Friday, December 20, 2019

102. Condominium by John D. MacDonald

I was a bit wary going into this one.  I was worried about having read too many JDMs this year, having scored a nice set of his non-Travis McGee books in Vancouver over the summer.  John D. Macdonald can get a bit indulgent with his philosophizing about the world and his weird mid-twentieth century sexual mores, so it is best to take a break from time to time.  Still, this tome seemed a perfect book for the holidays.  I love this paperback version with the big gold embossed title over the great cracked sunglasses with the condo in the reflection image.

I was not disappointed as right away I saw Condominium was going to spend most of its time on characters, story and situation with a nice sprinkling of life philosophy.  I was particularly happy when we got early on a great JDM type of strong man character, in this case a retired engineer whose body still retains the hardness of a lifetime on international construction projects (take a moment to read the first two pages of the chapter below where he is introduced).  I was even happier when I figured out the setup.  The good guys are a mixed bag of retirees living in their brand new luxury condo that we soon realize is a con job, from the disrespectful manager, to the hidden fees, to the disappearing management company and as we learn the shoddy construction.  The bad guys are the developers (boo, hiss!) and the structure of greed, corruption and general moral weakness that surrounds and props them up.

There are a lot of characters and a lot of seemingly accurate details about the financial shenanigans used by developers to finance these condo projects and get them built.  Some of the money stuff, I glossed over though it seemed all too realistic (and sadly probably not that different than techniques being used today).  I got lost with a few of the characters, but as you move forward you realize that not only is this book an underdog story but also a disaster story, as a hurricane with the potential to expose the shoddy construction, starts developing in the Pacific about halfway through the book (around the time the engineer has brought in an old colleague to do an assessment whose conclusion is that these condos could not stand a major hurricane).

When the shit hits the fan, it is pretty damned enjoyable.  I ended up staying up two and a half hours past my bedtime finishing this book.  What the hell, I'm on vacation.  If you like epic 70s disaster stories in sleazy Florida with some John D. MacDonald musings on where we went wrong plus lots of torrid affairs, this book is for you.

This is where John D. MacDonald is the master

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This guy was a beast of a writer. I read a chapter a day. Ordered a Travis McGee. Thank you Olman for having him on your list.