Lee Child. Internationally best-selling author. Creator of Jack Reacher. One of the most iconic characters in modern literature. Legend has it, a Reacher novel is sold, somewhere around the world, every nine seconds!
And now, 21 years after the character first appeared on the page, Lee Child brings us a whole new Reacher adventure: Past Tense. And, just as Reacher would breeze in, and breeze out of town, the British-born author made the whirlwind trek from America to Australia, to promote his new novel - spending all of 96 hours in the country.
A Very Special Invitation
On Sunday, 18th November, QBD was lucky enough to be invited to a very special event. A celebration of 21 years of Jack Reacher, hosted by Penguin Random House.The evening was held at The Rook, an intimate, little rooftop bar, nestled amidst the upper skyline of Sydney’s CBD.
A Night Fit For Jack Reacher
In a most Reacher-like fashion, the night began with a bang! Most of the guests met at the Penguin Random house office, to be transported to the Rook by coach. Upon arriving at the bar,
however, we found ourselves thrust into adventure when the coach pulled up to the curb and immediately smashed itself into a tree! (Granted, it was only the side-mirror which hit the tree, but this did result in the coach becoming an involuntary side-mirror-amputee). As we all piled off the coach, we couldn’t help but joke that excitement just seemed to follow Lee Child wherever he went!
Having all made it to the bar in one piece (unlike the coach), the guests milled around, sharing their love of Reacher over drinks, as Lee Child mingled, taking photos and signing books
for anyone who asked. As well as many, lucky readers, the room was full of exciting, literary figures, including many representatives from Penguin Random House, and Australian authors,
Candice Fox, and John Purcell.
All of the guests were absolutely spoiled by Penguin Random House’s generosity. Upon arrival, each guest was gifted a goodie-bag, containing an exclusive, Jack Reacher mug, a copy of Past Tense and The Killing Floor, and the one item Jack Reacher always travels with: a solitary toothbrush. Another exciting little addition in each bag was one, unique, individual key.
So what was so special about this key? In the corner of the room, lay three, military boxes. Each of them locked shut. Inside one of these boxes was a set of ten Reacher novels. Inside another, a complete set of Reacher novels. And inside the last, a $2100, cash prize. Three unique locks, for three unique keys. Somewhere in the room, three lucky winners!
The room buzzed with excitement as, one by one, each of the guests tried their keys in the three locks. And, building up the tension perfectly, the prizes were claimed in order of least, to highest value. The ten novels. The complete novels. And the money!
Before long, though, it was time to hear from the man of the hour, Lee Child himself.
Lee Child in Conversation with Australia’s Jack Reacher
As well as celebrating 21 years since the release of The Killing Floor (Jack Reacher’s first adventure), Lee Child was in Sydney to promote his latest book, Past Tense– the twenty-third Jack Reacher novel!
Living up to its title, Past Tense is a tension-filled thriller, that will keep readers hooked in its pages from start to finish! With influences from Stephen King, Past Tense takes Reacher on a journey of discovery, into the secrets of his father’s past.
There to talk to Lee about the new book was Random House Australia’s, 2010, Jack Reacher Look-a-Like Competition Winner, Duncan Munro. In conversation with Munro, Lee spoke about the process of creating Reacher’s family background. And, much like Reacher would do, Child picked the hometown of Reacher’s father almost at random, from a map.
“I looked at a map and picked Laconia, because it sounds like ‘laconic’, which could be the Reacher family motto, basically, since none of them really say anything.”
So what lead to Reacher discovering just how little he knew about his father in Past Tense? According to Child, he lost his own father shortly before writing the novel. The experience of loss lead him to think about how, although he knew his father his whole life, there was no doubt a great deal that he didn’t know about his own father’s life.
“The more you think about it, you never know another person. However close the relative is. You never really know all about them… So I just thought, Reacher is going to find something out. He thinks he knows everything. But there will be something he doesn’t know.”
But this is not the first glimpse we’ve had into Reacher’s family history. Child also spoke about developing the character of Reacher’s mother in The Enemy.
“In the Enemy, I wanted to explain ‘how come Reacher is such a tough guy?’ And most writers would say, ‘because he has a tough dad.’ And I thought, ‘No, that’s boring. Let’s have it because he had a tough mum.’”
Jack Reacher in Australia
Australian fans of Jack Reacher will be extra eager to get their hands on Past Tense, as the Australian/New Zealand copies of the novel contain an exclusive look at Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher Short Story, The Fourth Man.
The story takes Reacher on a journey from the Australian embassy in New York, all the way to the Sydney Opera House, for what is perhaps the shortest international trip ever made. Talking to Munro, Child joked about Reacher’s short-lived, Aussie adventure.
“He was here even shorter than I’m going to be here. I think he gets off the plane, kills a guy, and gets back on the plane. Which I’m slightly more extended, and just certainly hoping I don’t kill anybody while I’m here!”
Reacher, from the Big Screen to the Small Screen
Child discussed his decision to abandon the current film format in favour of a “long-form”, binge-worthy series, with a new, yet-to-be-announced actor. According to Child, he has received endless criticism over the casting of five-foot-seven actor, Tom Cruise, for the role of six-foot-five character, Jack Reacher. Child was adamant that he had no personal issue with Cruise, whom he considers to be “a great guy, and a good friend”. However, he understood that fans felt as though a very important aspect of the character was not being represented. And Child’s first loyalty lies with his readers. So, when it comes to casting the new actor for Reacher, Lee Child is on a mission.
“So, …please excuse my language, We’re going to find the biggest motherf**ker you’ve ever seen!”
This statement was met with applause, and Child reassured the audience that he is open to suggestions for the next Reacher. So if you think you can pick the next Jack Reacher, be sure to drop a comment on Lee Child’s social media pages.
A Final Thanks
Lee Child was clearly very thankful to be here in Sydney, and we at QBD would also like to extend our thanks to our host for the evening, Penguin Random House. The entire event was a
huge success, and Child made sure to extend his thanks, not only to our hosts, but also to all of his readers. He also gave a very special thanks to his Australian fans, especially those who have sent him books of their own. In speaking about the books fans had sent to him, Child praised Australian crime and thriller writers, and urged his Aussie fans to remember to support their Australian authors.
“I’m definitely not saying ‘stop buying my books’, but for every one of mine you buy, buy also one of theirs. You know, buy two books instead of one.”
And we here at QBD cannot think of a better note to end on than that!
~ Alyssa, Penrith QBD.