McDonald, Gregory 1937-2008 (Gregory Christopher McDonald)

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McDonald, Gregory 1937-2008 (Gregory Christopher McDonald)


See index for CA sketch: Born February 15, 1937, in Shrewsbury, MA; died of prostate cancer, September 7, 2008, in Pulaski, TN. Journalist, sailor, marine underwriter, and novelist. When McDonald introduced the counter-culture, opportunistic, sometimes bumbling detective known as "Fletch" in 1974, he added a new dimension to the persona of the typical American private investigator. Over the next twenty years in a dozen novels, he built Irwin M. Fletcher into a full-bodied character known to millions of readers, admired as much for his flaws as his virtues. McDonald himself maintained a much lower profile. His first formal employment, after occasional forays into sailing oceangoing yachts for owners who had overestimated their own skills and other casual engagements, McDonald joined the Boston Globe in 1964. For nearly ten years he dabbled in journalism, apparently with a free hand, until the novel Fletch (1974) topped the best-seller lists. In 1974 McDonald left the traditional workplace. He began his pursuit of a quiet, private life, empowering his fictional characters to reveal his own views on society, politics, business, and the human condition. Fletch was nearly as flawed as any human could be: alternately indolent and energized, honest and venal, inspired by genius and blessed by luck, he charmed a generation of young readers. The people Fletch encountered represented the entire gamut of human character, and through them readers learned McDonald's view on the establishment (negative) and the counterculture of the 1970s (tolerant). After a dozen "Fletch" novels (published in no chronological order) revealed all there was to know about the detective's past, present, and future, McDonald put Fletcher to rest. He had been working on other series as well. Flynn (1977) introduced a trilogy about a Boston police inspector who was also an undercover espionage agent, operating in a far more luxurious milieu than Fletcher's. McDonald's views on wealth and corruption permeate this trilogy. Another series, beginning with Time Squared (1987), enabled McDonald to explore the lives of ordinary people as they move through middle age, as he was beginning to do, carrying their pasts along with them. McDonald also wrote stand-alone works. The most successful of these include Running Scared (1964), a controversial novel of voyeurism and suicide, and Safekeeping (1985), the story of a British child of privilege who finds himself alone in the homeless underground of New York City in the years of World War II. McDonald won many awards, both for his novels and for his advocacy against the white supremacy movement and the Ku Klux Klan, which had originated not far from his residence in Pulaski, Tennessee. The awards include two Edgar Allan Poe Awards from the Mystery Writers of America for his "Fletch" novels, some of which were also adapted as films starring comic actor Chevy Chase. He also received the Citizen of the Year Award of the National Association of Social Workers, and the Roger Williams Strauss Award of what is now the National Conference for Community and Justice.



St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Chicago Tribune, September 12, 2008, sec. 2, p. 11.

New York Times, September 12, 2008, p. C17.

Times (London, England), October 14, 2008, p. 61.

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McDonald, Gregory 1937-2008 (Gregory Christopher McDonald)

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