A Purple Place for Dying

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A Purple Place for Dying
First edition cover
AuthorJohn D. MacDonald
CountryUnited States
SeriesTravis McGee
PublisherFawcett Publications
Publication date
June 6, 1964[1]
Media typePrint (paperback)
Preceded byNightmare in Pink 
Followed byThe Quick Red Fox 

A Purple Place for Dying (1964) is the third novel in the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald.

Plot summary[edit]

McGee is drawn away from his usual haunt of Florida by a job offer from Mona Yeoman, who suspects that her estranged husband has stolen from her considerable trust fund. Before the investigation begins, Mona is murdered before McGee's eyes by an unseen gunman. By the time he summons the police to the scene, her body has disappeared. McGee then sets out to solve her murder.

The back of the first edition reads, "McGee did not like Mona Fox Yeoman. She seemed artificial and self-important. She was provocative rather than seductive, a dare more than a desire. She made a man want to shake her up, to mat that twenty-five dollar hairdo and knock that lady-of-the-manor style of hers on its can. --- But nobody ever would. Because one minutes she was a big creamy bitch standing right next to McGee - and suddenly she was fallen cooling flesh skittering into the dust with a hole as big as your fist through her wishbone. For McGee that should have been it. The client was dead. No fee. No tears. Forget it, bot. Pick up and pack out. --- Yeah. Sure. You better believe it. --- Not McGee."

The book takes place in "Esmeralda County." The state is not mentioned, but it states that the county is fairly populous. There is an Esmeralda County in Nevada, but it is the least populated county in Nevada. Other geographic references in the book, such as the Phoenix airport, seem to indicate the book takes place in Arizona.


The title phrase, "A Purple Place for Dying" is not mentioned verbatim, but on page 150 of the first edition, the book reads, "As I stood in the dusty road and pointed at the place they would find the bodies, I saw that the purple look had faded away. It had been a place for dying, but not for us." The purple referring to the color of the sunrise.

This is the first book of the Travis McGee series that mentions the title phrase (almost). All of the books that follow mention the title phrase at some point, usually near the end.

McGee does not recover any money directly for his services in the book. However, the book finishes with McGee in the company of one of the young female characters (Isobel Webb) on a private island in the Bahamas. The woman has received $25,000 as part of a life insurance payment.

Popular Culture[edit]

Although Tales from Margaritaville was published by Jimmy Buffett in 1989, he wrote an updated preface published in 2002. In it he tells a story of finding a copy of A Purple Place for Dying at a flea market in Huahine in French Polynesia. Jimmy Buffett writes, "Six thousand miles away from slip F-18 at the Bahia Mar yacht basin in Ft. Lauderdale, I read the opening lines. That afternoon, leaning against a palm tree, I finished the book, and as beautiful as paradise was, Travis McGee had rekindled my love for the quirky and insane things that were Florida to me, and I missed them."

Although Buffett refers to McGee in Florida, this Travis McGee novel does not take place in Florida, but rather in the American West.


  1. ^ "New Books Today". The New York Times: 21. June 6, 1964.