“I was arrrested in Eno’s diner. At twelve o’clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee”
I read somewhere someone saying they would automatically buy a new Lee Childs book as soon as it came out. That was their reading choice. And that is a point. It is escapism just like romance novels.
Reading is getting Dressed. You BeCome the hero. You See the World. Through His eyes. It is a Trip. An Ego Trip. A Computer Game. The He, the I, is a rogue brother who lives another, tougher, alternative life. Anything can Happen. Other People are tokens. Other People Get Shot. Or Should be. I am Jack Reacher, ex army policeman “of sorts”.
The story moves lens-like. He sits at the table. Baker sits at the table. He gets the tape recorder out. He fiddles with wires. It is slo mo. Real Time. Get it? You get it. He tells you most things four or five times over.
There is no decription, no adjectives, it is a desert, flat and fast. The plot is brutal.
This is not, one should probably say, Raymond Chandler who had other people, who had a point of view, who had descriptions, who had crackling dialogue, who had a sense of humour. Reacher is a robot by comparison. He reminds me of Judge Dredd but without the visuals obviously.
So we are writing almost in abstract here. Is this an abstract form? The Daily Mail quote on the jacket says: “stunningly dynamic”.
“We got us a situation here, Mr Reacher…”
Reacher struggles with his inner demons and what he has been taught as an upside down morality of the solder in the dark underworld of American shadowlands. “Attacking me was like pushing open a forbidden door. What waited on the other side was his problem”.
Georgia has demons of its own reaching out to him. “It was the most immaculate town I had ever seen. Amazing.” He goes into a barbershop and notes the framed newspaper front pages on the walls – Roosevelt dies, VJ Day, JFK assassinated, Martin Luther King murdered.
It is an all male world except for the unlikely fantasy of the detective with the immaculately ironed blouse who seemingly takes an unlikely, unbelievable – well all of this is pretty unbelievable anyway – shine to him where everyone else seems to be more psychotic than even he is. He fantasises about the two of them running off to a beach in Jamaica. Good fantasy, perhaps.
This was the first of what is now a series of 16 books first published in 1997. Child is in fact Lee Grant, brought up in Handsworth Birmingham, worked for Granada TV where he was a part of some of its best output including Brideshead Revisited, Cracker, Prime Suspect and Jewel in the Crown all of which were a good education before he was made redundant when the creative departments were restructured into nothing.
Reacher was made redundant when killing dropped out of fashion. He kills people he might logically have wounded and interrogated. He is at war. He is fighting for us. It reminds me of War Picture Library (how many writers cut their teeth there?).
I could make a case that the 16 books form a statement and the more artful and adept tomes will come later – though a blog I checked does not find any agreement on what might be the best example. You could make a reasonable case that Reacher is the forerunner of Scandi crime. For the moment I am inclined to sit on the fence on the grounds I would not want to be sitting next to anyone who confessed to reading Reacher stories over dinner (probably ex-army). But I am perhaps being overlay pacifist. Confronted by the events here I would certainly be dead anyway and not lived to tell the tale. Is that the very hunge of the compulsion to carry on? Relief? Characters like Reacher are better imagined than confronted but the realism of the setting keeps the plot near the jugular. It is a western in a modern universe but westerns somehow, in Hollywood versions at least, usually managed some morality.
Here we are supposed to believe such characters exist and are out there and living by an upsidedown code of arms – both crimos and detectos – which is not a reality I am persuaded by. It is just fanaticsm, a pornography of violence. Two days ago he reflects at one point of his police compadre, she would have arrested me (for killing two people) today she is proud of me. My problem is I am not. Book him Dano…except Dano here is also corrupt, Hawaii is corrupt and as the 51st state by implication…but Reacher has his dumb broad and tame blackman, so he does not really care…not a nice guy really.