It’s nearly May. Summer’s coming fast, and I’m so excited because August 28 is coming fast, too, and August 28 is JACK REACHER DAY 2014.
By that, I mean, it’s the day on which Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel will be released!
Needless to say, I’m grateful to belong to a fandom that’s spoiled rotten by a prolific author who works hard to ensure that we “Reacher-Creatures” get our Reacher fix on an annual basis. (I’m not sure how I feel about that nickname for us, but I don’t mind it.) I’m truly grateful to Lee Child for his solid work ethic.
I wait almost a year for a book I’ll read in a few days, after which I spend the next 360 days or so anticipating the next one. I don’t take Lee Child for granted, though. He’s not a book-producing machine. He’s human, and life happens. He could decide to go on hiatus for a year or two, and one day he’ll retire and kill off Reacher or otherwise vanish him somehow. The end of Reacher is inevitable.
I already know how I’m going to handle Reacher’s demise or ultimate disappearance into the ether: I’m going to celebrate him by reading the whole entire series of novels all over again, and in chronological order this time.
To paraphrase Doc Holliday in Tombstone, “My obsession knows no bounds.”
Jack Reacher intrigues with his complexity; over the arc of his 17 Reacher novels, Lee Child created a fictional portrait tight with detail resulting in a dimensional and well-developed action character who embroils himself in situations ranging from tricky to cataclysmic everywhere he goes. Reacher’s physical characteristics are explicitly defined and described consistently throughout the series – which is important to the stories, as Reacher needs that specific physique in order to do the things he does – and Reacher has a complete background with life details and personality traits from childhood on up.
Did you know, for instance, that Reacher speaks fluent French, because his mother was French? And that she lived in Paris, where he went to visit her on a few documented occasions? True story, as far as fictional stories go. Reacher is half-French, and he enjoyed dining with his maman and brother at the Restaurant Polidor, a Parisian eatery that was established in 1845 and still, to this day, won’t accept credit cards.
Actually, I discovered Reacher while living in France. I spent much of the summer of 2012 wandering alone through le Vieux Nice (Old Nice) and the surrounding streets, and one day, it occurred to me that La Fnac, a French counterpart of the States’ Barnes and Noble, might carry some books in English. I wanted to read. Moreover, I wanted the instant gratification of plunging headfirst into fiction and losing myself in its depths. Struggling through French text with a dictionary in one hand and a fistful of my own hair (clenched tightly by the roots) in the other would be educational, but it wouldn’t suit my purposes. Or my hair. I wanted escapism.
I was happy to find an abundance of Alice Munro, T.C. Boyle and Joyce Carol Oates, all of whom I adore – Munro’s short stories, especially – and then I wanted some fun pulp fiction to round out my selection. Action, thriller and horror (as well as any hybrids of the three… and if we’re talking fiction genre hybrids, you can throw some science fiction in there, too) are my favorite pulpy genres, and I had no idea where to begin looking. I’d already read all of the available Stephen King, who works masterfully at the intersection of literature and pulp fiction (like no one else does, in my opinion), and I wasn’t familiar with any of the other authors on the shelves. So I started picking up novels at random and reading the blurbs on the back, choosing, in the end, The Affair by Lee Child.
That’s where I met Reacher.
It turned out that The Affair was a good place to start, because it’s one of just a few Reacher novels written in the first person. The majority of the novels are written in the third person. I felt like I got to know Reacher through the lens of his own perspective.
It took a few pages to get acclimated to Child’s writing style, but he had me hooked in no time. I finished the book in three days and headed back downtown. I knew La Fnac had another Lee Child novel on the shelf, because I’d deliberated between the two before selecting The Affair. I went back for Gone Tomorrow, and then I embarked on a Reacher search expedition wherever I could find books in English throughout the French Riviera, including Virgin Records (also in the Le Vieux Nice area, on la Rue Jean Medecin), and Les Galleries Lafayette (a French equivalent of Macy’s) located in Cap 3000, a mall at the end of the Promenade des Anglais between Nice and Antibes. I also scoured the Nice Etoile, a much smaller mall located down the street from Virgin Records on la Rue Jean Medecin.
Somewhere in there, Callaghan picked up one of my books (Gone Tomorrow) and got hooked on Reacher, too. We needed to find more!
Back in our little wilderness corner of the world in le Vercors – we divided our time between Rhône-Alpes and la Côte d’Azur – we searched for Reacher in La Fnac in Valence, as well as in Cultura (similar to the States’ erstwhile Borders).
Out of all of those places, we were only able to find one more Reacher novel, at Virgin Records in Nice, I believe. Bad Luck and Trouble.
But – surprise! – we found many more at the Frankfurt airport in September, when we stopped over in Germany on our way to Los Angeles. Of course! Reacher novels aren’t just great pulp fiction – they’re great airport pulp fiction. With plenty of time to enjoy some good German beer and browse every newsstand we could find, we ended up boarding the plane with something like seven or eight Reacher novels. When we got to Los Angeles, we went to Barnes and Noble with The List and picked up the remaining six or seven. We headed back to France with 14 Reacher novels in our suitcase, then in possession of all 17.
The following summer – last year – we were in Austin, Texas when Child’s 18th Reacher book hit the shelves. I was thrilled to be right there!
That brings us to Child’s 2014 release. August 28. I’m waiting patiently, only glancing at the calendar every other day or so.
I’ve been asked which Reacher novel is my favorite, and that’s difficult to answer. I’d say it’s a tie between Gone Tomorrow and Bad Luck and Trouble. Persuasion would probably come in third.I also really enjoyed the three most recent titles, those that chronicle Reacher’s adventures post South Dakota debacle: Worth Dying For, A Wanted Man and Never Go Back (last year’s). It’s difficult to say, though. They’re all fantastically entertaining!
I can’t wait to see what Reacher gets himself into in this year’s installment of the ongoing adventure….