cover image The Reacher Guy: The Authorized Biography of Lee Child

The Reacher Guy: The Authorized Biography of Lee Child

Heather Martin. Pegasus, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64313-586-1

Martin, who has taught literature and languages at King’s College London and CUNY Graduate Center, debuts with a clunky look at Lee Child’s transformation from laid-off British television worker to mega-bestselling author of the Jack Reacher books. Child, born Jim Grant in Coventry, England, in 1954, was a voracious reader; after being laid off from his job as a transmission controller at U.K. broadcasting giant Granada, Child published his first novel in 1997. It was an instant success, and he’s written 24 more up through his decision to retire in 2020 and turn over the franchise to his brother. While Martin is at pains to quote admiring testimonials to Child’s niceness and humility, Child doesn’t emerge as a particularly appealing figure. He once slashed a middle school classmate in the face with a knife on a dare, and is painfully tone-deaf about his wealth—“I can remember when a million dollars seemed like a lot of money.” Unsourced and improbable claims—such as that in 2019 almost 50 Reacher books were shoplifted in Manhattan every day—don’t help. Nor does Martin’s hyperbolic estimation of the author, whom she compares at one point to both John Donne and Dylan Thomas. The most devoted Reacher fans may be able to struggle through, but general thriller and mystery fans need not apply. (Oct.)