A classic novel by John D. MacDonald with an exclusive introduction written and read by Dean Koontz.
Welcome to Golden Sands, the dream condominium built on a weak foundation and a thousand dirty secrets. Here is a panoramic look at the shocking facts of life in a Sun Belt community - the real estate swindles and political payoffs, the maintenance charges that run up and the health benefits that run out... the crackups and marital breakdowns... the disaster that awaits those who play in the path of the hurricane...
©1977 John D. MacDonald. Copyright renewed 2005 by Maynard MacDonald. (P)2014 Audible Inc.
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"Disaster Movie Material with Heart and Substance"
In his introduction to Audible's edition of this book, Dean Koontz says that many people consider it a masterpiece, but it isn't. That's not the kind of thing you usually read in an invited introduction, but after listening, I'd say it's true.
Condominium is sprawling, fascinating in spots and boring in others, full of cliches but also full of characters--especially the elderly couples who have bought into the "golden years on golden sands" spiel of the real estate developers--who are often poignantly, even heartbreakingly, real. I'd say it's worth the time, if only for Hurricane Climax.
Condominium was written over several years and published in the late 70s. If you've seen the "who will survive?" disaster movies of that era--"Earthquake" or "Poseidon Adventure" or "Towering Inferno"-- you'll recognize the plot line. Also the Hollywood cliches--hunky loner hero, great-hearted, dying, elderly millionaire (today he'd have be a billionaire, but this was the 70's remember) married to beautiful, devoted young wife who fights her attraction to hero, slick amoral developer, greedy realtor, young investigative reporter, corrupt banker, check.
But supporting those characters are the well-drawn condo residents and a great deal of fact-based research by an author who, obviously distressed by the despoiling of Florida, wanted to sound an alarm. John D. MacDonald, like Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassen, loved the natural beauty of the peninsula's fragile ecosystems and was angry and heartbroken as he watched the race to extract as much as possible, take the money and run, and damn the consequences.
I like Richard Ferrone's performances in general, but he can be a little monotonous, and it is a bit hard to keep some of the characters straight. About halfway through listening I began to get the dramatic personae straightened out, and it was about that time the hurricane made her first appearance. After overly numbing detail about construction, real estate investment banking, condominium owner association legalities, fishing, and oceanic geology, the meteorological facts were actually interesting, especially coming out of an era long predating satellite tracking and The Weather Channel.The last one-third of the book is spellbinding.
Not a masterpiece. But maybe worth the designation "classic."
"What a book!"
Just bought this book -- and now Audible says it's no longer available. Too bad -- its a great book. Good thing I got it before they lost it.
I read this book donkey's years ago, but didn't remember much about it, except that I'd enjoyed it. I'm sure I didn't enjoy the print version as much as the audible recording, however. The story is so gripping during the "hurricane" part that I finally just gave up for the last six hours -- I just sat down and listened. I couldn't focus on anything else anyway.
There are lots of contemporary parallels. All I know of Hurricane Katrina is what I read in the news -- and that wasn't much, because I was living overseas at the time. But now I see photos of the destruction that still remains there, ten years after, and even that gives me the ability to picture what was going on during this hurricane, the one in this book. I know I'll never hear of a hurricane again without thinking of the scenes described here.
But it's wrong to just mention the hurricane in "Condominium". In fact, the first 60% of the book is just as interesting, although for different reasons. There's one part where the homeowners association of the condominium complex is having a meeting that was laugh out loud funny -- you can just picture the whole thing, people with their odd comments and irrelevant concerns having a field day, finally finding a place where other people will pay attention to them.
As you might expect, there are a great many characters in this book, the builders, workmen, lawyers, environmentalists, plus the schemers, the buyers -- many of them retirees -- the full array of local officials, on and on. That fact results in a one-star markdown for narrator Richard Ferrone, whose actual reading is excellent, with this one major flaw.
Ferrone is another of those narrators who will go from one character's story right into that of another, without any pause whatever, so it gets seriously confusing at times. Unless you're sitting there with a scorecard, taking careful notes, it's hard to tell which character is on stage at any given moment. In the early parts of the book, I had to backtrack several times, not sure who this was we were hearing about, or what was happening. Really, that shouldn't be necessary.
Why, oh why, can't narrators pause for just a teeny moment, just the slightest interval, to signal that this is a new character now, we've switched away from the last one. There must be paragraph markings in the book itself -- maybe even a new page in the print version. Why can't narrators respect that? It would make listening to books like this so much more pleasant.
Whatever, this is a book not to be missed -- if you can get it. "Condominium" will stick in your mind forever, for lots of reasons.
"Still a good read"
I read this way back when and it is still relevant in so many ways and an excellent book. The dialog of one bickering couple is eerily realistic. Not in my life of course....
"Good but not much charm"
Interesting, with a nice study of building, Florida, and hurricanes. Descriptions are short but effective, which is good, almost to the point of amazing. A master writer who obviously turned his sights on retirement and many of the complications and considerations of that period in our lives. While I am ambivalent about this work, I plan to read his works that are considered "better".
"Buying a condo???????"
Discriptions of faces and bodies as well as scenes and action.
