Child, Lee 1954–
Child, Lee 1954–
PERSONAL: Born October 29, 1954, in Coventry, England; moved to United States, 1998; married; wife's name Jane, 1975; children: Ruth. Education: University of Sheffield, LL.B. (with honors; law), 1977. Politics:Democrat. Religion: "None." Hobbies and other interests: Music of all kinds; the ethical treatment of animals.
CAREER: Author. Former television director, Granada Television, Manchester, England, 1977–95.
MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers' Association (founding member).
AWARDS, HONORS: Anthony Award and Barry Award, both 1998, both for Killing Floor; "Thumping Good Read" Award, W.H. Smith Group (London, England), 1999, for Die Trying; Washington Irving awards, 1999, for Tripwire, and 2000, for Running Blind.
"JACK REACHER" MYSTERY NOVELS
Killing Floor, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.
Die Trying, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
Tripwire, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.
Running Blind, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
Echo Burning, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
Without Fail, Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.
Persuader, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2003.
The Enemy, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2004.
One Shot, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2005.
The Hard Way, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2006.
Bad Luck and Trouble, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including Fresh Blood 3, 1999, Like a Charm, 2004, and The Cocaine Chronicles, 2005. Also contributor to Bloodlines: A Horse Racing Anthology, Death Do Us Part, and Greatest Hits.
ADAPTATIONS: Killing Floor, Die Trying, and Tripwire were abridged and adapted for audiobook by Nova Audio Books, 2002; Running Blind, Echo Burning, and Without Fail were abridged and adapted for audiobook, Brilliance Audio, 2004; The Enemy was adapted for audiobook, Brilliance Audio, 2004; One Shot was adapted for audiobook, Brilliance Audio, 2006. One Shot was optioned for a feature film, by Paramount Pictures, 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Lee Child is an English novelist internationally known for his American-based, tough-guy thriller/mystery novels. Child worked for Granada Television for nearly twenty years during British television's "golden age" of drama production before immigrating to America in 1998.
Child's novels are consistently described as American rather than British. They feature as a serial character the tough ex-military policeman, loner-type protagonist, Jack Reacher. His "hard-boiled" and realistic works are consistently popular with the reading public, though they are sometimes considered "guilty pleasures" by critics. Most, however, laud the works as thrillers, noting Child's skill in creating violent, non-stop action as well as moments of considerable character-based compassion.
Killing Floor finds former military policeman Reacher in Margrave, Georgia, where he is arrested by the local police for the murder of his own brother. Paul A. Bergin in Armchair Detective wrote of Killing Floor: "I liked it a hell of a lot, and I hated myself for liking it." Many critics felt similarly, some without the guilt. A Publishers Weekly critic lauded Child's "beautifully detailed action scenes," but argued that "unbelievably convenient" plot elements nearly overwhelm Child's writing ability. Elsa Pendleton, writing in Library Journal, faulted Reacher as amoral and unpleasant, whereas Cynthia Sanz in People called him an "epic hero" and "irresistible."
Child's subsequent novels continued Jack Reacher's solo adventures, with no other supporting characters repeating. They received a similar reception from both critics and Child's growing legion of fans. A Kirkus Reviews critic called Die Trying "suspenseful, but brain-dead," faulting it as typical of a genre beset by over-the-top violence. Wes Lukowsky, in a Booklist review of Die Trying, faulted the antagonists as faceless but commended Reacher as a "taciturn, insightful protagonist." A Publishers Weekly critic praised Child's "crisp and original" dialogue in Tripwire, and Michele Leber, in a Library Journal review, enjoyed Child's storytelling, claiming that suspense fiction "doesn't get any better than this." Marilyn Stasio, writing in the New York Times Book Review, felt that with Running Blind, Child's "rootless hero is starting to wear," but Fred M. Gervat observed in Library Journal that Child's Reacher series has "improved with each successive book." Robin W. Winks, writing in the Boston Globe, called 2001's Echo Burning "the best mystery I have read this year: best written, best plotted, best in just about every way."
