Reacher Books - My Guilty Pleasure

Lee Child is the wildly successful author of 19 mystery/suspense thrillers featuring Jack Reacher, an outsized superman of a protagonist, who only goes by the name of Reacher in the books. Collectively, the novels are referred to as Reacher books, and I have read most of them. I call the series my guilty reading pleasure. A guilty pleasure can be defined as, “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt enjoying it.” I don’t feel guilt when I read Reacher’s incredible exploits, but I sometimes feel I get too much pleasure from books of this ilk. So let me try to explain.

I began my life as a writer aspiring to write literary novels in the fashion of my artistic heroes: Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Norman Mailer, Cormac McCarthy, and others. I wanted to be an important writer. But I did have a soft spot for mystery/suspense novels, and after writing several so-called serious books, I decided to try my hand at writing a mystery. That one, City Different, demanded of me a sequel, Nina’s Time. A few years later, a third volume, Finding Nina, happened along, and now, suddenly, I had a series of my own.

Lee Child also writes mystery/suspense novels, but the stylistic differences between his books and mine are vast. I write what I like to think of as literate novels of the genre. My protagonists are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances–the Internet entrepreneur of City Different, for instance, who suddenly finds himself desperately trying to solve a murder because his wife is the accused murderer, and she has disappeared. And while Lee Child is an excellent writer, who is also very smart and knows how to write page-turning thrillers, he is not what I would call literate. He writes what appeals to his audience, people who like plenty of action and don’t care about having to suspend heavy doses of disbelief, a requirement when reading his books. Child’s protagonist, Reacher, is anything but ordinary. He travels the country alone carrying nothing but a toothbrush. He wears his clothes, usually bought at surplus stores, for three or four days, and when they get dirty, he simply buys more and throws the old ones away. And in the course of his travels, wherever he goes, he naturally finds himself inserted into the midst of action, adventure and romance, all of it rolled into thrilling tales of derring-do.

To say Reacher is outsized is an understatement. He stands six-foot five and weighs in at around 240 pounds, all of it solid muscle. He easily takes on two and three bad guys at a time, and he knows how to fight, clean or dirty, with the fights almost always being no contest. As a former Military Policeman and U.S. Army Major, he knows everything there is to know about every kind of weapon imaginable, including the most exotic military hardware. He usually outthinks ordinary cops while solving the crimes that generally stump them, and there is always a woman in his adventures, usually described as one of the most beautiful women he has ever seen. In one book, The Affair, there are three, all in a small town in Mississippi, all of them astonishingly beautiful. And of course the beautiful women usually fall for him in the course of his exploits, as he unravels the crime de jour or rescues an old friend who only calls on Reacher because Reacher is the only one who can possibly help.

As I snap up each new edition Lee Child churns out, I like to think of Jack Reacher as Superman’s second cousin, with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and the sex appeal of a rough-hewn rock star. He is truly my guilty reading pleasure.

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