
Although the Hardy Boys set me on the road to reading mysteries, I also read a lot of science fiction at that time. It wasn’t until the summer of 1967 that I discovered Travis McGee and the man who set the bar for me as far as writers go, the man who is my favorite all-time writer, John D. MacDonald.
MacDonald started writing short stories during WWII and in the four months following his discharge from the military he worked 14-hour days, seven days a week writing. For his efforts he received hundreds of rejection slips. In the fifth month MacDonald made a $40 sale to the pulp magazine, Dime Detective. Between 1953 and 1964 MacDonald made a name for himself writing hardboiled thrillers, but as far as I’m concerned his most interesting writing came after that with the introduction of Travis McGee, MacDonald’s “knight in rusting armor”. I’ve read them all numerous times, from McGee’s introduction in 1964 in The Deep Blue Good-by, to his final appearance in 1985’s Lonely Silver Rain (Travis McGee Series)
Travis McGee, The Busted Flush, Ft. Lauderdale—I was hooked. I wanted to live the dream, but life sometimes clashes with dreams and it would be 36 years before I move onto my sailboat, Rough Draft, and another 2 years before I took the boat to Ft. Lauderdale.
But here I am writing and living the dream, writing mysteries set in and around South Florida. My third book, Dog River Blues, will be available as an eBook within the week and as a trade paperback by the first of September. I wish I would have started living the dream as a young man, but later is better than never.
And now I’d like to ask you, the readers of this blog, who is your favorite writer and has he/she influenced what you read or write today?