61 HOURS by Lee Child

Where are you, Jack ..?

Today I begin my personal Support Your Local Library Challenge, through which I hope to support a great institution currently under genuine threat from government cutbacks and read at least one new author each month. In a previous post I boasted I would get the ball rolling, so to speak, by picking up one of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ thrillers. Being a ‘Reacher’ newbie, I planned to pick the first one to hand but this proved much harder than I first imagined … not the sort of thing perhaps to cause Reacher much bother, but one that might give mere mortals pause. It’s not a big library, all on one floor, and I figured I had the advantage thanks to my postgraduate training as an archivist and a librarian. But I was wrong – I simply could not find any of Child’s books on the shelves … Where were they?

Obviously I hadn’t been using my local library enough – Child’s books were not under general fiction, not under crime / mystery, not even in the newly returned items section. Well, it turns out there’s an ‘action adventure’ section (right next to romance), which incidentally is where they also keep John le Carres (sigh). Anyway, lesson learned and finally I got my mitts on one of three copies of 61 Hours, the fourteenth in the Reacher series and the second-most borrowed novel in Britain for 2010-11. It begins, as perhaps any self-respecting thriller with such a title (especially one starring a hero named ‘Jack’ in it), with a ticking clock. In fact virtually every chapter ends with a running total, counting down to zero hour (and yes, it does get pretty annoying after a bit).

“I think he’s the sort of guy who sees things five seconds before the rest of the world.”

Jack Reacher is a loner, a man of no fixed abode hitchhiking across America – he doesn’t even wash his clothes, just buys new ones as needed. No, I wouldn’t want to sit next to him on a bus either. Speaking of buses … While traveling by coach, freezing snowstorms and sundry criminal activities conspire to impede his progress with an enforced sojourn in Bolton, South Dakota. The tiny town has become financially dependent on the newly built Federal prison and this is the cog in plan involving a diminutive Mexican drug lord (who brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘cutting someone down to size’), Russian mafia, Hell’s angels, corrupt lawyers, crooked cops, a jumbo jet, a secret military base from the Cold War and a sprightly elderly lady who also happens to be the key witness to a crime.

The coach crashes after an accident inadvertently caused by the bad driving of a lawyer involved in the conspiracy, making Reacher and the senior citizens on board (old folk are a pretty nice bunch in this book I’m glad to see) enforced guests of Bolton. The setting in a small town in the middle of nowhere, cut off by the weather from the outside world, makes this novel feel more like a Western brought up to date than a modern action thriller, which for my money is a good thing, having little tolerance for the globe-trotting Tom Clancy style. Reacher spends the night in the den of the local deputy sheriff, who overcomes his initial mistrust to rely ever more on Reacher’s skills as a tactician and for his awesome deductive powers. The police know that a hitman has been sent to kill Janet Salter, the savvy, octogenarian ex-librarian and the key witness in a drug case involving some bikers currently squatting on some land left over by the military decades earlier. But this may finally be the chance to put them out of business, always assuming she lives long enough to testify. Having decided that Reacher is not the hitman in question, they make it clear that he is desperately needed to help protect the witness. This is because if there is an alarm at the prison the entire police force, including her security detail, will be obliged to head there immediately. Reacher soon connects with the old lady and is prevailed upon to contact his old unit, making fast friends with Susan Turner, the woman who now has his old job with the 110th Special Investigations Unit. Through the wonder of modern telephony and good old-fashioned deductive reasoning he helps her capture a soldier who has turned traitor and gone on the run, while she provides support down the phone about the abandoned military installation. But otherwise he is pretty much alone.

One of the great surprises of this book is just how traditional a hero Reacher is, part Sherlock Holmes logician and part Jason Bourne assassin who, we discover here, seems to have been groomed as a military man from the age of 6! This bit of background about Reacher is one of the main revelations of the series as I understand it, though it is pretty ludicrous to be honest. Apparently a recruiting wheeze by American forces was to train cameras on audiences of kids at screenings of 50s sci-fi classic Creature from the Black Lagoon to find the one in a million viewer who would not react away from scary scenes in movies but rather look to jump in and fight back. Hmm, so much for the scientific method …

“I just don’t like people who put the world to wrong. Is that a phrase?”
“It should be”

