Friday, April 18, 2014

Five Things I Learned About Writing from Jack Reacher

 We shared an interesting article by Forbes Magazine in the Weekend Edition a few weeks ago:

The Strongest Brand in Publishing is....

"Lee Child's Jack Reacher series has the largest reader loyalty of any best-selling author today." 

When Child was interviewed for the magazine he credited the following with the strong branding:

Consistency: Jack Reacher can be counted on to be the same character in each book.

Authenticity:  " the art of narrative authenticity is culling details that are authentic from the larger pool of those that might be merely accurate."

Uniqueness: The series is like none other, filling a previous hole in the market.

When I picked up my first Jack Reacher novel I had no expectations. In fact, I don't read many, if any, books with a single male protagonist, so I suppose I had negative expectations.

My response was hugely unexpected. I read through 16 books in four weeks (I didn't read the two prequel novels or the singles).  It became an obsessive experience.

There were several occasions when, after I finished a book, I paused, a little annoyed at plot contrivances. BUT--that was after the book was finished or if during the actual devouring of the book, it certainly didn't keep me from completing the book.

Child had done his job. I was pulled into the world he created and I empathized and cared enough about Jack Reacher to read to the end.

Being a writer, naturally I sought to analyze how Child does this.

First let me say that I recognize that in Seekerville our audience is comprised of CBA authors and readers. The Jack Reacher series are thrillers, with very little or no use of graphic language. They have violence depicted, and they do have adult content in some of the books (none in the movie). So whether you read them or not there is still a vast amount of learning to be found in analyzing the writing.

Here's the trailer for Jack Reacher

Do not  be confused. Jack Reacher is NOT Tom Cruise. We'll save that discussion for last.

Now let's get down to the nitty gritty. Here are the five things I learned about writing by reading Lee Child's Jack Reacher series.  I learned how these writing techniques are done by a pro and you can too!

1. Empathy

I've often (okay, possibly ad nauseum) quoted Michael Hauge. Identification with the protagonist equals empathy. You make the reader identify with the character in the following ways:

1. Make the character the victim of some undeserved misfortune.
2. Put the character in jeopardy. 
3. Make the character likeable.
4. Make the character funny.
5. Make the character powerful.

Hauge recommends using two of these characteristics. Jack Reacher embodies all five of them. 

He's alone in the world. Each book is a Jack Reacher in jeopardy book, and we are not only rooting for him but worrying about him.

Jack is likeable, funny (with a self-deprecating, dry sense of humor) and powerful.
  • His mouth was set in a wry smile that was halfway between patient and exasperated.
  •    "When in doubt, turn left."

  •  Reacher was six feet and five inches tall and had hands the size of supermarket chickens,... 

 Characters like Jack Reacher are anti-hero archetypes, no different than Robin Hood, Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry) or Spiderman. They are flawed heroes, vigilantes, doing for humanity what we don't dare do ourselves. Child calls him an over-dog.

2. Goal -motivation- conflict.

There is never any doubt in a Lee Child book what the GMC is and you don't have to wait very long for the GMC to be unveiled. There is no subtle hint, it's in your face, explosive GMC and every single time Reacher is willing to risk everything to achieve his goal no matter what stands in his way. That's what makes the books so powerful. 

As Hauge says,"If your hero isn't putting everything on the line to get what he wants, WE DON'T CARE!"

A Writer's Digest article quoting thriller writer Gary Braver, says this on how to write a thriller:

 "There are only three themes in all of literature: death and rebirth ; the hero slaying a dragon to restore the world to normalcy ; and the quest to make life better . Know which theme fits your story. 

..make clear what your protagonist wants and what he fears.  There are two quests: Stopping the bad stuff form happening  and dealing with the character’s baggage.

 Isn't this applicable to  romance as well?

3. Urgency 

"Urgency pushes the plot and the pace."-Debra Dixon (GMC)

Urgency is tied to motivation.  It creates a finish line and one that is so easily defined it sets the pace for the protagonist who is willing to (as Dixon says) "act against his own best interest" in order to get there.

Not only that, but this well defined urgency is what makes readers stay up and read obsessively and ignore their own best interest to finish the book.

Can you FEEL the urgency in these Child novel blurbs?

A bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.
 Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed—but so is the woman he’ll risk his life to save.- 61 Hours.

Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning. One man driving, another telling stories that don’t add up. A woman in the back, silent and worried. And a hitchhiker with a broken nose. An hour behind them, the FBI descends on an old pumping station where a man was stabbed to death—the knife work professional, the killers nowhere to be seen.

All Jack Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia. All he did was stick out his thumb. But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride. He has tied himself to a massive conspiracy, in which nothing is what it seems, and nobody is telling the truth.- A Wanted Man.

4. Character Driven versus Plot Driven

"Character-driven: When something about the character's essential self leads to a particular action or event in the story. Plot-driven: When a character takes a particular action so that the result is a particular plot point." - Alicia Rasley

Or from Indie Tips Film making:

 "In a character driven story, if you change one thing about the smallest character the dynamic of the whole story changes. If you were to remove the main character from the story, there would not be a story left to tell." 

 "A plot driven story is one where the plot defines who a character is. The call to action still exists despite a change in character."

Most of us write character driven stories.

Lee Child writes a perfect blend of both. 

 5. Details 

 Possibly one of my favorite things about Lee Child books is his unique blend of showing and telling and his attention to details,  and his phraseology. 

