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  • Written by Gregory Mcdonald
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  • Written by Gregory Mcdonald
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Written by Gregory McdonaldAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Gregory Mcdonald

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On Sale: April 07, 2010
Pages: 256 | ISBN: 978-0-307-52391-4
Published by : Vintage Knopf
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Fletch’s Fortune

He hadn’t been a practicing journalist for years, although people remembered him and he still has a few contacts. And he’s pretty sure he hasn’t paid his dues to the American Journalism Alliance anytime recently. But somebody has.

Fletch’s Fortune

Enjoying himself on the French Riviera, developing a killer tan, and sleeping with the neighbor’s wife, Fletch is feeling pretty flush. But when agents Eggers and Fabens show up with a little more information about Fletch than is comfortable and an invitation to the A.J.A. convention, how could he refuse?

Fletch’s Fortune

So he finds himself enlisted as a spy among his peers. But before he can even set up his surveillance, there’s a murder. And almost everybody’s a suspect. Because a lot of people were employed by Walter March, and most of them had a reason to hate him.

Excerpt

One

"C.I.A., Mister Fletcher."

"Um. Would you mind spelling that?"

Coming into the cool dark of the living room, blinded by the sun on the beach, Fletch had smelled cigar smoke and slowed at the French doors.

There were two forms, of men, sprawled on his living-room furniture, one in the middle of the divan, the other on a chair.

"The Central Intelligence Agency," one of the forms muttered.

Fletch's bare feet crossed the marble floor to the carpet.

"Sorry, old chaps. You've got the wrong bod. Fletch is away for a spell. Letting me use his digs." Fletch held out his hand to the form on the divan. "Always do feel silly introducing myself whilst adorned in swimming gear, but when on the Riviera, do as the sons of habitues do--isn't that the motto? The name's Arbuthnot," Fletch said. "Freddy Arbuthnot."

The man on the divan had not shaken his hand. The man in the chair snorted.

"Arbuthnot it's not," said the man in the chair.

"Not?" said Fletch. "Not?"

"Not," said the man.

The patterns of their neckties had become visible to Fletch.

His nose was in a stream of cigar smoke.

There were two cigar butts and a live cigar in the ash tray on the coffee table.

Next to the ash tray, on the surface of the table, was a photograph, of Fletch, in United States Marine Corps uniform, smiling.

Fletch said, "Golly."

"Didn't want to disturb you on the beach with your girl friend," said the man in the chair. "The two of you looked too cute down there. Frisking on the sand."

"Adorable," uttered the man on the divan.

Both men were dressed in full suits, collars undone, ties pulled loose.

Both their faces were wet with perspiration.

"Let's see some identification," Fletch said.

This time he held his hand out to the man in the chair, palm up.

The man looked up at Fletch a moment, into his eyes, as if to gauge the exact degree of Fletch's seriousness, then rolled left on his hams and pulled his wallet from his right rear trouser pocket.

On the left flap was the man's photograph. On the right was a card which said: "CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, United States of America," a few dates, a few numbers, and the man's name--Eggers, Gordon.

"You, too." Fletch held out his hand to the man on the divan.

His name was Richard Fabens.

"Eggers and Fabens." Fletch handed them back their credentials. "Would you guys mind if I got out of these wet trunks and took a shower?"

"Not at all," said Eggers, standing up. "But let's talk first."

"Coffee?"

"If we wanted coffee," said Fabens, standing up, "we would have made it ourselves."

"Part of the C.I.A. training, I expect," Fletch said. "Trespass and Coffee-Making. A Bloody Mary? Something to raise the spirits on this Sunday noon?"

"Cool it, Fletcher," said Eggers. "You don't need time to think." He put the tip of his index finger against Fletch's chest, and pressed. "You're going to do what you're told. Get it?"

Fletch shouted into his face, "Yes, sir!"

Suddenly Eggers' right hand became a fist and smashed into precisely the right place in Fletch's stomach with incredible force, considering the shortness of the swing.

Fletch was hunched over, in a chair, trying to breathe.

"Enough of your bull, Fletcher."

"I caught a fish like him once." Fabens was relighting his cigar. "In the Gulf Stream. He was still wriggling and fighting even after I had him aboard. I had to beat the shit out of him to convince him he was caught. Even then." He blew a billow of cigar smoke at Fletch. "Mostly I beat him on the head."