As in the case of Craig Russel’s Lennox series (about which more soon), where the 1940s setting seemed to have used less out of an interest in history and more in a wish to build a traditional narrative without modern-day technology intruding, so here we have a story which makes our self-reliant hero even more prominent as he is less affected by the loss of modern-day communications and transport. He has to discover where the hitman is hiding and discover the identity of the mole in the police department, and soon. Because Plato, the ruthless (natch) Mexican drug lord is planning to land in his own jet (depsite the inclement weather) in just a few hours (you are kept abreast of just how many that is of course …) and Reacher has to stop the old biddy getting killed and find out what is in the ex-military base.  In a move reminiscent of 24‘s Jack Bauer, that other ‘Jack’ of popular thrillerdom, our hero has essentially gone rogue. Having left everything behind him, he is the ultimate loner hero, acting outside of authority and responsible only to his own moral compass. Ultimately this sets him up as the last arbiter in the finale when most of the cast of characters has been wiped out and it is up to him to decide how to bring the villain, Plato, to justice. And certainly Jack proves up tot eh task -an old-fashioned hero, relying only on himself and his powers of observation, he is also throroughly rugged and (despite some interesting mements in which he tries to tap into his softer side with some female help) resolutely a true ‘man’s man’, described at one point in a manner that would make one think he should be modelling for Mount Rushmore:

“His face looked like it had been chipped out of rock by a sculptor who had ability but not much time.”

(Photo © Sigrid Estrada)

So, did I enjoy my first encounter with Reacher? Well, not that much actually. It suffers from most of the faults of the modern thriller with tons of info speak, little humour, huge chunks of exposition, and often ludicrous rat-a-tat dialogue of a crushing banality that would make Joe ‘just the fact’ Friday blush (and maybe even Uncle Buck). In addition to which this proves to be a highly peculiar adventure. Without wishing to spoil anything, it ultimately resolves itself into a catalogue of failures! Often Reacher displays enough nous to work things out but ultimately proves powerless to make much of a difference – thus his main function in the novel is seemingly that of a walking neon sign that constantly flashes, “I told you so.”

Unfortunately, on a purely stpry level things aren’t much better as the revelation of who the killer and mole are proves to be unbelievably predictable and pedestrian, though this doesn’t stop Reacher spending nearly two pages telling the murderer how he figured it out! In theory it’s nice that the book chooses in this way to align itself more closely to the traditional mystery and away from the techno-thriller it seems it should more properly belong to. But such explanations, and they come regularly in the story, also stop the book dead in its tracks, over and over again. It’s one of those conventions of the genre, in which the guilty party just sits there and listens to the investigator explain how clever they are and how they worked out everything and can prove it, that is just too much of a cliché today to be anything but a bit laughable. If not from the thousands of detective novels and stories then from decades of TV and movie whodunits (just think of the hundreds of episodes of Poirot and Murder, She Wrote that conclude this way).

Disappointingly, there’s also not much action at all until the very end, and even that is curtailed as the book finishes on a cliffhanger, with the story ultimately wrapped up in the fifteenth Reacher novel, Worth Dying For (2010). I don’t expect to be trying to prize it from my local library any time soon (with apologies to the great PuzzleDoctor who likes the series a lot and has much very nice things to say about Gone Tomorrow, the book immediately preceding this one. Head over there right away for a more positive assessment of Child and Reacher’s accomplishments).

***** (1.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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48 Responses to 61 HOURS by Lee Child

  1. I have seen Lee Child’s novels displayed prominently in bookstores here and though I have been curious about his fiction, I have never picked up any of his books. He’d probably be one of the new authors (for me) whose books I might read at random. There seems to be a lot of elements to this reasonably complex story. I would like to read Lee Child, though. With the story wrapping up in the fifteenth book, are novels going the comics way – a story in parts? I hope not.

    • Hi Prashant, obviously I wasn’t too impressed with this one so I’m perhaps not the best judge. The cliffhanger ending is I think resolved very quickly in the next book, a bit like you would get at the end of a season for a TV show, to then continue on a new path. Otherwise these are largely stand-alone adventures. I think I did not pick one of the good titles in the series and it may make sense to start much earlier on. Tom Cruise is going to star as Reacher in an adaptation of ‘One Shot’, the ninth volume. This will presumably elevate the series’ profile even higher though Cruise is not obvious casting (he’s a good 10 years too old and frankly about a foot too short).

      • Yvette says:

        I will NOT be seeing this film BECAUSE to me Tom Cruise is a disasterous casting decision. Obviously in his deluded mind, Cruise thinks he’s 6’5″.
        What a buffoon.

