The latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child.
Are you a Lee Child fan? If not, there’s still time to become one, and if you already are a fan, you are perfectly placed to pester everyone around you to read at least one Lee Child novel so everyone can understand just who the real Jack Reacher is. He cannot possibly be Tom Cruise, no matter the five o’clock shadow or the bulky padded pants and jacket he has been dressed in for the movie. It will be a tragedy if people come to mix these two up. We can prevent this from happening despite the looming December 21, 2012, release of the film Jack Reacher.
A Wanted Man, the 17th novel in the series, is a good place to start. The books can be read in any order according to Lee Child, and this one has Reacher doing what he always does, going after some really bad guys, avenging several grisly deaths, and slaying any number of the evil-doers by himself. Then he moves on. Reacher, and he is always known as just “Reacher,” is hitchhiking cross country and is caught up in a bad situation that requires his full attention. The extent of his personal belongings and luggage: a toothbrush and a passport. Reach doesn’t bother with clothes, credit cards, an address, and certainly not a car.
Deep psychological wounds from the past have committed him to a life lived in the present. Two titles in the series, The Enemy and The Affair are like prequels and have Reacher working as a military policeman before the events that changed his life.
Odd how formulaic the plots of these books are, but Lee Child’s ability to bring his readers deep into complicated narratives that turn on a dime makes these books irresistible. Every book feels fresh. The chapters are short and punchy. You are loathe to put the book down. You simply must keep going like Reacher himself.
Reacher is quick on the draw literally and metaphorically with sophisticated powers of observation and interpretation that enable him to see what is coming just around the corner and out there in the dark. He knows about everything and it comes in handy, let me tell you. Attribute these skills to his native intelligence, his ability size up a situation, and his MP work in the past.
Lee and Reacher both love numbers, mundane, elegant, or meaningless including the number of rounds left in a Glock; the number of bad guys still concealed in the dark who need killing; the number of minutes it takes Reacher to shower, shave, and change into his new Dollar Store set of clothes (remember, he is unburdened by personal possessions). And one little parlor game: speaking for a full 60 seconds without using a single word containing the letter A.
About midway through A Wanted Man, there’s as good a physical description of Reacher as Lee Child has ever written. A smart and sympathetic female FBI agent observes Reacher stuffed in a flimsy metal lawn chair with his arms hanging over the sides, his knuckles dragging the ground. Does this sound like Tom Cruise to you?
For more details on Reacher and his background, go to Lee Child’s web site. It is all there down to the length of Reacher’s inseam. But there is an omnious sign on the website: “Coming Soon: Reacher Gear.” Will there be souvenirs for sale, a line of Jack Reacher clothing? Since Reacher doesn’t own anything, what could be the idea here? Lee may be going seriously Hollywood on us. And it is clear that the film is aiming to launch a Reacher franchise like the Bond movies.
S. Estrada for The New York Times
On his website you can find links to revealing interviews with Lee Child that deal with his career, his devotion to his character and to his readers, and the Tom Cruise problem. Look for a long Playboy piece and a Chicago Public Radio video taped in September, 2012.
And next to the novel in bookstores I have noticed a peculiar little item titled Reacher’s Rules. N.B. This provides a lesson in how to write a book without actually writing a book. There is no author, no table of contents, and worst of all, no index connecting the quotes to the title of the book they came from. The website describes Reacher’s Rules this way:
Timeless advice from Jack Reacher. Hand-to-hand combat, Traveling Light, Handling Weapons, Conquering your deepest fears, Understanding women.
Finally, Lee Child’s novels make for great listening. The vocal interpreter of Child’s work is the gritty and gruff voiced Dick Hill. He sounds like the real Reacher looks. And nobody does a bad guy or a sleazy female better. He has a way of huffing out sentences on the end of a long breath, nasal and nasty as all get out. You do know that you can check out audiobooks from your public libary’s online catalog and download them to your listening device for free.
God help me if I end up falling in love with Tom Cruise in the film Jack Reacher. I do love a good thriller on the big screen, but first do yourself a favor and get to know the great character that Lee Child created in print. The film releases December 21, 2012. Reacher would approve of the urgency the deadline demands. It is the kind of standard he sets for himself. You know, like a rule.