NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - In author Lee Child’s latest book “61 Hours”, the 14th in his Jack Reacher mystery series, his tough-guy loner hitches a ride on a tour bus that crashes on an icy highway in South Dakota.
After a series of twists and turns, the tall, 220-pound Reacher, a former military policeman who dismisses the bad guys quickly, comes face-to-face with a short, fleet-footed and sadistic Mexican crime boss in a secret, long-forgotten silo.
Child, whose real name is James Grant, was born in Coventry, England, and worked as a television director before he was laid off and turned to fiction. Some 40 million copies of his books are in print.
He spoke to Reuters about his famous character, why readers like Reacher so much and if his books will be made into films.
Q: What was your upbringing like?
A: “They say the past is another country, and in my case it was, literally — provincial Britain in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The nation was gray and exhausted after World War Two. Culturally, World War Two didn’t really end until 1963. I had a ration card as a baby. Education was prized by certain families, mine included, but for most a good performance meant you were ‘too big for your boots.’”
Q: How did you come up with the Jack Reacher character?
A: “I was a huge reader of the (mystery) genre. I was very bored with the standard hero at the time, a miserable guy, a divorced guy, alcoholic, dysfunctional, down. Generally speaking, people don’t want to read about miserable characters. I wanted to get away from that and come up with a clean-cut hero who does not have those problems.
“Reacher is very connected to the knight-errant, a warrior of some kind, the Japanese ronin, detached from what he was doing, roaming the land, ruthless and transient.
“In the Japanese legend about Samurai warriors, he is disowned by his master and redeems himself through good works.”
Q: Why do you think readers like Reacher?
A: “I think he covers a lot of bases. He represents the ideal fighter for justice. Women are very offended by injustice. They like to see somebody stand up for doing right. Men are hypnotized by this fantasy of being able to walk away, no commitment, no entanglements. Just hit the road and who knows what happens tomorrow.”
Q: Do women like Reacher because he’s the unattainable bad boy?
A: “He’s the ultimate safe affair, guaranteed to move on. He’ll be 48 hours of spectacular fun and he’ll never write, never call and never show up again. That’s why women start affairs. If you could be sure the guy would be gone forever, you would to do it.”
Q: Why does his character have no possessions?
A: “To stick with the idea of the mysterious stranger, knight-errant, who rides up into the forest on his white horse, no past, no future. (He) just lives in the present.”
Q: How do you come up with your ideas?
A: “Ideas are really just waiting. Ideas are everywhere. There’s always ideas. I could have five ideas, but you’ve got to wait until two or three or four collide in a useful way, like atoms colliding to form a molecule.”
Q: You do a pretty good job of capturing American cultural and language nuances in your writing. Was that hard to do?
A: “I’ve lived in America for 12 years. Before that I was a very frequent visitor. My wife is American. People feel that as a (foreigner), I have an extra hurdle. It’s the opposite. It’s easier to do. As an outsider you see everything with a fresh eye. You don’t rest on complacency. Everything has got to be concentrated on.”
Q: Any Reacher movies on the horizon?
A: “They’ve all been sold and Paramount is working on “One Shot.” They’ve got a lot of time and money invested ... My guess is it will start shooting in a year or two.”
Q: Who will play Reacher?
A: “That’s a stumbling block. That’s a very vital decision. You want to get a franchise of three or four movies, but you’ve got to find the right guy who’s willing to sign up for the three or four movies.”
Q: Anyone in mind?
A: “It doesn’t have to be an obvious guy. If they do it right, the actor can own the role. I would love it if we could do it with an unknown. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t work like that any more.”