Forget Proust for now – I fell in love with Jack Reacher


Forget Proust for now – I fell in love with Jack Reacher

Lee Child’s hero has appeared in 24 novels. Cultural theorist Malcolm Gladwell has read the lot. Here’s why

Malcom Gladwell

On page 74 of Lee Child’s 1997 thriller Killing Floor, our hero Jack Reacher registers his first kill. Reacher is in the bathroom of a prison, Warburton Correctional Facility, outside a little Georgia town called Margrave, and five members of the Aryan Brotherhood come for him.

If you are an aficionado of the Jack Reacher series, as I am, you will know that five to one are not particularly long odds for someone like Reacher. It’s just a matter of geometry and physics. I’ll let you enjoy the fight sequence for yourself, since the fight sequences of Jack Reacher novels are always especially pleasurable – exquisite narrative miniatures in which the horror of the violence is subsumed by the artfulness of the description.

Suffice it to say that one guy wades in – “a solid mountain of lard. Sheathed with heavy slabs of meat. Like armour. Nowhere to hit him.” Except, of course, his eyes. And so on and so forth. Like I said, I’m not trying to spoil things here for you. In any case, Reacher kicks another of the bad guys in the head. Only he misses, and catches him instead in the larynx – and the bad guy chokes to death on his smashed voice box. It is his first kill...

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