As prolific a novelist as John D. MacDonald was in his time, his output as a short-story writer is simply astonishing. All told, just a fraction of the five hundred pieces he produced as a working writer were anthologized, and End of the Tiger and Other Stories is the first of just a few such collections. Although renowned primarily as a noir author, these fifteen handpicked gems showcase MacDonald’s tremendous range. Written between 1947 and 1966, during the golden age of short fiction in America, and appearing in such national magazines as Cosmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, and Ladies’ Home Journal, these stories are a timeless testament to a writer at the top of his craft.
This collection includes “Hangover,” “The Big Blue,” “The Trouble with Erica,” “Long Shot,” “Looie Follows Me,” “Blurred View,” “The Loveliest Girl in the World,” “Triangle,” “The Bear Trap,” “A Romantic Courtesy,” “The Fast Loose Money,” “The Straw Witch,” “End of the Tiger,” “The Trap of Solid Gold,” and “Afternoon of the Hero.”
Features a new Introduction by Dean Koontz
Praise for John D. MacDonald
“The great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”—Stephen King
“My favorite novelist of all time.”—Dean Koontz
“To diggers a thousand years from now, the works of John D. MacDonald would be a treasure on the order of the tomb of Tutankhamen.”—Kurt Vonnegut
“A master storyteller, a masterful suspense writer . . . John D. MacDonald is a shining example for all of us in the field. Talk about the best.”—Mary Higgins Clark
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About the Author
Date of Birth:July 24, 1916
Date of Death:December 28, 1986
Place of Birth:Sharon, PA
Place of Death:Milwaukee, WI
Education:Syracuse University 1938; M.B. A. Harvard University, 1939
Read an Excerpt
He dreamed that he had dropped something, lost something of value in the furnace, and he lay on his side trying to look down at an angle through a little hole, look beyond the flame down into the dark guts of the furnace for what he had lost. But the flame kept pulsing through the hole with a brightness that hurt his eyes, with a heat that parched his face, pulsing with an intermittent husky rasping sound.
With his awakening, the dream became painfully explicable—the pulsing roar was his own harsh breathing, the parched feeling was a consuming thirst, the brightness was transmuted into pain intensely localized behind his eyes. When he opened his eyes, a long slant of early morning sun dazzled him, and he shut his eyes quickly again.
This was a morning time of awareness of discomfort so acute that he had no thought for anything beyond the appraisal of the body and its functions. Though he was dimly aware of psychic discomforts that might later exceed the anguish of the flesh, the immediacy of bodily pain localized his attentions. Even without the horizontal brightness of the sun, he would have known it was early. Long sleep would have muffled the beat of the taxed heart to a softened, sedate, and comfortable rhythm. But it was early and the heart knocked sharply with a violence and in a cadence almost hysterical, so that no matter how he turned his head, he could feel it, a tack hammer chipping away at his mortality.
His thirst was monstrous, undiminished by the random nausea that teased at the back of his throat. His hands and feet were cool, yet where his thighs touched he was sweaty. His body felt clotted, and he knew that he had perspired heavily during the evening, an oily perspiration that left an unpleasant residue when it dried. The pain behind his eyes was a slow bulging and shrinking, in contrapuntal rhythm to the clatter of his heart.
He sat on the edge of the bed, head bowed, eyes squeezed shut, cool trembling fingers resting on his bare knees. He felt weak, nauseated, and acutely depressed.
This was the great joke. This was a hangover. Thing of sly wink, of rueful guffaw. This was death in the morning.
He stood on shaky legs and walked into the bathroom. He turned the cold water on as far as it would go. He drank a full glass greedily. He was refilling the glass when the first spasm came. He turned to the toilet, half-falling, cracking one knee painfully on the tile floor, and knelt there and clutched the edge of the bowl in both hands, hunched, miserable, naked. The water ran in the sink for a long time while he remained there, retching, until nothing more came but flakes of greenish bile. When he stood up, he felt weaker but slightly better. He mopped his face with a damp towel, then drank more water, drank it slowly and carefully, and in great quantity, losing track of the number of glasses. He drank the cold water until his belly was swollen and he could hold no more, but he felt as thirsty as before.
Putting the glass back on the rack, he looked at himself in the mirror. He took a quick, overly casual look, the way one glances at a stranger, the eye returning for a longer look after it is seen that the first glance aroused no undue curiosity. Though his face was grayish, eyes slightly puffy, jaws soiled by beard stubble, the long face with its even undistinguished features looked curiously unmarked in relation to the torment of the body.
The visual reflection was a first step in the reaffirmation of identity. You are Hadley Purvis. You are thirty-nine. Your hair is turning gray with astonishing and disheartening speed.
He turned his back on the bland image, on the face that refused to comprehend his pain. He leaned his buttocks against the chill edge of the sink, and a sudden unbidden image came into his mind, as clear and supernaturally perfect as a colored advertisement in a magazine. It was a shot glass full to the very brim with dark brown bourbon.
