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  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2017/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , jack reacher, , reacher returns, ,   

    Jack Reacher Faces Tough Choices in The Midnight Line 

    In many thriller series, the heroes seem to go through the same stories over and over again. That’s not a bad thing; the reason we follow a series, in part, to replicate a pleasurable experience, and a good story is, after all, a good story. No one would deny that Lee Child writes great stories, but with The Midnight Line, his 22nd Jack Reacher novel, he’s crafted a pretty kick-ass book—both because it gives you everything you want out of a Reacher novel, and because it subverts the formula at every turn.

    The Anti-Procedural

    Reacher’s adventures are generally much less structured than those of most recurring characters in thriller novels. But his books do have a repeated structure: Reacher—retired former Army Major in the military police turned cross-country drifter—lands in a new town, runs into a few hard cases, and takes up a cause for someone. There are fistfights, gunplay, and a mystery to be solved. But the genius of Lee Child is that despite these similarities, every Reacher novel is different, because each book opens as a blank canvas. At the center of The Midnight Line is a hero questioning his role in the universe—a question that makes it the best Reacher novel in a while (and that’s saying something).

    Took the Midnight Train Going Anywhere

    The Midnight Line picks up in the wake of Make Me, the twentieth Reacher novel (last year’s Night School was a prequel). The opening sequence sees Reacher awaken to find that Michelle Chang, his partner and companion from the earlier adventure, has gone home to Seattle, leaving behind nothing but a note. Reacher climbs on the first bus going anywhere, and during a comfort stop, he wanders the street and spots a West Point class ring in a pawn shop window. It’s a small woman’s ring, and he wonders what would prompt a West Point graduate to pawn it off. The ring is dated 2005, which Reacher calculates put the graduate right in line for service in Iraq and Afghanistan—Reacher can guess at several sad stories that might lead to a desperate pawn shop visit.

    In these early pages, Reacher thinks about Chang often, and contemplates his procedure with a weary, mechanical objectivity. He isn’t a man eagerly searching for his next adventure; he’s a man who’s been living his life a certain way for a very long time, and wondering if he’s doing things right. As the story goes on, Chang fades from Reacher’s thoughts, but a vein of melancholy and exhaustion is threaded through the book. Reacher isn’t a superhuman; he’s big, well-trained in violence, and very smart, but he’s just a guy. Making him doubt himself is a tonic for the character—and the series.

    The Mystery

    This melancholy suits the story, too. Reacher’s detective chops are sometimes overlooked in favor of his fighting skills, but he’s always been a brilliant observational gumshoe, spotting details most people miss, and making the deductions few are capable of. The West Point ring is a clue, and Reacher brings all of his considerable smarts to bear on it, tracing its appearance backward through time and space, solely because he feels a kinship to the woman who sold it. He wants to return it, in the hopes that whatever trouble prompted her to sell it is over—or, at least, to satisfy his curiosity.

    His investigation leads him into the world of opiate addiction, which is just about as timely as you can get. At first it seems like Child is heading for a standard sort of story, but then Reacher meets a small-town bigshot named Scorpio. You expect Scorpio to try to run him off, and fail spectacularly. Then the story takes a surprising dive into the miserable life of the ring’s former owner, giving Child has a chance to explore the tragedies behind real stories of Purple Heart recipients, how people become—and stay—addicted to legal, made-in-America opioids, and the hidden economy of rural poverty, in which people sell off everything they have for a chance to feel good for a few hours, just one more time.

    Worth It

    In the end, Reacher gets the answers he wants, and, as usual, he stands up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. The mystery has threads that begin overseas and end in a small town in the Midwest, where Reacher shares a moment of grace with a woman who’s been broken and put back together again, badly . Along the way there are several attempts to assassinate Reacher and a bravura sequence in which the action hero and his allies rob a drug smuggling operation, all communicated via spare, unadorned prose Lee Child is famous for. On the last page, Reacher faces a choice, again: to take the next ride going anywhere, or to choose a destination, for once. Long time fans won’t be surprised at his decision—or at how great The Midnight Line is.

    The post Jack Reacher Faces Tough Choices in The Midnight Line appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2017/11/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , jack reacher, , ,   

    We Talk with Lee Child About the Return of Jack Reacher in The Midnight Line 

    In an alternate universe, 2016’s Night School was the last Jack Reacher novel ever. Early in his second career as a novelist (a career he famously “backed into” after losing his television job at the age of 40), Lee Child thought he would put Reacher to rest after 21 books. Luckily, fan support has proven too powerful; number 22, The Midnight Line, hits bookstores on November 21st (though you can preorder a signed edition now), and there is undoubtedly more to come.

    We were lucky enough to be able to sit down with Child for a conversation about Reacher, writing and reading, and passionate internet gun experts.

