What happened when Andy Martin tracked Lee Child as he wrote his latest Jack Reacher thriller?by Andy Martin / December 4, 2015 / Leave a comment
Never, at any point, did I threaten Lee Child with sledgehammer, axe or shotgun. Nor did I handcuff him. Or drug him into a stupor. Or run anyone over with a lawnmower. It was all totally consensual and voluntary. My year of being a literary voyeur, I mean
In any case, Child, the 61-year-old British thriller writer, would probably have done a pretty decent job of writing his new book Make Me. Even without me looking over his shoulder in his office in New York, keeping a close eye on his grammar and punctuation, from the first word (“Moving”) through to the last (“needle”). After all, he’d already written 19 previous novels in the bestselling Jack Reacher series, so he probably didn’t need a whole lot of back-up to write the 20th.
On the other hand, the scene definitely looked familiar. A few days earlier, Child and I were at the Broadhurst Theater on Broadway to see a production of Stephen King’s Misery with Bruce Willis in the part of the immobilised writer Paul Sheldon, held prisoner in wintry Colorado, and Laurie Metcalfe as Annie Wilkes, his nurse, tormentor and deranged, obsessional reader.
Unlike Annie Wilkes, I never went about crooning, “I’m your number one fan!” I guess I could be more like number two or three. In fact, now I come to think of it, there are plenty of people who know the collected works better than I do and are more fanatical (and more than a few who are acting them out for real, as we speak).
And, unlike Paul Sheldon, Lee never moaned, “How do you expect me to work with you in the room watching me all the time?”
Still, there was a kind of madness to the whole business of trying to catch the creative process on the wing. It is true that when I saw Annie Wilkes rolling around on the bed in a state of ecstasy as she leafs through Paul Sheldon’s latest chapter, I was bound to think: Annie Wilkes, c’est moi! “You know that bit where Paul Sheldon picks up the typewriter and clobbers her over the head with it,” I said to Child,…