Review - The Reacher Guy:The Authorised Biography of Lee Child by Heather Martin
The Authorised Biography of Lee Child
Constable – 29th September 2020 hardback £20.00 – also available as an eBook/audio
The definitive, authorised biography of
“Riveting . . . archival diligence . . . [Martin] is a skilled and audacious interlocutor, too, but her subject is just as adept as interviewee . . . starkly affecting” - Irish Times
The Reacher Guy is a life of bestselling superstar Lee Child, a portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. It tells the story of how the boy from Birmingham reinvented himself to become the strongest brand in publishing, selling over one hundred million books in more than forty different languages across the globe.
Heather Martin interviews friends, teachers, colleagues and neighbours, including agents and editors. Based primarily on her conversations with the author over a period of years, together with readings of his books and research in his literary archive, this authorised biography reveals the man behind the myth, tracing his origins back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally floats free of his fictional creation.
Lee Child comments: “I met Heather Martin some years ago, and we started talking about why people love telling and hearing stories. To get more depth and detail we started talking about why I do. Eventually I said, ‘If you want to really get to the bottom of it, you’re going to have to write my biography.’ So she did. It was a fun and illuminating process. I had forgotten a lot, and it was fascinating to be reminded. Now it all makes sense.”
“Vivid and entertaining . . . a must-buy for any aspiring novelist, thanks in particular to its terrific insight into how Child's first book was written, rewritten, edited, sold and published.” - The Telegraph
“You'll emerge from the first 300-odd pages knowing more about [Child's] formative years that you do about your own." - The Times
Heather Martin was born in West Australia. She grew up in Aix-en-Provence, Paris, and Perth, where she would fall asleep to the sound of the Indian Ocean. She left Australia for England to become a classical guitarist but found herself singing with a Venezuelan folk group and learning to speak Spanish instead. She read Languages at Cambridge, where she also did a PhD in comparative literature, and has held teaching and research positions at Cambridge, Hull, King’s College London, and most recently, the Graduate Center, City University New York. Heather is a long-time Reacher fan. While waiting to get her hands on the next in the series, she once read a Lee Child book in Spanish and wound up writing to the author about the fate of his character in translation. The Reacher Guy is her first biography.
Let me state from the off that I have never (shock horror!) read a Lee
Child book, though obviously I know his name. I'm always fascinated by
biographies though, and it's been a real pleasure to read this one. Not least
because the author has devoted so much research and travel to her subject,
but also because Child grew up in an area of Birmingham I know well, so
it's always fascinating to see somewhere through someone else's eyes. Loved the
photos too - always my first port of call when reading a biography. Child's days at Granada evoke another age, because it was, yet it proves that everything in life is connected. Child credits those days with giving him the skill to write.
What I loved about the book was the way in which the author links Jack Reacher with Lee Child. It's as Alan Bennett says, you may not intend to write about yourself in your work but when you've finished, there you are. It's great to join the dots in Reacher's own backstory, as well. I watched the Tom Cruise film, Jack Reacher, the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it because I was reading this biography. I shall certainly start reading the books.
I loved Martin's exhaustive approach to her subject - what travels she's been on! I'll be reading her future work too. Her dry sense of humour plays well against that of her subject. Child's journey to success reads like a masterclass for anyone wishing to write well-written genre fiction. It's strangely poignant to imagine Child not writing Reacher anymore.
This is definitely a must for any fan of Child's work, of biographies in general and of Reacher on film.