Child has continued to turn out a new title annually in his "Jack Reacher" series. Speaking with Library Journal contributor Jeff Ayers, Child recalled the inspiration for his loner-hero. When he began writing the series in the mid-1990s, it appeared to him that most series heroes were "dysfunctional and wounded." With Reacher, Child wanted to create a throwback hero. Thus his protagonist, Jack Reacher, harkens back to the "old-fashioned hero that has existed for thousands of years. You can trace him from the Zane Grey Westerns, back through the medieval chivalric epics and the great Norse sagas, to the Odyssey. I just wanted to bring back that pure, uncomplicated hero."
In Reacher's sixth outing, Without Fail, the ex-military policeman volunteers to prevent the assassination of the new vice president, posing as the assassin himself. A critic for Kirkus Reviews critic found the novel "relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely." Similar praise came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer who thought Without Fail would be a "tough act to follow."
Child continued his series with Persuader, in which the modern-day knight errant takes on an enemy he thought had been dead for a decade and also helps the FBI recover one of their missing agents. This seventh "Reacher" novel earned praise from Booklist contributor Bill Ott, who wrote, "Bones crunch, wounds bleed, and hearts break in this galvanizing tale, but they never do so generically." Reviewing the same work in Publishers Weekly, a contributor called Child "a master of storytelling skills, not least the plot twist," and Library Journal reviewer Robert Conroy found the novel "intelligently written."
Child's eighth installment of the "Jack Reacher" series, The Enemy, was the first to reach the bestseller charts in its first printing. A prequel to the entire series, it takes readers back to 1989 when the protagonist was an MP major and investigating a series of murders in North Carolina, where he was recently transferred. The Enemy also introduces, for the first time, some of Reacher's family background. A Kirkus Reviews critic praised Child for abandoning "formulaic high-jinks to explore his characters" in a work that was "his best so far." Booklist contributor Ott felt The Enemy was "compelling," despite the fact that it was not written in typical thriller format. Reviewing the same novel in Entertainment Weekly, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh dubbed Child "a worthy successor to Tom Clancy," while a Publishers Weekly contributor likewise noted that "Child has few peers in thrillerdom."
In Child's next novel, One Shot, Reacher finds himself investigating a military sniper accused of killing several people in Indiana, a crime similar to the one Reacher investigated in Kuwait fourteen years previously, and also involving the same sniper. However, Reacher finds the evidence all a little too pat. Again, critics responded warmly to Child's high-octane brew. Ott, writing in Booklist, observed that Child "combines detail-building procedural style with an all-systems-go thriller narrative" in this ninth installment. A Kirkus Reviews critic commended the "canny plotting, tight prose, [and] swift tempo" of One Shot. Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "This is a vintage double play for author and leading man."
In the 2006 addition to the series, The Hard Way, readers discover that Reacher is human after all, for he makes costly investigative mistakes on a kidnapping case he is involved with. He is trying to trace the second wife of Edward Lane, whose first wife was also kidnapped and killed. Noting that recent additions to the series emphasized procedure over raw action, Ott, writing in Booklist, also commented that while there is still "plenty of procedure" in The Hard Way, "the gearshift is back in overdrive." For a Kirkus Reviews critic, the same title was a "slick, swift, sexy thriller." Reviewing The Hard Way in Entertainment Weekly, Gilbert Cruz typified the entire series when he wrote, "the great thing about the Reacher novels is that time and again they achieve an almost perfect balance between police procedural and tactical military thriller."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, summer, 1997, Paul A. Bergin, review of Killing Floor, p. 372.
Booklist, March 15, 1997, Wes Lukowsky, review of Killing Floor, p. 1228; May 1, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of Die Trying, p. 1506; April 15, 1999, Wes Lukowsky, review of Tripwire, p. 1468; May 1, 2000, Wes Lukowsky, review of Running Blind, p. 1610; March 15, 2003, Bill Ott, review of Persuader, p. 1252; March 15, 2004, Bill Ott, review of The Enemy, p. 1243; May 1, 2005, Bill Ott, review of One Shot, p. 1517; February 15, 2006, Bill Ott, review of The Hard Way, p. 5.