"Yuck," said Fletch.

"Shall we beat you on the head, Fletcher?" Eggers asked.

Fletch said, "Anything's better than that cigar's smoke."

Eggers' voice turned gentle. "Are you going to listen to us, Irwin?"

Fletch said, "El Cheap-o."

Turning from the French doors, El Cheap-o in mouth, Fabens asked, "What happened to your girl friend? Where'd she go?"

"Home." Fletch squeezed out breath. "She lives next door." He sucked in breath. "With her husband."

He raised his head in time to see Eggers and Fabens glance at each other.

"Husband?"

"He sleeps late," Fletch breathed. "Sundays."

"Jesus," said Eggers.

"Wriggle, wriggle," said Fabens.

Fletch straightened his back in the chair. He ignored the tears on his cheeks.

"Okay, guys. What's the big deal?"

"No big deal." Eggers rubbed his hands together. "Easy."

"You're just the right man for the job," said Fabens.

"What job?"

"You know the American Journalism Alliance?" Eggers asked.

"Yes."

"They're having a convention," Fabens said.

"So?"

"You're going."

"Hell, I'm not a working journalist anymore. I'm unemployed. I haven't worked as a journalist in over a year."

"What do you mean?" said Eggers. "You had a piece in Bronson's just last month."

"That was on the paintings of Cappoletti."

"So? It's journalism."

"Once a shithead, always a shithead," said Fabens.

"May your cigar kill you," said Fletch.

"You're going," said Eggers.

"I'm not even a member of the A.J.A."

"You are," said Eggers.

"I used to be."

"You are."

"I haven't paid my dues in years. In fact, I never paid my dues."

"We paid your dues. You're a member."

"You paid my dues?"

"We paid your dues."

"Very thoughtful of you," Fletch said.

"Think nothing of it," said Fabens. "Anything for a shithead."

Fletch said, "You could have spent the money on a better grade of cigars. Preferably Cuban."

"I'm a government employee." Fabens looked at the tip of his cigar. "What do you expect?"

"Peace?"

"The convention starts tomorrow," Eggers said. "Outside of Washington. In Virginia."

"Tomorrow?"

"We didn't want you to have too long to think about it."

"No way."

"Tomorrow," Fabens said. "You're going to be there."

"I'm having lunch with this guy in Genoa tomorrow. Tuesday, I'm flying down to Rome for an exhibition."

"Tomorrow," said Fabens.

"I don't have a ticket. I haven't packed."

"We have your ticket." Eggers waved his hand. "You can do your own packing."

Fletch sat forward, placing his forearms on his thighs.

"Okay," he said. "What's this about?"

"At the airport in Washington, near the Trans World Airlines' main counters, you will go to a baggage locker." Fabens took a key from his jacket pocket and looked at it. "Locker Number 719. In that locker you will find a reasonably heavy brown suitcase."

"Full of bugging equipment," said Eggers.

Fletch said, "Shit, no!"

Fabens flipped the key onto the coffee table.

"Shit, yes."

"No way!" said Fletch.

"Absolutely," said Fabens. "You will then take another airplane to Hendricks, Virginia, to the old Hendricks Plantation, where the convention is being held, and you will immediately set out planting listening devices in the rooms of all your colleagues, if I may use such a term for you shitheads of the fourth estate."

"It's not going to happen," said Fletch.

"It's going to happen," said Fabens. "In the brown suitcase--and forgive us, we had trouble matching your luggage exactly--there is also a recording machine and plenty of tape. You are going to tape the most private, bedroom conversations of the most important people in American journalism."

"You're crazy."

Eggers shook his head. "Not crazy.

"You are crazy." Fletch stood up. "You've told me more than you should have. Bunglers! You've given me a story." Fletch grabbed the key from the coffee table. "One phone call, and this story is going to be all over the world in thirty-six hours."

Fletch backed off the carpet onto the marble floor.

"Blow smoke in my face. You're not going to get this key from me."

Fabens smiled, holding his cigar chest-height.

"We haven't told you too much. We've told you too little."

"What haven't you told me?"