 "The shaved snow on the street was part bright white powder and part ice crystals. They shone and glittered in the moonlight." -61 Hours

"I could feel the storm boiling up overhead. The air was like soup. It was pitch dark. About midnight, the storm broke. Heavy drops the size of quarters spattered the leaves around me." -Killing Floor

"Two minutes later the phone rang. An old-fashioned instrument. The slow peal of a mechanical bell, a low sonorous sound, doleful and not at all urgent."- Worth Dying For

"He kept the car at a nothing-to-hide seventy miles an hour and touched the CD button on the dash. Got a blast of mid-period Sheryl Crow in return, which he didn't mind at all. He stayed with it. Every day is a winding road, Sheryl told him. I know, he thought. Tell me about it."-One Shot

 I'm really running out of time and space, though not enthusiasm. A word for you suspense writers... If you want to learn tight, fast, action packed pacing.. read a Lee Child book.

Now let's talk Jack. 

Box Office Case Study: Why "Jack Reader Couldn't Muscle Through Anti-Tom Cruise Outcry

"A vocal outcry erupted among Reacher diehards the moment Hollywood’s 5’ 7” Top Gun expressed an interest in playing the 6’5” taciturn anti-hero – a hulking ex-military-cop-turned-vigilante, defined by his ability to overpower and intimidate by virtue of his size and cold-blooded determination to mete out justice at all costs."


Who is Jack (None) Reacher?

 Born: October 29, 1960

Army brat. Mother is French. 

All family deceased including his brother Joe, formerly with the U.S. Treasury Department.

Reacher is former Army MP, rank of Major.

Left the Army after 13 years. 

A drifter, he chooses to stay off the grid.

Has an expired passport for ID, a debit card and carries cash and a travel tooth brush. Does not carry a change of clothes. 

 Physical description: 

 A man of abnormal size and strength, he is six foot-five, with a 50-inch barrel chest, and weighs approximately 220 to 250 pounds-all muscle.  Has dirty blonde hair and winter cold, blue eyes. Needs to eat ten thousand calories and two gallons of water a day just to stay level. Note the aforementioned hands the size of chickens.

Not agile, he is a methodical and well-trained fighter. Also a military marksman.

Has a mental alarm clock.

I ask that Tom Cruise?

Reacher-isms for the true Reacher fan:

"Hit them fast, hit them hard, and hit them a lot."

"Always move on and never look back. Never do the same thing twice."

"Look, don't see; listen, don't hear. The more you engage, the longer you survive."

"If you're constantly looking down at your phone, you're not looking at the world around you."

"Tune in to your circadian rhythms to set your personal internal alarm clock."

"Your silence will make your opponent want to babble."

"We're making an omelette here...we're going to have to break some eggs."

From Jack Reacher Rules by Lee Child

If I've made you consider being a Jack Reacher fan, here's info on his upcoming release:

 Personal  by Lee Child

September 2014

Someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president but failed to kill him. The suspected sniper has serious skills and is a hard man to find. Reacher tracked him down once and put him in jail. Now he's asked to hunt him again, and put him away permanently.

 Tracking the shooter will take Reacher from France to England after a killer with a treacherous vendetta. He'll need to uncover who did the hiring and what's behind the assassination attempt before executing his orders

Read an excerpt here.

Now today, being my hosting day, I have two giveaways.

1. If you can guess (wrong or right) how the author came up with the name Reacher, your name goes in a drawing for an Amazon gift card. Certainly enough to buy a Jack Reacher book on Kindle.

2. And if you guess Jack's favorite beverage-your choices: Vodka, coffee or milk,your name goes in a drawing for a Starbucks card. Wrong or right, you're in if you guess.


Helen Gray said...

No guesses. Have never read a Jack Reacher book.

Need to remedy that!

Coffee's brewing.

Tina Radcliffe said...



Falling on the floor.

Courtney Phillips said...

Tom Cruise annoys me. Ha!
Now I want to read one of those books AND watch the movie.

Don't laugh at my guess(for the Amazon card), but here goes. Jack sounds like a "give it all you've got, never back down" kind of guy, so maybe the name Reacher came about because Jack always REACHES above and beyond. Get me? He doesn't let anything limit him, maybe. Like "reaching for the stars."

I should've cheated and googled the answer.

Courtney Phillips said...

Just googled it.

Goodness gracious, I was wrong.

Marianne Barkman said...

His name surely couldn't be because it would be a reach to believe what all he gets involved in, could it? I've never read one, but I'm off to find one now! And he drinks coffee, because...well to drink vodka might blur his reflexes?

Great post! Thank you. Thanks for the coffee

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL. You guys are fun tonight.

Tina Pinson said...

Tom Cruise isn't my favorite actor, but I did enjoy the movie and so did my hubby.

Reacher reaches in and takes cares of the problem. He not afraid to get his hands dirty. And he'll reach you and find you wherever you are.

And let's just say for the heck of it, that he drinks coffee with a touch of milk :-) kidding about the milk. Marines are supposed to be tough cookies and drink their coffee black.

But a part of me really wants to say milk. Because of the way the character is written milk just seems like a way of showing off a tender, vulnerable, human side.

Melissa Jagears said...

You make me want to read one, I was just off to go get one off Amazon, but then saw the gift card chance!

So, guesses

Vodka with a splash of coffee

and Reacher, because he's always got an itch on his backside he can't quiet get with those chicken sized hands

Melissa Jagears said...

Um, that would be "can't quite reach" obviously...

Janet Kerr said...

The name Reacher is not based on a real life person. Name comes from ancient history, from the medieval sagas to westerns. It is all the same person.

Janet Kerr said...

Oh, and Reacher drinks coffee constantly.

Tina Radcliffe said...




Yeah, I've seen the movie twice. Tom not Jack Reacher Cruise did an okay job.

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL. Melissa Jagears.

Can you just SEE those hands.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Well done, Janet Kerr.

But....are you correct??????

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

OK, how fun is this??

I've never even heard of this series. I'm way out of it. I didn't even know there was a new Flavia de Luce book out... and it was released in JANUARY.

I've got to catch up on my reading. :)

Um, I'll guess he called him Reacher because... it rhymed with Creature? LOL. I have no idea.

And I'll guess milk. Because is he's a huge tough guy, coffee or vodka would be the go-to drinks, right? He's making him memorable so milk would stand out.

