Book Review: Fletch’s Fortune by Gregory Mcdonald

Fletch's Fortune by Gregory Mcdonald (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
Fletch's Fortune Book Cover Fletch's Fortune
Fletch #3 (in the stories' chronological order: #7)
Gregory Mcdonald
Fiction; Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
1978; e-book: March 2002
Kindle e-book
256
Amazon.com / Overdrive

He hadn't been a practicing journalist for years, although people remembered him and he still has a few contacts. And he's pretty sure he hasn't paid his dues to the American Journalism Alliance anytime recently. But somebody has.

Enjoying himself on the French Riviera, developing a killer tan, and sleeping with the neighbor's wife, Fletch is feeling pretty flush. But when CIA agents Eggers and Fabens show up with a little more information about Fletch than is comfortable and an invitation to the A.J.A. convention, how could he refuse?

So he finds himself enlisted as a spy among his peers. But before he can even set up his surveillance, there's a murder. And almost everybody's a suspect because a lot of people were employed by Walter March, and most of them had a reason to hate him.

Fletch’s Fortune has a great high concept plot, which is really saying something for Fletch novels which all seem to have a high concept start from a sprinting position. It also allows for a fairly closed setting and lots of satire. The fact that Fletch is somehow both journalist and not journalist allows for some interesting dynamics.

For a parlor-type mystery, there were almost too many characters/suspects, but given the potential size of the conference, I’ll let Mcdonald take a flier on it as he did an excellent job fleshing out each of the characters to make them unique enough to stand on their own without giving up too much. I also suspect that he may have thought of cute little character descriptions over one afternoon and then assigned them to people as they appeared–some of them are really delicious particularly:

The man’s shoulders were little more than outriggers for his ears.

One of my favorite constructs in this book that sets it apart from others in the series were the conference session titles being used deliciously as chapter openers. Many of them provide some hilarious counterpoint to the plot and certainly add to the humor of the overall piece.

Another interesting turn was the romantic portion of the plot in which one of Fletch’s unfortunate choices of pseudonym finally gets him into trouble, though not in the way in which one might otherwise suppose. The sub-plot with Freddie was hilarious and tense without actually coming to a final head. (Writing this after I’ve now read Fletch and the Man Who makes me even more glad that it didn’t. Their relationship is like the unrequited Sam/Rebecca pairing in the NBC television series Cheers, which this book preceded by several years.)

The humor at Crystal’s expense was all great if perhaps maybe even too much, though it was done with enough warmth that it’s obvious that Fletch is doing his part in the nicest way. (Now that I’m in the midst of Son of Fletch, it’s interesting to think back on his relationship with Crystal.)

This book read very quickly and was well plotted though the ending was perhaps all too quick. I would have preferred a slower unfolding in the third act. At least in this one, we get the payoff in the end of seeing some of Fletch’s machinations coming to a head all at once–something we didn’t get to see in Fletch when he set both of his ex-wives up to unwittingly move in together with each other while thinking that they were getting back together with him.

This is sure to rank at the top of my favorite Fletch novels by the time I’m done with the series.

Reading Progress
  • 08/7/16 marked as: want to read; “The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series.”
  • 09/23/16 marked as: currently reading
  • 09/23/16 14.0% “As usual, a great zinger of an opening… Mcdonald knows how to open a first act.”
  • 09/24/16 22.0% “Things have slowed down a smidge, but the forward momentum of the murder investigation begins to move things along a bit.”
  • 09/28/16 53.0% “Making good progress, hope to finish tomorrow. There are certainly some interesting characters here, though perhaps feeling like too many, particularly since most seem to potentially have committed the murder.”
  • 09/29/16 100% “The second half read incredibly fast. The plot particularly began unfolding in the end almost too quickly. I wish the last act could have lasted a bit longer. I really enjoyed the Crystal character and the snide banter she continually spouts with Fletch. The wrap up with Freddie was generally unexpected, but delicious in its oddity in the larger canon. There was surprisingly little talk of Fletch’s ex-wives or even of his potentially adding another to the collection. Some of my favorite jokes were the chapter headings of the schedule of the conference along with even funnily named rooms in which the sessions were taking place.I’ll hope to write a longer review shortly.”