Eggers shook his head, seemingly in embarrassment.

"We've got something on you."

"What have you got on me? I'm not a priest or a politician. There's no way you can spoil my reputation."

"Taxes, Mister Fletcher."

"What?"

Fabens said again. "Taxes."

Fletch blinked. "What about 'em?"

"You haven't paid any."

"Nonsense. Of course I pay taxes."

"Not nonsense, Mister Fletcher." Fabens used the ash tray. "Look at it our way. Your parents lived in the state of Washington, neither of them well-to-do nor from well-to-do families."

"They were nice people."

"I'm sure. Nice, yes. Rich, no. Yet here you are, living in a villa in Cagna, Italy, the Mediterranean sparkling through your windows, driving a Porsche . . . unemployed."

"I retired young."

"In your lifetime, you have paid almost no federal taxes."

"I had expenses."

"You haven't even filed a return. Ever."

"I have a very slow accountant."

"I should think he would be slow," continued Fabens, "seeing you have money in Rio, in the Bahamas, here in Italy, probably in Switzerland. . . ."

"I also have a very big sense of insecurity," Fletch said.

"I should think you would have," Fabens said. "Under the circumstances."

"All right. I haven't paid my taxes. I'll pay my taxes, pay the penalties--but after I phone in the story that you guys are bugging the convention of the American Journalism Alliance."

"It's the not filing the tax reports that's the crime, Mister Fletcher. Punishable by jail sentences."

"So what? Let 'em catch me."

Eggers was sitting in a chair, hands behind his head, staring at Fletch.

"Peek-a-boo," Fabens said. "We have caught you."

"Bull. I can outrun you two tubs anytime."

"Mister Fletcher, do you want to know why you haven't filed any tax returns?"

"Why haven't I filed any tax returns?"

"Because you can't say where the money came from."

"I found it at the foot of my bed one morning."

Eggers laughed, turned his head to Fabens, and said, "Maybe he did."

"You should have reported it," said Fabens.

"I'll report it."

"You have never earned more than a reporter's salary--about the price of that Porsche in your driveway--in any one year... legally."

"Who reports gambling earnings?"

"Where did you get the money? Over two million dollars, possibly three, maybe more."

"I went scuba diving off the Bahamas and found a Spanish galleon loaded with trading stamps."

"Crime on top of crime." Fabens put his cigar stub in the ash tray. "Ten, twenty, thirty years in prison."

"Maybe by the time you get out," laughed Eggers, "the girl next door will be divorced."

"Oh, Gordon," Fabens said. "We forgot to tell Mister Irwin Maurice Fletcher that in one of my pockets I have his T.W.A. ticket to Hendricks, Virginia. In my other pocket I have his extradition papers."

Eggers slapped his kidney. "And I, Richard, have a warm pair of Italian handcuffs."

Fletch sat down.

"Gee, guys, these are my friends. You're asking me to bug my friends."

Fabens said, "I thought a good journalist didn't have any friends."

Fletch muttered, "Just other journalists."

Eggers said, "You don't have a choice, Fletcher."

"Damn." Fletch was turning the baggage locker key over in his hands. "I thought you C.I.A. guys stopped all this: domestic spying, bugging journalists. . . ."

"Who's spying?" said Eggers.

"You've got us all wrong," said Fabens. "This is simply a public relations effort. We're permitted to do public relations. All we want are a few friends in the American press."

"You never know," said Eggers. "If we know what some of their personal problems are, we might even be able to help them out."

"All we want is to be friendly," said Fabens. "Especially do we want to be friendly with Walter March. You know him?"

"Publisher. March Newspapers. I used to work for him."

"That's right. A very powerful man. I don't suppose you happen to know what goes on in his bedroom?"

"Christ," said Fletch. "He must be over seventy."

"So what," said Eggers. "I've been reading a book. . . ."

"Walter March," repeated Fabens. "We wish to make good friends with Walter March."

"So I do this thing for you, and what then?" Fletch asked. "Then I go to jail?"

"No, no. Then your tax problems disappear as if by magic. They fall in the Potomac River, never to surface again."

"How?"

"We take care of it," answered Eggers.

"Can I have that in writing?"

"No."

"Can I have anything in writing?"

"No."