"Hands like super market chickens" made me laugh. Not alive and feathered. The plucked white slabs wrapped in plastic. Ugh.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

HAHAHA, Melissa! Now I have a great mental image of Tom Cruise scratching his rear with both hands. Erk.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

If Janet Kerr is correct, it makes me think of this series my kids love: The Ranger's Apprentice. The Rangers all drink coffee constantly... and they're all named Ranger. It's a position, not a name.
Like "the Drover".

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

P.S. One more comment and then I'll go away.

It's definitely not up the CBA alley, but the description of this guy reminds me of one of my favorite books by Eion Colfer, called "Plugged". A middle aged Irish assassin who just wants to retire, built like a refrigerator, has a sweet tooth, and listens to classical music. Hilarious and sad all at once.

Connie Queen said...

I've seen the movie once.

I'd say milk because it's harmless--opposite of him.

Drop the "p" in preacher and you give Reacher. He was supposed to be a man of the cloth growing up but could never quite reach the high standards. (I know, silly, but I'm not all the way awake yet.)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet Kerr and Connie Queen are not correct on the name.

The beverage...could be...

Debra E. Marvin said...

Jack REacher has now become a euphemism for a poorly cast production. Sure Tom can act in a thriller but this shows me why there was such a stink!

And Lee Child owes you lunch, at least.

Jackie said...

Well, now I want to read the Jack Reacher books.

Reacher...maybe he reaches out to help others?

Favorite drink MUST be coffee to keep him big and strong.

Thanks for sharing! Happy Good Friday everybody. We serve an amazing God.

Kav said...

So, until this very minute I did not know Jack Reacher existed. I know, what rock have I been hiding under? The whole Tom Cruise controversy even missed my radar. But after reading this blog I can totally see how he is not a great choice. Will you go to the movie regardless?

Answer to question #1 -- I'm thinking because nothing...and no out of Jack's reach.

Answer to question #2 -- Gotta be milk...sounds like the poor man needs to fortify his bones with all the whomping willow stuff that goes on in his life.

Piper Huguley said...

I, like Virginia, knew nothing about Lee Child or Jack Reacher until I saw the trailer before some action movie I was forced to see with DH. So, I too have no guesses. Sorry, Tina. I was attracted though by all the lovely shots of my hometown as the backdrop. I even see the Sixth Street Bridge on the frozen YouTube page. Makes me giddy to see the old 'Burgh looking so good on the screen.

But like others, I have a Tom Cruise aversion. As a matter of fact, when I read the description of what Jack Reacher looks like in the books, I was horrified. Cruise probably produced it himself. *sigh* I haven't been able to overcome my distaste enough to see the movie yet. One day...

Mary Hicks said...

I liked Tom Cruise in Top Gun, but haven't seen him in anything since—but wait, have I even been to a movie since???

I don't usually read thrillers either—but I WILL be reading a Jack Reacher, and soon!

Thanks for a great post, Tina—you did good!

Cara Lynn James said...

I've never read a Jack Reacher book but I will now -- as soon as I read The Outlanders! So it won't be really soon.

Just from the description of Jack I'd say Tom Cruise is all wrong for the part. Maybe I should see the movie first before I make a snap judgment.

Thanks for analyzing what makes Lee Child's book so good.

Cindy W. said...

What a great post Tina. I'm going shopping today so I think I may pick up a Jack Reacher book.

Jack's favorite drink is coffee and the reason the author named his character Reacher is because he himself is tall and when he was in a grocery store with his wife he would reach things for her on the top shelf and she made a comment to him that if this writing thing didn't work out he could always hire himself out as a "reacher".

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

DebH said...

bahhhhh, Hollywood - always out to ruin a good book. *sigh*

have been firmly locked into children's programming, so never heard of Lee Child or his brilliant books. thank God for Seekerville. have never read a Jack Reacher story, but now have an incredible itch to do so. he sounds like my kind of action hero.

question #1: because he would always be reaching to make things right - no matter what.

question #2: being ex-military, i'd guess coffee first, but then, could it be a trick question? then I'd guess milk to keep the big guy's bones healthy

as for tom cruise. have no interest in watching him since Top Gun. what empty suit thought a man with a Napoleonic complex would be a good "live" version of Jack Reacher when compared to his creator's description?
i'm up in arms just on the principle that someone ignored Child's creative vision. (sorry, it's a artist soap box thing...)

now, off to google Jack Reacher info to see how far off my un-informed guesses were. and schedule a LIBRARY visit.

Cindy W. said...

I must admit I took a peek on Google, only because Tina's post made me want to know more.

I'll go stand in the corner now.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Mary Curry said...

Okay, between Melissa's reasoning for the name ans Virginia's description of supermarket chicken, I have a really unpleasant image in my mind.

Tina's playing games because Connie said milk and Janet said coffee and Tina said "could be". So I'll guess vodka just because it seems wrong.

As for why Reacher - so tempted to go google, but I'm going to guess instead and say the publisher changed it to that, not Lee's original choice. Otherwise I like the idea of him reaching for the stars.

Tina Radcliffe said...

HA! Thank you, Ms. Marvin.

Let's do a fist bump and a head bump.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Very close, Ms. Layton.

Happy Easter back at cha.

Tina Radcliffe said...


Well, CBA he ain't. But action packed he is.

Close on one!

Tina Radcliffe said...

It's your hometown, Piper? Wow.

That is cool.

Truly, TC does a passable job. He just isn't THE MAN!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks, Mary Hicks. Jack Reacher the movie is free on Amazon Prime and Netflicks.

Wilani Wahl said...


Thanks for the post. This is another one I am printing off.

My guesses He is named Reacher because he is reaching for truth and justice and he drinks coffee

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, my, OUTLANDER. Talk to you in six months, Cara.

Tina Radcliffe said...


