Lee Child: An Appreciation, and A Confession That Should Be More Embarrassing Than It Is.

October 18, 2011 by Susan Maguire

In anticipation of his upcoming appearance at the West Virginia Book Festival this weekend, and because they are great, I have been recommending Lee Child’s books to friends and readers of all stripes.  I find myself saying, I know, they’re not the kind of book I normally read but trust me, they’re amazing.  And my friends read them (because my friends do everything I tell them to) and they’re all, I can’t believe how good these books are!  And I’m all, seriously?  I’m the best book recommender ever!  And they’re like, we never should have doubted you!  And I’m like, that’s OK, buy me dinner!

So, faithful readers of this blog, let me do the same for you.  Read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books.  They’re not the kind of books I normally read but trust me, they’re amazing.Even the author is handsome!

Let me explain:

First of all, it is a series that you don’t have to read in order, which is the best kind of series, I think.  Just pick one up and get sucked in, then read whichever one is handy next.  Because you will want to read more than one.

Second of all, the premise is terrific:  Jack Reacher, ex-military policeman, is a drifter.  Since he’s left the military, he left all attachments behind – he has no car, no wallet, no suitcase.  He only carries a toothbrush.  He pays for his hotel rooms in cash.  He doesn’t wash his clothes; he buys new ones every few days.  He travels where the whim leads him, and he travels by bus, which lands him in some pretty random places – small towns in the middle of nowhere.  These towns usually have big secrets, and Jack Reacher has a habit of running afoul of local authorities.  But once he knows something is up, he can’t rest until he rights the wrong and saves the day.

Third of all, Jack Reacher is my boyfriend.

Yes, I am aware that he is a drifter, has commitment issues (to say the least!), and does not seem to change his underwear every day.  And that he is fictional.

But you cannot stop me from loving a man with a moral code that outweighs his sense of duty to the law, or who can use silence as a weapon as effectively as his fists.  And, as we are repeatedly told in every Jack Reacher novel, he is 6’5” and 250 lbs.  Which, I’m just saying.  He’s big.

There is this weird thing with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels.  I was introduced to them by my sister-in-law, who brought one down to my parents’ house because it seemed like the kind of book my dad would like, and it is: tough guy, ex-military, twisty plot, spare prose, gear, action! suspense! etc!.  All the hallmarks of a Guy Book.  Also, coincidentally, all the hallmarks of a Book I Don’t Really Like.  I once tried to read a Tom Clancy book and I got to some technical description of gun mechanisms and my brain melted with boredom.  (Also I think there was something about Yeltsin and vodka, but I might be misremembering.)  But it’s boring at my parents’ house (no offense!) so I picked up the Reacher book.  And now here I am.

So why do women like Jack Reacher?  I don’t want to get into a gender dichotomy thing (Women like feelings!  Men like guns!  Gag.) – especially since Jack Reacher is neither emotional nor romantic.  I think his appeal crosses gender boundaries because, quite simply, he is a great character.  Strong of fist and of heart.  Never met an underdog he wouldn’t defend.  Drinks his coffee black.  And I have to throw in an appreciation of the women in the books, who are smart, competent, strong, and quick – maybe not as good as Jack Reacher, but good enough to help him nail the bad guys.  This is not something you always see in thrillers (Clive Cussler, I’m looking at you), and it warms my feminist heart.

I could go on, but I won’t.  Well, just a little more:  Read these books.  Jack Reacher is a Great American Hero – strong, independent, (handsome!), upstanding in his own way.  Which is pretty amazing considering his creator, Lee Child, is British.  I know!  It keeps getting more interesting!

So let me encourage you firstly (and again) to read a Jack Reacher book.  Any one will do, but the latest, The Affair, is blowing up the bestseller lists, so why not.  And then come see Lee Child at the Book Festival on Saturday.  I’ll see you there!  You’ll recognize me:  I’ll be the one in the back asking desperately if Jack Reacher is based on a real person and if he is could Lee Child please pass on my phone number.

3 Responses to “Lee Child: An Appreciation, and A Confession That Should Be More Embarrassing Than It Is.”

  1. Scott White says:

    Great article! You have inspired me to give the Jack Reacher books a try…although for a different reason than you. Thanks!

  2. Evelyn Ray says:

    I’ve loved Jack Reacher for years. I just finished “The Affair”, a prequel and I’m in tears because now I have completed all the Reacher books.

    Superman wears Jack Reacher pajamas.

  3. Susan Maguire says:

    Oh my gosh, Evelyn Ray, I love it. Superman ain’t got nothin’ on Jack Reacher.

    Did you know that Lee Child’s brother also writes thrillers? His name is Andrew Grant. I haven’t read them (yet), but they are about a British ex-military guy who goes around America…I’m hoping great storytelling runs in the family, there.

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