The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything
Cover of the first edition
|Author||John D. MacDonald|
|Publisher||Fawcett Gold Medal|
The protagonist, Kirby Winter, is a young man living in Florida, full of anxiety and feeling no confidence in his ability to face life, either professionally (he had in fact not chosen a clear profession) or sexually (all his encounters with women, since puberty, ended disastrously).
Kirby's life had been overshadowed by an uncle who had been a mathematics teacher and suddenly developed an uncanny talent for gambling, broke several casinos and made himself a millionaire. The uncle seemed disappointed with Kirby's inability to make something of himself. At his death it turns out he had left Kirby none of his wealth – nothing but an antique gold pocket watch to which a toy telescope is attached, showing a pornographic picture.
An older woman, quite attractive, shows up and makes clear her interest in Kirby. He is attracted to her but feels too insecure to respond to her attempts at seduction – which turns out to be fortunate, as she is a hardened and ruthless criminal, who had been his uncle's arch-enemy. The uncle many times thwarted the plots of her and her male partner, got away with quite a bit of their ill-gained money and avoided with contemptuous ease all that they tried to do against him. Her interest in the nephew derives from the vain hope of learning the uncle's secret (of which Kirby still has no idea).
Kirby's luck turns when he sleeps in the bed of a friend of a friend who is away for the weekend. In the middle of the night, a naked young woman gets into the bed and makes love to him in the dark, mistaking him for the bed's usual occupant. Caught in the middle of sleep, all of Kirby's sexual hang-ups disappear and he performs quite well. Discovering her mistake, the woman – named Bonnie Lee Beaumont – is at first furious but within minutes the two of them fall deeply and enduringly in love with each other and consummate their new-found love for the rest of the night.
On the following day, spent on the seashore, Kirby plays with the watch and accidentally finds out his uncle's secret: the watch can stop time for everybody but the holder, leaving him in a peculiar red-lighted world with everybody around "frozen", and effectively placing everybody else in the world at his mercy. Kirby and his newly found girlfriend only use this awesome power for relatively innocuous practical jokes such as completely undressing women who "tease men by wearing very small bikinis" and laughing to see them escape in panic.
The woman criminal, who meanwhile discovered the watch's secret, has far more sinister plans for its use, and succeeds in capturing Kirby, who comes near to being killed - but he manages to turn the tables on her with the help of the watch. He can quite easily use the watch's power to kill her, but decides that using it to kill anybody - even those who deserve it - would "take away the fun"; he settles instead for stripping her and putting her in a truckload of Navy sailors, with the resulting experience causing her to lose interest in the watch (and everything else) in favor of sexual trysts with sailors.
In the aftermath, Kirby Winter and Bonnie Lee Beaumont live happily ever after – joining the world's jet set, living in riotous luxury, traveling from one resort to another, gambling at casinos and (naturally) always winning, and responding to constant attacks by dangerous gangsters by perpetrating ever-funnier practical jokes on the hapless gangsters.
A back-cover blurb that describes the novel as similar to a collaboration between Thorne Smith and Mickey Spillane appeared on the book's first 13 printings (through October 1979). Thorne Smith's humorous supernatural fantasy novels, such as Topper (1926), are classics of this genre, while Mickey Spillane's writings are typically hardboiled crime fiction.
The first printing of this book was as a paperback original:
- The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. Greenwich, Conn.: Gold Medal Books | Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1962. 172 pp. Wrappers. s1259 (35¢). Title page: "an original gold medal book"; copyright page: "First Printing, December 1962."
This book has appeared in at least 24 printings in the United States through June 1991 and, with MacDonald's two other science fiction novels, Wine of the Dreamers (1951) and Ballroom of the Skies (1952), was collected as part of an omnibus in Time and Tomorrow (1980).
A second comma was added to the title (after "Watch") with the 2nd printing, and dropped again with the 14th printing.
The only English-language printing that used "and" instead of an ampersand (&) was the Coronet Books printing published by Hodder Fawcett Ltd. in the United Kingdom (1968).
In addition, the book has appeared in at least one Canadian printing (1964) and four British printings (1964, ca. 1965, 1968, and 1974). The latter book was the first hardcover appearance of the novel.
The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything has been translated into at least six languages and published in Brazil, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, and Russia.
The novel was adapted directly as a TV movie starring Robert Hays and Pam Dawber, The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything (1980). The title song was released as a 45-rpm record by Richie Havens on the Elektra label.
The TV movie was successful enough to inspire a sequel based on the original characters, The Girl, the Gold Watch and Dynamite (1981).
Parodies, pastiches, and allusions
A similar plot line - a man stopping time - already appeared in 1955 in Roger Lee Vernon's story "The Stop Watch", included in the collection The Space Frontiers. Vernon treated the theme far more seriously, with his protagonist using the device to commit crimes with impunity and win the Third World War all by himself, and finally suffering a terrible perdition.
The title was parodied—apparently with the permission of Gold Medal Books—in The Girls, the Massage, & Everything (1973) by Bernhardt J. Hurwood.
- MacDonald, John D. The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. London: Robert Hale, 1974. Cloth; jacket. 207 pp. ISBN 0-7091-4198-X (£1.90).
- Robinson, Spider. Lady Slings the Booze. New York: Ace Books, November 1992. Cloth; jacket. 257 pp. "First edition: November 1992." ISBN 0-441-46928-0 ($18.95). Jacket painting by Richard Hescox © 1992. Acknowledgments include Philip José Farmer and John D. MacDonald.
- Hurwood, Bernhardt J. The Girls, the Massage, & Everything. Greenwich, Conn.: A Fawcett Gold Medal Book | Fawcett Publications Inc., July 1973. Wrappers. 223 pp. P28555; ISBN 0-449-02855-0 ($1.25).