The Basics of Reacher
'What kind of work do you like to do?'
In response he gave her his capsule bio. Easy to understand at first, then harder later. Son of a Marine, childhood in fifty different places, then West Point, then the military police in a hundred different places, then the reductions in the work force when the Cold War ended, leading directly to his sudden head-first introduction to civilian life. A straightforward story. Followed by the wandering, which was not so straightforward. No job, no home, always restless. Always moving. Just the clothes on his back. No particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there. Some people found it hard to understand. (Blue Moon)
Jack No-Middle-Name Reacher is the protagonist of Lee Child's wildly successful book series. Reacher (never referred to as Jack or Jack Reacher) is a physically imposing and visually dominating 6.5 foot, 250 pound former Military Police, now happy-go-lucky itinerant avenger / knight-errant / wanderer / adventurer / ronin. Armed with a clip-together toothbrush, cash, passport (expired), ATM card, subway card and monthly pension Reacher roams the length and breadth of the western world, occupying bus stations, diners & motels. Reacher is dogmatic about keeping no attachments. He wears clothes once and when he's done disposes off the old clothes and goes buys more. Reacher was once asked why he didn't carry a spare shirt...
'Slippery slope,' Reacher said. 'I carry a spare shirt, pretty soon I'm carrying spare pants. Then I'd need a suitcase. Next thing I know, I've got a house and a car and a savings plan and I'm filling out all kinds of forms.' (Bad Luck & Trouble)
He brawls in bars, shoots bad guys, beds women, drinks coffee, rights wrongs and never stays long. Reacher's military background continues to have a strong influence on his life even after leaving the army. Reacher doesn't own a watch but always knows the time down to the minute.
Espresso, double, no peel, no cube, foam cup, no china. (The Hard Way)
What does Reacher look like?
There’s been some debate about what Jack Reacher looks like. Lee Child defended the choice of Tom Cruise against backlash from his fans; he was even seconded by Stephen King who pointed out that like Reacher, Tom Cruise was a very physical person. But Reacher’s physical dimensions were too much a part of the core character for the sub-6-foot Tom Cruise to continue. Next up is Alan Ritchson, who plays Reacher in the Amazon Prime series. Comparisons have even been made between Reacher and Lee Child himself, and the author admits that he was a dominating presence in his school yard for a year or two during an early growth spurt, so the comparison stops there. Who did Lee Child picture as Reacher? According to an article in the New Zealand Herald, author Lee Child says he modelled Reacher on an English rugby player called British Rugby icon Lawrence Dallaglio.
From the article - "I based Reacher on a physical type of person which is huge and ugly. There was an English rugby player called Lawrence Dallaglio... Think of him in his peak. He was a big guy."
A Masterclass in Violence
He was calm. Just another night of business as usual in his long and spectacularly violent life. He was used to it, literally. And the remorse gene was missing from his DNA. Entirely. It just wasn't there. Where some men might have retrospectively agonized over justification, he spent his energy figuring out where best to hide the bodies. (The Hard Way)
What happens in Reacher novels? The reader gets a masterclass in violence done right, usually in small-town America, sometimes in NY (The Hard Way, Gone Tomorrow), sometimes in Europe. One entry explains using a simple physics equation why speed is more important than mass (Personal), another shows how cheating (count to 2 instead of 3) in a brawl is the best way to win, and in yet another Reacher's size is neutralized when he has to fight a midget in a confined space (61 Hours). Reacher also explains guns and sometimes knives (a Benchmade in Gone Tomorrow) - both of which he commandeers from the wicked on the go.
The Death of Jack Reacher
Reacher had no middle name. It was Jack Reacher, plain and simple. Born 1960, not dead yet. He wondered what his headstone would look like. Probably wouldn't have one. There was nobody to arrange it. (Die Trying)
The Sentinel (2020) was co-written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew Child. The author seemed to have tired of his creation, much like writers before him. Before choosing to pass the baton to his brother, Lee Child considered killing him off. Child contemplated killing his character and concluding the series. Off hand he said Reacher would be tough to kill, and the Reacher code of honour would demand he give himself up rather than the one he's protecting on that particular adventure. Child described it as dying by bleeding out on a dirty bathroom floor in a motel, which brings up the same mental picture as the end of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, or Mike from Breaking Bad.