    Do you still get the same thrill every September when you start a new Reacher book?
    Oh absolutely—I have exactly the same excitement, and the beginning of it is the best part of all. The format of the Reacher novels is that he doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t have a home, and therefore the flexibility is enormous. This is not a cop in some particular city, he’s not a private eye or something, which would limit the type of channels that you could take him down. He can do anything and be anywhere. So each time I sit down with exactly the same kind of satisfaction and excitement. And those early weeks are the best of all, because I haven’t screwed it up yet—it’s still potentially a great book!

    You could say Jack Reacher novels are almost “anti-procedurals.”
    Exactly. And I have no idea what’s going to happen. I don’t have a plan or an an outline, I just start somewhere and see what turns up. The procedural plot is, I think, generally a difficulty these days, because with computers and cell phones, the standard tropes of procedural novels get harder and harder. What do you do about information being instantly available? Reacher inhabits a sort of timeless period where that technology isn’t much help, and I usually do that by taking him to remote places where maybe there isn’t a cell signal. It’s sort of a comment on this ownership society, where Reacher believes that you don’t own things, they own you—and he prefers his liberty. That has proved to be so popular—and I thought that was a guy thing initially, but it turns out women want to do exactly the same thing, in the same way. They just want to be somewhere else tomorrow if they could.

    There’s a real sense of melancholy in the The Midnight Line, almost as if Reacher is contemplating making a change. Is that our imagination, or is that on purpose?
    It is on purpose. The relentless self-confidence of Reacher needs to be tested once in a while. In a couple of the books, I’ve had him look back and think, “Did I make the right choices? Are they the idiots or am I the idiot?” I think to have him perfectly self-confident in every book would be a little same-y, so once in a while, he’s contemplative. It’s a miracle that I get away with it, really—he’s a homicidal maniac! I read one online description saying this is a detective series where the detective commits more homicides than he solves. The reader’s enjoyment of that is really a kind of comment on how frustrating real life is, with all the procedures we have to go through—which, of course, we understand we must have. But it is frustrating, and sometimes, you just want to dish out a little summary justice.

    You were famously fired for being a staunch union man. Yet Jack Reacher is the least union person ever imagined.
    Reacher is in a union of one. He’d be quite happy to bond with anybody like him, he just hasn’t found any yet. At the same time, he will stick up for the little guy as you would as a shop steward in a union, but he admits it’s not so much the little guy that he’s trying to protect. He just hates the big guy—that kind of arrogant sort of person who thinks they can get away with anything. I think his instincts are good, but he’s just too antisocial to ever join anything.

    In a sense he’s like a reluctant shop steward for the entire human race.
    Yes—which I kind of was myself, in that nobody else would do the job, and it was wrong that people were being intimidated. I didn’t want to do it, necessarily, but I just thought I had to—it was my real life “Reacher Moment.”

    You’re known for “adopting” a writer to boost when you go out on tour. How do you find new writers you want to promote?
    I get sent a lot of new books, and I love [finding] new talent. First of all, it scares me, because they are so good, and so full of energy and ideas, that it does spur me on. And certain writers just appeal to me in certain ways. This is a tough business right now, and mainly it’s a way of paying forward. I had a lot of help at the beginning, when the publishing business and bookselling was a lot different. We were indulged for a lot longer than you get now. I think if I can pay it forward, that’s the decent thing to do.

    Any books you’ve read recently that you think are particularly good?
    Nick Petrie. His character Peter Ash [starting with The Drifter] is an ex-marine who isn’t exactly Jack Reacher—but he’s in the rearview mirror, so to speak.

    What do you read for pleasure?
    I’m a phenomenal reader—just insatiable. I read all the time. Certainly I reread all my old favorites within the genre, and I read new things in the genre that have got buzz around them, but basically I read anything—anything at all. A lot of history and nonfiction. It’s kind of depressing, because however much you read, you can miss out on a hundred thousand books a year. But I read as much as I can, and fairly randomly—sometimes literally randomly. I have a process where I go to the store and judge books on how they look, how they feel, what the copy says, just touch them. I pick up ten or twelve random books—especially to take on vacation. Some of them are really good. It’s just frightening how much talent [is out there].

    Reacher sure knows a lot about guns. Do you have a gun expert you consult?
    I have a couple of guys who volunteer, usually; what they do is, they say “you know, I love your books, if you want to know anything just give me a call,” and I have. But in general I don’t call them, because what I’ve found is that whatever the issue, there is always a divergence of opinion amongst experts or enthusiasts.

    For instance, one time I happened to have dinner in London with a guy who was, at the time he mustered out, the most highly-decorated soldier in the British army. He’d been in the SAS, which is the equivalent of Delta Force or the Navy SEALs. He’d been on all kinds of operations you don’t want to know about, and he, as a soldier, couldn’t care less about what gun he was issued—all he cared about was that it worked. He said his only rule was that he would never use an automatic weapon that had been left loaded for a while because he wasn’t confident of the temper of the spring in the magazine; he was worried about it mis-loading on the second round.

