Paul Kilfoil's World of Travel, Technology & Sport

Posted on  by Paul Kilfoil.
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I watched the 2012 movie "Jack Reacher" (starring Tom Cruise) some time ago and quite enjoyed it. I didn't realize it at the time, but the movie was based on a character created by author Lee Child, who has written numerous books with Jack Reacher as his fictional hero. So recently when I was looking for a new author to read I decided to give Lee Child a go. My local library stocks many of his books and I found the first Jack Reacher novel there - Killing Floor, originally published in 1997.

It was a cracking yarn, about a former Military Policeman (Reacher) who had left the army and was drifting around the USA without any plan, luggage or worries. He took buses and trains, paid cash for everything and left no electronic trail behind him. Of course, he was big and tough and highly skilled in the use of weapons and in unarmed combat, so he dealt swiftly (and violently) with the various baddies he encountered along the way. The quintessential all-American macho hero, in fact ... But the book wasn't all mindless violence - the characters were original and interesting and there were enough twists and turns in the story to keep me hooked for several days.

Not only was Killing Floor the first Jack Reacher novel, but it was also Lee Child's first book. He won two awards for it in 1998 - the Anthony Award and the Barry Award, both for "Best First Novel". It has been reprinted several times and has sold millions of copies worldwide. Since then Lee Child has writen a further 21 books (and several short stories) with Jack Reacher as the main character, all of which were a great success; the latest one (and 23'rd in the series) is due to be published in November 2018.

Two of the books have been made into movies, both starring Tom Cruise - One Shot (published in 2005) was simply called "Jack Reacher" and Never Go Back (published in 2013) became "Jack Reacher : Never Go Back". The first was a huge box office hit for Paramount Pictures but the second was rather less successful.

So Killing Floor started a remarkable series of publishing successes for Lee Child. But there were a few things about this first Jack Reacher story that began to irritate me as I was reading it, the main one being that EVERY piece of dialogue in the 500-odd pages had "he said", "she said", "I said" or the equivalent in front of it or behind it. This is one of the cardinal sins of creative writing, and I am amazed that none of the editors or proof-readers that Child must have had picked up on this and suggested it be changed! However, I am now busy reading Gone Tomorrow, a much later Jack Reacher book, and the irritating and unnecessarily repetitive instances of "he said" have been eliminated. The dialogue is much snappier and the story is far easier to read.

Amazing - if a phenomenally successful author like Lee Child can make such basic mistakes but still sell millions of books, perhaps there's hope for me yet, an aspiring but as yet unpublished writer ...

  © Paul Kilfoil, Cape Town, South Africa