Sunday, April 8, 2012

I'm addicted to Reacher

I should be preparing dinner. Instead I'm writing a blog about Jack Reacher. But who can blame me? He's 6 foot 5 inches, 110kgs of muscle, ex-US Military Police, served all over the world, Silver Star for bravery,  expert in small arms and hand-to-hand combat, and he takes no shit from nobody.

He's a terrific fictional creation by author Lee Child, and I've just read all 16 Reacher novels in order and back-to-back over the past 4 months. I'm addicted, and I don't care!

I've now got a 6-month wait until his next novel is published, and that wait for A Wanted Man is going to kill me as surely as Reacher would if I was some low-life scum who didn't live up to his standards of human behaviour. (Actually, it's exactly 146 days today until it's despatched to me, as I just pre-ordered a copy from my new best friend, The Book Depository.)

The first 15 novels are set in the years after Reacher leaves the army and starts hitch-hiking across the US, often reluctantly being drawn into helping local law enforcement solve some kind of crime. There's often a love interest, but he always solves the case, kills a few low-life scum along the way, and walks out of town without looking back.

Reacher is always on the side of the small and less powerful, but not in some kind of soppy way. He's as tough as nails - emotionally as well as physically, and prefers life alone on the road. He carries no suitcase or personal possessions, other than a toothbrush. He buys cheap new clothes when the old are dirty (although they're normally ripped beyond repair in a fight first).

The latest and 16th novel in the series, The Affair, takes place during his last week in the army. Loyal readers finally get to see how intuitive an investigator and courageous an MP he was. We gain a greater insight into why he walked out of the army one day, and just kept walking.

The latest paperback version includes a new short story, Second Son, which sheds some light on Reacher as a teenager. It's terrific too.

Sorry to sound like a gushing idiot. This isn't Cormac McCarthy or Ernest Hemingway. But Child's thrillers are consistently compelling and Reacher an interesting enigma.

There's a bit of Reacher in everyone, I reckon - and therein lies the author's success.

"I picked a road at random ... and I stuck out my thumb."

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