Fabens put the Trans World Airlines ticket folder on the coffee table.

"Genoa, London, Washington, Hendricks, Virginia. Your plane leaves at four o'clock."

Fletch looked at his sunburned arm.

"I need a shower."

Eggers laughed. "Putting on a pair of pants wouldn't hurt any, either."

Fabens said, "I take it you choose to go home without handcuffs?"

Fletch said, "Does Pruella the pig pucker her pussy when she poops in the woods?"
Gregory Mcdonald|Author Q&A

About Gregory Mcdonald

Gregory Mcdonald - Fletch's Fortune

Photo © Michael J. Balzano (illustration)

Gregory Mcdonald was born on February 15, 1937, in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard University, having been accepted at the age of sixteen, but insists his real education came through the international yacht troubleshooting business he created and ran to support himself at Harvard. Described by critics as the inventor of the sunlight mystery, Mcdonald has published twenty-six books – fifteen of which are mysteries. Mcdonald’s first book, Running Scared (1964) was hugely controversial when it first came out, because of its argument for rational suicide and its critique of the Ivy League and its complementary institutions for their role in creating a cold, dehumanized, and self-destructive society. The reaction so shocked Mcdonald that it took him ten years to publish his next book. Seven of those ten years, from 1966 to 1973, were spent working at the Boston Globe as a columnist, critic, and contributor to the paper’s Sunday magazine. While at the Globe, Mcdonald became the first member of the major media to write against the Vietnam War. Mcdonald was also among the first American journalists to write in support of civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights. For these efforts, he has received humanitarian and people’s rights awards. In 1974, Mcdonald introduced the character I. M. Fletcher, who would become an iconic figure in American popular culture, in his book Fletch. This work won the 1975 Edgar Allan Poe award from the Mystery Writers of America. In 1976, Mcdonald published its sequel, Confess, Fletch, which won the Edgar in 1977, marking the only time the award has gone to a novel and its sequel. Mcdonald’s books are comprised mostly of dialogue. A self-described post-cinematic writer, he believes that readers have been exposed to so many images through movies that long, descriptive passages are unnecessary to set scenes. This is only one of many aspects of Mcdonald’s writing that make his books unique and groundbreaking.

With his signature character Fletch, Gregory Mcdonald created one of the best-known figures in crime fiction. Sexy, smart (some might say too smart for his own good), witty, and resourceful, Fletch finds himself in and out of predicaments that your average guy would avoid like the plague. The nine Fletch novels, originally published between 1974 and 1986, have been one of the most successful mystery series of all time, selling 100 million copies worldwide. They were also the basis of two successful films starring Chevy Chase. In addition to the Fletch series, Gregory Mcdonald is the author of numerous other mystery novels, including two Son of Fletch novels and three featuring Inspector F. X. Flynn. He died in 2008.

Author Q&A

Q: Where did the idea for Fletch come from?

A: I was a journalist for the Boston Globe for seven years. I’d be sitting around in the City Room at three o’clock in the morning and we’d tell these crazy stories about this reporter who always, of course, worked for some other newspaper, who would do crazy things. One example was that he would call the city desk and tell them about a murder, identify the murderer, and then ask the city desk not to send photographers out to the house until the widow got home and discovered the body. Over the years this idea grew that there was a witty character here that might be fun for people to read, and the idea of Fletch just grew in my head for a long time before I ever put pen to paper. And when it won the Edgar Allan Poe award, I got letters, lots and lots of letters from people asking for more Fletch.

Q: Did you have any idea of another Fletch book, when you wrote the first one?

A: Absolutely not. If I had, I wouldn’t have left the son-of-a-gun in Rio de Janeiro with three million bucks in his jeans. I had a terrible puzzle as to how to continue the story, with this major thing that happened to Fletch. I couldn’t afford to go to Rio, with a wife and two kids and all that. So I spent the summer discussing this matter with my dog, and I finally—I think in September—I came to the realization that made it all possible. If Fletch didn’t care about money when he didn’t have any, then he shouldn’t care about money when he does have some. And it shouldn’t have changed his personality much, and it didn’t, in fact.

I’d set that book in Boston, because that was where I happened to be at the time and the only place I could afford to go, as it was only a one-toll road.