That took a lot of work young lady.

Well done!

Crystal Ridgway said...

Well, considering that I've never heard of Jack Reacher, I'm not even going to attempt a guess at either. I'm not going to cheat and go Google.

This is a wonderful post, Tina! All those gems of new info! I will definitely be putting them to use.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Library is the way to go, DEBH. I bought half and borrowed half so I feel my duty is completed.

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL, Mary Curry.

Mr. Child is the creative genius behind everything Child. Not the publisher.

Did you know even the name Lee Child is an AKA????

Being former Army I was impressed with how well this BRIT researched and wrote America and the Army and government.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks, Crystal and Wilani!!!

And I missed Marianne who snuck in there. Morning, Ms. M.

Mary Connealy said...

I did the same thing, Tina. Read all 16 books in like six weeks. I was so stinking TIRED.

And here's what's weird...a lot of times I'll find some character I really like REALLY like and I'll power through some series and then, at the end, it's like...well, that was an overdose.
And I won't get onboard and keep reading that series when the next one comes out.
Not Reacher.
I'm still wild for him.
Child just has made me root for him, care about him, worry about him.

And you should read the shorts.
Of all the Reacher books the ONLY one I've re-read is Second Son.
It's a novella.
And my favorite line of all the books is from that (I'm not going to go look it up, it's Kindle and I don't want to do all that thumbing)
But it's something like this.
Reacher is 13 but in this book he is already himself. Child just does an amazing job of showing Reacher...being true to the man he'll a 13 year old.

So his dad is in the military and he, his parents and his older brother are on day one at a new post in Japan and the other military kids are coming to establish a pecking order. Reacher is deciding who's arm to break to get them to leave him and his brother alone.
They've been insulting each other in a nice tidy pecking order-kid way and I can't remember what Reacher says but in respond the biggest, baddest kid says to Jack, "Are you a sociopath?"
And Jack says, "A sociopath? A sociopath doesn't care about anyone and is willing to hurt anyone to get what he wants, so yeah, I guess I'm a sociopath."

That's just stuck with me, that kid, that toughness, that fearlessness.

Mary Connealy said...

I've read all the shorts and some are so short they aren't really even novella length, though it's hard to judge in an ebook. But Second Son is the best.

Mary Connealy said...

PS my least favorite (title forgotten) was the one set in Nebraska.

I also hated that he got his nose broken. Ouch!

Bridgett Henson said...

I'm gonna guess before I read the comments and without the help of google.

1. Because he has a long arm reach. (the massive beams attached to his chicken hands.)
2. Milk? Because someone that strong needs a hefty dose of vitamins.

Now to read the comments.

Mary Connealy said...

btw TINA I love this.

I love that Michael Hague list about empathy, too.

Reacher is all of them but I don't exactly get Powerful.
1. Make the character the victim of some undeserved misfortune.
2. Put the character in jeopardy.
3. Make the character likeable.
4. Make the character funny.
5. Make the character powerful.

I don't see how 'Make the character powerful' is a way to stir up empathy. I agree Reacher is all those things but what do you think makes 'powerful' something that would make a reader empathetic?

Mary Connealy said...

PS I keep hoping he falls in love with Frances Neagley, his old partner from his MP days.

She's very smart, very tough and there's some tragedy in her past that has only been alluded to.

POOR FRANCES!!!! She needs Jack to heal her with love!!!

(I know, I'm an idiot, I always want a happily every after--I quit reading Sue Grafton about ??? T is for Trespass when she broke up with Cheney)

Mary Connealy said...

I don't know the answer to the 'How Lee Child Picked the Name Reacher' question.

But I know the drink. :) I won't say, let 'em keep guessing.

Okay, well, Google helped and I now know the answer to the first question, too. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Brigett! Nice guess, but even better to see you.

Mary Connealy said...

BTW this is a fantastic blog, Tina.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary, now I am all jazzed again after reading your COMMENTARY. Why you were almost as high energy as Julie Lessman talking about GWTW this morning.


Tina Radcliffe said...

So Second Son for me this weekend.

Mary Connealy said...

Most libraries have them or can get them if you don't want to buy.

Bridgett Henson said...

"Reacher is willing to risk everything to achieve his goal."

This is what makes a good book good. I never like to see a protagonist that can't decide between the love of their life or moving to a new city. She/He should want to move but have a huge obstacle preventing it.

I know, random thoughts. Pass the coffee and please enter me for the gift card.

Tina Radcliffe said...


Hauge mentions the Meg Ryan character in City of Angels in one of his lectures.

She's a doctor. They show her in the operating room at the beginning. That's a level of power.

We respect people who are powerful in their world.

Reacher is easily powerful. No doubt there.

Even a bartender can be powerful. If he is the best at what he does.

Mary Connealy said...

I liked the movie too.
What I always say is, "Jack Reacher is a tough guy and we all know Tom Cruise can play a tough guy."

Mary Connealy said...


Mary Connealy said...

Reacher's dad was a marine. He's Army.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Yes. I'd like to revisit Frances.

I like her.

But Jack loves Jodi. And you know how that ended. She's in London.

WAIT. The next book takes place in Europe. This might be a good thing.

But he has to renew his passport.

And a 6'5" guy on a plane for 12 hours can't be good.

Bridgett Henson said...

Thanks for the warm welcome, Tina. I feel like I'm coming out of hiding. lol! It's always good to visit Seekerville.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Person of Interest's Jim Caviezel needs to bulk up and he can play Jack.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, forgot his Dad was a Marine.

And thank you for the kind words on the post.

It only took 16 books, and two days of research. But gee, for Jack. It was worth it.

My life would be complete it Lee Child would stop by today.

Mary Connealy said...

AND Lee Child and Jack Reacher led me to Vince Flynn and Mitch Rapp...try those on sometime...and assassin for the blackest of black ops in the US Government. Yes, he kills people...but they're ALL BAD!