        • I agree completely Yvette – it is a pretty strange idea and suggests that they’ll have to change a lot of things to accommodate the casting so I dare say you’re right. The only potentially bright spot is that the writer and director is Christopher McQuarrie, who write The Usual Suspects, which is one of my favourite crime movie ever. But that’s about the only positive thing I can thin of!

  2. Colin says:

    Hmm, interesting. I went through a period of dipping into a variety of modern thrillers, largely because I felt I kind of owed it to myself to at least be aware of current trends.For the most part, I didn’t find it a rewarding experience. The modern thriller writer seems to have one eye on the movies at all times and, as you mention about this book, there’s a tendency to include some of the most godawful dialogue and far, far too much dull exposition. I haven’t tried any of Lee Child’s stuff, but it doesn’t really sound like it’s the kind of thing to grab me.
    A very worthy cause you’re supporting though.

    • Cheers Colin – there are a whole bunch of really popular authors (Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Dan Brown, James Patterson etc.) where I have seen a lot of the movie adaptations, and even liked some of them (the Coppola movie, fully titled John Grisham’s The Rainmaker in particular stands out) but not read one of the books and must admit have no real interest in doing so. And I worry that there’s a bit of snobbery on my part precisely because they are so popular (JK Rowling’s another) – and yet when I read a book like Child’s, it tends to confirm my bias, which in a way is disappointing, but in another makes me feel that I am focusing on other, more worthy types of books. But I do hope to unearth a lot of new authors at my library – the good, the bad and the indifferent …

      • Colin says:

        I’ve read a few of Grisham’s books. Since you mention it, I remember thinking that The Rainmaker worked a lot better for me as a book than a movie – I’d read the novel first. That actually may not be a bad Grisham effort to start you off if you feel so inclined to give his stuff a go.

        • Colin says:

          And you also mentioned Tom Clancy as someone you’ve never read. I haven’t gone near his books in years – they can be a real slog with all that military/techno jargon – but I remember thinking that Red Storm Rising, despite being huge, was a deal better than the frankly tiresome Jack Ryan saga.

          • That’s interesting Colin as I am not big on the techno-thriller (sub)genre. Several of my my friends were big fans of Clancy in the 80s and 90 and I really, really like the movie version of The Hunt for Red October. Then again, I am a bit of a sucker for submarine movies actually, though they are always the same aren’t they? Grizzled older captain versus young turk with a near mutiny at the climax, with the older guy usually shown to know best (Run Silent, Run Deep, K-19, Crimson Tide etc…). Shall keep an open mind about Red Storm Rising

          • Colin says:

            Yep, can’t beat a good submarine flick, no matter how formulaic they are. The restricted environment is ripe with dramatic potential – similar in that respect to ship or train based tales too.
            The movie of Hunt for Red October is cracking stuff, but I recall reading the book afterwards and finding it a bit of a dog to be honest.

          • That’s interesting, cheers. From what we’re saying here I suspect Clancy is not going on my TBR list anytime soon because to be honest I think the sheer length of these tomes might defeat me …

          • Colin says:

            That’s essentially why I gave up on him. There are decent enough plot elements but the jargon and the sheer length make most of his stuff a real chore. Unless you’ve got some deep message to impart that requires a careful unfolding of events then there’s no artistic excuse for producing a doorstop that’s padded unnecessarily. Give me something, short, sharp, punchy and to the point any day.

          • I’m completely with you on this. It’s all Arthur Hailey’s fault, isn’t it, with the invention of the airport novel (in his case literally)!! I don’t know if I lack the stamina because I can read Tolstoj or Salman Rushdie and not feel like a word is wasted – but as you say, if it’s only about thrills and spills, I prefer a Richard Stark or Ed McBain any day of the week. Which is not to say you can’t have something more extended – some later Le Carre books get away with greater length (not, in my view Tinker, Tailor actually, which I thought was too slow and where I prefer the TV and movie versions) but you do need to try and make sure you actually have something to say.

          • Colin says:

            You know, I felt the same about Tinker, Tailor, which I saw last week. While I enjoyed the book, it is very slow moving in places. The compression of the movie helps, although I’m not sure they always compressed the right parts. But that’s a whole other story.

