So this will sound like sacrilege, I’m sure, to some but I don’t recall ever hearing about the character Jack Reacher until the year 2012 while working a flood in North Dakota when a former co-worker, Jean Riendeau, was complaining loudly at work that Tom Cruise was going to be portraying Reacher in the first film about the fictional character created by author Lee Child.
I didn’t know anything about Reacher, so Jean explained that the character in the book was 6’5” tall and weighed 230 pounds and she thought it was horrible casting that diminutive Cruise was playing the role.
It piqued my curiosity enough that I looked at the books, saw that there were several in the series, and made a mental note to one day start reading them. Over the last 8 years I’ve reminded myself several times, but there was always something else I wanted to read that kept me putting off the “one day.”
That day came last week.
My Introduction to the Character in the Books
So the first thing I did was look for a list of the books so I could read them in order of publication, thinking that would be the best way to see the growth of the character over the years. But while I found that list I also found a list that pointed out an order that was chronological for the character, who started as an MP in the Army. I decided I’d like to read that order instead of the publishing order and thus ended up beginning my “Reacher read” with “The Enemy” which is the 8th Jack Reacher novel.
As the novel opens, it’s New Year’s Eve 1990. The Berlin Wall had fallen less than 2 months earlier and Reacher is a 29 year old MP in the Army, holding the rank of Major. He’s just been unexpectedly transferred to Fort Bird in North Carolina from Panama where he had been a part of the U.S. invasion that took down Manuel Noriega a few days earlier.
In short order, a high-ranking general is found dead in a seedy hotel nearby that caters to prostitutes and their clients, his wife is also found dead in their home a couple of hundred miles away, and Reacher is on the trail with a young female MP from the base. Their chase takes them all over the North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, DC area, as well as Germany, France, and California before they finally solve the case while on the run from Reacher’s new CO who is treating Reacher as AWOL. Reacher also has to deal with Delta Force soldiers who want to avenge a fallen comrade they think Reacher killed, and the impending and subsequent death of a close relative.
Child helps give his tough, no nonsense character some depth by having him deal with that death I mentioned above, and made (for me, as a newbie to the character) Reacher more sympathetic and gave him a softer center than his tough exterior showed. In other words, a more well-rounded and human character.
The character grows, changes, and suffers loss and setbacks, and finds out a secret about his mother that he could not have imagined, but never really changes his core of doing what is right. I WAS surprised by one of his final actions, but I’ll let you read it (if you haven’t already) and decide for yourself if that was right or wrong.
It took me a couple of chapters to get into Child’s writing style, but by the time I finished the novel I had grown accustomed to it. His bio doesn’t mention any military service, either in his native England or his adopted America, but he seems to have military processes and procedures down pat.
So, What About the Movie Character?
Back to my friend Jean; I saw both of the Jack Reacher movies (2012 and 2016) and not having any background on the character thought Cruise did fine. Maybe his small size made his fight scenes even more incredible than if they had been choreographed for a larger man. I don’t have a huge problem with it, but after reading this novel I would like to see someone who actually is 6’5” and 230 pounds portray the character.
The first person that popped into my head was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I mean, he has the size, the weight, and the action-hero fighting ability that makes up a large part of Reacher. And I’m not the only one that thought The Rock would be great as Reacher – it turns out The Rock thought he would too!
During an interview on Instagram last April he related that he had been asked if there was a role he wanted badly only to find out it went to someone else.
“Was there ever a role in Hollywood that I wanted so badly and I didn’t get it and it went to someone else? That answer is yes, that role is Jack Reacher and of course, it went to Tom Cruise.”
Back to the Book
Anyway, putting the movies aside and getting back to the book; I ended up enjoying my first Jack Reacher novel, enough that I will soon pick up the next book in the series to read. If you’ve never tried one of Lee Child’s books in this series, you might want to do the same.