The last chapters during the hurricanes Felt like I needed rain gear. Very exciting
Yes I loved the scenes of weather and reactions of charactersw
"Same Old Song and Dance"
The corporate culture combines with consumerism and ignorance to create a disaster. No this isn't about the sub prime mortgage crisis; it's about a coastal economy that depends on people buying land and building structures where they have no business building anything. No it's not about New Orleans and a hurricane called Katrina; it's Florida and a fictional hurricane named Ella. It's about the combination of a natural and a man made disaster and the unwillingness of people to see what's not in their best interest to see. Human nature changes slowly if at all and the manner in which people deal with issues such as self interest versus community interest; government vs. private business can be placed at the center of many types of stories. With a couple of exceptions it's a story that you can transpose easily to today. The exceptions are that weather prognostications are much more exact now and there are a lot of sources for weather now; there would be far fewer false alarms today than in 1973. The other difference that with new laws the builders would have already written new laws and regulations to exempt themselves from legal action and it wouldn't have taken illegal bribery today. Not when legal bribery is so much easier and safer to conduct. This is not the best of the non McGee books by the author but informative, instructive, entertaining and still a good listen more than forty years after it was written. Like most things written by John D I recommend this one.
"Great Story Intertwined With Unneeded Plot Points"
My friends would be uncomfortable with the amount of gratuitous sex, flirting, and similar. I have very discerning friends who won't bother reading this book because my friends and I skip over these sexual encounters and there is quite a few of them in this story so it requires a lot of effort to continue.
I enjoyed the Home Owners Association Meeting. The volunteer appointees (president, secretary, treasurer, etc.) attempt to keep a semblance of Robert's Rules Of Order but this turns the event into a pretty funny scene with Christian Zealots, Creeps, Low-lifers and then the straight-laced, by-the-book members. Leaders and followers alike 'lose it' and over-react.Second, of course, is the last 4 chapters. Harrowing experiences, death, destruction and despair.
Richard's performance was done very well as there are a lot of characters and dialog in this book. I feel that this makes the audio version much better than just reading it yourself.
I actually listened to this book over the period of two weeks. The book has great character development. The book felt a little 'wordy' in the first few chapters until you realize that he is developing his characters well. It felt, at first, that this book delivers 'more than one can chew'. Get to Chapter 4 or 5 and you are good to go.
This book delivers! You get strange Christian characters, low-lifers, cheats, swindlers, nosy neighbors, health-conscious types, though I do not remember any young people as most, if not all, are 35 years old or more. There is a very interesting story about a millionaire. The Police, FBI, the IRS and other agencies are somehow involved in the construction, upkeep, finances, and political interests of the housing in the Florida Keys. Corrupt builders, developers, bankers and similar all have a stake in the game.However, there is way too much sex in this book. Most characters are either committing adultery or thinking about it.
The Author seems to have probably been a Robert Crumb (cartoonist) fan as the first half of the book are full of only buxom, big-bones, big-busted and big-booty woman.Some of the sex actually pertains to the main story line but I feel that the majority of the sex is gratuitous in nature. This book uses euphemisms for body parts leaving it a rather PG-13 type book though there is a lot of that sex being talked about. Many affairs in the sexual context as well as the goings-on type of affairs.
"The Sounds of the Seventies"
All of them...and none of them. He's wonderful; his voice kept me going as long as I did. But the characters slid together too much for me. That's more the fault of the form of the novel than Ferrone, though.
If you look just past your peripheral vision while you’re reading this, you can almost see someone changing the television dial (by hand) from a Dan Rather report on Jimmy Carter to a new episode of The Rockford Files. That’s largely a compliment; this is one of those books that seems really to capture its moment. It virtually smells of the mid-1970s.
In other words, this is analogue fiction. You can hear the pops on the LP as the needle works the grooves, and you can see the deep professionalism of the writer. If there’s a clear descendent of this work (not necessarily of MacDonald’s better-known work) it isn’t fiction so much as the consistently excellent Law and Order or CSI episodes, the ones where you see competent writers creating scenes efficiently as part of stories that, however near the formula they are, still bring surprises.
The trouble with this, though, is that it really comes across as a series of impressive scenes rather than a compelling story. To its credit, it takes as old news that the world is corrupt, and it avoids the easy move of casting someone in the role of villain-in-chief. Everyone is at least a little guilty, and even the most reprehensible are multi-dimensional characters with decent motives and a measure of concern for others.
The price of that virtue, though, is that there isn’t much to get invested in. Will the tenants be on the hook for the doubled monthly assessments? Will the shady developer wind up having to confront the people he’s wronged? Will the middle-aged realtor regret getting involved with the hunky guys she’s attracted? Those separate concerns are what’s at stake for the whole, and they aren’t especially compelling as a collection. The dozen or more micro-dramas are – will this character come to terms with what retirement has cost him in terms of self-identification, will that one find a way to reconcile his work for the communal good with his personal happiness – but they flash by too quickly through the method of the novel.
I’ll come clean: I stopped reading around a quarter of the way through. It isn’t quite that I got bored by it. Any scene I chose to slow down and focus on brought fresh evidence of MacDonald’s skill; there are always a handful of key details that establish character and context, and the language never gets cold. It’s just that there are a lot of other things I want to read (including some of MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels) and there’s only so much time I can indulge in my 1970s nostalgia.
So, I am lifting up the tone arm in the middle of the song, and I sliding the album back into its paper sleeve. Now if only I could find where I put that Yes record…
This is the one 70s disaster movie they passed on. Watch Airport '75 again instead. It's not as bad, and not as long.
"Skillful & funny writer!"
This is my 1st John d. MacDonald book. I understand from comments that this is not one of his best. However, he is a such a clever & funny writer that I will definitely read (listen to) many more. I checked to see if Richard Ferrone is the narrator for more of his books. He is! Now I will definitely listen!!!!
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