If you’re reading the title of this post and you’re a movie buff, then you’re probably thinking of Tom Cruise right now. Cruise is about 5 foot nothing. While he is a decent actor, he plays a character who is a hulking giant at 6 foot 5 inches with “hands as large as frying pans, biceps as big as basketballs.” It’s safe to say there are probably very few actors out there that fit that description, but really, Tom Cruise? Couldn’t they have picked someone like Clive Owen, Daniel Craig, or Liam Neeson?
I digress. Regardless of the physical portrayal of Reacher, Cruise did a pretty decent job of portraying the personality and emotions (or lack thereof) of Jack Reacher.
If you’re not familiar with Jack Reacher, he is the main character of author Lee Child’s thriller novels. Reacher is an ex-military cop who grew up around the world with a marine father. After leaving the Army in 1997, Reacher decides to hitchhike across the US, seeing the country he fought for but never really spent much time in.
Each Jack Reacher novel focuses on Jack coming across some shady business happening in usually a remote town in the middle of nowhere. Random towns in Georgia, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, and Maine. There are exceptions to this rule; some novels have been set in New York City, Chicago, and a small city in Indiana. Jack takes things into his own hands, finds out who the bad guys are, sometimes meets and sleeps with a girl, leaves the bad guys with a few broken limbs, then moves on to his next destination.
In my personal opinion, it’s hard to remember what happened in each novel (there have been 18 to date.) They all sort of run together. However, it’s inside Jack’s head that keeps me reading these thrillers.
Child has crafted Reacher well. He knows Reacher’s past, present, (and probably) future. As a reader, we have learned about Reacher’s brother, mother, father, places he’s lived, his CO, his relationship with his CO’s daughter, his unit while he commanded the 110th MP, how he’s a math wiz, and how effective his military training was – all interesting qualities that define the character.
Reacher personifies the ideal character. He has quirks (he loves a good cup of coffee and can’t get enough of it); his physical description is extreme (see aforementioned basketball biceps and frying pan hands); his demeanor is common enough that we as the reader can relate, but uncommon enough that it makes him interesting to see how he reacts to people’s actions. E.g. A character could call him an asshole or call him the nicest guy in the world and Child writes, “Reacher said nothing.” He also has an interesting past, a past that Child has slowly revealed over the course of the past 18 novels and a few short story e-books.
Finally, since Child has kept his books in the present day, Reacher is aging. He’s not Bart Simpson, who has stayed 10 years old for the past 25 years. No, Reacher is now in his early 50s, and as a reader I wonder just how long he can keep roaming the country, beating up baddies and maintaining his “man of steel” physique.
If you’re looking for a quick read and a character to fall in love with, pick up a Reacher book. You don’t have to start with the first, Killing Floor, but I would recommend doing so. Once you read one, you’ll be hooked.