About The Book
Jack Reacher is only the second of Jim Grant’s great fictional characters: the first is Lee Child himself. Heather Martin’s biography tells the story of all three.
Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.
The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.
Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have two confessions to make. Firstly, I don’t tend to read non-fiction and this is the first autobiography I have read. Secondly, I have never read a book by Lee Child. But after seeing him appear at numerous festivals and listening to my husband’s enthuse about his novels I felt curious. I’m happy to say that this is definitely a type of book I would read again and I will also make a determined effort to start reading the Reacher books.
Most of this 500 page book concerns Jim (or Lee) before he became a hugely successful novelist. It is one that fascinated me, and I felt an array of conflicting emotions. There was the letter that is shown early on in the novel that he wrote for an online project ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ on the 100th anniversary for the declaration of war that reduced me to tears. It wasn’t the only occasion when reading this part of the book that I thought that Jim felt guilty to be from a generation that didn’t have to go to war. There were also occasions that made me smile. His determination to stand up to bullies, both in school and the workplace as well as his thoughts regarding many politicians in the UK and USA. And I definitely agreed with him with on the ‘dumbing down’ of the TV station he worked for. 24 hour TV was one of the worst decisions Granada TV ever made.
Jim is obviously an extremely loyal, honest and thoughtful man. He admits throughout feeling detached from his parents but remains close to some family and friends. The loyalty he showed towards his agent and publisher where many would move on at the first opportunity for more fame. And his loyalty towards his many readers. He must have felt pain and bafflement when he received backlash later in the series. He came across as a loner, as someone who has never read the books I thought that this was his only similarity with Reacher.
This isn’t a linear biography, Jim could be a schoolboy and an author years later in the same chapter but once I got used to it I thought it worked well. It’s a remarkable achievement showing the publishing process, the work that goes into promoting an author and his books but more importantly it shows the dedication in publishing a novel yearly from all involved and the impact that had on Jim. I’m glad that he felt happy enough to retire without regrets.