All About Fletch
I think it’d be fair to say that I was affected by Gregory McDonald, the man responsible giving the world Fletch, the barefoot reporter with cheek.
Yes, the same Fletch that inspired that mid-80s Chevy Chase movie (one of the few good movies he ever made) and its cheesy sequel. The quintessentially 80s synth soundtrack is now playing in my head, in fact.
Initially, I had no idea that the movie was based on anything until I saw the paperback at the PX and thought I’d give it a quick look.
I became hooked. McDonald wrote 11 Fletch books, and I’ve read each of them at least twice (with many of them having been read upwards of a dozen times). Same applies with the Flynn series of books, which are a spin off from Fletch. Of his other material, I’ve only read Merely Players, from his trilogy of Shakespeare inspired novellas. I will be rectifying that in the future.
McDonald’s pulp world consumed me. Without delving too heavily into the Dickensian aspect* of my life, I didn’t have a strong male presence to model after. In my mind, Fletch became that guy. Clearly, there’s something slightly off about doing this…
Mostly because Irwin Maurice Fletcher (aka – “Fletch”; “Earwig”) was the kind of breezy charismatic young man who’d have things fall his way more often than not. The forces against him occasionally got the upper hand; after a couple of quips though, Fletch would again wiggle out triumphant, and infinitely cooler than the competition, and usually on the way to hooking up with some smart, acerbic and ultimately comely young woman.
There is simply no way to emulate this kind of behavior in real life, not like I tried, but I did spend inordinate amounts of time wishing I lived in a light noir world where the ladies would be naturally attracted to me and my slightly daffy sense of humor. High school sucked.
As an adult, though, the world of Fletch and Flynn grew in scope for me. Still light and breezy, but the adult view of the world became clearer, and the romance I’d attached to that world when I was younger dissipated. It was only after growing up myself that I saw that the murders that surrounded Fletch often served as his cues to adapt to the world. This is particularly true in the case involving the Widow Bradley.
But what nailed the series for me is the story told in Fletch, Too. It is the last book McDonald wrote before giving his marquee character a son, and is also the book during which we see Fletch at his most exposed. In this story, Fletch goes to Africa in search of his long lost father…Whether he finds him or not isn’t important. Or at least it wasn’t for me. For me, the story’s resonance brought the character full circle, and I found myself identifying with Fletch more strongly than before.
Here was another bright young man who had learned to make do without a proper father figure to provide some kind of hint as to how to get along with life. You can’t buy that kind of identification, you either get it or you don’t. Fletch had it in spades, as far as I’m concerned.
Gregory McDonald passed away on Sunday, September 7th. No information on cause of death has been released; I'm willing to bet it was natural causes.
Thanks for the enjoyment and inspiration you brought to me, Mr. McDonald.
*Nod to S5 The Wire. I still get consumed by narratives, obviously. - TBO