Books

25 things you might not know about Lee Child and his bestselling Jack Reacher series

Lee Child is about to release Past Tense, the 23rd book in his bestselling Jack Reacher series. He will be on Writers & Company on Oct. 28.
Lee Child is the bestselling author of the Jack Reacher crime series. (Jonathan Ring)

British crime fiction novelist Lee Child is about to release the 23rd instalment of his bestselling Jack Reacher series. Past Tense takes Reacher to the town his father was born in, where old family secrets are buried and ready to be unearthed. Meanwhile, two Canadians on their way to sell treasure run into trouble after encountering some shady characters.

On Oct. 28, 2018, Child will be Eleanor Wachtel's guest on CBC Radio's Writers & CompanyBefore tuning in, brush up on some trivia about Child and the earth-shattering success he's had since starting Jack Reacher at the age of 40.

1. Lee Child was born Oct. 29, 1954 in Coventry, England and raised in nearby Birmingham. 

2. While studying law, Child became interested in theatre and led a successful career as a television technical director for 18 years.

3. After getting fired from Granada Television as a result of corporate restructuring, Child purchased some notepads and a pencil for roughly £3.99 and wrote the first Jack Reacher novel.

4. Unemployed and writing his first book, Child often says he had two muses: "fear and hunger." 

In Nov. 2018, Lee Child will publish his 23rd Jack Reacher book. (Berkley)

6. Jack Reacher is described as a super-tough, ex-military policeman who stands at six foot five with ice-blue eyes, dirty-blond hair and a muscular physique — despite never exercising and having a terrible diet. Child is exactly one inch shorter than Reacher.

7. More of the American hero's quirks: Reacher chooses to live life as a drifter whose sole possessions include a folding toothbrush, a passport and bank card. Each day he buys a new outfit and throws the old one in the trash.

8. The Jack Reacher books are often about revenge — not necessarily Reacher's personal revenge, but getting revenge on behalf of others or society.

9. Jack Reacher was originally named Franklin. But then one day at the grocery store, Child was asked to grab something from a high shelf and his wife noted that he could always find a job as a 'reacher.'

Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company now makes a Jack Reacher Coffee blend, endorsed by Child. (Alex/Unsplash)

11. Child has collaborated with the band Naked Blue on an album inspired by their favourite character, Jack Reacher. It's called Just the Clothes on my Back and is due out in November 2018.

12. Some Reacher novels are written in first person, others in third person. Child says first person is more natural to him and creates a more intimate story, but third person helps generate greater suspense.

13. Child's birth name is Jim Grant.

14. The Jack Reacher novels have sold over 100 million copies and have been translated into 49 languages.

15. There are two Jack Reacher films and Child makes cameos in both: in the first as a police officer and the second as a transportation security officer​.

16. Child learned a valuable lesson during his career in television: "the public's taste is totally unpredictable. It is impossible to plan a hit."

17. John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series and Scottish novelist Alistair MacLean are credited by the writer as some of his important literary influences.

18. Child defines writer's block as "a fancy name for not wanting to go to work that day."

19. He never outlines or plots his novels in advance. Child's British publishers have said his manuscripts require "very little editing."

Lee Child described his writing process to Ali Karim for January Magazine in 2003. (Sigrid Estrada)

21. Reacher is famously promiscuous, which poses problems for Child: "Writing sex scenes is by far, the hardest and most ridiculous thing a writer can ever do. It's virtually impossible to get it done with any plausibility."

22. Child got into a lot of fights as a kid growing up in a "grey industrial landscape" in England. He draws from these memories to write Reacher's fight scenes.

23. Child lives and works on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in an apartment with a stunning view of Central Park. He writes in a bedroom that faces a brick wall.

24. Child starts writing his next novel each year on Sept. 1, marking the day he went out and bought a notepad to write the first Jack Reacher.

Lee Child described this "emotional contract" to Mark Rubinstein for the publication CrimeReads in 2018. (Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

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