Sunday 14 September 2008

The man who created Fletch

I was sorry to learn of the death, a few days ago, of Gregory McDonald. He was an American novelist best known as the creator of Irwin M. Fletcher, who was brought to the silver screen by Chevy Chase in a likeable adaptation of McDonald’s excellent 1974 best-seller, Fletch.

Fletch boasts a brilliant opening, one of the most stunning in the genre. I vividly remember reading the first couple of pages in a bookshop when I was a student, and deciding this was a book I really had to read. In a few lines of sharp, witty dialogue, McDonald establishes both a distinctive character and a fascinating situation. It’s a masterclass in how to practise effective and entertaining economy of writing.

McDonald also created an intriguing policeman called Flynn, who featured in a few books, but he seemed to find it difficult to surpass that first, magnificent achievement and as far as I know, he hadn’t produced a significant novel for several years. But, for Fletch above all, he deserves to be remembered as a writer of genuine talent and verve.

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