John D. MacDonald
The first of 21 Travis McGee novels lays down the basic elements of the stories: living on a luxurious houseboat won in a poker game and called The Busted Flush, Travis McGee works when he has to and takes his retirement a bit at a time. His business card reads ‘Salvage Consultant.’ What it doesn’t say is that the salvage consists of getting back treasure that can’t be regained legally, and his fee is half of whatever he brings back. His clients in this first book are the children of an army officer who bought some gems on the black market but died in prison before he would tell where he hid them. While in prison, a fellow prisoner name Junior Allen winkles the info out of him.
At the request of a friend, Travis agrees to help recover the gems from Junior, who is a nasty piece of work. Along the way, Travis meets the broken women Junior leaves behind, and feels perfectly justified in stealing from a thief.
Travis is a delightful character with a strong sense of honor that never wavers. As he says, he may bend his principals, but never breaks them. He is a modern-day Robin Hood, and the stories about him are very enjoyable. This book was originally written in 1965 and stands up very well to the passing years.