Gregory Mcdonald

Saturday, September 13, 2008, 3:11 PM

The author Gregory Mcdonald died this week. Mcdonald wrote one of my favourite ever books, FLETCH, a lesson in economy, characterisation and tight plotting. While the first Fletch movie was enjoyable enough, I never felt it or Chevy Chase did the source material justice.

Fletch is one of the few books which I can distinctly remember buying and reading for the first time. I was in my mid teens, and I bought it from a charity shop in Ballycastle, along the Antrim coast from the seaside village of Cushendun, where I was staying with my best mate and his family. They have a beautiful cottage at the mouth of the river, overlooking the sea. On a clear day you can see the Mull of Kintyre across the water. I started reading the book in the kitchen, and I can remember pausing occasionally to show my friend the funniest passages. Twenty years on, we still sometimes repeat the phrase "Fuck Frank" for no apparent reason.

My copy of Fletch cost 40p (the price sticker is still on the cover), and that was excellent value for money considering I have read it at least once every couple of years in the two decades I have owned it. It stands alongside William Goldman's Marathon Man, Thomas Harris's Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Mario Puzo's The Godfather as being among a handful of books I have read over and over, and will probably continue to read time and time again for as long as I have the ability to do so.

It's disheartening to read in some of the online obituaries that, despite his massive success, Mcdonald still had to fight to get published, and that his experience of having his books turned into movies was often negative. But he knew how to tell a good story in 200 pages, and that's an achievement in itself.

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Blogger Mary said...

Several of my most treasured books were bought second-hand. And they somehow taste better than new.

This is the first time I’ve heard of Gregory Mcdonald -- and I have a penchant for novels under 200 pages so I’ll add him to my TBR list.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Just me... said...

Loved the book, not so much the movie. But then, they usually screw up a good book by making it into a movie.
And glad I'm not the only one with a book that's re-read over several decades.. To Kill A Mockingbird - first read in the late 70's and more times than I can count since..

3:09 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You know, I should read Fletch, since I share the protagonist's profession. That could be a bit of wish fulfillment for me. I seem to remember picking up the novel (or maybe one of its follow-ups) and reading scene in which Fletch has flopped as a newspaper obituary writer because he made the mistake of writing the truth: that the dead person had led a life notable for absolutely nothing.

Oh, the truths that could be told at my newspaper if we did not have to check our truth at the door when we entered!
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

2:43 AM  
Blogger Conduit said...

Peter, you should definitely read it - it's an underrated classic.

5:51 PM  

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