          • I know what you mean about the right parts – Ricky Tarr’s story seems to get maybe too much prominence towards the end – but the evolving flashbacks to the Christmas party, the wall painting, and Jim Prideaux’s shooting are very nicely handled to add extra shades of meaning.

        • I really like the movie, more than any of the other Grisham adaptations (I am a huge Coppola fan as well) though I realise it probably got changed quite a lot (the outtakes on the DVD alone make it look like a lot got removed as part of the editorial process). It’s A Time To Kill in particular – which essentially boils down to the philosophy that lynching is actually a pretty good idea if it’s the right people who get killed, which is just Harry Callaghan’s (ironic) tagline from Magnum Force which then got nicked by that silly De Niro/Pacino team-up Righteous Kill – that strikes me as truly loathsome.

          • Colin says:

            Quite, the sociopolitical subtext of a good many of these mass market thrillers is questionable at best.

          • And yet you look at the cast of a film like that and it’s amazing – I mean, how could you not enjoy a film that includes decent roles for Patrick McGoohan, Sandra Bullock, Donald and Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Spacey, Samuel L. Jackson … On a superficial level it is clearly pretty entertaining, but you really have to switch your forebrain off to do it. The Pelican Brief, despite a really silly ending and the whole Julia Roberts factor, probably comes closest to being tolerable, thanks to some very Hitchcockian set-pieces crafted by Alan J. Pakula and again a brilliant supporting cast (Robert Culp, John Lithgow, Sam Shepard, Stanley Tucci and a nice cameo from the great Hume Crynyn, who worked with Hitch on several films of course)

  3. I have to say, while I do enjoy Lee Child’s books – those that I’ve read, that is – I still see them as a piece of fluff between more serious reading. And given my definition of serious reading is probably what other people regard as fluff anyway, that shows how fluffy I consider them. I still find them fun, but they have to be taken with a massive pinch of salt. Still a cut above most of the other “one man against the world” thrillers that are out there, though.

    • Cheers Steve and fair point, not a serious read by any stretch. Have you read this particular one? I remember you were quite enthusiastic about the thirteenth volume but in this one I was stunned by just how many cliches quickly piled up and how ineffective Reacher ultimately is (I’m trying to avoid too many spoilers obviously). Is that a theme of the books, the reason for his decision to pretty much walk away from organised society? I just thought it was mainly meant to suggest a link to the standard loner hero of the Western genre. I did like the emphasis on logical deductive reasoning, I’ll give him that!

      • Not read it yet, but it’s pencilled in for my South Dakota leg of my Mystery Tour of the USA. As I’m a bit busy at the mo, I might bump it up a bit, as I could do with something that I don’t need to concentrate on…

  4. Yvette says:

    I must disagree completely with you, Sergio. I’m a Reacher Creature and very proud of it. I’ve read every Jack Reacher book and always look forward to the next and always take the time to recommend Lee Child’s books whenever I can. I think he’s the best thriller writer – next to Robert Crais – in the biz.

    The next book in line, WORTH DYING FOR was even better, far as I’m concerned. It is not really a sequel, just another terrific adventure. Even though I didn’t like the very latest Reacher, THE AFFAIR, I still read it straight through to the end – something I rarely do with books I’m not enjoying. But Lee Child has earned my respect and my willingness to read even his lesser efforts is part of the implied bargain I make with certain writers.

    I love thrillers of this type – the knight in shining armor who steps in and puts things to rights as best he can. Most of the time he succeeds, but sometimes he fails. That’s the way of it. I love that Reacher has almost super human powers of ratiocination, that he can tell time without a watch, that he doesn’t care about the things most of us care about, that he is afraid of nothing and no one AND I like the fact that he’s smarter than most. But the main thing I love about Reacher is that he’s COMPETENT. For me, the idea of a competent man is very soothing and even sexy.

    Even in 61 HOURS, he still manages to get the bad guys in the end in a very spectacular way. By the way, I never worry about his clothes or lack thereof. I mean, this is definitely not reality.

    • Hello Yvette, thanks so much for the long response. As this is the only one of the books in the series I’ve read, and he is so incredibly popular, and leaving overall loyalty to one side for the moment, do you think I picked a bit of a lemon in the series to start with? I’m genuinely trying to figure out if 61 Hours is simply one of the lesser volumes and thus a poor launching-on point (sic), or if this particular series of books are just not for me? Because in this one, while he does get to execute the villains, he signally fails to save any of their potential victims. So when you say he is ‘competent’, does that mean despite the fact that he fails a lot? Or is this unusual in the series and in this case is meant as a humanising element to his otherwise superhuman character? If this is not the right book to start with, is there one you would recommend to those (few) of us who are unconvinced so far?