Tina Radcliffe said...

61 Hours is my favorite.

I read them all out of order btw, which caused a response of HORROR from my husband.

Mary Connealy said...

Oh and Brad Thor and his Scot Harvath character, also excellent.

Myra Johnson said...

Wow, Tina, powerful post!!!! You're making me totally rethink what's going on in my current wip--and that's scary!!!

I've never read a Jack Reacher book or seen the movie, but now I may have to. There are many lines in this post I wanted to highlight and save!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks, Myra. And you aren't doing so bad yourself at hitting the high notes with that 4 1/2 RT Review Stars!!

Mary Connealy said...

I can picture The Rock (what's his name? sick of googling lol)

Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, as Reacher, though Jim Caviezel has that self-contained quietness Jack has.

One of my favorite lines Reacher is always thinking is (he has an amazing mathematical mind, near perfect memory) someone will dial a number or open a safe in front of him and of course Reacher remembers it without even trying and he'll stand there watching someone open a safe and think: Doesn't he know I'm standing right here?

Tina Radcliffe said...

I guess I should officially call to order the Jack Reacher Fan Club. Mary is Prezzy and I am VP.

Now serving...BLACK COFFEE and eggs with bacon.

Mary Curry said...

I remember you telling me you were reading these, Tina, so I looked at them in B&N. I decided I needed to wait til I had a stretch of time to read.

Off to get some coffee myself. Not sharing with Reacher.

BTW, I could be nicknamed Reacher cause old ladies in the supermarket always ask me to reach things for them.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm ashamed to say I've never read one of the books either! But I will remedy that very soon!

Tina, thanks for the great post. So many great things to keep in mind while I'm writing a first draft.

Mary Connealy said...


In the Killing Floor (I don't think this is a spoiler because it's in the blurb on Amazon--and it happens right up front.) Jack's brother is killed. And it's just a sadness ... the utter aloneness in Jack's life that in a VERY quiet way, makes you care so much about Reacher.
He and his brother were NOT close. Not enemies at all but they just had gone there own way. And when his brother dies, I think that creates an empathy that follows Reacher though all the books.
It's just quietly there, not dwelled on but I think you'll love the series MORE if you start at the beginning.
I read them all in order, not like that WILD TINA RADCLIFFE!!!

Missy Tippens said...

Courtney, I'm with you on Tom. So just reading Jack's description makes me think no way.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Melissa!!! Love your guess. :) :)

Jana Vanderslice said...

OK, just to be different I'm guessing that Child named him Reacher after his 11th grade US History teacher or after a fraternity brother.

And I think he drinks coffee because it's got to be hard to wack bad guys when you're drunk.
*I'm assuming! No personal experience! :)

Thanks, Tina the Great! I'm going to keep this one!!

Jana Vanderslice said...

Reaching things for little old ladies at the grocery store! That's Hilarious!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

MARY CURRY!!! You are soooo warm....

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL. Yeah, Jana, you need nerves of steel to pound the bad nerves of mush drunk.

CatMom said...

Great post, Tina.
I'd never heard of Jack Reacher until my husband got HOOKED on those books (and I was amazed, because my husband is not an avid reader---he typically reads something now and then, but not often).

So at ACFW last year, my husband and I were chatting with THE Mary Connealy ;) in the lobby, and she mentioned something about the Jack Reacher books. Immediately my husband's eyes lit up, and he and Mary shared some thoughts on their love of the books.

Later, when my husband told me he'd joined Lenora Worth's husband and Mary's husband to visit a museum, he couldn't remember Mary's last name. So he referred to her as: Mary REACHER!!! So for the remainder of ACFW, I thought of her not as Mary Connealy, but Mary Reacher! ;)

Couldn't resist sharing all of that. And I'm thinking his name came from people asking him to reach for things on top shelves at stores?? (am thinking my husband told me that?)
I'd guess his fave drink is milk.
BUT I haven't read the books yet- - although now I really want to!

Hope everyone has a safe Good Friday. Hugs, Patti Jo

Tina Radcliffe said...

OH. MY. GOSH. Patti Jo.

Mary Reacher.

She'll taunt me with this until the end of time.

She was known as Mary Reacher.

Jan Drexler said...

I watched the movie a few weeks ago. I liked the character enough to look for the books - but Tom Cruise?

His nickname around our house is Ferret-Face because I can never remember his real name.

Sorry Ferret-Face.

But I'll be looking for those books. The next question is, does the library have them on the shelf, or do I need to reserve them?

Oh, and my guess is that Reacher drinks milk. Muscle mass and all that.

And the name? Hmmm... It reminds me of the Reavers in the movie Serenity (and the TV show Firefly). So maybe there's a connection? He does whatever he needs to do to survive? Really, I have no idea.

Mary Connealy said...

I'm so in love with this post.
Have I mentioned that?

Mary Connealy said...

I'm assuming (it's hard to wack bad guys when you're drunk). No personal experience.

double lol

Tina Radcliffe said...

Some of the books will be on the shelf, Janet, and some you will have to reserve. OR you can sneak over to Large Print to grab them.

Mary Connealy said...

HAH! Rather Jack Reacher is known as Jack Connealy. That seems fair.

Mary Connealy said...

Patti Jo I remember that conversation. ANOTHER JACK REACHER FAN!

Oh we both lit up.


Tina Radcliffe said...


Yeah, drunk heroes are problematic.

Yes. You may have mentioned you like the post, Mary Reacher.

The other thing is Tommy Cruise is way too overdressed in the movie. Leather Jacket? Would Reacher wear a leather jacket??? I think not.

He might wear a Carhardtt jacket in gray.

Tina Radcliffe said...

SIZE 3XXX gray Carhardtt jacket.

Mary Connealy said...

Repeat after me: "Jack Reacher is a tough guy and we all know Tom Cruise can play a tough guy."

