Saturday, September 26, 2009

More on Character

Here's a small bit of characterization I loved when I read it, long ago and before I paid much attention to such things. I haven't read the scene in a while, so the details might be off, but here's the gist:

McGee and Meyer are in a local restaurant and Meyer orders the chili. (Meyer is himself a wondrous chili cook.) Now from the set-up and dialog with the locals, this is hot chili, and the locals drift over to watch Meyer's reaction. The unspoken assumption is that he is gonna take a bite and then break a land speed record in the Reach-for-the-water-glass event.

So Meyer takes a bite. Doesn't speak.

The locals grin. Here it comes ...

Meyer reaches for a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce. Sprinkles it liberally upon the chili. Takes another bite. Nods. "That's about right," he says.

Me, I think that's a wonderful bit of business that goes right to Meyer's character. Moran can probably tell us right off which book it was from. (And I confess I always kind of saw McDonald's face whenever Meyer showed up.)


Dan Moran said...

:-) Put me on the spot, eh?

Cinnamon Skin, I think. During the road trip where Meyer & McGee are hunting the man who blew up Meyer's boat. They're down south in Texas or some such uncivilized locale. My books are in storage or I'd type it -- you're right that it's a great scene -- but in any event, your recollection matches mine pretty close.

laird said...

Looks like Dan had it right.

Steve Perry said...

For those of you who wonder what we are going on about -- The Travis McGee series, by John D. MacDonald:

1964 The Deep Blue Good-By
1964 Nightmare In Pink
1964 A Purple Place For Dying
1964 The Quick Red Fox
1965 A Deadly Shade of Gold
1965 Bright Orange for the Shroud
1966 Darker than Amber
1966 One Fearful Yellow Eye
1968 Pale Gray for Guilt
1969 The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper
1969 Dress Her in Indigo
1970 The Long Lavender Look
1972 A Tan and Sandy Silence
1973 The Scarlet Ruse
1974 The Turquoise Lament
1975 The Dreadful Lemon Sky
1978 The Empty Copper Sea
1980 The Green Ripper
1981 Free Fall in Crimson
1982 Cinnamon Skin
1985 The Lonely Silver Rain

Viro said...

Which book contained the conversation between Travis and Meyer about jogging?

Travis suggested jogging along the beach to Meyer. Meyer's response was to rather eloquently describe that the uncontrollable stampeded of fear-wracked beach-goers that would result if he ever decided to try it.

Steve Perry said...

I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday. Being able to pin down a scene in a book I might have read anywhere from twenty to forty years ago?

Not a prayer.

Put Dan on the hot seat again. He be's younger, his mind still sharp ...

Dan Moran said...

That's an easy one; it's in my old email because I send it to people sometimes. It's the funniest scene in any McGee novel.

"You ought to run a little," I told him.

"Would that I could. When the beach people see you running, they know at a glance that it is exercise. There you are, all sinew and brown hide, and you wear that earnest, dumb, strained expression of the old jock keeping in shape. You have the style. Knees high, arms swinging just right, head up. But suppose I came running down this beach? They would look at me, and then look again. I look so little like a runner or a jock that the only possible guess as to what would make me run is terror. So they look way down the beach to see what is chasing me. They can’t see anything, but to be on the safe side, they start walking swiftly in the same direction I’m running. First just a few, then a dozen, then a score. All going faster and faster. Looking back. Breaking into a run. And soon you would have two or three thousand people thundering along the beach, eyes popping out of the sockets, cords in their necks standing out. A huge stampede, stomping everything and everybody in their path into the sand. You wouldn’t want me to cause a catastrophe like that, would you?"

"Oh, boy."

"It might not happen, but I can’t take the chance."


"Once it started, I could drop out and they would keep on going. The contagion of panic. Once you see it, you never forget it."

"Meyer, do you remember Carrie Milligan?"

"A thundering herd of… what? Who?"