Son of Fletch

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Gregory Mcdonald’s unflappable Fletch (Irwin Maurice Fletcher) is one of the most popular action-adventure heroes ever to appear in category fiction. SON OF FLETCH is the tenth book about the wisecracking journalist. Mcdonald, winner of two prestigious Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards for previous Fletch novels, has indicated that this may be the first of a projected series of new mysteries entitled “Fletch—The Next Generation.”

Fletch himself has gotten old and rich, not unlike his creator, and Mcdonald has sensed the need to introduce a younger, hungrier, sexier hero who will hopefully appeal to a new generation. In SON OF FLETCH, Mcdonald has done something comparable to the way movie stars like Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman have split top billing with younger actors like Tom Cruise when they realized their own charisma was getting tarnished with age.

Four escaped convicts show up at the Tennessee ranch where Fletch is leading the life of a country gentleman, although he is still nominally a consulting/contributing editor for Global Cable News. One of the dangerous-looking escapees purports to be his son. Following his usual laid-back practice of muddling through, Fletch pretends to help them make their getaway. He discovers that the leader, a convicted murderer who calls himself the Reverend Doctor Kris Kriegel, is a white supremacist paramilitary fuhrer who intends to start a revolution from an armed encampment in backwoods Alabama. Fletch begins to suspect that his son Jack, who aspires to be an expos journalist like himself, is risking his life to sabotage Kriegel’s operation.

Splitting the action between Fletch and his son Jack may not have been such a good idea because the reader does not know whether to identify with Fletch or Jack and ends up straddling the fence. It will be interesting to see whether Mcdonald gets enough encouragement from critics and book royalties to use Jack in sequels and possibly phase out Jack’s mellowing father altogether.