Fletch Won by Gregory McdonaldFletch Won by Gregory Mcdonald

Fletch Won

byGregory Mcdonald

Paperback | July 9, 2002

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Fletch Won

As a fledgling reporter, Fletch is doing more flailing than anything else. That and floating around from department to department trying to figure where he fits in. His managing editor’s got him pegged for the society pages, but the kind of society Fletch gets involved with is anything but polite.

Fletch Won

His first big interview, a millionaire lawyer with a crooked streak and an itch to give away some of his ill-gotten gains, ends up dead in the News-Tribune’s parking lot before Fletch can ask question number one. So Fletch ends up going after the murderer instead, and ends up learning a thing or two about crime and punishment.

Fletch Won

At the same time, he’s supposed to be covering (or maybe uncovering) a health spa that caters to all its clients needs, and gets hired as a very personal trainer. Never mind that he’s supposed to be getting married at the end of the week; Fletch has a few other engagements to take care of first.
Gregory Mcdonald is the author of twenty-six books, including eleven Fletch novels and four Flynn mysteries. He has twice won the Mystery Writers of America’s prestigious Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Mystery Novel, and was the first author to win for both a novel and its sequel. He died in 2008.
Title:Fletch WonFormat:PaperbackPublished:July 9, 2002Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0375713522

ISBN - 13:9780375713521

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Read from the Book

1"Did I ask to see you?""No, Frank, I--""I want to see you anyway." Frank Jaffe, The Editor, refolded the competing newspaper, the Chronicle-Gazette, and put it under his elbow on the desk. "I have some tough things to say to you.""Little ol' me?""How would you like lifting a shovel eight hours a day, every day, five days a week, maybe half-days Saturdays?"Fletch looked at his sneakers on the rug of Frank's office. Through the top of his left sneaker he saw the knuckles of three toes. Only the smallest toe showed through the top of his right sneaker. "It's not what I see for myself in the parade of life, Frank.""That's what I see for you. In the parade of life, what do you see yourself suited for?""Journalism.""And what's journalism, young Fletcher?""Developing the skill of ending sentences with prepositions? Especially questions?""Did I just do that?" Behind his thick lenses, Frank's watery eyes moved across the top of his messy desk. "I just did that.""Frank, what I wanted to see you about--"Frank opened a folder on his desk. "I've dug out your personnel file." The folder was not thick. "You're suited for journalism, or pick-and-shovel work. I wonder which it will be?""Why are you looking at my personnel file? You hired me months ago.""Three months ago. Do you remember why? I don't.""Because I can be really good, Frank. I--""I think I had the idea this newspaper needed a breath of fresh air, young maverick who would shake things up a bit, see things differently, maybe, jerk people out of their ruts.""How can I do that, Frank, if you won't give me a job?""I've given you a job. Lots of jobs.""Not a real job.""First, I put you on the copy desk.""Writing headlines is for poets, Frank.""And kept you there, over the growing protests of your co-workers, I might add--""I spilled orange soda on somebody's terminal keyboard.""That's not all you did.""I made it up to him. I bought him a pair of surgical gloves."--until you wrote the headline GOVERNOR JOKES ON PURPOSE.""I thought that was news.""And somehow the headline appeared in two editions before being killed.""Sheer poetry, Frank. Not long-lived poetry, I admit, not deathless poetry, but--""So then I assigned you to writing obituaries.""You know I want to write sports, Frank. That's why I came in to see you this morning.""Not the toughest job in the world, writing obituaries. You answer the phone, listen politely, sometimes you have to check a few facts.""I'm very good at checking facts."Frank held up a piece of paper. His hand quivered and his eyes shook as he read the first paragraph from it. " 'Ruth Mulholland died peacefully today, having accomplished nothing in her fifty-six years.' Did you write that?""It was a fact, Frank. I checked.""Fletcher, one of the points in your writing obituaries is in our being able to print them.""I kept asking her sister, What did she ever do? The sister kept talking. But I was listening, you see. This person, Ruth Mulholland, never graduated from anywhere, never got married, never had a baby, never held a job, never even supported herself. I mean, in fifty-six years she never accomplished a damned thing. Finally, I asked the sister, Did she ever make anybody a sweater? Cook a pan of brownies for anybody? Or even for herself? The sister kept saying, No, no, in fact Ruthie never did a damned thing in her life. I said, Well, is that what I should print? And the sister said, Well, yes, I guess that's the truth about Ruthie. I checked the facts, Frank. Ruthie never applied for Social Security, or a driver's license; she didn't even support her local beauty shop!""Fletcher--""What, there's not supposed to be any truth in obituaries? When someone has won the Nobel Prize we print that in an obituary. When someone accomplishes exactly nothing in life, why don't we print that? Doing absolutely nothing is a statement, Frank, a