A friend of mine told me, when I asked him for a suggestion for a good book, to check out Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. I just finished the second book in the series and I find My friend's recommendation reasonable. The books are basically what I would consider brainless reads. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Those kinds of books are nice for sitting by the pool, at the beach, or waiting in the car to pick your daughter up for cross country practice when you were promised she'd be finished a half hour ago.
So generally I like the books. I will start the third in a day or two.
The reason for this post is two-fold. First is that Tom Cruise was recently cast in the role of Jack Reacher. Honestly, it's a great move for Child, not so much for readers. You see Reacher is 6'5″ and 220 pounds. He gets out of a lot of jams because of his size alone. He's intimidating. He's technically sound from both a weapons and a hand-to-hand combat standpoint. In other words, he is a lot of what Tom Cruise is not. I should also mention at this point that Reacher is homeless ex-military.
The second reason is a post today in the big blue. The post links to an article referencing how Lee Child says he doesn't follow the rules of writing. The general rule is that a writer is supposed to show, not tell. Child claims to be a story teller, not a story shower.
Let me preface this by describing a scene in the book I just finished. I guess it may be a spoiler but the book is something like 20 years old, so I don't really think you'll be all that spoiled. In the story, Reacher is a hostage of some militia types in Montana. His fellow I hostage is a younger and beautiful FBI agent named Holly. They've been assigned a task. Take the corpse of a FBI agent, who was discovered to be a mole, off of the tree he had been crucified on and bury him.
Reacher and Holly were taken hostage on Monday. It is now either Thursday or Friday. In the meantime, Holly has had several showers, Reacher, although he has changed clothes, has had no shower. In fact he hasn't used the facilities at all. So Reacher goes about the task of crowbarring the body off the tree, opening a six foot deep hole (not kidding) and laying the corpse in there with arms folded.
So what do they do next? Yea. They bang.
The guy must be a heaping mess of stink, and still he gets wit this sexy lady. As I was reading that part, I sighed to myself and said, “you've got to be kidding me!”
So I read through the comments on the big blue and found many of them worthwhile. Especially this one.
I am a secret, slightly befuddled reader of various Jack Reacher books. I don't know that I would necessarily say that Lee Childs is a breaker of stuffy writing rules. And the way he writes Jack Reacher has led me to one single question.
The slim, attractive woman Jack Reacher inevitably beds in each novel (yes, I understand, she's thin, tell me more about how she's thin. Or tell me more about the time he bangs a lady his own age, and Childs spends paragraphs explaining that she's still pretty hot in spite of being old.) never seems to realize that Jack Reacher is a creepy sociopath. How is that possible?
One way I feel certain this would play out in real life is Reacher's obsession with not carrying luggage. He rolls into town in one set of clothes, wears it for a few days, buys another, throws the old one out. The books are full of long passages about Reacher buying a pack of socks and wearing them straight out of the bag, throwing out his previous ones. These passages always give me a specific kind of anxiety. I keep reading, wondering if anyone will ever say “Hey… haven't you been wearing that shirt for a week now?” or “What is that smell? It smells like weird chemicals. Are you wearing a t-shirt straight out of the package? That's what that smell is.”
Not even the (very slim) ladies who swoon over Reacher's silent violence wonder these things. Whereas, as a lady, I feel certain I would notice that the hot violent badass without a past was still wearing the exact same outfit he was wearing when he got to town. And then I would start to wonder if he was homeless. But not Clint Eastwood-homeless, grim, unsexy homeless. And then I would start to ask things like “So, Jack… do you, uh, do you have a spare set of clothes in your car, or something?” and then ultimately I would not be able to have sex with him, no matter how large and deadly he was. Because I would be so worried by the fact that he is always throwing away barely-used socks, WHO DOES THAT?