Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Winning Curiosity of Lee Child

Jack Reacher. A character that is more than enticing. He grabs you in a bear hug and hauls you along for the ride. You can taste his rage with every injustice he encounters. What has always struck me about Lee Child’s books are the obscure details and references about cars, landscapes, mannerisms, chains of command and long distance rifle shooting. You might say that such observations are simply tools of the trade for a novelist, but Child has a way of making his books so unshakeably American. Yet Jim Grant (Lee Child being a pseudonym), is very British (Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester, Cumbria, some of my stomping grounds past and present), albeit a resident of New York since 1998.

I can imagine American fans being surprised by this when they hear that someone who maps the badlands of America is transplanted from Great Britain. Reacher, an American hero with a bent for vengeance, was created by the lanky Brit from the Northwest who used to work in a Manchester TV studio as a presentation director involved in the transmission of more than 40,000 hours of programming for Granada, writing thousands of commercials and news stories. No wonder he has an eye for detail. Child wrote his first Reacher book at his kitchen table. A book set in Georgia, USA.

I came across an interview with Lee Child recently that broached the topic of his ability to create authenticity through observation. In his words: “I’m an aficionado about everything. I like to know how things work. I see situations and I absorb and remember them.” His talent for observation, and ability to weave all sorts of bizarre facts and references, is what has always enabled the Reacher series to avoid a stale death. The beauty is that Child can take you anywhere because of his curiosity to know how everything works. I doubt he even knows how many books he has sold now, but it’s in the tens of millions.

Lee Child’s new book Personal is due soon. I’m just finishing Daniel Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon story, The Heist, so September 2 rolls around very nicely.

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