 

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

“C.I.A., Mister Fletcher.”
“Um. Would you mind spelling that?”

Highlight (yellow) – Location 26

“The name’s Arbuthnot,” Fletch said. “Freddy Arbuthnot.”

Highlight (yellow) – Location 33
Yet another of Fletch’s many pseudonyms.

“Coffee?”
“If we wanted coffee,” said Fabens, standing up, “we would have made it ourselves.”
“Part of the C.I.A. training, I expect,” Fletch said. “Trespass and Coffee-Making. A Bloody Mary? Something to raise the spirits on this Sunday noon?”

Highlight (yellow) – Location 52

Trans World Airlines

Highlight (yellow) – Location 97
Apparently he’s got stock in TWA. (The original Fletch book also referenced TWA.)

“Yet here you are, living in a villa in Cagna, Italy, the Mediterranean sparkling through your windows, driving a Porsche … unemployed.”
“I retired young.”
“In your lifetime, you have paid almost no federal taxes.”
“I had expenses.”
“You haven’t even filed a return. Ever.”
“I have a very slow accountant.”

Highlight (yellow) – Location 121

“Did you have a nice flight?”
“No.”
“Sorry to hear that. Why not?”
“Sat next to a Methodist minister.”
“What’s wrong with sitting next to a Methodist minister?”
“Are you kidding? The closer to heaven we got, the smugger he got.”
“Jesus, Fletch.”
“That’s what I say.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 178-182

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:03:45 PM

“They weren’t gentlemen.”
“Sorry to hear that. We usually send only our finest abroad. I haven’t made it yet.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 233-234

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:09:42 PM

“I’m working on a book about Edgar Arthur Tharp, Junior.”
“You’re working on a book about an American cowboy painter in Italy?”
“It brings a certain perspective to the work. Detachment.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 347-349

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:19:44 PM

“What’s your name?”
“I. M. Fletcher.”
“Fletcher? Never heard of you. Why so pompous about it?”
“Pompous?”
“You announced your name, I am Fletcher. As if someone had said you weren’t. Why didn’t you just say, Fletcher?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 354-357
I noticed this in the last book too. Surprised he didn’t make more ‘I’m’ jokes.

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:22:21 PM

“You have nice hands.”
“One on the end of each arm.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 363-363

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:23:56 PM

“Arbuthnot,” she said.
“Arbuthnot?”
“Arbuthnot. Fredericka Arbuthnot.”
“Freddie Arbuthnot?”
“You’ve heard of me?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 373-375

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:25:49 PM

Helena Williams pushed the mental button for A Distraught Expression.

Highlight (yellow) Location 429-430
Mcdonald also makes references to people putting on a face in Fletch and the Man Who, particularly when describing the political candidate there. (Annotation added on 12/1/16)

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:32:02 PM

“Now you must tell me all about yourself, Fletch. Whom are you working for now?”
“The C.I.A.” He looked openly at Freddie Arbuthnot. “I’m here to bug everybody.”
“You’ve always had such a delightful sense of humor,” Helena said.
“He’s bugging me,” Freddie muttered.
“I’ve heard that joke,” Fletch snapped.

Highlight (yellow) Location 452-455

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:38:07 PM

“Would you children like to share a room?” Helena asked.
“We are sort of crowded—”
“Definitely not,” Fletch said “I suspect she snores.”
“I do not.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been told.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 456-458

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:38:42 PM

episcopally

Highlight ( orange ) Location 461-461
One doesn’t see this word often, much less in an adverbial form.

Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:39:31 PM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 494
Added on Friday, September 23, 2016 11:45:44 PM

pellucid

Highlight (orange) Location 546-546

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:20:59 AM

“I was pregnant.”
“How could anyone tell?”
“Pardon me while I chuckle.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 595-597

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:30:50 AM

“What else do you know about the murder, Crystal?”
“That it’s going to be the best reported crime in history. There are more star reporters at Hendricks Plantation at this moment than have ever been gathered under one roof before. In fact, I suspect more are showing up unexpectedly, simply because of the murder. Do you realize what it would be worth to a person’s career to scoop the murder of Walter March—with all this competition around?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 617-619

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:33:09 AM

sybarite

Highlight (orange) Location 630-631

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:34:51 AM

“Experts,” he said, “are the sources of opinions. People are the sources of facts.”

Highlight (blue) Location 644-645

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:37:09 AM

“Did you tell the other reporters about him?”
“No.” She said, “I guess it takes nine times being asked the same questions, for me to have remembered him.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 707-709

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:51:06 AM

“Good night, sweet Princess.” He turned out the bedside lamp. “Dream sweet dreams, and, when you awake, think kindly on the Bumptious Bandit! ‘Daughter, did you hear hoofbeats in the night?’” He left a light on across the room, to orient her when she awoke. “‘Father, Father, I thought it were the palpitations of my own heart!’”
Letting himself out, the telephone information sheet firmly in hand, Fletch said, “‘It were, Daughter. Booze does that to you.’”

Highlight (yellow) Location 776-779

Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:58:07 AM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 780
Added on Saturday, September 24, 2016 9:58:25 AM

audiencé

Highlight (gray) Location 874-874

Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 3:07:52 PM

“The Administration has decided not to ignore us completely,” Crystal Faoni said, “just because we’ve taken to stabbing each other in the back more openly than usual.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 890-891

Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 3:14:47 PM

“My, my,” Fletch said of his marvelous machine, “it walks, it talks, cries ‘Mama!’ and piddles genuine orange juice!”

Highlight (yellow) Location 961-962

Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 3:45:05 PM

“I take it we’re not sleeping together?”
Fletch said into the phone, “Who is this?” It was 1:20 A.M. He had been asleep a half-hour.
“Damn you!” said Freddie Arbuthnot. “Damn your eyes, your nose, and, your cock!”
The phone went dead. It wasn’t that Fletch hadn’t thought of it. He knew she’d washed her knees.

Highlight (yellow) Location 1082-1086

Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 4:20:42 PM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 1087
Added on Sunday, September 25, 2016 4:21:06 PM

“I. M. Fletcher?”
“One of us is.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1272-1273

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:19:06 AM

“Will you be needing equipment, sir?”
“I guess so. Also a partner. Playing tennis alone takes too much running back and forth.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1274-1275

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:19:25 AM

“Hendricks. H, as in waffle.”

Highlight (blue) Location 1309-1309

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:22:30 AM

You’re unemployed?”
“Presently unencumbered by earned income.”
“You have no outlet?”
“Only the kind you can flush.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1320-1322

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:23:38 AM

“That was a little song I was taught. As a child.” She was blushing more. “The ‘Wash Me Up’ song.”
“Oh!” Fletch said. “There is a difference between boys and girls! I was taught the wash-me-down song!”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1387-1389

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:37:12 AM

“Would you please go get dressed?”
“Why are people always saying that to me?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1397-1398

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:37:53 AM

bonhomie

Highlight (orange) Location 1521-1521

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:48:54 AM

“Hey, Bob. We’re supposed to be journalists, aren’t we? Journalists live it up. I saw a movie once.…”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1572-1572

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:52:22 AM

The man shook hands as would an eel—if eels were familiar with human social graces.

Highlight (yellow) Location 1583-1583

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:53:46 AM

Other journalists referred to Lewis Graham as “the Reader’s Digest of the air.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1591-1592

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:54:41 AM

Trouble was, his colleagues read the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Constitution, the Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, and the Old Testament as well as he and could identify the sources of his facts, insights, and understandings, precisely, night after night.