I liked the movie and My Cowboy liked it too and he's never read Jack Reacher...which suddenly seems like a major gap in his reading.

All this winter he went on a Louis L'Amour kick.
I did get him American Assassin by Vince Flynn but I don't think he's read it.

Mary Connealy said...

No, REacher would NOT wear a leather jacket because he throws all his clothes away after three days. (unless they get dirty faster)
I mean ALL HIS CLOTHES. He refuses to be weighed down with possessions. All he owns in the world is cash, an expired Visa and a collapsible toothbrush.
And he does the math how throwing clothes away is cheaper than washing them because to truly keep up with laundry, well he'd have to own two sets of clothes and either spent time finding a Laundromat or...ultimately own or rent a home.
Pricy compared to buying new every few days.

I still hurt just a little remembering in the Killing Floor Jack found his brother's cloths in a motel room (after his brother died) and he wore them and they were great. Suits, silk ties, classy stuff and at the end of three days, he just THROUGH ARMANI SUITS IN THE TRASH!

LOL He could have at least left them lying on a bench somewhere. Someone could have gotten some good out of them.

Mary Connealy said...

I remember one scene where his room is trashed and they BREAK HIS TOOTHBRUSH!
He stands there, looking at his broken toothbrush and it's like, "Now you've gone too far."


Okay, I'll shut up.

Lee Kilraine said...

What a great post, Tina! I started taking notes, then realized I might as well print it out it's so chock-full of great information. I love that you listed empathy first, because no matter the genre, if a reader doesn't care about our characters the rest of the list won't really matter.

And with your enthusiasm for the Jack Reacher novels, I can see I've been missing out. I did watch the movie, and though not a Tom Cruise fan, still really enjoyed it. So, I'll have to go track down a copy of The Killing Floor to get started.

Not going to guess on the "Reacher" name since I clicked on the links as I read today's post and saw that answer. But, I'll guess milk for Reacher's drink of choice.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, Mary. I've given your question of powerful more thought.

He is powerful also by virtue of his past training and command in the Army MP and from Wikipedia-

A graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, he served 13 years in the Military Police, during which time he became part of a fictional military police unit, the 110th Special Investigations Unit, formed to handle exceptionally tough cases, especially those involving members of the US Army Special Forces.

So though he is out of the Army he still has connections and friends in high places.

Not your ordinary drifter.

Tina Radcliffe said...

LEE!!! New profile pix. Is that your GH picture??? LOVE IT!!!

Janet Dean said...

Tina, your post is powerful, evidence that this character made a huge impact on you as a reader and writer. I'm looking at your points to up the strength of my hero. Wow! Excellent stuff!

Though film producers can work wonders, I can't imagine Tom Cruise's size and pretty boy self could handle the part believably.

Okay, Jack's name. He's a jack of all trades. He's unstoppable so he will hit the jack pot and reach his goal. :-)


Tina Radcliffe said...

And you can sign up for The Reacher Report here.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Ha! Jack of all trades. Like that, Janet.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And Reacher Gear is coming.

Can you see Mary and Tina in their Reacher shirts with Reacher hats??

Totally, awesome, dude.

Janet Dean said...

Yeah, but then I watched the trailer. Cruise is believable.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Only because you haven't read the book.

He is passable.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And that gratuitous shot of the woman in her underwear in the movie? What was that? She is not even IN the movie?

LeAnne Bristow said...

Hey Tina! Awesome I have to go out and read the books. My son, who is a Jack Reacher fan told me that his beverage of choice is definitely coffee. But I admit, I googled the name thing. When Child lost a job, his wife joked that he could be a "reacher" for things on the top shelf at the grocery story because he is so tall. Yes, I cheated...but it's only because my curiosity won't let me wait until later to find out the answers. I often google the endings of movies while watching them cause I can't stand not knowing what will happen, lol. So today I'm going to watch Jack Reacher on netflix and continue some editing. coffee's still on, even though it's 10 am. Have an awesome Good Friday! (and put me in for the drawings...please...even though I cheated!

Mary Connealy said...

The Reacher Report???

Mary Connealy said...

I went to sign up for the newsletter and look what I found!!!
From May 1st through May 31st, Brenda Novak's Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research offers up a staggering array of goodies on which to bid.

Lee's auction contribution is lunch in New York City for the winner and their guest (date and time will mutually agreeable and worked out after the auction closes). Registration is open now, but bidding won't begin until May 1st.

For more info:

Tina we could have lunch with Lee Child AND support a good cause!

Piper Huguley said...

Yes Tina it is. Made the trailer fun. I think this is one of those occasions when I will see the movie before I read the books. Tommy will be in my head and I'll envision him rather than what Lee Child says. I think it would harder to go the other way....

And he may have been overdressed according to the book, but it's cold by those Pittsburgh rivers...

Tina Radcliffe said...

I read the last page of books first, LeAnne.

My evil secret.

There must be some psycho babble about that.

Fear of disappointment??

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, Mary. I'm in. We could split it and each eat half the lunch.

You get salad and I get dessert.

You get water and I get a mimosa.

WHAT FUN!!!!! How fast can I mortgage my house???????

Susan Anne Mason said...

Whoa! You guys live in a whole other universe!

I'd never heard of this character either until my son had to do a book report and his teacher (a man) recommended the Jack Reacher books.

Didn't know it was a cult!

Great info, Tina!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, my gosh. Diet starting today. What will I wear? What do you eat for lunch when you are probably going to babble.

No soup.

Any thoughts????

Tina Radcliffe said...

Your son rocks, Susan.

Lee Kilraine said...

Tina, yup, it's my GH photo. You've been through it a few times to know ;) My daughter took it, and I was pretty happy with it, shadows, shiny face and all. Until another GH'er mentioned that with her professional photo she was able to remove her wrinkles. Darn, I didn't think of that!