response to life. It's news, it's interesting.""Ruthie didn't get her obituary printed, either." Frank held up another shaking piece of paper. "So you were assigned to writing wedding announcements. That's just a job of taking dictation. You don't even have to be responsible for the main fact, the wedding, because it hasn't taken place yet. Your very first announcement read, 'Sarah and Roland Jameson, first cousins, are to be married Wednesday in a ceremony restricted to family.' ""Crisp.""Crisp," Frank agreed."Concise.""Concise.""To the point.""Absolutely to the point.""And," Fletch said, "factual.""Took talent, to dig that story out.""Not much. When the mother of the bride called, I simply asked her why both the bride and groom had the same last name.""And she answered you without hesitation?""She hesitated.""She said they were first cousins?""She said their fathers were brothers.""And neither the bride nor the groom was adopted, right?""Frank, I checked. What do you think I am?""I think you're an inexperienced journalist.""If the rules of journalism apply on political and crime and sports pages, why don't they apply on obituaries and wedding-announcement pages? Newspapers are supposed to tell both sides of a story, right? Pah! Sundays we devote pages and pages to wedding announcements. Why don't we give equal space to divorce announcements?""Fletcher--""News is news, Frank.""You think that by writing obituaries and wedding announcements in this heavy-handed, factual way is how you re going to get yourself assigned to the sports pages, is that it?""Truth is truth, Frank.""Someday, Fletcher, may you be a victim of someone like yourself.'' Through his pupils dipped in clam juice, Frank looked at Fletcher. "You're getting married Saturday?""Yes. Next Saturday.""Why?""Barbara has the day open.""Unless the purpose is to have children," Frank said slowly, "marriage is a legal institution guaranteeing only that you get screwed by lawyers.""You don't believe in true love?""True Love ran at Saratoga Saturday. Made a strong start, faded fast, and ended at the back of the pack. I suppose you expect time off, for a honeymoon?""Barbara's rather counting on it. That's another thing I wanted to see you about.""You haven't worked here a year yet. In fact, some say you haven't worked here at all yet!""Yeah, but, Frank, how many times in life do you have a honeymoon?""Don't ask. Why are you so sunburned?""I ran in the Sardinal Race yesterday.""Your hair looks like it hasn't crossed the finish line yet."Fletch smiled. "There's a story there.""In your hair? I'd believe anything is in your hair.""In the race. Do you know about the Ben Franklyn Friend Service?""Guess I don't.""Basically, it's a company specializing in health and prostitution.""What?""You call them and this sultry voice answers, saying, 'Ben Franklyn Friend Service. You want a friend?' Only sometimes she slurs a little, and it sounds more like, 'You want to, friend?' ""You call them often?""The guys on the desk played a joke on me one night. They told me to phone out for pizzas and that was the number they gave me. The girl on the phone was trying to set up an appointment for me, and I kept asking if she had anchovies and pepperoni. I guess she thought I was a pervert. You ought to call them sometime.""I need a friend.""So I looked into 'em. Big business. Beautiful girls. All of 'em in great physical condition. They're made to work out, you know?""What's the story?""They were running yesterday. In the race. All of 'em. A flotilla of call girls. About twelve of them, all together. Running through the city streets. Downtown. Wearing T-shirts that read in front, You WANT A FRIEND?, and in back, BEN FRANKLYN. They all made it to the finish, too.""So what's the story? Don't tell me. I've got it." Frank put his hands to his forehead. "STREETWALKERS JOG--""Joggle.""CALL GIRLS COME RUNNING?""Consider their leg muscles, Frank.""I'm all excited.""They were advertising their business, Frank.""So where did you finish in this race?""Right behind them. I was following a story, you might say.""Faithful to the last.""You're not getting the point.""I'm not?""These call girls were using a city-run health and sports event to advertise their service.''"So a few prostitutes ran in the city footrace yesterday. Why shouldn't they? Not against the law. They wore T-shirts advertising their services. Gave thrills to a few dirty old men leg-watchers standing on the curbs. So where's the story?""You ran pictures of them today. On your sports pages. Coming and going. Front and back."Frank paled. "We did?""You did.""Jeez!" Frank grabbed the News-Tribune off the floor and turned to the sports pages. "We did.""There's the story.""You mean, we're the story.""Gave a call-girl service a nice big spread. Lots of free publicity. Have you heard from the archbishop yet? How about the district attorney? Any of your advertisers object?""Damn. Someone did this on purpose.""You need me on the sports pages, Frank.""Look at the caption. Oh, my God. Physical beauty and stamina exemplified by employees of the Ben Franklyn Service Company who ran together yesterday in the city's Sardinal Race. Group finished near end of race . . . I can't stand it.""They weren't in any hurry.""Neither were you, apparently.""You were just telling me never to get ahead of my story.""Get up and come into the office early Monday morning . . ." Frank was tearing through the competing newspaper, the Chronicle-Gazette, on his desk, trying to find the sports