Highlight (yellow) Location 1589-1591

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:55:07 AM

He painted quite a picture. Sailing off into the sunset, hand in hand with his childhood sweetheart, sitting on his poop or whatever it is yachts have.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1633-1634

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 8:59:44 AM

catamaran

Highlight (yellow) Location 1635-1635
Mcdonald seems to like these boats, or they’re the only kind he knows??

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:00:22 AM

“How do,” the Major said.
“Do I have the honor of addressing Irwin Maurice Fletcher?” The drawl was thicker than Mississippi mud.
“Right,” said Fletch.
“Veteran of the United States Marine Corps?”
“Yes.”
“Serial Number 1893983?”
“It was. I retired it. Anyone can use it now.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1679-1683

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:04:23 AM

“Anyway, this here sharp-eyed old boy—he’s from Tennessee—I suspect he was pretty well-known around home for shooting off hens’ teeth at a hundred meters

Highlight (yellow) Location 1687-1688

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:05:00 AM

“Major, do you have a point? This is long distance. You never can tell. A taxpayer might be listening in.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1699-1700
Mcdonald shows a bit of his upbringing and time period here. He seems to have a “hangup” (pun intended) about telephones as this mirrors some of the snide remarks made in the original Fletch with Alan Stanwyk’s dad’s conversation about telephones.

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:05:59 AM

You asked the question. You could wear an elephant down to a mouse.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 1819-1819

Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:14:22 AM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 1888
Added on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 9:20:03 AM

“Now I’ve got the Fletch story to cap all Fletch stories! Tousle-headed Fletch kneeling by his bed, lisping, ‘Now I lay me down with sheep’!”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2080-2081

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 5:54:39 PM

Crystal said into her parfait.

Crystal does a lot of talking to her food. In fact, in general, Mcdonald seems to be having way too much fun with Crystal’s food obsession.
Highlight (yellow) Location 2230

putting us up in their best hotel, which had the ambience of a chicken coop,

Highlight (yellow) Location 2245-2245
great description

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 6:08:57 PM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 2307
Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 6:14:56 PM

Would you care for some coffee?”
“I don’t use it.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2313-2314
In the 80s drug culture this sounds interestingly illicit.

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:14:17 PM

What’s keeping the wolf from the door?”
“My ugly disposition.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2319-2320

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:14:56 PM

WOMEN IN JOURNALISM:
Face It, Fellas— Few Stories Take Nine Months to Finish
Group Discussion
Aunt Sally Hendricks Sewing Room

Highlight (yellow) Location 2387-2390

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:21:31 PM

“Of course I’m at the Star. Would I be home with my god-awful wife if I could help it?”
“Ah,” Fletch said. “The Continuing Romance of Jack and Daphne Saunders. How is the old dear?”
“Fatter, meaner, and uglier than ever.”
“Don’t knock fat.”
“How can you?”
“Got her eyelashes stuck in a freezer’s door lately?”
“No, but she plumped into a door the other night Got the door knob stuck in her belly button. Had to have it surgically removed.”
Fletch thought Jack remained married to Daphne simply to make up rotten stories about her.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2460-2465

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:27:05 PM

“Okay. You want background or gossip at this point?”
“Both.”
“Walter March was murdered,”
“No foolin’.”
“Scissors in the back.”
“Next you’re going to say he fell down dead.”
“You’re always rushing ahead, Jack.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2480-2484

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:29:08 PM

“How do I know? If it is true, it happened at a dangerous age for Rolly—fifteen or sixteen—I forget which. Loves and hatreds run deep in people that age.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2507-2507

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:30:59 PM

The world’s greatest practitioner of the sufferin’-Jesus school of journalism.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2512-2513

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:31:31 PM

“If that’s an ivory tower, I’m a lollipop.”
“I can lick you anytime.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2542-2543

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:33:59 PM

“Sure, Jack, sure. Anything for ‘old times’ sake.’ “

Highlight (yellow) Location 2561-2561
Typo: there’s an extraneous single quote, and the closing double quote is facing the wrong direction.

