Studying the Masters of Detective Fiction – Lee Child

Lee ChildJames D. “Jim” Grant , better known by his pen name Lee Child, is a British author who writes thriller novels. He is especially known for his Jack Reacher novel series. The books follow the adventures of a former American military policeman, Jack Reacher, who wanders the United States. His first novel, Killing Floor, won both the Anthony Award, and the Barry Award for Best First Novel.

killing floorAfter being made redundant from his job due to corporate restructuring, Grant decided to start writing novels, stating they are “the purest form of entertainment.” In 1997, his first novel was published and he moved to the United States in the summer of 1998.

His pen name “Lee” comes from a family joke about mispronunciation of the name of Renault’s Le Car, with “Child” indicating where Grant’s books would be placed alphabetically on bookstore and library shelves (in other words, between crime fiction greats Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie).

Grant has said that he chose the name Reacher for the central character in his novels because he himself is tall and when they were grocery shopping his wife Jane remarked: “‘Hey, if this writing thing doesn’t pan out, you could always be a reacher in a supermarket.’ … ‘I thought, Reacher — good name.'” Some books in the Reacher series are written in first person, while others are written in the third person. Grant has characterized the books as revenge stories – “Somebody does a very bad thing, and Reacher takes revenge” – driven by his anger at the downsizing at Granada. Although English, he deliberately chose to write American-style thrillers.

On 30 June 2008, it was announced that Grant would be taking up a Visiting Professorship at the University of Sheffield from November 2008. In 2009, Grant funded 52 Jack Reacher scholarships for students at the university.

Grant was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America in 2009.

In 2012, his ninth novel, One Shot, was adapted into Jack Reacher, an American thriller film starring Tom Cruise. It’s interesting that Cruise was cast as Reacher. In the books, Reacher is well over 6 feet tall and blonde. Cruise is much older, about 5’5″ and has dark hair. The movie was directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie. Grant has a cameo appearance as a police desk sergeant in the film.

In 2016, his eighteenth novel, Never Go Back, was adapted into Jack Reacher: Never Go Back in which Tom Cruise reprises the main character role. The movie was directed by Edward Zwick. The screenplay was written by Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. In the film, the final scene is set in New Orleans, which was not a location in the book. The author approved this addition to help the New Orleans economy. Grant makes a cameo appearance as a TSA agent in the film. In the bonus footage on the Blu-ray disc, the author explains that in both movies his cameo appearance involves passing judgment on the character of Jack Reacher, and he speculates that he will repeat these type of appearances in future Jack Reacher movies.

Grant’s prose has been described as “hardboiled” and “commercial” in style, with short sentences, often without a verb, more exclamations than sentences. A 2012 interview suggested that many aspects of the Jack Reacher novels were deliberately aimed at maintaining the books’ profitability, rather than for literary reasons. For instance, making Jack Reacher have one parent who was French was suggested as being partly because the presence of only American members of Reacher’s family would limit the series’ appeal in France. The same interview stated that Grant “didn’t apologize about the commercial nature” of his fiction.


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