Reaching into the lives of Jim Grant and Lee Child, and how to be a writer
Heather Martin’s biography portrays the author as an everyman hero. It’s a cracking, if suspect, tale
Jack Reacher appeals to the Walter Mitty in us all. He’s the type of hero who stars in every schoolboy’s daydreams: a cartoonishly muscular soldier-turned-sleuth who beats up the bad guys, gets the girl and cracks the case with almost insolent ease.
The grown-up reader, however, envies something else: his freedom. Reacher lives a life utterly devoid of responsibility. No boss, no mortgage, no bills, no family — no ties or burdens of any kind. Instead he spends his days roaming America, heading wherever the mood takes him and effortlessly dispatching every thug, crook and cartel foolish enough to get in his way. His fans are more than just readers. We’re voyeurs. We know we could never live a life such as Reacher’s. But we love to watch, from a safe distance, as he lives it on our behalf.
Reacher’s creator, Lee Child, appeals to our inner Mitty, too, albeit in a rather different way. To begin with he was plain Jim Grant: born in Coventry, raised in Birmingham and working in a comfortable but dull-sounding job at Granada TV, pushing the buttons that made the ads come on. Then, in 1995, at the age of 40, he was made redundant. The scrapheap beckoned...