pages. ". . . Have to waste the damned day firing people . . .""The Gazette didn't run pictures of the call girls, Frank. Front or back. They just ran pictures of the winners. Jeez, they practice tired old journalism over there.''Frank sat back in his chair. He looked like a boxer between rounds. "Why did I have to start off the week by seeing you?""Bring a little freshness to your life. A few laughs. Shake you up a bit. Make you see a few things differently, like a couple of photos on your sports pages.''"You own a necktie?""Sure.""I've never seen it.""It's holding one end of my surfboard off the floor.""I suppose you're serious. What's holding up the other end?"Fletch looked down at the top of his jeans. "A belt someone gave me.""I decided over the weekend to give you one more chance." Frank looked at his watch."You're going to try me out as a sportswriter!""No. After all, what companies do is expect youth, energy, and experience all from the same person. That's not fair.""The police beat? Fine!""Thought we might try knocking a few of the rough edges off you.""City Hall? I can do it. Just give me a score card.""So I figure it's experience, polish, you need. You do own a suit, don't you?""The courts! Damn, you want me to cover the courts. I know how the courts work, Frank. Remarkable how little they have to do with the law, you know? I--""Society.""Society?""Society. Seeing you're so quick to identify deceased people who never accomplished a damned thing in their lives, and point out to the public first cousins who intend to marry each other, I think you might have a little talent for covering society.""You mean society, like in high society?""High society, low society, you know, lifestyles: all those features that cater to the anxieties of our middle-class readers.""Frank, I don't believe in society.""That's okay, Fletch. Society doesn't believe in you, either.""I'd be no good at it.""You might be attractive, if you combed your hair."''Little old ladies slipping vodka into their tea?''"Habeck. Donald Edwin Habeck.""Didn't he once try out as goalie for the Red Wings?""If you read anything other than the sports pages, Fletcher, you'd know Donald Edwin Habeck is one of this neighborhood's more sensational attorneys.""Is he on an exciting case?""Habeck called me last night and said he and his wife have decided, after much discussion, to give five million dollars to the art museum. You're interested in art, aren't you?""Not as poker chips.""He wants the story treated right, you know? With dignity. No invasion of their privacy, no intrusion into their personal lives.""Frank, would you mind if I sit down?""Help yourself. I forgot you ran slowly in a footrace yesterday."Fletch sat on the rug."Sit anywhere.""Thanks. La-di-da philanthropy.""Finish the verse and you may have a hit song.""Frank, you want me, I.M. Fletcher, to do an arm's length, hands off, veddy, veddy polite story about some for--God's--sake society couple who are giving five million pieces of tissue paper to the art museum?""Polite, yes. Why not polite? Here are a couple of people doing something nice for the world, sharing their wealth. Curb your need to report Mrs. Habeck slips vodka into her tea. Time you learned how to be polite. By the way, I can't see you over the edge of the desk.""I disappeared.""Well, you'd better reappear. You're meeting with Habeck in the publisher's office at ten o'clock. Pity your necktie and belt are holding up your surfboard.""God! Any story which starts with the reporter meeting the subject in the publisher's office isn't worth getting up for.""See? You're improving as a journalist already. You just ended a sentence with a preposition.""I won't do it.""Fletch, I'm pretty sure you'd be just as attractive working a pick and shovel in the city streets. You wouldn't have to wear a necktie, belt, or comb your hair. I can arrange to have you leave here Friday and you and Lucy can take as long a honeymoon as you can afford.""Might make a nice weekend. And her name's Barbara.""I thought so. Sunday bliss with Barbara. Tuesday with blisters.""Frank, why don't you let Habeck write the story himself? He's paying five million dollars for the privilege."Hamm Starbuck stuck his head around the office door. He looked at Fletch sitting cross-legged on the rug. "It's that kind of morning, is it?""So far," Frank answered. "Floored one. After glancing at certain photos on the sports page, I see I have a few more to floor today.""Frank, were you expecting Donald Habeck?""Not me. John's expecting him. He should be sent to the publisher's office.""He'll never make it.""He telephoned?""No. He's dead in the parking lot."Frank asked, "What do you mean?""In a dark blue Cadillac Seville. Bullet hole in his temple."Fletch sprang off the floor without using his hands. "My story!""Guess we should call the police.""Get the photographers down there first," Frank said.''Already done that.''"Also Biff Wilson. Has he reported in yet?""I radioed him. He's on the freeway.""Biff Wilson!" Fletch said. "Frank, you gave this story to me.""I haven't given you anything, Fletcher.""Habeck, Donald Edwin. Was I supposed to interview him at ten o'clock?""Fletcher, do me a favor.""Anything, Frank.""Get lost. Report to Ann McGarrahan in Society.""Maybe there's a necktie in my car.""I just made a career decision," Frank said to his desk."What's that, Frank?""I'm not coming into the office early Monday mornings anymore."

Bookclub Guide

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.