Where does one begin with the iconic Lee Child? Well, he’s tall and debonair, with a terrific Brit accent (born to), and a witty sense of humor. He writes to-die-for thrillers about Jack Reacher, the testosterone-loaded Good Samaritan who solves problems with his brain until he comes up against bad guys so dense or so evil that he has to take them down with his fists, feet, knees, or head. You pick the body part — all appear to be excellent, and lethal.
Male and female readers (including we Rogues) love Lee’s work. No wonder he’s a #1 internationally best-selling author, has sold more than 100 million books, and won many awards. Reacher himself has become a Hollywood star and sky-rocketed into a billion-dollar brand. And it couldn’t have happened to two nicer guys. You don’t want to miss the first complete collection of the Reacher short stories, which is just out — No Middle Name.
So what do I mean by “The Secret Life of Jack Reacher’s Creator?”
I first met Lee at the 1998 Bouchercon in Philadelphia. He had a hot new debut, Killing Floor, which went on to win Anthony and Barry awards. The novel introduced Reacher, so you know it was serious suspense. At the same time, I’d just published my spy debut, Masquerade, which was making a fuss because a woman (that’s me) had
broken into the all-guy, tough-guy field of international espionage.
However, despite our genres, Lee and I were assigned to a Bouchercon panel focused on writing humor. It was a great fit for the other panelists — their novels were intentionally funny, and they soon had everyone including us shaking with laughter. Lee and I exchanged glances. Being misfits is a great way to bond.
Afterwards, we had a fine chat, and I thought, this is a very smart, very good man. I’ve greatly enjoyed watching his work grow in acclaim and popularity.
At the same time — and not all successful authors do this — he’s continually given back to readers and supported fellow authors. Among his many public contributions was helping to found
International Thriller Writers. This was no small feat, because there were those who said the organization was doomed to failure. Still, Lee became one of the first members of the board, and later went on to be president.
Over the years, he’s attended scores of fan conferences, making himself available to all. His Jack Reacher parties were legendary for the free drinks, the fun, and the camaraderie. But what few people know is that when other writers went through hard times, he was there to help, and with no fanfare.
So this man who created über male Jack Reacher — the deadly hunk with a heart, one of modern literature’s most enigmatic and alluring heroes — is secretly, well, a sweetheart. Dare I say it? A pussy cat.
Of course we had to have him in the Rogue Limelight. Here’s the Real Lee Child answering ten questions he’s probably never been asked in an interview:
Thanks, Lee! You’re Rogue!
Rogues: Which is harder as you approach a Jack Reacher novel: writing the first or last sentence?
Lee: I love doing the first sentence, because it’s structurally unique – the only sentence in the book that doesn’t follow another sentence. Equally the last sentence can be faded and elegiac. I find both equally easy. It’s the thousands of sentence in between that are hard.
Rogues: What’s your favorite word?
Rogues: Where do you like to write?
Lee: In my office in New York. My main problem is chairs. I have such a bony ass I’m always uncomfortable.
Rogues: What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?
Lee: I get up from my uncomfortable chair and go do something else — out for music or theater or the Yankees, or reading.
Rogues: If you could have lived in a different time period, what would it be?
Lee: I read a lot of history and wouldn’t want to go back to any of it. May I head for the future?
Rogues: What’s your favorite drink?
Lee: Black coffee, or failing that, Dom Perignon 2002, or Pol Roger Winston Churchill. Or Paul Newman lemonade.
Rogues: When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Rogues: Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write your Jack Reacher novels & stories?
Lee: My heroes are my fellow writers. I am always inspired by the talent, energy and intelligence they have.
Rogues: Describe your very first car.
Lee: It was a red 1969 VW Beetle, bought seven years old for about $600. It had 34bhp. It ran and ran — totally spoiled me. I had no idea you had to service cars.
Rogues: Do you write what you know or what you want to know?
Lee: Neither. I write what I feel. I remember the quotidian fears and joys we have, and blow them up into something larger.
Thank you, Lee! And now … what else is in the offing for Reacher? His latest paperback reprint is Night School. Plus, Reacher appears in a brand-new short story with Kathy Reichs’ Brennan in MatchUp: The Battle of the Sexes Just Got Thrilling, which Lee is also editing. And finally, Reacher’s 22nd thriller — The Midnight Line — arrives November 7th. Preorder now so you can be among the first to read it.
Lee will be appearing at ThrillerFest from July 11 to 15 in New York City, where he’ll receive the ThrillerMaster Award for excellence in writing and contributions to the field. Also in attendance will be Rogues Jamie Freveletti, Chris Goff, K.J. Howe, S. Lee Manning, and moi (Gayle Lynds).
Come join us!
What’s your favorite Reacher book? We’d love to know!
Do I have to pick? I guess I'd choose 61 Hours.Having grown up in the Colorado mountains, I've been stuck in a snow drift or two, plus I'm a sucker for small towns. Thanks, Lee, for going Rogue today. Know you are always welcome to come back and hang out anytime!
Terrific to welcome this great writer, Lee Child, to our Rogue page. I remember meeting him over a decade ago at a gathering of early International Thriller Writers members at the Algonquin Hotel in NY. He was a gracious (need I say attractive) guy! I had just written my first thriller and as you said, Gayle, Lee did so much to encourage new writers, he gave me a great quote ("Blurb") that my publisher put on the front cover of CHECKMATE. Since then he has taken the time from his jam-packed schedule writing bestselling novels (now turned into films) to support dozens of other new authors. Now we learn even more here about his writing style. Thanks for a great post.
VW Beetle! My dad gave me his yellow one for the price of a new muffler and that car drove through anything and never died on me. Thank you, Lee, for answering our questions and for writing the Reacher books. I love them all. Looking forward to THE MIDNIGHT LINE in November!
Lee, your answers brought a smile to my face! I can't believe that for as many hours as you've logged at your desk, you've yet to find a comfortable chair. I speak for all your fans when I say thank you for pressing through the pain! We're grateful for your sacrifice. 🙂
Okay, I have to say that my favorite Reacher novel is Make Me. Maybe because Mother's Rest is so genuinely creepy. Maybe because Reacher shows a few chinks in his invulnerability. And maybe because, however temporarily, he walks into the sunset with Michelle Chang. Can't wait for The Midnight Line.
Lee Child is one of the world's good guys. Thanks for a terrific article.
Choosing a favorite book.of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series would be like choosing a favorite child or pet or friend .. can't be done! All of them are extraordinary and compelling in their own way. Have them all in my Kindle & bookcase. They are a well thumbed group .. hee hee Thank you for the Great interview!
I've pretty much loved every one of them, but his latest, Night School has gone to the top of my like list. My only regret is that Reacher wasn't a Marine instead of Army, but hey, his Dad was. Close enough.