I was just talking for the sake of it. Which is uncharacteristic. Mostly I'm a very silent person. It would be statistically very unlikely for me to die halfway through a sentence. Maybe that's why I was talking. (Gone Tomorrow)
For all his disposition towards violence the taciturn Reacher doesn't have a death wish. Lee Child has described him as 'happy-go-lucky' and Reacher articulates his strong desire to live at all costs - even if he has to talk himself out of dying...
Before Lee Child, another author of detective fiction tried to kill off his creation.
Holmes & Reacher
Like Lee Child, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - creator of Sherlock Holmes - also tired of his creation and planned to kill him off and end the tedium of writing Sherlock Holmes stories for the Strand Magazine. In 'The Final Problem' Sherlock faces off his arch-nemisis Professor Morairty at the Reichenbach Falls, and both of them end up falling into the waterfall and dying. It took eight years, thousands of fan mail and over 20k cancelled subscriptions to the Strand Magazine for Conan Doyle to write The Hound of the Baskervilles (chronologically set before The Final Solution). And then he resurrected Holmes by having the Reichenbach incident be a case of pseudo-cide.
At the end of '61 Hours' (Reacher #14, chronologically #22) the physically imposing Reacher faces off against the Latin American midget drug lord Plato in an underground facility with limited space, where Reacher is unable to even stand up straight. With his maneuverability limited and Plato's height no longer a disadvantage Reacher faces a tough fight. Reacher manages to come out on top in the brawl, but at the end Plato's minions drops a flare down the gas filled basement shaft and blow it up. There's no clarity if Reacher has made it out alive at that point. Of all the violence that Reacher is involved in, his fight against the midget Plato is memorable because of the physical contrast between the brawlers, and the advantage that Plato gains by taking on Reacher in a setting where Reacher's size is neutralized.
Factoid: Reacher's colleagues in the military have nicknamed him 'Sherlock Homeless'.
Reacher, his reptile brain & philosophy.
He considered himself a modern man, born in the twenthieth century, living in the twenty-first, but he also knew he had some kind of wide-open portal in his head, a wormhole to humanity's primitive past, where for millions of years every living thing could be a predator , or a rival, and therefore had to be assessed, and judged, instantly, and accurately. Who was the superior animal? Who would submit? (Blue Moon)
For all the violence that is front and center in the books, Jack Reacher is equally cerebral and calculating. As an author Lee Child have gone out of his way to establish that Reacher is a relic, something antediluvian that still lurks around us around the turn of the millennium. A 250 pound vessel for a combination of genes passed down unaltered from a time before civilization, when good instinct meant intelligence (and survival)
Reacher is no armchair detective. His hands are dirty and he improvises in response to the situation. But his principals are grounded in unchanging realities of human nature, and often it boils down to a binary of prey and predator. It is a philosophy that has served him well, and Reacher reiterates it to himself on many an occasion, often after getting the better of those who have forgotten to listen to their own instincts.
Joe Reacher, Mycroft Holmes, Achille Poirot & others.
Like Sherlock Holmes - Reacher too has a brother, and like many investigators, Jack Reacher joins a host of fictional detectives with siblings.
Jack & Joe Reacher
Hercule & Achille Poirot
Sherlock & Mycroft Holmes
The Hardy Boys
Miss Marple & her sister.
Cormoran Strike & his 7+ half siblings
Harry Bosch & half brother Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer)
Dick Tracy & Gordon Tracy
Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Never forgive, never forget. Do it once & do it right. You reap what you sow. Plans go to hell as soon as the first shot is fired. Protect & service. Never off duty.Cruel but fair. (61 Hours)
Facts were to be faced, not fought (Bad Luck & Trouble)
He kept his arms and legs moving through silent fractions of an inch and kept his muscles tensing and relaxing in a bizarre miniature version of a gymnasium work-out. He was no longer cold, but he didn't want to get any stiffer. (Bad Luck & Trouble)
ATM Pin: 8197. He liked 97 because it was the largest 2 digit prime number, and he loved 81 because it was absolutely the only number out of all the literally infinite possibilities whose square root was also the sum of its digits... No other nontrivial number in the cosmos had that kind of sweet symmetry. (Bad Luck & Trouble)