FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE GIRL, THE GOLD WATCH, AND EVERYTHING by John D. MacDonald, 1962
This is the 141st in my series of Forgotten Books.
As hard as it is for me to believe, there was once a time when I had no idea who John D. MacDonald was. I was blissful in my ignorance. Fortunately I had friends like Bill Crider and Joe R. Lansdale who worshipped at the altar of John D. They knew I was more of a science fiction and fantasy guy than a mystery reader so they made sure I got a copy of this book and I got hooked. Bad.
I was skeptical at first. I had a reprint edition which bore the wonderful tag line (if I recall it correctly) “one day with Bonnie Lee was like a three year lease on a harem.” And there was this cute cover model that I swear had to be Ann Francis somewhere between Forbidden Planet and Honey West. The back comparisons were saying that Mickey Spillane and Thorne Smith might have collaborated on this novel. (It was not true since neither one, though great, was John D.)
I read it frantically and then I started in on the Travis McGee and the non series books and I read a great many of them, not all, there are still a few for a cold rainy day. John D. was an amazing writer with a great ear for dialogue and a wonderful understanding of human nature.
TGTGWAE would be an interesting name for a rock band as Mr. Crider is fond of saying and it is a great name for a fantasy novel. Kirby Winter is a young man who works (or worked) for his uncle Omar Krebs, an eccentric millionaire. Omar employed Kirby as a kind of gopher for one of his little enterprises. His job was to discreetly give away Omar’s money. Over a period of time, he gave away $27 million, which is a lot of money now, but at the time of this novel was a tremendous amount of money.
When the will is read, Kirby is bequeathed a gold pocket watch and that’s it. He is his uncle’s only living relative and out of the millions in his uncle’s estate he gets a watch. Everyone assumes he is going to get a bazillion dollars. Immediately the con men and lawyers start circling the young man. They can’t seem to account for $27 million and they are convinced Kirby has it stashed away. No one believes him when he says “I gave it away!” particularly not the Board of Directors.
No one seems to believe until he meets Bonnie Lee Beaumont, a southern anti-Belle (she’s not fragile, gentile, or respectable) but she sees something in Kirby and he in her that leads to sparks. Then when they find out what the watch can do, mayhem ensues. I do not want to spoil the fun for you. This is a book to be savored and reread.
There is a bad made for TV movie based on the book starring Pam Dawber as Bonnie Lee and Robert Hays as Kirby.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.