Jack Reacher is Coming for You!


Jack Reacher haunts my every waking hour, as though he were hunting me down.  But unlike those countless bad guys he’s actually driven to ground in his many adventures, in my case that’s a GOOD thing.

I recently narrated my second Reacher novel by Lee, BLUE MOON (Available now!), and although I’ve been in the audiobook industry for twenty years, I’ve never had an experience like this: every day, after reading Reacher’s latest adventure aloud from a tablet into a microphone for an hour or two, I’d walk into the breakroom where I’d read one of his earliest adventures in a Reacher paperback I carry with me without fail.  That’s right: I read one Reacher novel for work, then read another Reacher novel for pleasure in all my off hours, with virtually no break between the two.  Why, you may ask?  Because I cannot get enough of this guy, this hero for the ages, and after inheriting the narration duties from longtime narrator Dick Hill last year, I decided right away to revisit the entire series in chronological order: to follow Reacher from wide-eyed child to middle-aged adult.

After 24 bestselling novels and two highly successful films starring Tom Cruise, it’s unlikely that anybody reading or listening to this needs me to tell them who Jack Reacher is, so instead I’ll mention all the ways he’s been lauded by virtually the entire reading world, be they anonymous librarians or vaunted literati.  No less an expert on the suspense novel than Ken Follett claims “Jack Reacher is today’s James Bond.”  But then there are academics such as Jenny Davidson, professor of comparative literature at Columbia in New York, who calls herself “an obsessive fan,” and regards the Reacher novels as the absolute apogee of light reading: exquisite versions of fast food prepared by Michelin-starred chefs.  And I am delighted to report that, as the previous quote suggests, Reacher is equally beloved by women as much as men, as you can see in the article, “Fearless, Free and Feminist: The Enduring Appeal of Jack Reacher.” 
But beyond the Bond analogy, the Reacher series is also the perfect embodiment of the Western in modern society: a loner who drifts into town, dispenses justice to those thoroughly deserving of it, then drifts away again, leaving many happy citizens – and an equally proportionate body count of bad guys – in his wake.  He is the hero we wish we had in a world as troubled as our own, a man who stands apart from time, and therefore makes for perfect escapist fiction.  

Still, my own reason for reading all of his adventures in chronological order, following him from child to adult, isn’t something so simple and straightforward: I am drawn to Reacher’s adventures because he is so clearly tied to the times he is living in, and has lived through.  

To put it bluntly: Jack Reacher is growing older before our very eyes.  

Not OLD, mind you: merely old-ER.  He has a few creaks where the joints used to be well oiled, a few weathered cracks on the face that show the mileage on the tires and the lack of tread on his shoes, but he’s nowhere close to facing the end.  Still, all those intimations of mortality are both noteworthy and praiseworthy.  We are all of us aging, and Reacher is unashamedly doing the same.

Throughout the history of thriller fiction, many authors have preferred to keep their heroes at an indeterminate age, frozen at a stage in life where they are old enough to achieve the feats they need to accomplish in each unfolding adventure, yet young enough to plausibly survive the same – the oldest conceivable faze of an immortal youth.  James Bond and Jason Bourne come to mind, both of them completely impossible to tie down to any particular era, and both of them equally expected to carry on in publishing for perpetuity, for which we should all thank God!  And when it comes to superheroes…!  Well, every crusader from Superman and Batman to Spider-Man and Iron Man have been uprooted from the years they were first published to a far more unspecified era, their debuts always referred to retroactively in their most recent adventures as having occurred about ten to twelve years ago.  Which makes perfect sense, from a publishing perspective: an ongoing series can be a cash cow, so why in the world would you ever want to cut off the money supply?
Yet there are also those brave authors who know that the later years of a hero’s journey can be no less legendary and heroic; that it is valiant, in fact, to face the second half of life without fear.  SPOILER ALERT: Agatha Christie was so brave that her last two novels detailed the final adventures – and deaths – of her two greatest protagonists, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.  (And poetically, Poirot’s final case was the last novel published before Christie’s death, while Miss Marple’s was published immediately after it, as though Christie could only face the mortality of those two titanic personalities once she had faced her own.)  Alexandre Dumas was similarly fearless when it came to his most famous characters’ adventures – ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT: in the last installment of their story, three of the Four Musketeers pass away by the end, and rather than being outraged, the response from the reading public was overwhelmingly positive.  No less a literary icon than Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about the death of d’Artagnan: “Upon the crowded, noisy life of this long tale, evening gradually falls, and the lights are extinguished, and the heroes pass away one by one… and not a regret embitters their departure.  For us and these old men whom we have loved so long, the inevitable end draws near and is welcome.  Ah, if only when these hours of the long shadows fall for us in reality and not in figure, we may hope to face them with a mind as quiet!”
And just like Christie and Dumas – and Reacher, for that matter – Lee Child is fearless.  The year of Reacher’s birth, the amount of time he served as a military policeman, and the year he mustered out – all of them have been meticulously documented, and the math is unassailable: Reacher is getting older – not old, remember, just old-ER – and Lee Child doesn’t shy away from it.  One recent adventure featured Reacher and a much younger associate needing to break down a door, and when it came time to do the deed, Reacher willingly deferred the bone-jarring kick to the younger man, because that guy’s body had a few decades’ less wear and tear on it.  Sure, the Reacher of his earliest adventures was an unstoppable juggernaut of muscle and momentum, but this older version is wiser, and knows that momentum is effective only so long as it can be preserved.  

Still, though I’ve been talking about how much I admire authors who’re so brave and honest about the aging process, at this point I should be crystal clear: I don’t want Reacher’s saga to end, any more than I want my own to end, and not just because I get paid to narrate Lee Child’s books!  I want them to carry on forever because I love the character so fiercely.  Where else can we rely on a man to point so unerringly toward the True North of his moral compass?  Where else can we find a man we would so desperately love to be?  I have adored Lee Child’s many novels for over a decade, long before I took over the narration duties from Dick Hill, and in the same way I cannot fathom a world without my most precious loved ones, so too do I not want to face a life without Jack Reacher.  Because more than anything else, I love the idea of each of us, in our daily lives, being able to right the wrongs of the world the way Reacher does.  

“I’m a man with a rule,” Reacher said in the novel NOTHING TO LOSE.  “People leave me alone, I leave them alone.  If they don’t, I don’t.”  And so he has, since his earliest adventures as a child; and so he will, until that hopefully far distant day when his number comes up and his luck runs out – an eventuality Reacher discusses in this latest installment, BLUE MOON.  Growing old is a privilege denied to many, as Mark Twain famously observed, and watching Reacher’s life unfold, from beginning to end, is its own privilege, one I am enjoying every step of the way, but in the proper chronological order this time.  

Thank you Lee Child, and thank you Penguin Random House Audio, for making that possible.  And thank you especially, Dick Hill, for the wonderful body of audiobook narration work you leave behind as you enjoy your retirement.  While I may be the narrator blessed to walk beside Reacher on his future adventures, Dick will always walk with us in spirit.

Thanks for listening,
Scott Brick

Blue Moon

Blue Moon

  • By
  • Read By Scott Brick
  • Length 11 hrs and 21 mins
  • Release Date: 10-29-2019


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