Lee Child, Jack Reacher and their biographer

October 21, 2020 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, journalism.

Several years ago I found myself in the mystery/thriller section of a local bookstore, standing next to a man who was looking intently at a shelf of Lee Child’s books.

“I’m trying to see if they have the latest Jack Reacher novel,” he said, unnecessarily explaining himself. “If you haven’t read any of them, you should. There’s great.”

None of that needed to be said.

I had indeed read a couple of Child’s books, and I agreed with him. Child has a definite touch as a writer, and he has created a substantial and interesting hero.

So, if you are a Jack Reacher/Lee Child fan, you will probably want to take a look at this article by Heather Martin in CrimeReads.com. Martin has written a biography of Child (his real name is Jim Grant) and, as such, it is also a biography of his great fictional hero.

About the formation of the Reacher character, Martin writes:

The sheer hard labour Jim Grant put into his debut novel was phenomenal: two handwritten drafts, one in pencil and a second in blue ink, before he even started typing up for submission. But the planning notes are sparse and the vision crystal clear. From the beginning, character was king. There’s an outline summary that mirrors Jim Grant’s own biographical trajectory: ‘H is an alienated loner, redundant from job, becomes involved in some kind of [activity] which provides a determined loner the opportunity of appropriating large amount of cash, which he does, after dangers and contests, subsequently leaving the area, revenged against oppression, and enriched.’ There’s a high-concept bullet-point list of twelve steps that has its origins in Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale (via Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey), where Lee is laying the foundations for his signature brand of mythic realism. There are seven sketchy lines on ‘features of plot’. Source: The Evolution of Jack Reacher | CrimeReads

But it’s the story of how Reacher got his name that, to me, was the most captivating. No spoiler here. I’ll let you read the article.

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