Created by Gregory McDonald

Hot shot investigative reporter IRWIN MAURICE FLETCHER hates his given name. He prefers to go simply by “FLETCH.”

Can you blame him?

And he isn’t technically a P.I. by avocation. So what’s he doing here?

Well, when the writing’s this fast, sharp and funny (and it is), we’re too busy laughing to bother with technicalities.

Fletch, at least when we initially meet him, is a LA-based newspaper reporter for the News-Tribune, beset by hypertension and a demanding editor, two ex-wives hungry for alimony (although arguably hungrier for Fletch himself), and a coterie of military men determined to award Fletch a Bronze Star he doesn’t want. While trying to duck all these menaces, Fletch stumbles across a seemingly successful businessman who wants to pay Fletch to murder him.

In Fletch (1974), the first published novel (although it’s actually fourth in the chronology – more on that later), Mcdonald manages to balance an intricately and tightly plotted mystery with often howlingly funny dialogue. The book manages to come up with several neat surprises–not least of which is the ending–and gives several P.I. clichés a much-needed kick in the pants. (One running gag has Fletch completely unable to remember the complicated multisyllabic alias he gave himself on a spur-of-the-moment whim, so it gets more and more unlikely each time he hauls it out–and nobody seems to notice.) But while Fletch is a sleuth who seems to take absolutely nothing seriously, he nevertheless seems absolutely intent on getting to the bottom of the mystery presented to him. He’s a guy with every bit of the wit, resource and style of, say, Spenser or Jim Rockford–it just so happens that Fletch doesn’t have a P.I. license. (Funny that all three characters debuted within a year of each other)

After that first book, Mcdonald felt he couldn’t write the immediate sequel he had in mind, because he didn’t have the money to research the Brazilian setting he wanted to use. So he skipped ahead a volume and wrote Confess, Fletch, set in his native Boston. This kicked off a habit Mcdonald developed of jumping around in the Fletch chronology, writing prequels followed by sequels followed by prequels again, occasionally stopping to fill a gap in the chronology here and there. In the order in which the novels take place, the series leads off with Fletch Won (1985), in which Fletch is a young and engaged-to-be-married, relatively inexperienced reporter. Then comes Fletch, Too (1986) which finds Fletch on his honeymoon in Africa, searching for his long-lost father. It’s followed by Fletch And The Widow Bradley (1981) and then, finally, Fletch, which chronicle his LA reporter days. After that, it’s Carioca Fletch (1984), the Brazilian novel mentioned earlier; Confess, Fletch (1976), which introduced Mcdonald’s other series character, the Irish-born Boston Police Inspector (and loving family man) Francis Xavier Flynn; Fletch’s Fortune (1978) and Fletch’s Moxie (1982), which find our hero investigating shady goings on in the U.S. South; Fletch And The Man Who (1983) wherein the once doggedly anti-establishment Fletch finds himself working for a mainstream presidential campaign; and finally Son Of Fletch (1993) and Fletch Reflected (1994) which actually focus more on the mystery-solving exploits of John Fletcher Faoni, a young man who claims to be Fletch’s illegitimate son, conceived during the events chronicled in Fletch’s Fortune.

You got all that?

Some later volumes in the series have their detractors. Mcdonald drastically changes Fletch’s circumstances throughout the series, and even the focal characters, which means that you don’t always get what you expect. Of course, some see this as a virtue, but be aware that Confess, Fletch, for example, is as much a Flynn novel as it is a Fletch novel, and Fletch is pretty much a secondary character in Fletch Reflected. As well, be aware that not all the actual mysteries that Fletch has to solve are on the innovative level of the original novel. But Mcdonald is a lean, economical stylist, and even the least of the Fletch novels flies along at a breakneck pace, with wit, panache and subversive mischief to spare.

Fletch won an Edgar in 1974 for best first mystery novel (although Mcdonald had previously published a novel in 1964 called Running Scared; no relation to the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines movie.) In 1976, Mcdonald won another Edgar (Best Original Paperback Novel) for the follow-up, Confess, Fletch, the only time a novel and its sequel have won back-to-back Edgars. The decision to publish Confess, Fletch only in paperback struck many as odd–Fletch, after all, initially appeared in hardcover–but most of the subsequent Fletch novels would also appear as paperbacks, despite pressure from other writers who felt that Mcdonald was devaluing the mystery genre by not publishing in hardcover. (“I like to be read by people,” Mcdonald is reported to have said in explanation.) Hardcover publication of the series resumed with Fletch Won (1985).