Some authors write the same book over and over and over again, and I was determined I wasn’t going to do that. I figured if I bored the reader that would be a big sin. So I was even more pleased when the second book, Confess, Fletch also won the Edgar. It was the first, and the last, situation in which a book and its sequel had each won the Edgar.

Q: How do you write?

A: When I get an idea I try to forget it. If it keeps coming back, fuller and fuller over two or three years, and I get to the point of being so focused on it that I can’t tie my shoes, then I start working on it. I figure anything I forget in this process is not worth remembering. I write three days, wear myself out, do something else the next day, then spend another three days writing. The seven-day week has never worked out for me.

Q: What did you think about the Fletch film starring Chevy Chase?

A: The film “Fletch” was made ten years after the first novel appeared and the Fletch novels were international bestsellers. Chevy Chase and director Michael Ritchie and all hands made a classic film out of it.

Q: And now Kevin Smith is slated as writer/director of the next Fletch movie. Have you been personally in touch with him? Will you work with him?

A: Yes. Kevin made an extremely courteous call to me. I enjoyed it. He sounded energetic, informed. I assured him that I am, of course, interested in his creative input in making a Fletch movie, but that I shall never impose upon him. If he has questions as to why I did this or that, or simply wants a touchstone I shall be available to him.

Q: What question do you get asked again and again?

A: These books have been enormously important to people, and I am always asked, “What do they mean?” When you write a book, you only know what you’re intending to do, you don’t know what you’ve done until two or three years later, when people have told you what you’ve done, what it means to them. I’ve had a lot of these kinds of experiences with the Fletch books, amazing experiences. I’ve heard how much these books have meant in the old USSR, as it was collapsing. For example, the great nine million person circulation Pravda, during its last days, was continuing to publish Fletch when they didn’t have the ink to publish the news, and they were publishing Fletch in the daily newspaper with blank pages for the rest of the paper. You know, of the awards that I have won, the one that has meant the most to me came in 1991, when the Moscow Review of Literature elected me “Best Foreign Author, Not Dead.”

Anyway, what does Fletch say? I understand what he says is, “A victim do not be.” Don’t be a victim. If you have a situation or a problem, work your way around it with wit, grace, intelligence, and maybe have some fun with it.

Q: Over the course of the last five years you have gradually forced all of the Fletch books out of print. Why did you want this to happen?

A: Because I had never planned on such a big thing happening in my life, or to have these books be successful here and everywhere, I began, purposely, with the help of my manager, driving them out of print. Which didn’t make me very popular. They were still selling well and doing well. People still wanted them, but they were here or there and everywhere, and no publisher wanted to buy them all together. And I can’t tell you, now that I went through these years of purposely getting the rights back, how happy I am to have them at Vintage, where they are being treated as a collective whole, an entity.

Q: Why has it taken so long for the fourth Flynn book to come out?

A: Everywhere I have gone for the last how many years, always the second or third question is, “When is a new Flynn book coming?” And there hasn’t been one. The reason there wasn’t a fourth Flynn book for so long was because the third Flynn book, Flynn’s In, was declared an instant classic before it was even published, and frankly that sort of intimidated me. And I thought I should maybe stand pat and leave that the way it was. It took me some years, actually, to get over the intimidation and to hear again from people how much they loved Flynn and Jennifer Flynn—the world is crazy about Jenny Flynn and her relationship with her father and of course her twin brothers. Finally I did come to work out, happily and joyously, a new Flynn book which has never been published, but will be published for the first time with Vintage next spring . . .

Q: When you were a kid professionally skippering sailing ships off the coasts of the United States, Europe, Latin America, ever, in your wildest dreams, did you expect to become an internationally famous author?

A: I expected to write. I never felt I had a choice. To me, writing is not a job, occupation, profession. It’s a response to life. My response to life. “Internationally famous?” No. No way. I was determined not to play the insider’s game, you know, New York, Los Angeles, nothing in between but United Airlines. I love to work, hate celebrity.

Q: You wrote for the Boston Globe for seven years. In those seven years you were nominated for the Pulitzer five times.

A: All that says is I didn’t win the Pulitzer five times.