By a slow effort of will he caused the image to fade away. Not yet, he thought, and immediately wondered about his instinctive choice of mental phrase. Nonsense. This was a part of the usual morbidity of hangover—to imagine oneself slowly turning into an alcoholic. The rum sour on Sunday mornings had become a ritual with him, condoned by Sarah. And that certainly did not speak of alcoholism. Today was, unhappily, a working day, and it would be twelve-thirty before the first Martini at Mario’s. If anyone had any worries about alcoholism, it was Sarah, and her worries resulted from her lack of knowledge of his job and its requirements. After a man has been drinking for twenty-one years, he does not suddenly become a legitimate cause for the sort of annoying concern Sarah had been showing lately.
In the evening when they were alone before dinner, they would drink, and that certainly did not distress her. She liked her few knocks as well as anyone. Then she had learned somehow that whenever he went to the kitchen to refill their glasses from the Martini jug in the deep freeze, he would have an extra one for himself, opening his throat for it, pouring it down in one smooth, long, silvery gush. By mildness of tone she had trapped him into an admission, then had told him that the very secrecy of it was “significant.” He had tried to explain that his tolerance for alcohol was greater than hers, and that it was easier to do it that way than to listen to her tiresome hints about how many he was having.
Standing there in the bathroom, he could hear the early morning sounds of the city. His hearing seemed unnaturally keen. He realized that it was absurd to stand there and conduct mental arguments with Sarah and become annoyed at her. He reached into the shower stall and turned the faucets and waited until the water was the right temperature before stepping in, just barely warm. He made no attempt at first to bathe. He stood under the roar and thrust of the high nozzle, eyes shut, face tilted up.
As he stood there he began, cautiously, to think of the previous evening. He had much experience in this sort of reconstruction. He reached out with memory timorously, anticipating remorse and self-disgust.
The first part of the evening was, as always, easy to remember. It had been an important evening. He had dressed carefully yesterday morning, knowing that there would not be time to come home and change before going directly from the office to the hotel for the meeting, with its cocktails, dinner, speeches, movie, and unveiling of the new model. Because of the importance of the evening, he had taken it very easy at Mario’s at lunchtime, limiting himself to two Martinis before lunch, conscious of virtue—only to have it spoiled by Bill Hunter’s coming into his office at three in the afternoon, staring at him with both relief and approval and saying, “Glad you didn’t have one of those three-hour lunches, Had. The old man was a little dubious about your joining the group tonight.”
Hadley Purvis had felt suddenly and enormously annoyed. Usually he liked Bill Hunter, despite his aura of opportunism, despite the cautious ambition that had enabled Hunter to become quite close to the head of the agency in a very short time.
“And so you said to him, ‘Mr. Driscoll, if Had Purvis can’t go to the party, I won’t go either.’ And then he broke down.”
He watched Bill Hunter flush. “Not like that, Had. But I’ll tell you what happened. He asked me if I thought you would behave yourself tonight. I said I was certain you realized the importance of the occasion, and I reminded him that the Detroit people know you and like the work you did on the spring campaign. So if you get out of line, it isn’t going to do me any good either.”
“And that’s your primary consideration, naturally.”
Hunter looked at him angrily, helplessly. “Damn it, Had …”
“Keep your little heart from fluttering. I’ll step lightly.”
Bill Hunter left his office. After he was gone, Hadley tried very hard to believe that it had been an amusing little interlude. But he could not. Resentment stayed with him. Resentment at being treated like a child. And he suspected that Hunter had brought it up with Driscoll, saying very casually, “Hope Purvis doesn’t put on a floor show tonight.”
It wasn’t like the old man to have brought it up. He felt that the old man genuinely liked him. They’d had some laughs together. Grown-up laughs, a little beyond the capacity of a boy scout like Hunter.
He had washed up at five, then gone down and shared a cab with Davey Tidmarsh, the only one of the new kids who had been asked to come along. Davey was all hopped up about it. He was a nice kid. Hadley liked him. Davey demanded to know what it would be like, and in the cab Hadley told him.
“We’ll be seriously outnumbered. There’ll be a battalion from Detroit, also the bank people. It will be done with enormous seriousness and a lot of expense. This is a pre-preview. Maybe they’ll have a mockup there. The idea is that they get us all steamed up about the new model. Then, all enthused, we whip up two big promotions. The first promotion is a carnival deal they will use to sell the new models to the dealers and get them all steamed up. That’ll be about four months from now. The second promotion will be the campaign to sell the cars to the public. They’ll make a big fetish of secrecy, Davey. There’ll be uniformed company guards. Armed.”
It was as he had anticipated, only a bit bigger and gaudier than last year. Everything seemed to get bigger and gaudier every year. It was on the top floor of the hotel, in one of the middle-sized convention rooms. They were carefully checked at the door, and each was given a numbered badge to wear. On the left side of the room was sixty feet of bar. Along the right wall was the table where the buffet would be. There was a busy rumble of male conversation, a blue haze of smoke. Hadley nodded and smiled at the people he knew as they worked their way toward the bar. With drink in hand, he went into the next room—after being checked again at the door—to look at the mockup.
Hadley had to admit that it had been done very neatly. The mockup was one-third actual size. It revolved slowly on a chest-high pedestal, a red and white convertible with the door open, with the model of a girl in a swimming suit standing beside it, both model girl and model car bathed in an excellent imitation of sunlight. He looked at the girl first, marveling at how cleverly the sheen of suntanned girl had been duplicated. He looked at the mannekin’s figure and thought at once of Sarah and felt a warm wave of tenderness for her, a feeling that she was his luck and, with her, nothing could ever go wrong.