Friday, August 30, 2013

Why I love Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels

For years, I felt guilty about my addiction – then I found some famous kindred spirits. Which is your favourite Reacher thriller?

Thursday 29 August 2013
Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher
'We deride the recent casting of the diminutive Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher'. Photograph: Paramount Pictures/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

When publishers send out copies of new releases to the newspapers, they customarily place an embargo which states that no review should appear before the stated publication date. This injunction is frequently ignored, as literary editors scramble to get their stuff up early. I am often unable to buy recently reviewed books because publication date is still weeks away. In general, I don't mind. I have plenty of reading to be getting on with.

But there are limits to my patience, and Lee Child is one of them. I recently read a review of a new Jack Reacher title (Never Go Back), and immediately tried to download it on the old Kindle, only to be told that it was not yet available. For two weeks! I wait a whole year for a new one to come out, and when it does I want it right away, as in, I am going to read this today, all day, all of it. I will not put it down, because I cannot. (I was introduced to Reacher by a New Zealand friend who was once on a plane with 10 pages still to go, and carried on reading until he was gently removed from his seat by a bemused flight attendant. He hadn't noticed that the plane had landed and that everyone had left.)

I am, in general, unembarrassed by the lowness of many of my tastes. Bugs Bunny is one of my role models, and I support Coventry City Football Club. But even so, I was for some time unwilling to share – at least with serious literary friends – the depth of my devotion to Lee Child's novels. It is one thing to like crime fiction and thrillers – to admire Ian Rankin, John le Carré, James Lee Burke, proper writers all of them – but no one, I imagine, values Child for the quality of his prose. One can hardly find, in the entire corpus of the work, a single sentence worthy of independent admiration. But put them together, one by one and page by page, and I am consumed, not by admiration exactly, but by something much more powerful – the great animating impulse of the whole story-telling business – the desire, the rage, to know what is going to happen

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