Fletch also made his successful movie debut in 1985. The movie Fletch is a comedic re-imagining of the novel of the same name, offering a somewhat broader comic tone. The screenplay by Andrew (Jack Levine, Honeymoon in Vegas, etc.) Bergman preserves the original mystery and several fine dialogue exchanges, but adds a quotient of goofiness that, while not particularly suitable to the character in the novel, works well for Chevy Chase. Chase himself is a good (not inspired, but good) choice to play the wisecracking reporter, and a number of interesting people pop up in minor roles. The sequel, however, is another story. Fletch Lives (1989) is long on goofiness, short on wit, and is pretty dire on any level. Not surprisingly, it’s not based on any of Mcdonald’s novels.

There were rumours back in 2000 or so that director Kevin Smith (best known for slacker comedies such as Dogma and Clerks (and referred to around here as “the other Kevin Smith”) was developing a film based on the prequel novel, Fletch Won. Evidently Smith held the film rights for a while, and had been quoted as saying “I actually learned to write dialogue by reading Mcdonald’s Fletch books.” But the wheels came off that project, and a few years later it was reported that Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence would be writing two Fletch, and that My Name is Earl star Jason Lee (or possibly Scrubs star Zach Braff) was being considered for the role of Fletch. That fell apart, as well.

But finally, in September 2022, however,  Fletch returned to the big screen (albeit in limited release), in Confess, Fletch, based on McDonald’s novel of the same name, to particularly favorable reviews. A surprisingly smart and savvy adaptation, it starred Jon Hamm (from TV’s Mad Men), who managed to be far more charming in the role than anyone expected. CrimeRead’s Olivia Rutigliano gushed, calling it “a movie of epic coolness and smoothness featuring Jon Hamm in his best role in a long time… so relentlessly enjoyable that I was positively shocked it didn’t have a wider release.”


Fletch (1974) was initially published in hardcover by Bobbs-Merrill, and sold moderately well, but the Avon paperback edition, published the next year, sold like crazy, due—many suspect— the book’s unusual cover, which ducked any sort of illustration at all, and simply reproduced the book’s opening dialogue:

What’s your name?”
“What’s your full name?”
“What’s your first name?”
“Irwin. Irwin Fletcher. People call me Fletch.”
“Irwin Fletcher, I have a proposition to make to you. I will give you a thousand dollars just for listening to it. If you decide to reject the proposition, you take the thousand dollars, go away, and never tell anyone we talked.”
“Is it criminal?”
“Of course.”
“Fair enough. For a thousand bucks I can listen. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to murder me.”
Fletch said, “Sure.”


In published order:

In narrative order:



  • FLETCH Buy this video Buy this DVD Buy the Blu-Ray Watch it now!
    (1985, Universal)
    Based on the novel by Gregory Mcdonald
    Screenplay by Andrew Bergman
    Directed by Michael Ritchie
    Starring Chevy Chase as FLETCH
    Also starring Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Joe Don Baker, Richard Libertini, M. Emmet Walsh, George Wendt, Geena Davis
    It doesn’t take the source material too seriously, but that’s part of this flick’s off-kilter charm.
  • FLETCH LIVES  | Buy this videoBuy the DVD Buy the Blu-Ray Watch it now!
    (1989, Universal)
    Based on characters created by Gregory Mcdonald
    Screenplay by Leon Capetanos
    Directed by Michael Ritchie
    Starring Chevy Chase as FLETCH
    Also starring Hal Holbrook, Julianne Phillips, Richard Libertini, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Patricia Kalember, Richard Belzer, Phil Hartman
    The obligatory sequel, though far less effective.
  • CONFESS, FLETCH Watch it now!
  • (2022, Miramax)
    98 minutes
    Release date: September 16, 2022
    Based on the novel by Gregory Mcdonald
    Screenplay by Zev Borow and Greg Mottola
    Directed by Greg Mottola
    Starring Jon Hamm as FLETCH
    Also starring Lorenza Izzo, Marcia Gay Harden, Lucy Punch, Kyle MacLachlan, John Slattery, Ayden Mayeri, Anna Osceola, Robert Picardo, Annie Mumolo, Noel Ramos, Eugene Mirman, Heidi Garza, Roy Wood Jr.
    A surprise treasure, more comedy than mystery, perhaps, but satisfying on both counts, and Hamm nails it. Do I smell franchise?


  • The Fletch CollectionBuy this DVD
    Includes both films starring Chevy Chase. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


Main essay respectfully submitted by Rudyard Kennedy, with additional snarkery by Kevin Burton Smith.

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