Fleder aboard for McGee tale

Director will get first shot at MacDonald's reluctant sleuth for Fox

Gary Fleder soon could be saying hello to "The Deep Blue Good-by." mThe director of "Runaway Jury" and "Kiss the Girls" is in talks to direct the Fox project, based on the first title in crime novelist John MacDonald's prolific Travis McGee series.

The 21 McGee novels, most written in the 1960s and '70s and all of which feature a color in their title, could be turned into a franchise by Fox. They feature McGee, a free-living bachelor and reluctant hero who lives on a houseboat in Florida and works as a "salvage consultant," recovering property and money for clients and taking half in return.

"Good-by" centers on McGee's efforts to track down a treasure that a solider escaped with and hid after World War II.

Fleder, who made his mark with the 1995 cult film "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead," is known for directing crime thrillers. The Morgan Freeman starrer "Kiss the Girls" earned $60 million domestically for Paramount in 1997, while the John Grisham property "Runaway Jury" grossed $50 million in the U.S. for Fox in 2003.

Fleder's "The Express," about early 1960s Syracuse University football hero Ernie Davis, is set to be released in the fall by Universal.

MacDonald, who wrote the novel on which both "Cape Fear" movies are based, is seen as a predecessor to Carl Hiaasen and other darkly comic crime novelists. (partialdiff)