Q: In 1985 Warner Books published a collection of your journalism. You were the first in the major media to write openly against the War in Vietnam. You also wrote on behalf of women’s rights, gay rights, and of course black American and Hispanic rights. You were beat up in the parking lot of the Boston Globe for your stand against the war. How did that make you feel?

A: I never wrote for or against anything. My daddy was a journalist and I am a journalist. However much I would like to have the comfort, I do not belong to a political party, church congregation, shul, or mosque. Such would give people a false prism through which to view and judge my works. The Boston Globe hired me to get the story from the streets, and I did. The people on the streets were against the war, in favor of women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights. They were angry at the press for not getting it. I just wrote down what the street people said and the Boston Globe published it.

Q: What is your purpose in writing?

A: To respond to people’s needs. Maybe to get people to stop hitting each other over the heads. To entertain. Sometimes to make you laugh.

Q: You now live on an antebellum farm in Southern Middle Tennessee?

A: Yes, a real farm with cattle and horses. Each has four legs sticking out. Each morning, we count the legs, divide by four to see how many we’ve got.

Q: Do you work this farm yourself?

A: Well, less than I used to. I still have enough kid in me that I like to go out and get hot, sweaty, muddy once in a while, you know, accomplish something real, physical, visible by the end of the day. Sometimes, you know, it’s as much as thirty years before I know if something I’ve written means anything.

Q: Sailor, Harvard grad, critic, author, farmer. How do you put all this together?

A: What’s the line? I’m not afraid of death, I’m afraid of not having lived.

Praise

Praise

“Bright and entertaining…. Fletch, as irreverent and smart as ever, is back.” --The New York Times Book Review

“Good old-fashioned page-turning fun, a flair that has been absent from novels of this sort since the days of vintage James Bond.” --Penthouse

Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

"Bright and entertaining. . . . Fletch, as irreverent and smart as ever, is back." —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, questions for discussion, author biography, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your reading of the third novel in Gregory Mcdonald's acclaimed Fletch series, Fletch's Fortune. We hope they will provide you with new ways of thinking and talking about this novel both as an innovation in the mystery genre and as an example of great fiction in its own right.

About the Guide

Tanning himself on the Riviera, living off a stolen fortune, sleeping with his neighbor's wife--life seems perfect for Gregory Mcdonald's irreverent ex-journalist I. M. Fletcher. But when the C.I.A. shows up with a list of Fletch's tax evasions, a suitcase full of listening devices, and an unrefusable request that Fletch attend the American Journalism Alliance convention and bug the rooms of the most important journalists in the country, things get complicated.

Threatened with a twenty-year prison term, Fletch has to accept. But on the way to the conference, he learns that the A.J.A.'s president, Walter March, has been murdered--stabbed in his hotel room. March has been a domineering and dangerously ambitious patriarch of the news media for years, and many of the journalists in attendance have worked for him at one time or another, including Fletch. In fact, so many of the reporters at the convention had been bullied or blackmailed by March that virtually everyone there is a suspect. Fletch observes, "Everyone here is a bastard of Walter March. Or has been treated like one" [p. 213].

The question now is who killed March. But in a hotel full of highly competitive journalists, the equally important question is who will scoop the story. With a bug in every room, Fletch clearly has the advantage. He listens in as Police Captain Neale conducts his own investigation, gathering clues and learning some fascinating things about the lovely Ms. Arbuthnot's bathing rituals and about the surprisingly unconventional sex lives of the two C.I.A. agents who have been sent to check up on him. Amongst the bitter journalists, the overshadowed, alcoholic son, and a strange relation who suddenly appears, there are many with a motive to kill Walter March. And many more who want to find the real killer.

Informed by Mcdonald's own firsthand knowledge of the world of journalism, Fletch's Fortune is both a thrilling mystery and a biting satire of the people who uncover, report, and sometimes make the news.

About the Author

Harvard graduate, two-time winner of the Edgar Allan Poe award (the only time both a book and its sequel have won), past president of the Mystery Writers of America, Gregory Mcdonald has been described by critics as the inventor of the sunlight mystery and "The Master of the Pointed Story." Mcdonald has published 26 volumes (15 of which are mysteries) including the Fletch, Flynn, Son of Fletch, and Skylar series. In France, his novel The Brave (Rafael, derniers jours) was elected Trophees 813 Best Foreign Novel 1997.

