"Because it's like literature, just not what we think of as literary literature."by Sam Leith / July 14, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Call it a reaction-formation. Having spent much of the last year judging a literary prize—a process that gave me stress-related psoriasis—I’ve found myself drawn ever more to the position of Kingsley Amis. As he got on in years, Amis said that he could less and less see the point of reading any book that did not begin with the words “A shot rang out…”
So it is that, at least to begin with accidentally, I spent a month or two reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. I read the latest one, Make Me, and then, like someone having opened a packet of Fruit Pastilles, gobbled the one before… and the one before… and so on. It was said by PJ O’Rourke of Carl Hiaasen that his work was “better than literature.” Child’s very popular work is in the same territory.
For those who don’t know the Reacher novels, they are thrillers describing the adventures of a tough former military policeman who wanders across America. Trouble finds him. Trouble regrets it. He hitches a ride and vanishes. It’s a bit like The Littlest Hobo with ultraviolence.