Jack Reacher: Because We All Want To Be That Bad

cowardly lion

Picture this: you are 40 and supporting a family. You are fired, so you decide to write novels, even though you have zero writing experience. Sixteen years later, your 17 novels have sold more than 40 million copies; in fact, someone in the world buys one of your books every second. It sounds improbable, but that’s the trajectory Lee Child’s life took when he lost his job as a TV producer.

Just as improbable is his protagonist: a 6’ 5“, 250 pound ex-U.S. military cop named Jack Reacher. A man who can single-handedly lay six men flat without breaking a sweat, make women swoon and restore law and order in the midst of chaos.

Reacher’s appeal, one assumes, is that he is rock-solid confident in his ability to take on the world—which he does in improbable ways. Unlike most of us mortals, Reacher knows he can’t lose. No one messes with Jack Reacher. He’s a drifter and a loner. A real bad ass that kills, but like the character of Dexter in the Lindsay novels, he only kills the bad guys. Unlike a Dexter novel, however, the body count in a typical Reacher novel is in the double digits long before the end of the book.

I don’t know about other Reacher fans, but for me, he’s a bit like Eastwood’s movie character, Dirty Harry. I hated myself for liking and rooting for Dirty Harry, but I had to admit to myself that I wanted justice done. Like Harry, I knew there was only one way for that to happen. The biggest difference between the two is that Harry had to answer to the chief of police; Jack Reacher answers to no one—a character detail that will draw anyone in—especially if they spend their days cooking French fries and wearing a name badge.

Reacher carries only a toothbrush. He doesn’t deal with mortgages, lawns, cell phones, computers or any of the trappings of daily life. He doesn’t even do the laundry—just chucks his clothes every few days and buys new ones. He’s calculated that it’s cheaper that way.

Although Reacher dispatches the bad guys without remorse or second thoughts, he is a decent and noble guy and so this reader is always forgiving. Besides, he never goes looking for trouble; he just somehow stumbles into situations that require lethal force. It’s a plot device that appeals to all of us who love to rationalize. Who doesn’t daydream of being a hero, of foiling a bank robbery or a terrorist act? Of telling your boss to shove it? Perhaps we all want to be a little bit like Jack Reacher: answer to no one, have no possessions to possess us, fear nothing and never have to do the laundry again as long as we live.

Lee Child’s unplanned for and untrained for second career is truly the stuff dreams are made of. How has this extraordinary literary success affected Mr. Child? “I still dress like a slob,” he says.

I plan to say the same thing after I’ve sold more than 40 million books.

The 17th Reacher novel, A Wanted Man, picks up after the end of Worth Dying For and on sale dates are as follows (paperback sale dates are tentative and may change slightly):
UK: August 30, 2012 (hardcover & digital) – coming in paperback May 23, 2013
New Zealand: August 30, 2012 (trade paperback & digital) – coming in paperback May 23, 2013
Australia: September 3, 2012 (trade paperback & digital) – coming in paperback May 23, 2013
US & Canada: Sept 11, 2012 (hardcover & digital) – coming in paperback May 23, 2013

I have to content myself with my heroic daydreams until the 18th Reacher novel, Never Go Back, is published this fall. The tentative release date is September 3, 2013.

Find writing contests now!

writers block pic for blog

Find writing contests now!

Rebel Writers,
Welcome to my blog! It’s for people who have always wanted to write for a living, but couldn’t figure out how and when to do it. It’s also for people who have begun to earn some money for freelance and creative writing, but would like to increase their earnings.

I was going to name my blog, “I want to be a writer,” but I decided that, dammit, I am a writer. I just don’t get paid for being a writer and no, my book is not published. So what? That doesn’t change the fact that I wrote the book. That makes me a writer. And, if you have written a short story or a poem or a novel and it is not published, you, too are a writer. An unpaid writer, true, but you are still a writer and it is time for me and for you to own it.

This blog is for you if:

You’ve always loved to write
You would love to do nothing but write and make a living from your writing
You want to write a novel but you don’t know where to start
You can’t decide if you should stick to short stories or novels
You have started at least one novel and abandoned it
You have finished at least one novel and it is still in the bottom drawer with your socks
You have finished your novel and tried to sell it but there were no takers
You self-published your work but you still own all the copies
You want to enter some writing contests, but you don’t have time to look for the best ones
You have a thousand reasons (like me) about why you are not a published author… yet

Today’s jumpstart writing advice: Google “writing contests” and see what’s out there.  Yes, I’m sure you’ve done this before. But today, PICK one contest that is free to enter, and send in your submission. Do it before the end of the day. There’s a link to Poets & Writers at the top of the page to get you started.