There are probably hundreds of mystery and thriller writers I have never read — many of them quite well known. Lee Child was one of them until I went to a book reading by Steve Berry and overheard a group of women talking about different writers. Someone mentioned Lee Child’s name and — in unison — every woman in that group went, “Lee Child! Oooh!”
That got my attention.
Now that my ears were perked to his name, I noticed that same reaction from women again and again. I had to read for myself.
Jack Reacher is Lee Child’s recurring character, and he certainly strikes me as a man’s man, not a woman’s fantasy. He’s a rolling stone, with no possessions other than the clothes he wears and a folding toothbrush. A loner by nature, he inevitably gets ensnarled in some evil activity and must use his wits and formidable physical skills to fight for survival — for himself and the inevitable other victim(s).
Blood is spilled. Often copious quantities. He has sex, which he appreciates but not enough to hang around for more. He is uncontainable and untamable.
So why do women find him so darn attractive? And his creator Lee Child by association (Lee Child’s cover picture looks a lot like his description of Jack Reacher. Accident? I think not!)?
Lee Child writes a good thriller — his language, pacing, and story structure are all strong. Especially for this genre. But I would think the aloofness of Jack Reacher and the bloodiness of his (always for good) actions would limit his appeal, not strengthen it.
Then I remembered Clint Eastwood and his movies from the High Plains Drifter era. Jack Reacher is very much a modern interpretation. I didn’t get why women liked Eastwood then and I don’t get why they like Lee Child now. But I watched those movies because they were good entertainment. And while I will never swoon, I will read every Jack Reacher book that Lee Child turns out.