And between you and Mary, you're making me need to go out and get a Reacher book. Like tonight.

DebH said...

okay, just re-reading the post and realized, Jack Reacher and I share a birthdate! whoa, how cool is that? I'm seven years younger than he'd be (if he was a real person... Mary don't beat me).


okay, I'm officially joining the fan club and hitting the library to glom a book and start reading the series IN ORDER. (see Mary? i can follow directions)

And I'm not going to picture Tom Cruise when reading. I'm gonna picture him as Lee Child wrote him. (even if he was okay with the Cruise man playing JR)

Meghan Carver said...

WOW! Just WOW! I need to read these books! So many excellent points learned here.

I've read the comments, so now I know the answers to both his name origin and his beverage of choice. :) But I'd still like to be entered in the drawing, so I will say that my guess on beverage was going to be milk. With his height and his strength, he's need the nutrients in milk...not to mention the coolness of a man who's not afraid to drink milk. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

I see no wrinkles. But if you do find any you can go to and VIOLA!! GONE.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Happy Birthday Deb and Jack!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Milk is for vigilantes. I like that Meghan!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Tina!!! Sounds like I need to read one of these Jack Reacher novels to up my suspense game! Sounds pretty exciting and fun, too.
I'll guess. 1. Reacher came from the author reading the phone book and thinking, "Wow, I'm really reaching here."
2. Since he needs so many calories a day, I think his favorite beverage is whole milk. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

And I generally boycott any movie with Tom Cruise in it. LOL! Just don't like the little ... guy.

Tina Radcliffe said...

The little guy? LOL.

Mary Connealy said...


food on my face...dripped on my shirt.


Mary Connealy said...

In one book Reacher had been doing some kind of physical labor, digging swimming pools in Florida maybe? And he's build up such a huge muscle mass that in the end, when he get shot (admittedly a low power gun) his CHEST MUSCLES STOP THE BULLET!

LOL Reacher enters Superman territory.

Mary Connealy said...

I don't really boycott too many actors though I have a few I find so personally unappealing, I mean in the way they conduct their lives, that it keeps me from wanting to support their films.

Mostly I just never go to any movie. It's not our thing. But we actually went to see Reacher in a movie theater.

And movie #2 is next, it's from Child's last book, Never Go Back.

Tina Radcliffe said...

So should we eat lunch with Lee (he'll let us call him that) and beg him to let us pick the next movie Reacher??

Mary Connealy said...

No, Tina. We will BEG HIM to mention our books in his next Reacher Report. For heaven's sakes you'd waste this chance debating appropriate ACTORS!!!!

Sally said...

Did I miss the conversation on which Reacher book to read first?

I'm guessing he drinks milk. 'Cause I like milk. And I'm 6'5 (minus 11 inches) and my hands are the perfect size for holding baby chicks. So...

Someone mentioned the rock playing Reacher, but Reacher's blond, right? So what actor out there would even come close to being able to play him? Maybe Rupert Penry Jones? Can he play a tough guy like this? He's tall.

Mary Connealy said...

I read the auction site carefully. We probably have to buy our own plane ticket! :( This is an expensive situation.

Mary Connealy said...

I wish people would bid a fortune and buy a plane ticket to have lunch with me.

My children won't even do that! Even without the bid and the plane ticket!!!!!!!!!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Tina, you had me at Jack.

I'm heading to the store for a Lee Child's novel. Be still my suspense heart.

Just found Chelsea Cain. I'm loving her stories. Now Lee Childs.

Thank you!

Great info and analysis of a master writer. Jack sounds as tall as Honest Abe...who had huge hands. Remember some type of genetic problem that caused him to be long and lean. Although Jack certainly doesn't sound lean. And he doesn't sound like Tom Cruise!

I'm guessing he drinks milk. Name? Hmmm? No clue.

Mary Connealy said...

Sally, The Killing Floor.

These are NOT Christian books, you know that right?


Tina Radcliffe said...


Rupert Penry Jones!!!

I'm all in on that one, Sally!!!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Reality is I'd be babbling incoherently while you'd be negotiating getting him to name a character in his next book after you, Connealy.

Mary Connealy said...

I'm counting on your babbling so I can grab a chance to increase my power, Radcliffe.


Mary Connealy said...

I've been trying to read Harry Bosch. I read one and liked it enough to read the next (Michael Connelly) but I don't see myself obsessing and reading 16 books in six weeks.

ps Tina is who introduced me to Jack Reacher.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Harry isn't as cool as Jack.

I watched the pilot for the TV series on Amazon. (Harry that is).

You so owe me, Connealy.

I will count on you to be translator, when I babble.

Tina Pinson said...

He could wear Marine camp too. Hahaha.

Ya know Madame Radcliffe, I had military on my mind and heaven knows why I plugged in Marine. I think it's because they seem so much tougher than Army.


But truly if that's what I was hoping for I should have went with Navy. LOL.

Seriously, it must have been auto correct.


Sally said...

See? I should be casting movies, huh? :D

I do know they're not CBA. And I do appreciate the warning!

Jackie Smith said...

All this J R is News to
Guess I better get to the Library!

Tina and Mary Reacher (C) are really fun
1. I think his name Reacher means he reaches for the stars!
2. Don't need a Starbucks hour's drive to them!
Happy weekend to all......

Tina Radcliffe said...

Pinson is cruisin' for a bruisin'!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Duly warned and noted, Sally :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Jackie! You poor thing. I am so sorry. No Starbucks.

Tina Pinson said...

Mary, I am crazy. Everyone must have a touch if vulnerability. His height and beefy hands alone must make him feel self conscious at times. And it is tough measuring up as the child of a Marine.

Reacher must have a lot of deep seeded emotions.

I mean the poor guy probably sticks with coffee because coffee cups are sturdier when out against his mitten hands.

