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Lee Child Reaches Out.

Lee Child comes from Coventry, the city I have lived in for the last 30 years. He is the author of the fantastically successful Jack Reacher series in which his hero tours America righting wrongs. Child has been in the news recently as he has announced that he will no longer be writing Jack Reacher novels, but that his brother Andrew will continue the series – provided that he uses the surname Child rather than the family name Grant. Andrew, perhaps not surprisingly, has agreed to this condition.

Why has Child taken this decision? A clue may be in a book he wrote last year, The Hero, analysing the role a hero has played through time and story-telling. He has also agreed to be a Booker prize judge in 2020. Clearly he doesn’t want to leave nothing but a legacy as one of the most widely read (and wealthy) modern authors. He wants to build on his more erudite side too.

His book on the hero includes some thoughtful musings on the nature of fiction. Its purpose, he says, is ‘to give people what they don’t have in real life … an antidote to unsatisfactory, everyday reality.’ (That’s one in the eye for those critics and literary wonks who believe fiction should reflect the misery of many people’s lives; ‘escapism’ to castles, or even comfortable vicarages, being merely an indulgence of middle class / white privilege).

Because his book is about heroes, he naturally has something to say about Reacher and his ilk. His protagonist is ‘a person of status, in some way cast out, breaking the rules for a just purpose.’ (Ian Fleming probably thought the same about his creation, James Bond.)

Like JK Rowling who created the persona of Robert Galbraith to distance herself from the Harry Potter series, Lee Child definitely has the money to be able to afford to take some risks in his writing career. He is reportedly very bright and well read ( he is said to read around 300 books a year), so has an enormous hinterland to draw on. Perhaps he sees a more literary and academic future beckoning.

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