      Thanks, in advance.
      Sergio

  5. Yvette says:

    Sergio, it’s possible that Reacher’s inability to save certain characters may have been meant by Lee as a ‘humanizing’ moment. What I mean by a ‘competent’ man I guess, is a man who can take care of himself and who doesn’t mess with ‘ifs, ands, or buts’. He has a moral code that is not ambivalent. He has little self-doubt. In any physical confrontation he is completely unafraid. Possibly because Lee has made Reacher a man unafraid to die. (Of course in reality, a man like this would probably be impossible to live with.)

    Normally, Reacher does the ‘knight in shining armor bit’ and saves whoever needs saving in the end, but you’re right, he failed in 61 HOURS, so I’m not surprised that you’re confused by my talking about his competence.

    While Reacher is a guy used to handling trouble, he is not perfect. He can make mistakes, but on the whole, he usually does what he sets out to do.

    I’d say, try PERSUADER or WITHOUT FAIL or WORTH DYING FOR. Those are my three favorites. But I admit I did like 61 HOURS. Another favorite is ONE SHOT.

    WITHOUT FAIL was my first Reacher and the rest, as they say, is history. :)

    It is also entirely possible that these books are not for you. We can still be friends. :)

    If you’d care to try another thriller writer I adore, try the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series by Robert Crais. Completely different in tone and style from Lee Child. But that series, unlike the Reacher books, needs probably to be read in some order.

    • Thanks very much for the sage advice Yvette, greatly appreciated. I have already, at your suggestion, got some Crais on my TBR (LA Requiem and the first three of the Cole/Pike series) and am really looking forward to getting stuck in to those. I shall definitely give Child another go and shall look out for the titles you reccomend. I am a very big fan of NCIS, somewhat to my surprise having only come to it during it’s seventh season, and Reacher reminded me a big of Gibbs (Mark Harmon) in that show, which is more overtly humorous of course, which may be somethign that I found a bit lacking in 61 Hours. But I shall definitely try again – thanks mate.

      • Yvette says:

        You’re welcome, kiddo. :) Before reading LA REQUIEM (a thriller masterpiece, in my unbiased opinion) I’d read INDIGO SLAM or maybe FREE FALL or LULLABY TOWN first, so you get an idea of the established friendship between Cole and Pike which is at the heart of the entire series and which makes LA REQUIEM that much more poignant in my view.. Obviously I am in an advice giving sort of mood lately. :)

        • That’s great, thanks very much – I’ve got Stalking the Angel, Lullaby Town and The Monkey Raincoat on the shelf behind me (literally) so aim to get through those first and then move on – really looking forward to Crais as I used to like quite a lot of his TV work. Don’t know why but just have not got round to reading his stuff in print until now. I quite liked Hostage, the Bruce Willis adaptation of one of his books – did you see that one at all? I have no idea if it is considered to be a good adaptation or not.

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  7. richmcd says:

    I also thought that I should give Lee Child a try and started with this one. You fared a lot better than I did! I don’t think I’m a snob about this sort of literature (I saw your list of authors you hadn’t read in the comments above – I’d definitely recommend Rowling. She’s one of the finest mystery plotters of recent years. I really hope her recently announced new book is going to be a mystery, as speculated). I picked this particular Child out of all the others in the library because I love thrillers with arbitrary countdowns.

    But I had to give up. I genuinely found the style unreadable. All those sentence fragments! And using single word paragraphs as though what he really wants is a new kind of punctuation mark. I’m not a grammar nut. I just found it really hard to follow. So when the plot didn’t grab me I took the path of least resistance and gave up. Which is a bit odd, because I suspect the short sentences and reliance on full stops is supposed to make it very easy to read.

    I wonder if I’m alone in feeling like this, but I find a lot of these quite loosely edited modern thrillers harder to read than traditionally “difficult” literature.

