Jimmy Wing

Created by John D. MacDonald (1916-1986)

Just as the pulps were dying out, John D. MacDonald was able to catch the rising wave of the paperback boom. From 1950 until he released his first Travis McGee novel in 1964, he published over forty PBO’s, all standalones. His crime novels of this period are masters of the form — spare, tight, often noirish tales of desperate men in way over their heads; taut morbid fables with psychological underpinnings and a burgeoning environmental awareness, often set in his adopted state of Florida. The protagonists were often simple working joes and harried businessmen, tripped up by bad choices and bad luck, but there were also several cops, journalists and other investigator types.

You can argue whether these guys are true private eyes or not (and some misguided souls might even make the case that McGee wasn’t a real private eye), but the Palm City Record-Journal‘s JIMMY WING, the brooding, cynical newsie caught between a rock and a hard place in A Flash of Green (1962), certainly acts like a private eye. And being a “a sandy man in his middle thirties,” there’s no denying he bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain brooding and equally cynical Mr. McGee.

The Florida real estate market — one of MacDonald’s favourite targets — is exploding, and a local conservation group is fighting to protect Grassy Bayan untouched bay from being turned into yet another housing development. Needless to say, money is secretly — and not so secretly — moving back and forth between various groups of developers and politicians, and Jimmy’s no fool — he knows what’s up.

But then he falls for his next door neighbour, Kat Hubble, a comely, recently widowed woman who’s part of the group who want to save the bay from those who would destroy it.

And there are people who would rather Kat just disappeared…

It’s one of the last standalones MacDonald wrote for Fawcett before creating McGee, but you can clearly see why some call this the first environmentally correct hard-boiled novel. The book was even dedicated to those “opposed to the uglification of America.” Call it “green noir,” and call MacDonald way ahead of his time. Looks like he knew what was up, too.

In 1986, Ed Harris and Blair Brown starred in an excellent television adaptation for PBS’ American Playhouse.


  • ” … far and away, the best film version of anything JDM ever wrote. ”
    The Trap of Solid Gold, on the film



    (1981-2001, PBS)
    A long running antholgy series presented original dramatic films and mini-series (such as Amistad Maupin’s acclaimed Tales of the City) also presented this sterling adaptation of MacDonald’s A Flash of Green.

    • A FLASH OF GREEN| Buy the video
      (April 21, 1986)
      131 minutes
      Based on the novel by John D. MacDonald
      Screenplay by Victor Nunez
      Directed by Victor Nunez
      Starring Ed Harris as JIMMY WING
      Also starring Blair Brown, Richard Jordan, George Coe, Helen Stenborg, John Glover
      One of the best adaptations of his work ever, this one captured all the subtle intelligence and deft characterization of MacDonald’s best novels, and didn’t shy away from his larger themes. And Harris, Brown and Jordan deliver some of their very finest performances.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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