    And I thought, wow, great—you know this is the most decorated soldier in the British army and he’s telling me this trick of the trade. So I put it in one of the books—I think it was Without Fail—and I got hundreds of thousands of e-mails from people saying “That’s BS! Leave it loaded as long as you want!” So in general, what I do is research in books, or online, or in gun magazines. Usually [it’s better if] I figure it out for myself.

    Have you ever considered writing something other than Jack Reacher?
    All writers have a lot of other ideas that they would kind-of-sort-of like to do. But because I backed into this career from the world of entertainment, I really believe that entertainment is a two-way street. It’s asking and responding, and it’s really up to the writer to take notice of what the reader is saying—and the readers are saying “we love Jack Reacher.” If, purely out of self-indulgence, I was to write something different, I think that would be a big disappointment to those readers—and probably a wasted book. People expect Reacher. After 22 books, they still expect me to write Reacher. If I write something different, that book starts out with two strikes against it. It’s a bit like if you go to Yankee Stadium: you know you’re going to see baseball. You don’t walk up to the stadium wondering, “is it going to be ice hockey today? Is it going to be basketball?” You need a certain amount of reliability in life, I think.

    As an author who’s already writing under a pseudonym, have you ever considered a second pseudonym in order to try something different?
    Well, that would be [the thing to do], wouldn’t it? But then we run into that 2017 discovery issue. That’s what J.K. Rowling did with Robert Galbraith, and until she was a outed, the exact same book, with the exact same words, was going nowhere. I’m not sure that I would love the experience of being a complete unknown in 2017.

    The Midnight Line is available November 7 in a signed edition from Barnes & Noble.

    The post We Talk with Lee Child About the Return of Jack Reacher in The Midnight Line appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2017/05/08 Permalink
    Tags: do you feel lucky?, harry bosch, , , jack reacher, , lucas davenport,   

    6 Thriller Characters in the Dirty Harry Mold 

    It’s been 46 years since Dirty Harry hit movie screens, establishing an anti-hero cop character who was thrillingly edgy at the time. People sometimes forget Harry Callahan wasn’t conceived as a hero—he’s depicted as morally equivalent to the serial killer he hunts in the first film. Sequels softened the character a bit, but the influence of Dirty Harry has remained a powerful force on the screen and the page ever since. Writers are still drawing on the character to inform their creations today—as evidenced by the main characters of the six book series listed here, all of them cops who do things according to their own set of rules.

    Jack Reacher
    Reacher was once an army MP, and trained as an investigator. Intelligent, physically imposing, and self-reliant, he was forced out of the military and became a nomad without property or plans. As a result, he continually finds himself embroiled in investigations, usually defending good people against evil forces. While Reacher has a strict moral code, he does not consider himself bound by the normal rules of legality or fair play. The bad guys in a Reacher novel usually find this out the hard way. There’s little doubt Reacher could have been anything he wanted to be. The fact that he’s chosen to be a wandering butt-kicker is just our lucky break.

    Lucas Davenport
    A close match for Dirty Harry’s sensibility and contempt for due process and civil rights, Lucas Davenport is one of those cops who gets away with his behavior because he gets results. And how—over the course of 27 novels, Davenport has suffered repeated career mishaps linked directly to his extralegal techniques and his loner personality—he has few friends and makes little effort to play at politics. Being rich helps—he doesn’t have to worry about losing a pension or his salary when he sleeps with suspects or engineers complex scenarios to ensure a perp dies without casting suspicion on himself. Bottom line: if you want justice and aren’t concerned with procedure, call Lucas Davenport, and don’t ask questions.

    Harry Bosch
    Harry Bosch isn’t the most violent rogue cop in literature, but he may be the most relentless, often demonstrating a nearly-pathological disregard for his own career when in pursuit of a suspect. Bosch is routinely at odds with his supervisors in the LAPD—he’s forced out of the Robbery Homicide Division due to an internal affairs investigation, and forced to retire altogether at one point—though he eventually comes back. His career is defined by his rigid sense of right and wrong, his laser focus on punishing criminals, and an endless opposition to his bosses and outside forces like the FBI. Bosch is surprisingly less anti-social than some others on this list; he’s usually embroiled in one romance or another, and develops deep relationships fellow officers who share his dedication to justice.

    Joe Pickett
    Pickett is a game warden, not a police officer, but n the wide open spaces of Wyoming, he has law enforcement authority—and, more importantly, usually finds himself on his own, with no backup or capability of contacting his superiors. That doesn’t stop him from doing things over the course of 17 novels that keep him up at night, haunted. Pickett never hesitates to break the rules, but it’s semi-justified, because the locals are cowboys who disdain calling the authorities when they all have guns and can take of business on their own.

