The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything
by John D. MacDonald

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Gold Medal: New York, 1962
222 pages

May 2008


John D. MacDonald is best known for his series of Travis McGee contemporary thrillers (my grandfather George E. Howe read all those published in his lifetime), but MacDonald also wrote a number of science fiction stories and novels in the early 1950s. When he came back to science fiction to write The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything, he was comfortable with science fiction ideas as well as a master at making a novel race along.

A young man inherits a gold watch, and after some experimentation, he discovers that it will stop time around him. That is, while he uses its unique setting, he can move in normal fashion while the rest of the world seems fixed in stillness.

This certainly has advantages for crime and prankishness. If you want to pick a pocket or rob a bank, no one will notice until you've snatched and gone, and you'll never run out of funds. Or if you want to snip off bikinis at the beach, you can be innocently far away when you turn off the watch's time-effect, and you'll never run out of fun, at least of the lost-bikini type.

All these hijacks and hijinks may, however, add up to a less than fulfilling lifetime. Which brings us to the chief weakness of the book: that for all the science-fictional potential in this unique invention, the uses to which it's put seem lightweight. The chief characters — the inheritor of the watch and a couple of girlfriends — don't rise to the occasion, but more stumble into what's in front of them. Time is an esoteric dimension when we try to analyze it. Now, we're lucky the gold watch doesn't fall into the hands of a Leninist sociopath with grand ambitions for the world. But the novel would have more power if the protagonists had more depth, or the watch put to more subtle uses, or both.

I'm not entirely happy with the protagonists' relationships to each other, but that's often a drawback for me in the Travis McGee novels as well.

The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything is a fun adventure, and does what MacDonald set out to do: contemporary adventure with a light touch of science fiction. Not a great book, but enjoyable and memorable.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

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