Geschrieben am 1. März 2024 von für Crimemag, CrimeMag März 2024

Nick Kolakowski: Smoking Gun (21) – Reacher

What Makes Jack Reacher Tick?

            It took me a long time to warm up to Jack Reacher. When Lee Child published the first books in his long-running series about the gigantic brawler, I was still in high school and more focused on reading as many cerebral mysteries as I could find—locked-room murders and erudite detectives interested me more than fisticuffs.

            My opinion changed a decade later, when my job as a journalist necessitated I spend most of my time on the road, often trapped in airports large and small. I used a portion of my per diem to buy paperback thrillers that would get me through the next flight, the next overnight wait in a departure lounge, the next hotel room in the middle of nowhere. I started buying Jack Reacher novels, finding an instant connection in a character also relentlessly on the move, crashing nightly in motels and bus seats. (I also liked the action—as I’ve gotten older, many of my youthful pretensions have faded, and I’ve developed a steady appreciation for pulpy brawls.)

           Around this time, I also grew serious about writing mysteries and thrillers, but at least initially, I had zero urge to emulate what Lee Child was doing, aside from studying how he put together the many fights throughout the series. That changed when I went to my grandparents’ house and spied a paperback copy of “The Hard Way” on my grandmother’s bookshelf.

            The sight of it piqued my curiosity, if only because my grandmother, rest her soul, was the sort of woman who typically shied away from literary violence and criminality. “Your characters need more Jesus,” she once told me after reading one of my books.

            She did like mysteries, however, and the more I thought about it, the more I developed an appreciation for Child’s approach. The Reacher novels are positioned as brawlers, a somewhat higher-class version of the men’s adventure books that once filled the wire racks of drugstores everywhere, but they’re also mysteries—each book features some strain of whodunit and/or whydunit. Peel away the violence, and the mysteries at the core of these novels are usually pretty elegant.

            Lee Child (born James Grant) has made no apologies about being commercially focused. Even the pen name is designed to put him on that prime bookshelf space between Chandler and Christie. The brawling aspects of Reacher capture the portion of the testosterone portion of the audience, while the mystery aspects hook into that massive market. This dual approach is a smart one, and it helps explain why nobody else has managed to produce a significant competitor to Reacher, at least in terms of blockbuster sales: similar books focus too much on the fights and the white-knight aspects while leaving out the other aspects that would coax a vast pool of mystery readers (many of whom claim they don’t like straightforward, pulpy action) to give a book a try.

            The new “Reacher” TV series, available on Amazon Prime, takes a similarly smart approach to the material. First and foremost, it’s funny. Alan Ritchson, the actor playing Reacher, knows he needs to deliver the tough-guy lines with a bit of smirking humor—otherwise, the whole endeavor risks becoming leaden, ridiculous. Contrast that with the largely humorless portrayal by Tom Cruise in two “Reacher” films a decade ago, which came off as trying far too hard. The series’ lightness is yet another sign that Child, who executive produced, knows what he’s doing to grab as big an audience as possible. Even if you’re not a fan of the books (or the series), it’s worth paying attention to how he’s architected something so massive.

Nick Kolakowski is the author of „Maxine Unleashes Doomsday“ and „Boise Longpig Hunting Club“ as well as the Love & Bullets trilogy of novellas. His noir fiction has appeared in Tough, ThugLit, Mystery Tribune, Plots With Guns, and various anthologies. His „Payback is Forever“ (Shotgun Honey 2022) is inspired clearly by the novels of Richard Stark. Our review here (in German). – See also his Hell of a Mess. A Love & Bullets Hookup.

Nick Kolakowski, geboren 1980, aufgewachsen in Washington. D.C., hat Geschichte in Chicago studiert. Er schreibt Romane, Kurzgeschichten, Lyrik und Essays, viele davon über Crime Fiction und verwandte Themen. Seine Texte erscheinen u. a. in der Washington Post, in Shotgun Honey, North American Review, The Evergreen Review, Rust & Months. Kolakowski lebt in New York City. Eine Besprechung des von Parker inspirierten „Payback is Forever“ in unseren Bloody Chops.

Bei Suhrkamp auf Deutsch: Love & Bullets.
His essays with us

His column „Smoking Gun“ with us: 
‘True Detective: Night Country’ Tries to Make the Familiar into Something New
Is David Fincher’s ‘The Killer’ a Comedy? 
Rewatching ‘Drive’: Gosling as Noir’s Apex Predator
Elmore Leonard  – City Primeval
Cormac McCarthy Used Crime Fiction’s Tropes to Make Masterpieces
Parker: Donald Westlake’s One Amazing Trick
Cosby, Winslow, Pruitt: Three Heavy-Hitting Thillers for Summer
Weed-Based Crime Thrillers are Going Up in Smoke
‘The Last of Us’: Crime in the Post-Apocalypse 
What Made “Glass Onion” and “Knives Out” So Popular?
Jordan Harper’s One-Two Punch of Crime Fiction Deserves a Wide Audience
‘True Detective’ Season 2: Was It Better Than We All Thought?
From ‘Touch of Evil’ to ‘True Detective,’ Long Shots are Crime Films’ Secret Weapon
Michael Mann, again: What Michael Mann Teaches Us About Enduring Crime Fiction
„Heat 2“ – How Do You Craft a Sequel to a Masterpiece?
4 Ways Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” Novel Stands Out From the Film.
On „Heat“: Manhunter Takes Down Thief: How Michael Mann’s Early Career Led to ‘Heat’
The Most Honest Nihilism – on „The Way of the Gun“
No, Time to Die – The latest James Bond movie digs into the fatalism at the iconic spy’s core.
Cormac McCarthy’s Overlooked Masterpiece? – „The Councelor“
Nightmare Alley“ – How Guillermo del Toro’s Film Alters a Masterpiece Noir Novel
David Cronenberg – The Carnal Crime of “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises”
With Parker, Donald E. Westlake Pulled Off Crime Fiction’s Most Spectacular Magic Trick
Guy Ritchie’s Return to Crime Films is Worth Watching

Tags : ,