    • Thanks very much for the comments – I’m glad I’m not alone in this, though Yvette has got me thinking that I do need to give Mr Child at laast one more go … But I agree, a lot of the conventions of the mordern thriller seem to be as much about the way that words are put on paper as about plot and character and it is a bit frustrating when you realise that none of these three elements do it for you! Certainly I’d much rather read a Faulkner mystery like Intruder in the Dust where at least re-reading every page three times actually serves a purpose, rather than a style that seems designed to allow readers the luxury to skip every other word and not miss anything too salient at the same time. Having said that, some critics felt that about the Ed McBain books in that there were procedural elements that were almost designed to be skippable if you weren’t interested in the mechanics or science of crime solving and just wanted to get back to the sleuthing. I don’t really agree with that, though I dare say that like many I have sometimes skipped forward in the mad rush to see what happens – but I do always trace my steps back and read what I left off the first time round! In my mind at least it keeps me honest …

      Your Complete Diregard for Spoilers is great Rich – I’ve just added it to my blogroll …

      • richmcd says:

        I’ve been looking through some excerpts and I notice that the first one (Killing Floor) is in the first person. I find the disjointed style much easier to read if I know it’s a characterised voice, rather than a really weirdly stylised but still impersonal third person narration. I don’t know why it should make such a difference to me, but it does.

        And thanks! I’d not heard of Intruder in the Dust but now I’m intrigued…

        • Well, if you thought the style of The Red Right Hand was weird, then Faulkner’s stream of conciousness just might prove a bit too much … but it’s a great book, honest!

          • richmcd says:

            It’s a trust issue really. I’ve read and enjoyed Faulkner in the past, so I would trust that he knows what he’s doing. But I picked up the Townsley Rogers book sight unseen, and it really does seem as though it might not be going anywhere for about 80% of the book. I think the trust balance between the reader and author, especially in mysteries, is really fascinating.

            And many thanks for adding my blog to your list! I’ll return the favour when I’ve worked out how to make the software do what I want! More posts coming soon, and if you check back next week I should have some short mysteries of my own uploaded. It seemed unfair for the critical bombardment to only be going in one direction!

          • It’s that promise that the author makes – and woe betide the writer that then lets you down!

            Really looking forward to reading the fiction.

            Sergio

  8. olivertidy says:

    Greetings. OK, so I’m a bit late on this thread – about a year. I beg your indulgence for that. But I couldn’t ignore it.

    I began my Reacher experience with Killing Floor. I had three reasons for reading this book. One: if I’m starting with a new author I always like to look out his/her first book, especially when there is an aspect of chronology involved with a central protagonist. Two: as an aspiring thriller author, I had a fancy that I could learn something from someone who has proved a huge success in the thriller genre before I went on to get stuck into my re-writes. Three: I’m always looking for great new writers to enjoy.

    I certainly learnt something – Killing Floor is one of the worst books that I have ever forced myself to finish. As one famous author once commented about another’s work: I found it a lot harder to read than I suspect it was to write. And I am both amazed and encouraged. Child has tried to imitate Chandler (I read that somewhere) and it is weakly and painfully obvious. Child’s prose and dialogue, plotting and form is so, so, so… childish in comparison with Chandler. Reading Child has made me think that my, as yet unpublished, thrillers aren’t that bad after all.

    Shall I try another? Yes. If for no other reason than to see whether and how he improved as a writer. I shall read one of his later efforts, but not until I’ve fully recovered from this one.

    • Thanks Oliver – I don;t know if the jack reacher movie will have encouraged even more to read Child, but he is incredibly popular and a lot of right thinking people are real fans so I suspect it may well be persevering, though I have not done so yet …

      • olivertidy says:

        Thanks for the reply. I do understand that he is extremely popular, even if I don’t understand his popularity, yet. I can only imagine that the casting of Cruise as Reacher would undermine the image that Child has perpetuated about his hero. Reacher, as you probably know, is portrayed physically as a brick-out-house; Cruise, using that kind of analogy, is more of a chemical toilet. If you ask me – and nobody has – it’s a shameless sell-out, whatever the quality of his writing. Is nothing sacred?

      • richmcd says:

        Oh that’s a shame, Oliver. THE KILLING FLOOR was the one I was going to try next, in the hope that he’d started strong and got worse. I want to give Child a chance, but NOTHING TO LOSE somehow managed to be even harder to read than 61 HOURS!

        Now that I’m editing indie mysteries and thrillers for six to eight hours a day, the last thing I need in my leisure time is more inscrutable word and punctuation choices. (That’s unfair; most of my clients are better than Child. It’s just the few who’ve clearly decided to buy commas in bulk who need a gentle talking to!)

