Saturday, October 18, 2008

On The Nightstand

By Gregory Mcdonald

I've always meant to read the Fletch books, but never got around to it. With their tight lean prose and colorful main character, they've always seemed like my cup of tea.

A few weeks ago, I found out that Gregory Mcdonald had died. So I went to the ubiquitous and ordered the first Fletch book. As anyone who has ever worked in a bookstore knows, the minute an author passes away, there's a sudden rush to buy his books. It's an odd phenomenon, but not a bad thing. At least people are reading.

Needless to say, the first Fletch book turned out to be out of stock, so I ordered one of the later books in the series, instead. It was so good that I immediately went back and ordered everything Mcdonald had every written that was still readily available. 19 books in all. They came in dribs and drabs, and in no particular order. And each one was as good as the next.

I have to say, I wish I'd read these earlier. I might have learned a lot from Mcdonald's prose style. He approaches the written word in much the same way I try to -- direct, no nonsense, very few flourishes.

Gregory Mcdonald wrote two series that you can find fairly easily. There are the Fletch books (which are far more interesting and layered than the Chevy Chase films I used to love before reading the source material and wondering why they couldn't have just filmed the books as written and not tried to make it silly), and the Flynn books, which spin out of CONFESS, FLETCH. Both characters are fascinating and worth following.

So, of course, the last book to actually arrive was the first FLETCH, which in the end, is the fourth book in the series. Mcdonald ended up writing 3 prequels. It's good. Very, very good. My one regret is that we won't see any more Fletch books, at least not from the painfully talented pen of Mr. Mcdonald.

I've torn through all 19 books in record time, (19 books in 3 or 4 weeks is fast, even for me). They're quick reads, but full of shockingly well-written prose. I'll be turning them over in my head for a long time, taking them apart to see how they tick. And they all tick. So quietly and smoothly that you never notice how quickly Mcdonald is steering you through the plot. Even the weakest of the bunch -- THE BUCK PASSES FLYNN -- is head and shoulders above most books out there.

Now I may have to hunt down some of his out-of-print books, or at least badger his publisher to bring them back in print. If they're up to the Fletch and Flynn standard, I would really regret not reading them.


ANDY KUHN said...

i totally agree with your take on macdonald.
FLETCH and FLYNN are both great series.
i hated the movies because i had already read the books when they came out.
maybe someday they'll get filmed well.

matthew dow smith said...

Hey, cool. Thanks for digging into my old posts, Andy. There was some talk about re-booting the film series with FLETCH WON, but I haven't heard anything about that in a while. Here's hoping.