For seven years Mcdonald worked for The Boston Globe as a writer for the Sunday Magazine, critic, Arts & Humanities Editor, critic-at-large columnist, and member of the Editorial Board.

Discussion Guides

1. When the I.R.S. man asks Fletch if there is a political motive behind his refusal to pay taxes, Fletch replies that his reasons are "purely esthetic" and claims to find the tax forms visually ugly, "very offensive," and their use of the English language "highly objectionable" [p. 203]. Is Fletch merely toying with the I.R.S. or is his answer in some way truthful? In what ways is it in character for him to be so sensitive to the esthetic nature of things? Is Fletch completely apolitical? Does he have some personal moral code that allows him to make decisions about right and wrong?

2. After questioning a convention full of journalists, the frustrated Captain Neale says, "I thought reporters were people who report the news. The last couple of days, I've gotten the impression they are the news" [p. 211]. In what ways can Fletch's Fortune be read as a satire? What characteristics of reporters are made to appear ridiculous or harmful in the novel? Which reporters are portrayed most satirically?

3. Early in the novel the narrator observes, "To a good reporter, everything was significant" [p. 63]. And after Fletch has solved the mystery of who killed Walter March, he says, "I always look for the controlling intelligence behind anything and everything" [p. 222]. How do these two principles guide Fletch in his investigation?

4. Much of Fletch's Fortune is concerned with blackmail. The C.I.A. blackmails Fletch into secretly gathering personal information on fellow journalists so that they too can be blackmailed, and the media patriarch Walter March employs a cadre of detectives to blackmail his employees and competitors. How is Fletch able to turn the tables on his blackmailers? In what ways does the novel, published in 1978, reflect the Watergate era's obsession with wiretapping and spying?

5. The anchorman Hy Litwack gives a speech about terrorism and television in which he argues that "Terrorism, like many another crime or insanity, is infectious. . . . One incident of terrorism causes two more incidents." Still, he maintains that "television did not create terrorism" [p. 71]. What is the relationship between terrorism and the media? How does reporting crime affect crime itself? How might Fletch characterize the reporter's role in society?

6. Fletch's Fortune is more comical than the first two novels in the Fletch series. What kinds of humor are present in the novel? What scenes or characters contribute most of that humor? How does this comic undercurrent affect the book as a whole?

For discussion of FLETCH, CONFESS, FLETCH, and FLETCH'S FORTUNE:

1. In what ways does Fletch's character evolve over the course of these three novels? How is he different in Fletch's Fortune than he is in Fletch? What traits remain constant in his character?

2. What methods of reasoning and investigation does Fletch employ in these novels to solve each crime? How does Mcdonald manage to keep the reader from knowing more than Fletch does? How surprising is the revelation at the end of each book?

3. Mcdonald has written, "The magic I attempt is to point the finger, as concisely as possible set the scene, then pull back my hand, disappear as the author, leave the reader alone with the characters" (From Gregory Mcdonald's official Website: www.gregoryMcdonald.com/mysteries1.html). What is the effect of this kind of writing? Why is it especially useful in the mystery genre? Does this technique require more from the reader than other types of writing?

4. In addition to the narrative pull provided by the suspenseful investigation of a crime, Mcdonald's novels employ a narrative technique common to all great fiction: conflict. With whom or what is Fletch most often in conflict? How do these conflicts affect the reader's relationship both to Fletch and to the novels as a whole?

5. If you have read any of the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, how does Fletch compare with other heroes such as Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, and Sam Spade? In what ways is he both like and unlike his predecessors? How has Mcdonald extended or put his own personal stamp on the mystery genre with the Fletch novels?

Suggested Readings

Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep; Wilke Collins, The Moonstone; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Sue Grafton, P is for Peril; Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest; Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress; Edgar Allan Poe, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter," and "The Tell-Tale Heart"; Jim Thompson, The Grifters and The Killer Inside Me; Carl Hiaasen, Skin Tight and Stormy Weather.

  • Fletch's Fortune by Gregory Mcdonald
  • March 12, 2002
  • Fiction - Mystery & Detective
  • Vintage
  • $12.00
  • 9780375713552

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