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The Reacher mystery continues

January 2, 2020

Seriously, Reacher? Four thirty in the morning? You really are a seductive bugger, aren’t you? It took a lot of will power to shut you up and turn off the light. I could have easily been up with you all night.

I think it is safe to say that “be it resolved that I will go to sleep early enough to be up no later than 10am (preferably 9am)” has so far gone out the window in 2020. To be revisited, I guess.

Lee Child is, so I’ve been told by someone in the know, a publishing phenomenon. It’s not just that he’s a bestselling novelist (which he is), it’s that he is pretty unique in the mystery/thriller genre for being equally popular with male and female readers.

This is indeed a mystery. I have a number of female friends who are also addicted to Reacher and none of us can quite figure out why, when he is so bloody macho. Six five, two hundred and fifty pounds, an unarmed (usually, but not always) killing machine, who’s spent his time since retiring from the military police hitchhiking around the United States, ending up rescuing good folks from bad guys in one horse backwaters in Trump country. (The fact that it is Trump country is never a plot point, but his adventures seldom, if ever, take place in coastal communities.)

Reacher travels light: a toothbrush and a bank card. His t-shirt, underpants, socks, trousers and shirt stay on until he gets around to replacing them. As one of my mystified friends has pointed out, his personal hygiene certainly isn’t the attraction.

A quick look at the men who’ve been in our lives reveals that lethal brick shithouses are not our normal kinds of guys. A quick look at our bookshelves reveals that under normal circumstances we like our detectives to be at least mildly, preferably deeply flawed human beings – chain smoking, borderline (or across the border) alcoholics, who are deeply conflicted. John Rebus springs immediately to mind, although there are many other examples. (Ian Rankin sells far more books to female readers than male.) Our kind of guys.

So, what is up with Reacher? Why is he so seductive? Thirty novels in I am still completely baffled.

There is another mystery, one which I’ve somehow ended up discussing twice recently with male fans of Reacher: Just how much money did Tom Thumb Cruise (or his production company) pay Lee Child for the film rights to the Reacher novels? Of all the casting travesties I’ve come across in my time, this one tops the bill. I’d wonder how Child sleeps at night, if I weren’t certain he drifts off easily, exhausted from laughing so hard all the way to the bank.

Shame on you, Lee. But keep Reacher coming, you captivating bastard.

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