Bookseller, March 24, 2006, review of One Shot, p. 10, and Benedicte Page, "The Loner They Love," p. 20.
Boston Globe, June 24, 2001, Robin W. Winks, review of Echo Burning.
Daily Variety, June 24, 2005, Michael Fleming, "Par Books for More than 'One Shot,'" p. 2.
Entertainment Weekly, May 14, 2004, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of The Enemy, p. 73; May 19, 2006, Gilbert Cruz, review of The Hard Way, p. 78.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1997, review of Killing Floor, pp. 7-8; May 15, 1998, review of Die Trying, pp. 673-674; May 1, 1999, review of Tripwire, pp. 646-647; March 15, 2002, review of Without Fail, p. 357; April 1, 2003, review of Persuader, p. 493; March 15, 2004, review of The Enemy, p. 238; April 1, 2005, review of One Shot, p. 369; April 1, 2006, review of The Hard Way, p. 309.
Library Journal, February 15, 1997, Elsa Pendleton, review of Killing Floor, p. 161; December, 1998, Michael Adams, review of Die Trying, p. 172; August, 1999, Michele Leber, review of Tripwire, p. 134; June 1, 2000, Fred M. Gervat, review of Running Blind, p. 194; May 1, 2002, Michele Leber, review of Without Fail, p. 131; April 1, 2003, Robert Conroy, review of Persuader, p. 126; March 1, 2004, Michele Leber, review of The Enemy, p. 107; March 15, 2005, Michele Leber, review of One Shot, p. 68; March 1, 2006, Jeff Ayers, "Q & A: Lee Child," p. 71, Michele Leber, review of The Hard Way, p. 77.
New York Times, May 10, 2004, Janet Maslin, review of The Enemy; June 9, 2005, Janet Maslin, review of One Shot.
New York Times Book Review, July 23, 2000, Marilyn Stasio, review of Running Blind, p. 20; July 22, 2001, Marilyn Stasio, review of Echo Burning; May 24, 2004, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Enemy; May 21, 2006, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Hard Way.
People, April 14, 1997, Cynthia Sanz, review of Killing Floor, p. 33.
Publishers Weekly, January 20, 1997, review of Killing Floor, p. 393; May 31, 1999, review of Tripwire, p. 63; June 26, 2000, review of Running Blind, p. 47; April 22, 2002, review of Without Fail, p. 46, and Dick Donahue, "PW Talks with Lee Child," p. 48; March 10, 2003, review of Persuader, p. 50; March 22, 2004, review of The Enemy, p. 58; May 31, 2004, Daisy Maryles, "Child's Play," p. 22; May 23, 2005, review of One Shot, p. 59; March 27, 2006, review of The Hard Way, p. 55.
BookLoons, http://www.bookloons.com/ (October 16, 2006), Martine Bexte, interview with Lee Child.
BookPage, http://www.bookpage.com/ (February, 2005), Michael S. Grollman, "Lee Child's Knight Errant."
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (May 19, 2006), Carol Fitzgerald, Joe Hartlaub and Wiley Saichek, "Lee Child Interview"; (October 16, 2006), Joe Hartlaub, review of The Hard Way, Maggie Harding, review of One Shot, Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum, review of The Enemy, David Exum, review of The Persuader.
Crime Time, http://www.crimetime.co.uk/ (October 16, 2006), Barry Forshaw, "Lee Child."
Lee Child Home Page, http://www.leechild.com (October 16, 2006).
Mystery One, http://www.mysteryone.com/ (October 16, 2006), "Interview with Lee Child."
Powell's.com. http://www.powells.com/ (October 16, 2006), "Lee Child."
Shots Magazine, http://www.shotsmagazine.co.uk/ (October 16, 2006), interview with Lee Child.
Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (October 16, 2006), Claire E. White, "A Conversation with Lee Child."