Just imagine how much spilt milk the man cried over because he busted all the drinking glasses.

Tina Radcliffe said...

On the floor laughing, Pinson.

Pam Hillman said...

The books and the movie sound great.

Maybe it's a stretch (ie...reach) to think an author with the last name Child would write about such a larger-than-life character.

Milk has got to be his drink of choice.

Not that I'm eligible to win, but there you go... :)

Mary Connealy said...

Trying to think of one speck of vulnerability in Jack Reacher.

He just doesn't care. He may really be a sociopath, but a fairly constructive one.

Pam Hillman said...

My husband has Reacher hands. Ring size back in high school: 14. And I wore a 6.5-7.


Pam Hillman said...

What about he reaches for a huge mug of nice strong coffee, laced with vodka and milk?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Pam, you made me chuckle. Won't vodka curdle milk? Well it ought to. Yuck.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I think he's vulnerable because he does care. In all the books, given the choice of walking away and doing what is right, he chooses what is right. A true sociopath doesn't do that.

Pam Hillman said...

I wouldn't know, T! I've never had vodka! 8-\

Cindy W. said...

Well, I went out and bought a Jack Reacher book today. The only one left on the shelf with a glaring 12 inch open space where I would assume other Jack Reacher books were residing at one time. The title is Nothing to Lose which is what I told my husband when I bought it today.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, that one is pretty graphic, Cindy W. Keep in mind you are monitoring the book for Empathy, GMC, URGENCY and Details.

It's a pretty tense book.

Two small towns in the middle of nowhere: Hope and Despair. Between them, nothing but twelve miles of empty road. Jack Reacher can’t find a ride, so he walks. All he wants is a cup of coffee. What he gets are four hostile locals, a vagrancy charge, and an order to move on. They’re picking on the wrong guy.

Reacher is a hard man. No job, no address, no baggage. Nothing at all, except hardheaded curiosity. What are the secrets that Despair seems so desperate to hide?

With just one ally—a mysterious woman cop from Hope—and many enemies, Reacher goes up against a whole town, hunting the rich man at its core, cracking open his terrifying agenda, asking the question: Who has the edge—a man with everything to gain, or a man with nothing to lose?

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'm probably going to go straight to hell for telling you all to read Reacher on the Easter weekend.

Melanie Dickerson said...

I was going to say, "the little twerp," but it's not nice to call people names. :-) It is really too bad that they cast him as Jack Reacher. Otherwise I probably would have gone to see it or gotten it from Netflix. Now I'll have to read the book instead. :-)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Reading the book isn't a bad option.

For a less violent read, try starting with (MY BAD TELLING YOU TO READ OUT OF ORDER), 61 Hours.

Shh, don't tell Mary.

Mary Curry said...

All he wants is a cup of coffee

Um, did you just give away the answer to one of your questions?

Mary Connealy said...

Well, I do believe in reading a series in order but clearly Tina did NOT and she still loved the series so this rule of thumb may not apply to Jack Reacher.
In fact, maybe he's the exception to all the rules.

Tina Radcliffe said...

SHHHH, Mary Curry.

Mary Curry said...

Would this be an okay time to mention that Piper's entry into Amazon Breakthrough contest is now up for reading and reviewing?


Tina Radcliffe said...

Yes. It would be a good time and the Weekend Edition goes up at midnight. EST. Be sure to mention it again then.

Congratulations, Piper!!!!

Walt Mussell said...

I have never read a Jack Reacher book either.

I'll go for milk, without looking at the answers. Jack Reacher sounds like a guy who would watch Indy racing and the Indy 500 winner gets milk.

Julie Lessman said...

TINA!!! You have me hooked on Jack Reacher now!!! I never wanted to watch the movies, but it looks like now they will be on my TBS list, so THANK YOU!! Keith and I are always looking for good movies to watch.

And, WOW, was this a great blog too!! I choose vodka as Jack's favorite drink, and as far as how Jack Reacher got his name? I surfed the web, but couldn't find it, so I'll take a shot in the dark and say because he's out of reach of the police.


Tina Radcliffe said...

The movie is free on Amazon and Netflix!!!!

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Favorite beverage... Coffee?

Jack Reacher's name... Because he's tall enough to reach whatever he wants?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Anna Weaver Hurtt!

Lovely name!!!

Mary Preston said...

I'm going to have to guess.

Reacher because he reaches the end goal.

Beverage: black tea, or bourbon - or both.

Chris Bailey said...

Coffee! And I read the interview with Lee Child about the Reacher name, so I won't tell. Thanks for this analysis!

Dana McNeely said...

Tina, I love your post - thanks for encapsulating the things that make Jack Reacher so un-put-downable. Yes, I read one of the Jack Reacher books - and loved it. I'll definitely read more.

I do have some guesses. I was so impressed by the one novel I read, that I googled Lee Child (awhile back). I think I remember that the name 'Reacher' came from an incident in a grocery store where Child got something from the top shelf for his wife. :) This is probably totally skewed!

Dana McNeely said...

Favorite beverage - I think it was milk. Got to get protein and calcium along with 10,000 calories!

Marjorie/cenya2 said...

His wife suggested the name Reacher, if he failed as a writer he could be a reacher in a grocery store.
Probably he likes coffee.

cenya2 at Hotmail dot com

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hey,hey!!! THANKS for stopping by and commenting, Mary Preston (from down under) and Chris Bailey and Marjorie and my pal Dana!!!

Jack is amazing.

Fiction Writer said...

I'd say the name Reacher is because he reaches out to find conflicts that he solve using justice, which he couldn't do for his brother.

Natalie Monk said...

Had to go back and grab this post to see what all the Jack Reacher hype is about these days.

Now I'm dying to pick up one of those novels. So much to read, so little time!!!

Tina, this post should win some kind of award for coolness. Definitely makes me want to check up on my characters.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'll give it the coolness award, Natalie. LOL.