September 11, 2008


Gregory Mcdonald, Globe reporter, creator of 'Fletch' mystery novels; at 71 (David Mehegan, September 11, 2008, Boston Globe)

Born in Shrewsbury, Gregory Mcdonald wrote in a 1968 autobiographical sketch for the Globe that he earned his Harvard tuition as a professional yacht captain, and continued skippering sailboats in seas around Europe, Africa, and North and South America after graduation in 1958.

"In all, I skippered sailing vessels about 30,000 miles," he wrote, "inadvertently broke a historic time-weight-distance record between Puerto Pollensa, Spain, and Isle of Levant, France, and have been accredited by a generous paper in Colón, Panama, with having saved either 16 or 18 lives at sea."

Later he worked as a marine insurance underwriter, then as a volunteer trainer with the Peace Corps, based in Puerto Rico.

Married in 1963 (divorced in 1990), he taught Spanish, math, and history at Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton, and in 1964 published his first novel, "Running Scared."

In 1966, he was hired as a reporter by Globe editor Thomas Winship, though he had no journalism experience. He wrote on his website ( that Winship told him: "Go have fun and write about it. If you end up cut and bleeding on the sidewalk, call the City Desk."

Over seven years at the Globe, he wrote for the Sunday magazine and the editorial page, and worked as critic at large and as an editor for the arts section. His interview subjects included Joan Baez, Abbie Hoffman, John Wayne, Andy Warhol, and Jack Kerouac. Many pieces were published in a collection, just back in print, titled "Souvenirs of a Blown World." Several contemporaries, now retired, remember him as a respected writer who little resembled his tough-guy character, Fletch.

Two years after Mr. Mcdonald left the paper, in 1975, "Fletch" was published and won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for a first mystery novel. It and its 10 sequels have sold tens of millions of books in dozens of languages.

"It's one of the few comic mystery books that translates into other languages," said David List, Mr. Mcdonald's manager. "The character of Fletch has a sardonic manner, a disdain for those in authority. Greg said Fletch never solved a crime; he solved a criminal."

He wrote two other mystery series, the Flynn and Skylar books. His novel "The Brave" won France's Trophées 813 Best Foreign Novel for 1997. In his 45th Harvard anniversary report, Mr. Mcdonald wrote, "My favorite literary award was in 1992, when subscribers to the Moscow Literary Review voted me 'Best Foreign Author - Not Yet Dead.' "

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2008 7:33 PM
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