Jack Reacher

Created by Lee Child
Pseudonym of James Grant
(1954–)

“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)

The audacious breadth and scope of this series continues to amaze me. One book, the ex-MP drifter (Silver Star, Purple Heart) with the enigmatic 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. No, really — this guy makes Spenser look like he has self-esteem issues.

There’s also no doubt that Reacher is a wingnut. His almost psychotic obsession 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 a passport, his bank card and almost literally, the shirt on his back. Every few days he buys a new outfit and throws the old one in the trash. No laundromats for Jack. And his most cherished 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.

“Slippery slope,” Reacher said. “I carry a spare shirt, pretty soon I’m carrying spare pants. Then I’d need a suitcase. Next thing I know, I’ve got a house and a car and a savings plan and I’m filling out all kinds of forms.”

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 (the author is a Brit, after all, even if he does now live in New York City) , 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, with the hue and cry spreading throughout the land. How could Cruise possibly play Reacher? The actor was 100 pounds — and a foot shy — of the ex-MP’s intimidating over-sized stature. But damn, he pulled it off. It was an enjoyable romp, and what Cruise lacked in physical size, he made up for in other ways. For a couple of hours, anyway, you could believe Cruise indeed could kick your ass — or anybody else’s. I guess that’s why they call it acting. That closing scene, that moment on the bus at the end of first film, with Reacher heading out of town, when he rises out of his seat, like a weapon unsheathed? I could easily believe some hurt was about to be delivered. It was easily one of my favourite movie scenes of the year, and hopefully a promise of more to come. Which came about in 2016, when Never Go Back, also based on one of the novels, was released. Once again, Cruise delivered, and the film was, once again, entertaining.

Alas, by 2019, it was announced that the franchise was moving to television (or, more likely one of the streaming services) and that they were looking to cast a more Reacheresque-sized actor.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lee Child was born Oct. 29, 1954 in Coventry, England and raised in nearby Birmingham which he’s described as ” a grey industrial landscape”. While studying law, Child became interested in theatre and ended up working as a successful television technical director for 18 years, until he was canned by Granada Television as a result of corporate “restructuring.” Suddenly unemployed, he bought a few notepads and a pencil for roughly £3.99 and began writing The Killing Floor, the first Jack Reacher novel, claiming “fear and hunger” were what drove him.

EVIDENCE

  • “I don’t really care about the little guy. I just hate the big guy. I hate big smug people who think they can get away with things.”
    — Reacher explains his motives in Persuader
  • “Where have you been since you left the service?” Froelich asked. “You haven’t left much of a paper trail.”
    “That was the plan,” Reacher said. “I keep myself to myself.”
    — Reacher defends his lifestyle in Without Fail
  • “She floated her hand on the air and kept it motionless. Then she pressed harder and brought it down and her fingers touched the back of his hand, very lightly. She turned her elbow so her hand lay precisely aligned. Then she pressed down harder. Her palm felt warm. Her fingers were long and cool. Their tips lay on his knuckles. They moved and traced the lines and scars and tendons. They raked down between his. He turned his hand over. She pressed her palm into his. Laced her fingers through his fingers and squeezed. He squeezed back.
    He held her hand for five long minutes. Then she slowly pulled it away. Stood up and stepped to the door. Smiled.
    “See you in the morning,” she said.
    — Without Fail
  • “She had… the kind of smile that starts the AC running.”
    — The Affair
  • “The cops would call them perpetrators. Theor lawyers would call them clients. Politicians would call them scum. Criminologists would call them sociopaths. Sociologists would call them misunderstood.
    The 110th MP would call them dead men walking.
    — Make Me
  • “Reacher is the alpha male of the genre.”
    — Lee Child in 2012 Playboy interview

HUH?

  • Just the Clothes on My Back | Buy this book
    (2018, Naked Blue Music)
    Songs written and performed by Naked Blue
    An album by the Americana outfit, inspired by Jack Reacher, with Lee Child’s “collaboration.” “Just the Clothes on My Back,” “Killing Floor” and “Reacher Said Nothing” are among the tracks.

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES & NOVELLAS

  • “James Penney’s New Identity” (1999, Fresh Blood III; also 2006, Thriller)
    Features a pre-Killing Floor Jack Reacher in a key role.
  • “Guy Walks into a Bar…” (June 7, 2009, The New York Times)
  • “Second Son” (August 2011, digital)Kindle it!
  • “Everyone Talks” (June/July 2012, Esquire)
  • “Deep Down” (July 2012, digital)Kindle it!
  • “High Heat” (August 2013, digital)Kindle it!
  • “Good and Valuable Consideration” (2014, FaceOff; with Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller)
  • “Not a Drill” (July 2014, digital)Kindle it!
  • “The Picture of a Lonely Diner” (2015, (2015, Manhattan Mayhem)
  • “Small Wars” (August 2014, digital)Kindle it!Buy the audio
  • “No Room at the Motel” (December 2014, Stylist Magazine)
  • “Maybe They Have a Tradition” (December 2016, Country Life Magazine)
  • “Faking a Murderer” (2017, Matchup)
    Co-written with Kathy Reichs, featuring Temperance Brennan.
  • “Too Much Time” (2017, No Middle Name)
  • “The Christmas Scorpion”(2018, digital) | Kindle it!
  • Cleaning the Gold (May 2019, audio/digital) | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
    Co-written with Karin Slaughter, featuring Will Trent
  • “Smile” (2019, Invisible Blood)

COLLECTIONS

  • Three Jack Reacher Novellas (2014)Buy the audio
    Collects the novellas “Deep Down,” “Second Son” and “High Heat,” plus Jack Reacher’s Rules.
  • No Middle Name (2017)Buy this book Kindle it!
    Collects 11 stories, plus one new one.

FILMS

  • JACK REACHER | Buy this DVD Buy the Blu-Ray
    (2012, Paramount)
    118 minutes
    Based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child
    Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie
    Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
    Starring Tom Cruise as JACK REACHER
    Also starring Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins, Alexia Fast, David Oyelowo, Jai Courtney, Vladimir Sizov, Joseph Sikora, Michael Raymond-James
    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. And Child has a cameo as a police officer.
  • NEVER GO BACK | Buy on DVD | Buy on Blu-Ray | Watch it now!
    (2016, Paramount)
    Based on the novel Never Go Back by Lee Child
    Screenplay by Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick and Michael Herskovitz
    Directed by Ed Zwick
    Starring Tom Cruise as JACK REACHER
    Also starring Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Judd Lomand, Christopher Berry
    Like Jack Reacher himself, Tom Cruise doesn’t give a shit what you think about him. So he steps into Reacher’s shoes once again, and once again kicks ass. Not as good as the first one, but a solid action flick you can enjoy without letting your mouth hang open. And, once again, Child has a cameo, this time as transportation security officer​.

ALSO OF INTEREST

  • Jack Reacher’s Rules (2012) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    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?
  • Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me (2015, by Andy Martin)Buy this book Kindle it!
    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.
  • “Think Twice: How Jack Reacher Was Built”
    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.

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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