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.

Gina Barreca: How to Keep Yourself Amused Until Her Next Book is Published

gina barreca

Gina Barreca.

If you love humorous writing, check out Gina Barreca’s Facebook page to get a daily dose of her wit. She has links to all of her latest columns—with smatterings of her always funny quips. After stumbling on her Facebook page, I checked out her website and then started following her on Twitter. I couldn’t so easily follow my favorite authors back in the day, so finding all of these social websites has reignited my love of books and writers.

I took a sabbatical from all things literary when I sold my book shop eight years ago. It’s not that I no longer wanted to read, but I just had to leave the book world behind for a while. (I couldn’t even go into a little book store without getting weepy.)

Bookstores still make me nostalgic, so I stick to libraries, and to my delight, I stumbled across Barreca’s latest book, “It’s Not That I’m Bitter…:Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.”
(published in 2009) at my library several weeks ago. Most people don’t write a book review years after it has been published, but I’m special; being three years late to the party is nothing new for me.

As with her other books, it did not disappoint. These essays are laugh out loud funny, and although aimed at the over 50 female, her words ring true for every woman over the age of 40. Barreca has the knack of hitting the nail on the head with deft aplomb.

“If women had tufts growing from our noses and ears, men would bring exorcists to the house. . .”

Barreca has long been one of my favorite authors. She’s often billed as an academic and humorist, but PhD aside, I’ve always thought of her as a humorist who happens to be an academic.

My reawakened interest in one of my all-time favorite authors sent me in search of a website—and yes, she has a terrific website. (http://www.ginabarreca.com/)

Her website is a wonderful reflection of her humor, wit and writing talent. For those who don’t know: Gina Barreca is the author of eight books, a regular columnist for magazines and newspapers, including the Huffington Post, Psychology Today and the Hartford Courant and a Professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut. And, oh yes, she holds a doctorate from the City University of New York. I should be jealous since I can’t manage to write a blog post and cook on the same day. Pffft.

The best thing about dropping out of the book world for a few years is the discovery that one’s favorite authors have not dropped out, and there is some catching up to do. Next on my reading list, “Make Mine a Double: Why women Like Us Like to Drink*(*Or Not).” This will surely be the perfect book companion to a glass of red wine (or two.)