The streaming platform is a more natural home for 'Jack Reacher': Lee Child

Tom Cruise with Lee Child in Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise with Lee Child in Jack Reacher   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


After two movies starring Tom Cruise, the iconic character will soon have his own TV show

The new Jack Reacher novel, Blue Moon, was out on its creator, Lee Child’s 65th birthday on October 29. The novel, the 24th in the popular series features the nomadic former military policeman doing his usual stuff — helping the needy, bashing up the bad guys and also taking time out to be a roadie for a band. On phone from his home in Wyoming, Child talks of the upcoming show on Amazon, Reacher’s age and reading habits among other things.


How comfortable are you around technology?

I use a little bit. I am usually very far behind the curve. I am not a natural gadget user. I prefer DVD to streaming. I am a little bit old fashioned.

Talking of streaming, could tell us about the Jack Reacher reboot?

We did the movie deal almost 15 years ago and at that time, movies were the only place to go. I liked the two movies that we did. I personally like Tom Cruise very much. The readers, however, never accepted him as Reacher; they thought he was wrong physically. And media has gone to the point where now we have streaming television, where you can have eight or 12 hours to tell a story. It is a much more natural home for Reacher. So we are going to do a series with Amazon with a new actor and feel.

Are you going to start with Killing Floor?

Yes, that is going to be the first season. And just like Killing Floor was Reacher’s introduction in the world of books, it is also going to be his introduction in the world of television.

On film
  • There have been two films based on the books, both starring Tom Cruise as Reacher. Jack Reacher (2012) was directed by Christopher McQuarrie and based on the 2005 novel One Shot. Never Go Back (2016) based on the novel of the same name was directed by Edward Zwick.
  • A series produced by Amazon Studios with Skydance Television and Paramount Television is in the works.

You have invited readers for their suggestions on who could play Reacher. What has been the response?

We have had a lot of responses. Probably half a million people responded. We are going to take that into account when we start casting.

Is the first season going to be just Killing Floor or would there be other books?

It will be Killing Floor but they need a bit more action and incidents for television as compared to a book. So we probably will cannibalise some of the best scenes from other books or some flashbacks from the short stories and so on.

Killing Floor was set in 1997. Is the show going to be set then or in the present?

That is a good question. I don’t think it is going to be a period piece that takes us back to ‘97. I don’t think it is going to be explicitly contemporary either. Hopefully it will be kind of timeless. Obviously, we take into account things like cell phones and computers and so on, but not in a big way. It is all about the character and the conflict and not the era it is set in.


You originally conceived Jack Reacher as a 21-book series. Then you got a deal for three more books. Blue Moon is the 24th book. What next?

We will have to wait and see. I never make a plan. It is amazing to me that it is still continuing after 24 books. That is a long time and I am grateful for all the readers for making that possible.

Did you think of the 21st book as concluding the Jack Reacher arc?

That is an interesting question whenever it arises. The arc of Reacher is not that he is looking for something that when he finds that he will be satisfied. He is just always wandering. And so if you are to wrap up the series, I don't think it would be finally conclusive. I think it would just be Reacher moving on. And then it is up to the reader to imagine what happened next.

“While people remember how physical Reacher is, they tend not to remember how cerebral he is,” says Child.

“While people remember how physical Reacher is, they tend not to remember how cerebral he is,” says Child.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

How do you decide which towns Reacher visits?

Honestly, I don't know. I get an idea for the feel or mood of the book, and I sort of know what colour, what temperature the book is going to be and then it is a question of which location matches that best. And so he ends up in different types of places based on that. It is just an instinct from my point of view and then the location finds itself. It is usually a place I have been to many years ago. I like those places best, the obscure, forgotten places.

Why and when did Reacher stop smoking?

That is a good question (laughs) He must have stopped before he left the Army. The reason was not health. It is just that Reacher doesn’t like to carry things around.

You chose the name, Child, so that on the book shelf it would be between Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie…

I just wanted to be early in the alphabet. I wanted a name that is also a word.

Placing Reacher between Chandler and Christie works because apart from beating up the bad guys, Reacher is also about the little grey cells…

I am glad you said that, because while people remember how physical Reacher is, they tend not to remember how cerebral he is, and that is a tradition going back through Christie right up to Sherlock Holmes. I like that combination of brawn and brain. You can also use it for clues in the story. In one of the books, a punctuation on a note, a hyphen, or an apostrophe is a significant clue. In a book where people are getting beaten and shot, to have the plot turn on a punctuation is interesting.

In Blue Moon, Reacher quotes A Streetcar named Desire and also talks about reading a paperback someone had left behind. What kind of reading does Reacher do?

That is an interesting subject right now because of ebooks. In the old days the paperback was ubiquitous. It was a wonderful product. People would leave them around. There is an immense community of readers that read books that are found or left in a motel or bus. Reacher’s reading is totally random. He will pick up whatever he can find. I like that approach myself.

How old is Reacher now?

Most of the books are one year apart. Some of them are back-to-back over a couple of weeks. He started out when he was 36 and if you do the math he is probably in his early to middle 50s now. He is getting a little bit older and he is assuming the role of a commander now rather than the active person. In Blue Moon when a door needs to be kicked down, rather than do it himself, he asks someone to do it. Even though Reacher’s character is legendary in terms of his forebears, we do have to put in a little bit of realism.

As he gets older, has Reacher changed?

Well, that is another good question because when you write a series, the point of it is that it shouldn't change. People come to it with a sense of familiarity and comfort. You want to guard against the character changing. I put a lot of effort to making sure he stays the same. But because I am getting older, he will change and become hopefully wiser and more experienced. I have enjoyed the flashback books and the stories when he is very young. I enjoyed writing the character as a younger person — not a completely different person, maybe more optimistic.

In Blue Moon, when Reacher helps the old couple, he says he is doing so because “One day I could be them...

That was something that was always on my mind when I used to work in television. New technology would be introduced all the time. The older people would struggle with it a little bit and the younger people would be very contemptuous of them. I would say to them be careful what you say because that will you one day.

What is the story behind Reacher’s fascination for prime numbers?

It is a purely family thing (laughs). My dad was regimented. My elder brother, he labelled the scientist and me he labelled the arts person. I rebelled against that a little bit. Well, I can do numbers too. I was interested in numbers and it is that sort of quirky enthusiasm that suits Reacher’s personality well.

After Michelle Chang in 2017’s The Midnight Line, it is Abby’s turn in Blue Moon, when she chooses not to go with Reacher. Are we going to see more women reject Reacher?

A lot of people feel Reacher is a love-them-and-leave-them type of guy. Actually it is the woman who makes the decision most of the time. Reacher is in a Catch-22 situation. He likes intelligent women. The problem is the more intelligent the woman, the more quickly she realizes this is not going to work. It is the central tension inside Reacher; he loves solitude but he is also worried of loneliness.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 11:02:08 AM |

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