Sunday, November 18, 2012

Excellent Quotes: The Affair

Lee Child (nee Jim Grant) is already a best-selling author of thrillers; he is about to become quite le celebrite when the Tom Cruise vehicle, "Jack Reacher," is released this December.

Reacher novels all follow a bullet-proof formula: Jack--a code-of-honor drifter who got BRACed from the Army's military police and has since gone off the grid--drifts into town. His engagement in the plot begins uneventfully. He picks up a job or hitches a ride or buys a cup of his beloved coffee. This immediately entangles him in a massive and highly-secretive plot to do very bad things, conducted by bad men, that the Law cannot or will not address. Jack laconically investigates. He meets and beds a local woman. Events come to a head. Inevitably, Jack brutally kills the perpetrators (sometimes he kills a symbolic representative of the evil-doers, sometimes he kills their leader, sometimes he kills a phone book full of baddies.)

As a character, Reacher has some endearing quirks: He does not do laundry; instead, he simply throws his old clothes away when he buys a new set. He owns just a toothbrush. He always knows what time it is without consulting a watch or clock. He has a Sherlockian photographic memory for all sorts of neat facts that prove useful in solving crimes, such as the rate of deadfall due to gravity, the population of most major cities, the percentage of cheese in the moon, and so forth. He doesn't really care much about anything. But--like all good noir heroes--he secretly does care about some things and he'll do anything to get to the truth.

As an author, Child, too, is  endearing. He has a delightful way of over-specifying the mundane and under-selling the big stuff. He brings a LOT of detail into the narrative, but avoids the Clancyesque (THIS Jack will never reach into the darkened room and expertly and precisely flip the light switch of the Leviton MDI06-1LI 600W, 120 Volt AC 60Hz, Single-Pole light switch mounted exactly 3 meters above the Woodgrain Millwork WG 1866 9/16 in. x 5-1/4 in. x 96 in. Medium Density Fiberboard Base Moulding that abuts the carpet).

Violent, yes. Formulaic, true. Still, I love me some Reacher novels. Here's a taste for those of you who have not yet met the quietly menacing protagonist in the black and white. Jack is on an emerging date with Sheriff Elizabeth Deveraux, the local lady he will bed:

"The clock in my head hit ten in the evening. The pies arrived, and so did the coffee. I didn't pay much attention to either. I spent most of my time looking at the third button on Deveraux's shirt. I had noticed it before. It was the first one that was done up. Therefore it was the first one that would need to be undone. It was a tiny mother-of-pearl thing, silvery gray. Right behind it was skin, neither pale nor dark, and very three dimensional. Left to right it curved toward me, then away from me, then toward me again. It was rising and falling as she breathed."

- The Affair. Child, Lee. New York (NY): Delacorte, 2011. Pp. 199-200.

Read the series. I recommend either starting at the start, with Killing Floor, or at the helpful review of Jack's life to date, with Bad Luck and Trouble.

PS - One of Jack Reacher's key attributes is that he is six-foot-five (Reach-er, get it?). In the movie he will be portrayed by Tom Cruise, who's playing height is five-foot-seven. Enjoy the ensuing fanboy controversy. Oh, and "Sticky Chemical" by Bobby Bare is another endearing thing; now playing on iTunes.

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