        Maybe watching the film is the answer…

        • Thanks for that Rich – so glad to hear it’s not just me! Oh, the brotherhood of the blogospehere!

          • richmcd says:

            No it’s definitely not just you! It’s baffling. Especially all the awards!

            Despite my snark, I don’t mean to be snobbish about it. A lot of people are clearly having a great time reading these.

            But it does worry me, because I’m increasingly finding very popular authors very difficult to read. If it was just E.L. James I could write it off as an anomaly, but there are so many books that people clearly find highly readable, but I just can’t penetrate. It’s not exaggeration to say that I find a Donovan Creed or a Jack Reacher book more technically challenging to read than someone like Umberto Eco.

            And if it was just a hobby the answer would be simple: read the books I like, forget the others! But it’s now my job to help authors who want to compete in this crazy marketplace. Everything I feel about language tells me I’m making their books much more readable. But if I don’t understand why people enjoy Child, how can I be sure?

          • There’s real food for thought Rich – having said that, I think there can be a kind of contempt about the marketplace, one that lowballs reader abilities and expectations. I have no problem enjoying a book by Linwood barclay – I thought No Time for Goodbye had a decent premise and was more than professioanlly written – I alwso though it was clearly a prose treatment for somethign that wanted to be a movie and I do wonder how many popular books read that way. James Ellroy can be exhausting but it’s very specific to him that kind of prose comic book styling and in small doses I can cope – but then again, there has always been a lot of trahsy literature around. What’s worrying a bit is that you can acatalogie a whole series of things wrong with a book to a fan, they’ll agree and still say it was a great book and I don’t really understand what it is they are getting out of it – the book in some cases seems not to be what is really onthe page but rather the idea of it, which lives only in their minds …

          • richmcd says:

            That’s interesting what you say about fan behaviour. That often confuses me. It’s odd because I like a lot of geeky things, many of which come with huge fandoms. But I’m not good at being a fan of anything. I won’t stick with a series to the bitter end because it’s “my thing” – if the quality vanishes so do I. Obviously things I’ve liked in the past affect my future choices, otherwise I’d just have to read and watch stuff at random, but there’s no loyalty there. Sometimes I think it must be nice to be able to watch something uncritically, knowing that you were going to disregard any and all flaws, but that’s just not how my mind works.

          • I completely understand what you’re saying here – there are probably a few things where I probably would allow sentiment / loyalty tp overcome my critical faculties (or anyway, temporarily park them elsewhere) but for the most part I feel the same. but then I’ve never been much of a fan of hte Terry brooks ‘trilogy in 8 parts’ scenario, I think i just lack the stamina …

          • richmcd says:

            I think that must be the difference: lots of people are deeply invested in characters and settings, so much so that they’re happy to see any story involving them (or write their own!) But while I can certainly appreciate well drawn characters and settings, I only really respond to story. Despite my mania for consistency, I don’t need to know all the little details. I’m not interested in what happens in Ankh-Morpork from day-to-day, or how Doctor Who shops for clothes or what happened when Poirot visited his proctologist.

            The idea of a million word series with no guaranteed conclusion is enough to make me run screaming, even if every sentence is a well-crafted jewel (which it won’t be). I always have to remember to suppress this feeling when clients proudly say “the first book is only 150,000 words, but I’ve got the next twelve sketched out.” To me (and agents!) that might as well be the sound of a thousand klaxons, but a lot of people really like to just pick a series and stick with it through thick and thin.

          • I was thinking about this recently when news of the hatemail being directed at George RR Martin came out – obviusly a very extreme example of fan ‘investment’, but of course everyone wants to be involved in a successful series – and I guess that includes the consumer. You’d think the grind of the 9 to 5 would beat such energy out of people. But I agree – for the most part, one book at a time is the only way to go if you want to staty sane and retain your critical faculties intact!

        • olivertidy says:

          I’m sure the film is watchable. Cruise generally is that. If you ever get around to reading Killing Floor, I would be very interested in your opinion. I know it’s not just me. Over on Amazon, if you check out the reviews, he has quite a number of one star reviews that speak for me.

          • I am curious about the film as it was made by Chris McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects. Not especially a fan of Cruise (especially if you believe just half the Scientology-related rumours currently floating around) though I did like the first Mission: Impossible film and thought him very good in Rain Man, where arguably he actually has the tougher role to play.

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