(Note, this updated since 2015 because of the new Amazon TV show)
Gotcha’ to read this, didn’t I! Honestly? Naaah, I don’t really hate-hate the fictional character Jack Reacher or the human writer Lee Childs. Now there’s the Amazon TV series. I just dislike Reacher books. I am far from alone on the book thing. My friends and strangers ask me why? First off! Well, you all know Jack Reacher! The Lee Child’s mysterious person, who and that-
- Was a super-duper, U.S. Army military police investigator, like Sherlock Holmes.
- Is like…you know…GIANT and VERY strong, yet never gets to work out befitting his size because he is a hobo. It takes a lot to maintain such a Doc Savage physique.
- Is just a super-duper fighter like a UFC champ.
- Wanders America like a total hobo. Stumbles, “hoboes” into 25 to 30, America-shaking, enormous, complex, violent plots of international criminals, corruptions and terrorists, etc. that become more and more preposterous with each book, (not that the very first one wasn’t preposterous enough!)
People have passed unto me no less than five Reacher books. I could not finish any of them. I honestly tried, if even to investigate the success. Bailed. Then, still under this social pressure, I forced myself to at very least finish the first Killing Floor in an unabridged audio book, the first Jack Reacher book in the series. It is just a horrible mish-mash of poorly organized, preposterous plot events and filler writing. Don’t get me started here on the plot. I could fill an essay on how whacked-out this was. The Killing Floor was a terribly constructed book. But Childs? He got a contract for it? I often half-joke that one could conduct a whole college writing class on just how bad that book was. And yet, there were still more of the same in the series.
Since this is partially a book review, may I offer a screw-up example? The book is called the Killing Floor. The floor must be very important to the book, right? So I am listening and listening and listening. Finally, our hero is put on the dangerous floor of a county jail. I think “Aha!” We are going to be here awhile because, you know, after all, the whole book is called the Killing Floor, isn’t it? But very quickly Reacher is removed form the floor. The whole book continues on without the need to refer back to or ever mention this killing floor again. Why call the whole book this? (The new TV show fixes this a bit, yet any overnight holding cell is at a city or county jail, not a full blown pen with a nothing-to-lose lifer population. TV’s Reacher is in and out like in the book and season 1 is NOT called the Killing Floor.) So from the get-go, the whole book title is off-mission.
Now to this wacky hobo thing. Reacher the hobo. I was a bit of a hobo once. For almost two years I lived off the back of my motorcycle after high school. Granted it was in the early 1970s, but, the hobo life sucks. Reacher’s life must actually suck. My and your experience and my and your common sense shows us that none of the true and daily problems of hobo-ism seem to hamper the walking, hitch-hiking, bus-hopping, power lifter. No credit card, No luggage. Just some cash in his pocket. He buys new clothes in the closest Army/Navy store and throws out the old, dirty clothes in the nearest trash can. Some readers find this sooo romantic. Despite his disconnect with TV news, internet and society (he does read the newspapers), he still stumbles into these utterly amazing Goldfinger-esque, super, criminal and espionage plots that – AND each, in true serial story progression – must outdo the previous book, one just published six-eight months earlier in the high production pressure of the book industry. Now, with over 25 of these amazing events and counting…counting. Lee, you lost me. But, you lost me at the hello of Book 1.
Brandon Bosworth added this, “Which leads to another one of my complaints: I recall a scene — I forget which book — in which a bad guy is pointing a snubbie .38 Special at Reacher, who is unarmed. Luckily for our hero, Reacher recalls a cop telling him that .38s lack real stopping power. So Reacher rushes the bad guy, taking a round or two in the chest. He still manages to overcome the bad guy. Later, when Reacher seeks medical attention, the doctor says the wounds were not that serious because Reacher’s chest was so muscular it was like he was wearing a bulletproof vest.” All I can say is…shame on you Lee Childs (or the secret staff pumping out these books under your name).
My personal opinion after these reading attempts is – I think Lee Childs is not so good. The author is – a Brit – yet writes about the inner workings of the US Army military police, poorly and with complete ignorance. The series is hard for me to digest too because I was once an Army investigator. His version (as well as TV shows like NCIS, etc) are bloated, and wildly inaccurate representations on many levels. Childs doesn’t seem to care one iota about the realities of US military police, or other American criminal justice realities in a list too long to bother with here. Of course, he’s rich and I’m not, but still. It is possible, due to pressures in the book industry, he has to work with editors and a staff helping him push out books and these folks are not good writers or plotters either? Some big name authors literally finance publishing houses.
Yeah, I know, I know… that is all just fiction. A story. Literary license. I own that license too. I understand! I can co-exist on this planet with the series as well as any other fictional series I chose to ignore. (We all do this, ignore series and characters that others adore. The horse-race thingy.)
Now we come to Reacher-the MOVIES! Short “featherweight” Tom Cruse is not the giant Jack Reacher. Hard-core fans of the books really objected to this choice. (But, is there anything worse though than having Matthew McConaughey playing Dirk Pitt in Cussler’s Sahara? Clive Cussler wanted to the sue the studio after the movie was released.) The first Reacher movie, in and of itself, was not bad. Like a fun, adequate, 1980s action flick. And Cruse, like him or not (and I do), is almost always very good in every movie he is in. Tom is a box-office, ka-ching. Say no more! I watched the film. I kinda’ liked it. Second Cruise-Reacher movie, Never Go Back? ? Nope. No. The title of the second movie told the tale like a warning. “Tom! Never go back” to a Reacher movie.
As with most of the super-seller, action, fiction books, most of the Reacher books are too long and too boring to be movies, maybe just TV episodes? Screenwriters (usually a team) need to rescue them. As with Bosch and other series, several books are combined to make a movie or a series. Now Reacher is on Amazon. The actor is power-lifter with scant lines and fits the bill. Season one is based on the terrible Killing Floor and I already spotted the new screenplay trying to fix some book mistakes. Maybe Reacher needs to be regular Amazon TV series? I found it entertaining and fun. As television writers like to say, the idea on paper is often, kinda…”sucky,” and head-scratchy. But with good actors, good writing teams and good cinemaphotography, music, a chord is struck! The project formula works.
Jack Reacher is like a little industry, entertainment magic. But the whole book end of the thing is flat lost on me. So, my friends? Please stop sending me those books. We all remain mystified about each others entertainment choices, won’t we? Why do we watch and like, what we watch and like? It can be quite mystifying and as a writer myself, struggle with this daily. In summary, Reacher for me, “no” on the books, “meh” on the movies, and “yes” on the TV series. The Amazon TV show is just redundant, comfort food-action and well-made mindless fun.
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