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Travis McGee is a "salvage consultant" who recovers lost property (and persons) in return for a fee: he is not employed as a policeman, nor does he hold a licence to act as a private detective. Notably, both he and his sidekick, Meyer, live on houseboats. McGee's adventures have been edited for publication by John D. MacDonald, who also dedicated his novel The Last One Left to his client McGee.

The McGee series ended unexpectedly with the dead of MacDonald, the last novel - The Lonely Silver Rain - having introduced McGee's illegitimate daughter Jean. Rumours persist that a concluding novel was written by Meyer and MacDonald before the later's death, which reveals that McGee has been killed, but such a book remains unpublished. Another rumour states that MacDonald burnt the very first manuscript that he produced about McGee, as he didn't think it was good enough. There is also a self-published novel Black Squall by Lori Stone, which appears to depict Jean investigating the deaths of McGee and Meyer.

In Tarzan Alive, Philip José Farmer appears to hint that Travis was the grandson of Ultima Clayton and her husband John T. McGee, and this was confirmed in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. Thus Travis is a Wold Newton Family member, being descended from the 3rd Duke of Greystoke. In his article "Watching the Detectives, or The Sherlock Holmes Family Tree" (in Myths for the Modern Age, ed. Win Scott Eckert), Wold Newton scholar Brad Mengel identifies the name of Travis's father (Scott McGee), and also confirms Farmer's suspicion that Travis is the cousin of Archie Goodwin.

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