Home » Writing Advice » Andy Martin and Lee Child discuss chapter one of the new Jack Reacher

Andy Martin and Lee Child discuss chapter one of the new Jack Reacher

4 November 2017

From The Independent:

Lee Child was born James Grant, in Coventry, in 1954. Sacked from his job with Granada TV in 1995, he re-invented himself as Lee Child with his first novel Killing Floor, which launched the career of his XXL hero, ex-military policeman Jack Reacher. Now based in New York, he begins a new novel every September 1st (the day he went out to buy the paper and pencil he used to write the first one).The Midnight Line is his 22nd novel.

Chapter One: Jack Reacher and Michelle Chang spent three days in Milwaukee. On the fourth morning she was gone.

Andy Martin
Not quite a one-night stand. A three-night stand. Roughly par for the course for Reacher. The end of the romance initiated in Make Me. But more importantly, look how precise this is. It’s all about the timing. Reacher has the uncanny ability to know what the time is without checking. The clock is always accessible in his head. You could say that Reacher embodies time. He is a walking, talking (well, not much of that) head-butting principle of temporality. He determines how long bad guys are going to spend in hospital – or possibly eternity. And then consider your titles – Gone Tomorrow, 61 hours – now The Midnight Line. And your next one, the one you just started: Yesterday à la Paul McCartney. Everything is timing.

Lee Child
Well, it’s a chronological art form, propelling the reader through the story a beat, an hour, a day at a time. So a sense of beats, days, and hours passing is important. It grounds the reader against a scale. At this stage, it’s all about postponement. I don’t want to give anything away yet. Really, if Reacher was as smart as some people think he is, the novel would be over on page 2 because he would have worked it all out.

Reacher came back to the room with coffee and found a note on his pillow. He had seen such notes before. They all said the same thing. Either directly or indirectly. Chang’s note was indirect. And more elegant than most. Not in terms of presentation. It was a ballpoint scrawl on motel notepaper gone wavy with damp. But elegant in terms of expression. She had used a simile, to explain and flatter and apologize all at once. She had written “You’re like New York City. I love to visit, but I could never live there.”

AM:The note on the pillow. The text within the text. Reacher as reader. It’s interesting how often he really is just that, a reader (he’s also a bit of a mind-reader). And he notes, in an almost literary critical way, it’s not a metaphor, it’s a “simile”. Not too many tough-guy vigilante drifters would bother with that distinction.

LC: He likes precision. Words have meanings, and he likes to know them. In general people like the contrast between his enormous physicality and his delight at small intellectual diversions.

AM: And Reacher is compared to New York. Big enough perhaps. Space as well as time. Isn’t his ultimate geographical goal to encompass the whole of the United States? The itinerant style. In Make Me he gets off a train to kick-start the novel. This time it’s the bus. Reacher’s trajectory is like a game of hopscotch.

LC: And he’s noticing one person after another telling him his lifestyle is odd. There’s a little introspection in this novel, mostly because of Chang. But mostly he’s happy. He enjoys small pleasures. I think you once called it the “infra-ordinary” – not the extraordinary – that’s what he’s into.

Link to the rest at The Independent and thanks to Sam for the tip. There’s a video of the conversation at the link.

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3 Comments to “Andy Martin and Lee Child discuss chapter one of the new Jack Reacher”

  1. “Reacher has the uncanny ability to know what the time is without checking. The clock is always accessible in his head.”

    It wasn’t always so. In the early novels Reacher wears a watch and has no “clock in his head.”

    Like with most series, the character development is not always constrained by the earlier books.

    • Smart Debut Author

      Like with most series, the character development is not always constrained by the earlier books.

      Heh.

      Way back in book #1 — Killing Floor — Reacher drives away at the end literally crying, sniveling and wiping tears because he’s decided to leave behind his few-night-stand romantic partner Roscoe and hit the road again.

      Emo Reacher… who knew? 😀

      I wouldn’t be surprised if that little bit of “character development” gets retconned out of later editions of Killing Floor… perhaps it already has.

  2. The retcon thing is what makes me object when people start talking about how nice it would be if all books were ebooks on some central server, and the author could update the text at any time, and we’d all have the latest-and-only version, and wouldn’t that be sooo kewl?!

    “The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”

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