    Raylan Givens
    One of Elmore Leonard’s most famous creations, Givens escaped coal country in Kentucky and became a U.S. Marshall, but finds himself back home after his trigger-happy ways mar his reputation. Givens usually starts off investigations with good intentions, but does tend to shoot a lot of people, and sometimes goes after suspects with the clear intention of killing them. He can be charming, and treats non-criminals with respect, but in classic Dirty Harry tradition, he often finds rules of procedure and basic civil rights only get in the way of meting out justice.

    Eve Dallas
    Eve Dallas was found as a child in an alleyway in Dallas, and in the mid-21st century (the first In Death novel is set in 2058, when she’s about 30) she’s a detective in the New York Police and Security Department (NYPSD). The sci-fi elements are light, and her Dirty Harry tendencies are subtle—but Dallas doesn’t hesitate to break rules, including sleeping with a murder suspect in the first book. Although she’s warmed up to other people over time, she is originally depicted as very much the loner, working on her own and refusing (or incapable) of relying on others, leading to a lot of rogue cop moments. Combined with a tendency towards sarcasm and a brusque attitude towards everyone (especially her superiors), she’s definitely a spiritual successor to Harry Callahan.

     

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:02 pm on 2015/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: , jack reacher, , make me,   

    5 Reasons We Want to Be Jack Reacher When We Grow Up 

    Kids are constantly pestered about their future career plans, and most learn at an early age to come up with a profession that sounds challenging and ambitious—astronaut, President of these United States, Kardashian—in order to get the grown-ups off their backs. As we mature and become more complex, we seek to become better people, heroes even—the sort of person who will step into a bad situation and Make Things Right. For fans of Lee Child’s novels, that means we really want to be Jack Reacher when we grow up. In celebration of Reacher’s 20th adventure in Make Me, out September 8, here are five reasons becoming Jack Reacher is a worthy career goal.

    He’s the ideal American hero
    For a man born and bred in the U.K., Lee Child has created the perfect American hero. Reacher is a towering slab of muscle, six-foot, five inches tall, 250 pounds, and in phenomenal physical shape without once being shown exercising, which is pretty much the American dream. He’s also incredibly smart, able to size up people and situations at a glance. He’s a loner who merely wants to exist in peace, but he’s also dedicated to truth, justice, and kicking butt in a way that is essentially America distilled to its essence, then distilled a second time into a bracing alcoholic drink.

    He’s an anti-consumerist icon—or should be
    Reacher was an Army brat who graduated West Point and rose to the rank of Major in the Army Military Police, but since being discharged, he’s been a drifter. He wears his clothes until they get dirty or destroyed (which happens more often than you might imagine), then throws them away and buys a new set. He rarely owns anything more than what he’s wearing and carrying, and while his finances have gotten a bit healthier over the years, he’s completely unconcerned with them. He’s that rare find, a man completely unfettered by material possessions or concerns.

    He’s always on the right side
    Reacher’s not the nicest guy in the world. He knows how big he is, and he uses his size and fighting skill whenever necessary, generally hurting people, sometimes killing them, and usually doing lots of property damage in the process. But he is always just. In Make Me, Reacher meets Michelle Chang, a worried woman who mistakes him for the private detective she hired—and who is now missing. Seeing that she’s in distress, he naturally decides to stick around the strange town of Mother’s Rest and give her a hand. Why? Because he can’t stand it when nice people get stepped on.

    He’s hilarious
    Jack Reacher might seem at first glance like one of those classic dour heroes who goes around glowering at everyone. And yes, a statistical analysis would probably reveal that “Reacher said nothing” is the most common phrase in Child’s books. But his wonderful, dry sense of humor slowly seeps out as you read, rewarding you with lines like, “Now they broke my toothbrush, I don’t own anything,” or, “Slippery slope. I carry a spare shirt, pretty soon I’m carrying spare pants. Then I’d need a suitcase. Next thing I know, I’ve got a house and a car and a savings plan and I’m filling out all kinds of forms.” You might not want to get in Jack Reacher’s way, but he’s pretty entertaining to eavesdrop on.

    His adventures are mysteries
    The Reacher books are certainly thrillers—exciting stories about a one-man A-Team who travels around helping folks. But they are also mysteries. Reacher is always arriving in a new situation, always at a disadvantage and in need of information. We spend time with Reacher investigating and sorting clues, identifying players, and hatching plans. Come for the butt-kicking, stay for the satisfying mysteries (which, to be fair, are often solved with additional butt-kicking).

    Pick up the Barnes & Noble exclusive edition of Make Me now.

     
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