Created by Lee Child (pseudonym of James Grant)
"I was thirty-six years old, a citizen of a country I had barely seen, and there were places to go and there were things to do. There were cities, and there was countryside. There were mountains, and there were valleys. There were rivers. There were museums, and music, and motels, and clubs, and diners, and bars, and buses. There were battlefields and birthplaces, and legends, and roads. There was company if I wanted it, and there was solitude if I didn't.
I picked a road at random, and I put one foot on the curb and one in the traffic lane, and I stuck out my thumb."
-- Reacher finally lays out his gameplan in The Affair (2011)
"Reacher is the alpha male of the genre."
-- Lee Child in 2012 Playboy interview
The audacious breadth and scope of this series continues to amaze me. One book, the ex-MP drifter (Silver Star, Purple Heart) with the seldom-talked about past and way too much training is digging swimming pools or trying to help a rancher's wife out of a domestic jam; the next time he's hired to try and kill the Vice President designate. JACK REACHER may not want trouble, but it sure seems to find him. Reacher's absolute confidence in his abilities, and his unerring sense of what is and isn't right stands out in a world of conflicted detectives. I mean, this guy's icy confidence makes Spenser look like he has self-esteem issues.
There's also no doubt that Reacher is a wingnut. His almost psychotic obession with being his own man means he has no fixed address (he refers to himself simply as "a guy who doesn't like to stick around"), and carries nothing but, almost literally, the shirt on his back. No laundromats for Jack. And his most cherish possession may be a portable toothbrush. In Bad Luck and Trouble (2007), an old army buddy, having watched Jack trash his old clothes and buy equally cheap replacements, points out that he could have kept the old shirt.
And yet, there's a lot of wit here, too, and even a certain amount of playfulness. In Without Fail (2002), for example, there's a great Forrest Gump-like scene, where Jack's sucked into a press interview, and asked his thoughts on the use of overwhelming force. ("Yes, I still support overwhelming force. That's for sure. I support it big time. Always have, believe me.")
And there's a small, tender scene a little bit later on of such powerful but unspoken tenderness between a man and a woman that the fact it doesn't lead anywhere will crack your heart.
I've read several in this series and I'm heading back to find the others. This is a Mens' Adventure book for men (and women) who can read with their mouths closed and their minds (and hearts) open. Smart, literate and just good old-fashioned thrilling. And always fascinating. Reacher seems capable of being anywhere, doing anything, and each book finds him somewhere else down the road, travelling through an America where the bad moon is always on the rise.
A fantasy fugure? Maybe. But oh what fun. Imagine Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer locked and loaded, and coming to town near you. Or picture David Janssen's character in the old The Fugitive TV series as a basass. Or Tarzan in a cheap T-shirt. Or maybe Bulldog Drummond, that perennial British action hero, updated and shipped across the Atlantic.
Heartily and highly recommend.
* * * * *
In 2012, Paramount released Jack Reacher, a feature film adaptation of Child's novel One Shot (2005), starring Tom Cruise, of all people. A surprising casting choice, perhaps, and certainly when it was first announced that Cruise would be playing Reacher the hue and cry spread throughout the land. Cruise was 100 pounds -- and a foot shy -- of the ex-MP's over-sized stature. But damn, he pulled it off. It was an enjoyable romp, and what Cruise lacked in physical size, he more than made up for in other ways. For a couple of hours, anyway, you could believe Tom Cruise could kick your ass -- or anybody else's. I guess that's why they call it acting. The closing scene, on a bus taking Reacher out of town, was one of my favourite movie scenes of the year, and hopefully a promise of more to come.
-- Reacher explains his motives, Persuader
-- Reacher defends his lifestyle, Without Fail
-- The Affair
-- Make Me
SHORT STORIES & NOVELLAS
Features a pre-Killing Floor Jack Reacher in a key role.
Collects the novellas "Deep Down," "Second Son" and "High Heat," plus Jack Reacher's Rules.
Like almost everyone else on the planet I thought that Tom Cruise was horribly miscast as Lee Child's Grade A Extra-Large tough guy, coming in a foot short and a hundred pounds light, but I guess that's why it's called acting. Cruise nails the ex-MP drifter to the wall in this downbeat thriller that recalls the crunch and grit of classic early seventies crime flicks. There's little pretty boy glitz and even less reliance on headspinning special effects -- just hard-knock storytelling and a solid cast that includes Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins and Alexia Fast. I was pleasantly surprised.
ALSO OF INTEREST
For the restless soul, travelling light is definitely the way to go. A folding toothbrush, the cheap T-shirt on your back, some good walking shoes and, maybe, just maybe, this handy dandy tongue-in-cheek guide to life, crammed full of wisdom and words to live by, such as Rule #1: "When in doubt, drink coffee." Or #4 "Only one woman at a time." Of course, following #4 may also help with #3. "Don't break the furniture." See how practical it is?
An academic from the University of Cambridge with an unusual portfolio of interests (he has published books on surfing, existentialism, Jules Verne), gives the play-by-play of Child writing of his 2015 novel.
Article by Jack Lanchester from The New Yorker (November 14, 2016). A fascinating peek into fiction implausabilities and how Child overcomes them. Also, an interesting comparison of Child to Georges Simenon, the creator of Inspector Maigret.
The author's official web site.
From September 2012.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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