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:35:19 PM

🔖 Bookmark on Location 2628
Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:41:04 PM

Fletch said, “Oh. Well, you haven’t identified yourself.”
The man shook his head. “I.R.S.,” he said. “I.R.S.”
“But what do I call you?” Fletch asked. “I? I.R.? Mister S.?”
“You don’t need to call me anything,” I.R.S. said. “Just respond.”
“Ir.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2756-2759

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:58:00 PM

Fletch looked at I.R.S. The man was almost entirely Adam’s apple.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2773-2774

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:59:48 PM

The man’s shoulders were little more than outriggers for his ears.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2774-2775

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:00:00 PM

“Crystal? I’m going to say something very, very rotten to you.”
“What?”
“The dining room is still open for breakfast.”
“Rat”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2789-2791

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:01:07 PM

“As a matter of personal curiosity, may I ask why you have not filed returns?”
“April’s always a busy month for me. You know. In the spring a young man’s fancy really shouldn’t have to turn to the Internal Revenue Service.”
“You could always apply for extensions.”
“Who has the time to do that?”
“Is there any political thinking behind your not paying taxes?”
“Oh, no. My motives are purely esthetic, if you want to know the truth.”
“Esthetic?”
“Yes. I’ve seen your tax forms. Visually, They’re ugly. In fact, very offensive. And their use of the English language.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2799-2805

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:02:47 PM

wallahs

Highlight (orange) Location 2807-2807

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:03:19 PM

Address by Horsch Aldrich

Highlight (yellow) Location 2868-2869
What do you know? An Aldrich made it into the story! A long lost relative apparently…

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:10:24 PM

“Almost everyone here has made a point of telling me how important he or she is. Such a lot of important people. The seas would rumble and nations would crumble if I kept any of you out of circulation for many more minutes than I had to.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2908-2909

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:20:52 PM

“Right,” Crystal said solemnly to her fruit salad. “News does not happen unless a reporter is there to report it.”
“For example,” said Fletch, “if no one had known World War Two was happening.…”
“Actually,” Crystal said, “Hitler without the use of the radio wouldn’t have been Hitler at all.”
“And the Civil War,” said Freddie. “If it hadn’t been for the telegraph.…”
“The geographic center of the American Revolution,” Fletch said, “was identical to the center of the new American printing industry.”
“And then there was Caesar,” Crystal said. “Was he a military genius with pen in hand, or a literary genius with sword in hand? Did Rome conquer the world in reality, or just its communications systems?”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2913-2919

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:22:25 PM

Did you try those blueberry muffins this morning?”
“I tried only one of them,” Freddie said.
Crystal said, “The rest of them were good, too.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2921-2923

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:23:22 PM

“It’s been like trying to sing ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ while your head’s stuck in a beehive.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 2925-2926
Creative description

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:23:48 PM

Neale was paying more attention to the remainder of his salad than Crystal would do after trekking across a full golf course.

Highlight (yellow) Location 2954-2954

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:26:39 PM

“Oh, yum!” said Crystal. “Who cares about death and perdition as long as there’s chocolate cake?”

Highlight (blue) Location 2963-2963

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:29:10 PM

Who’d ever want to kill the Vice-President of the United States? One could have a greater effect upon national policy by killing the White House cook.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 3228-3229
Your Superfluous Excellency?

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:25:46 PM

And while the General was making this big entrance, landing in a helicopter on the back lawn, the Vice-President of the United States was arriving at the front of the hotel in an economy-size car—completely ignored.”

Highlight (yellow) Location 3231-3232

Added on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:26:18 PM

Bushwa

Highlight (orange) Location 3418-3418

Added on Thursday, September 29, 2016 12:13:05 AM

“‘Live like journalists,?’ ” Fletch quoted. “‘Disgusting.’ ”

Highlight (gray) Location 3444-3444
The comma and quotes here need to be tweaked.

Added on Thursday, September 29, 2016 12:18:30 AM

Guide to highlight colors

Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Blue–Interesting Quote
Gray–Typography Problem
Red–Example to work through

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Author: Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

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