Otago Daily Times
Brother roped in to write Jack Reacher
WELLINGTON: Novelist James Grant — aka Lee Child — is stepping back and passing down his much beloved character Jack Reacher to his brother, who will continue the blockbuster books.
The Sentinel is the 25th novel in the Jack Reacher series, published last month. It is the first to be coauthored by Andrew Grant, published using the brothers’ pen names of Lee and Andrew Child.
James has sold more than 100 million copies of his Reacher books since releasing the first novel, Killing Floor, in 1997.
However, he says his days as a novelist are at an end, as he sensed he was not able to offer a modern take on the character.
Instead of killing the series altogether, he has passed on the mantle to his younger brother, another writer who has followed the series from the start and is heavily vested in its continuation.
‘‘I’ve always tried to be incredibly selfaware, like an athlete,’’ James told RNZ.
‘‘I don’t want to be the embarrassing guy that sticks around for a season too long, or in showbiz, if you’re past the sellby date and you’re still onstage, well, that’s no good.’’
He had always tried to be aware of whether culture was moving ahead without him, he said.
‘‘I can sense that coming up, so I thought I better do something about it and classically, normally I guess the thing to do would have been to finish the series and say ‘that’s it’.
‘‘But there are so many Reacher fans around the world — and especially in New Zealand as we know — that I thought ‘I can’t do that to people, you got to find a different solution’.
‘‘Andrew being a writer, he’s very similar to me, we’re similar people, I thought he’s the only chance for this.’’
Retirement would bring opportunities to simply do nothing but read books he never had time to look at.
‘‘It’s the only thing I ever annoyed me about writing, it takes a lot of time away from reading.’’
Andrew said it was important for fans to know that his brother had passed on the project to someone authentically close to the character. He had read the entire series and was in tune with his brother’s thought processes and what made Jack Reacher special.
‘‘Part of what we’re doing is completely unique because there have been plenty of occasions where an author has died and a few years later his estate has contacted somebody to see if they’d be interested in continuing the series that had laid dormant for a few years.
‘‘But noone has ever handed to baton from one living writer to another, particularly not his own brother.’’
James said Andrew had transformed the series into a more 21stcentury affair than he had been capable of himself, but that the brothers had collaborated well on the new book.
The character of Reacher was something he had internalised over the course of 25 years, he said.
Characterisation had often been discussed among the brothers. When some current event would be mention in the news, for example, the brothers would muse over how they believed Reacher would react, how would he feel about it.
Andrew recalled his brother asking him to read the manuscript of Killing Floor, his first novel. James had been made redundant with a mortgage to pay and children to look after. Writing for a living was a risky move and the stakes were high.
‘‘I’ve never been more nervous picking up a book in my life . . . But within one sentence I knew that it was going to be fantastic,’’ Andrew said.
‘‘For me, I remember so clearly thinking ‘I know this character, even though I didn’t know his name’ — I knew how he’d respond to different situations, I knew what his motivations were, what his values were, his character was.
‘‘So, when Lee [James] brought up the idea of joining him first and then ultimately taking over the series, when I was thinking ‘wow, can I do this’, what it all came down to for me was . . . ‘well if I don’t do it there’ll be no more Reacher stories’, I just couldn’t do that.’’
The heroic character would remain largely unchanged, Andrew said.
In the new book, The Sentinel, Reacher was more ruthless than ever, punishing those who crossed the line and tried to make his life difficult.
‘‘But he’s not indiscriminate. He doesn’t just run around, whatever town he finds himself in looking for trouble and picking fights with people. Wherever he goes he’d rather be left alone.
‘‘He just wants to live his life, drift around and do his own thing . . . he’s very moral,’’ Andrew said. — RNZ