I am here in New York at Thrillerfest 2013 with Lee Child. Lee has sold over 60,000,000 copies of the Jack Reacher series of books. Jack Reacher became even more of a household name when it was turned into a movie staring Tom Cruise. I will ask the fan questions, but first let’s start with something a little abnormal.
Abby: After reading your interview in Playboy magazine I am curious as to which of these is your favorite: Sex, Drugs, or Rock and Roll?
Lee: At 18 it was probably sex. At 28, probably Rock and Roll. Now I’m 58 and drugs are the only thing keeping me going.
Abby: If I asked your wife would she agree?
Lee: She would probably agree. That was about the order of things. We were pretty good until the last few years since we got old.
Abby: Speaking of Rock and Roll, have you ever had a reunion with your “Dark Tower” band mates?
Lee: That’s a great question. Unfortunately one of them died in a freak accident in Croatia. Nothing sinister at all. He was taking a bicycle tour and fell off his bike and hit his head on a rock in a ditch. I haven’t see the others in a few years now.
Abby: Would you ever do a reunion with the remaining band members?
Lee: I hate reunions. You meet these guys and they look like somebody’s dad. They don’t look like what you remember.
Abby: How did you meet Robert Plant?
Lee: I was 14 and in a band. We rented a rehearsal room. Because we were school kids we booked up until 11 PM slot. The big kids got the 11 PM, overnight. And one night this very polite, pleasant, well spoken young man came in to check the facility because his band was coming in to rehearse the following week. The day rolled around and 4 of them came in. They helped up shove our equipment to one side and we helped shove theirs out to the middle. That was Led Zeppelin.
Abby: Did you like them at the time?
Lee: Totally, absolutely! I loved them from the start. I saw their first tour and they were sensational. They’re still my favorite band.
Abby: How many guitars are in your collection and do you have a favorite?
Lee: I had two 6-string guitars but they were stolen actually. But I have 12 basses. My favorite out of them is probably my Paul McCartney violin bass or my Jack Bruce Gibson.
Abby: Do you play them?
Lee: Very, very badly. They’re really collectors items. I wish I was, but I’m not a musician.
Abby: I read that you like to relax and enjoy marijuana.
Abby: Are you a sativa or indica guy?
Lee: I’m pretty much an indica guy. I have a guy on my speed dial on my phone, and he comes down and he usually has an interesting selection of stuff. People ask me should it be legalized and I say, “No, it should be made compulsory!”
Abby: Do you have dual citizenship?
Lee: No. I’m only a British citizen, probably about to be deported after a statement like that.
Abby: We can edit.
Lee: No. No. No. That’s fine.
Abby: You’re a tall, handsome, intelligent man that knows how to fight. Did you ever consider playing the roll of Jack Reacher in the movie?
Lee: I would agree I’m tall because that is something that you can measure with a tape measure. The rest of it is highly subjective. I think I’m too old, my accent is wrong and I am sort of 80 pounds underweight to play Reacher. My whole theory with the movie was, “Leave it to them.” I believe that you can’t do anything by committee. I think that it’s their movie project. They should just be allowed to just get on with it. Same thing I feel about all aspects. I write the words. The graphic design, that’s somebody else. I don’t want to do that. You have a graphic designer who is an expert. Let him do it. I don’t want to be looking over their shoulder, and I don’t want them to be looking over mine.
Abby: Will there be a movie sequel?
Lee: I’m sure there will be. It made a lot of money and it did very well around the world.
Abby: How did the term “Reacher Creatures” come about?
Lee: They called themselves that. I think that back in the early days of the internet Bob Crais had a pretty active website forum and his fans called themselves “the crazies.” So mine had to come up with something and they decided on “Reacher Creatures.”
Abby: What do you like most about being Co-President with Kathleen Antrim of the International Thriller Writers?
Lee: Because I’m a British citizen it lives up to the international part. It’s not really just another American president. So I think that’s good. I just like writers. I like writers organizations. ITW is fundamentally helpful. That’s what it’s for. It’s to help writers. It has a very well developed debut program and it offers a lot of support, encouragement and advice. I think that’s what an organization should do. I’m happy to be part of it.
Abby: We are moving to the Fan questions.
Abby: What characteristics of Jack Reacher’s do you aspire to possess?
Lee: It’s really the other way around. Which of mine does he aspire to possess? All fiction is largely autobiographical. Reacher’s mental and internal processes are mine. His taste and enthusiasms and so on are mine. But the violence, I try and turn it down so that the books are plausible.
Abby: What was the catalyst for writing the prequels for Jack Reacher?
Lee: Really it was reader interest. The first prequel was the eighth book. By then the first seven books people had taken to, very gratifyingly I may add, they always had two questions: Where did he come from? Why is he like he is now? They also ask, “If he’s like that now what was he like when he was in the army, inside the institution?” So I felt the book aided. It was time to answer those questions and to sort of show his family. Although he is a complete loner and an isolated person, obviously he came from somewhere. It was time to portray his family. Then in another 8 books, book 16 was also a prequel because people had been asking, “Why did he leave the army? What was it that shook him loose? It was time to answer that question too.
Abby: Will Jack Reacher find everlasting love?
Lee: Well he is definitely looking for it. Reacher really enjoys solitude. But at the same time he’s very worried about having that turn into loneliness. He’s aware of this stress between the two things. He wants to be alone but he doesn’t want to be lonely. So will he find everlasting true love? He’s looking for it. The problem is the sort of women that are likely to satisfy him are smart enough to know that she’d better stay a million miles away.
Abby: The number 1 fan question was, “Why Tom Cruise?”
Lee: Well because, it’s a linear sort of algorithm of yes or no questions. Do you want to have a movie made? Yes or no? If it’s no then fine, you don’t sign the deal. If it’s yes then you sign the deal. And then you run into subsidiary questions. Do you want this movie to actually make it to the theater? And if you do then you have to have an actor that is capable of attracting the finance and studio interest. These things are not cheap you know? By the time they have made the movie and they strike all the prints and they promote it, you’re over $100,000,000. Now which actor can attract that level of investment? And there are precious few of them really. In this category may be 5 or 6 actors that are in that position. And of that handful of actors if there had been some 6 foot 5, 250 pound actor with icy blue eyes and scruffy blonde hair then you would say that’s our Reacher. But the point is there isn’t. There’s Johnny Depp, Russell Crow, Matt Damon or Tom Cruise. And so which of those is the better Reacher? And then you think well none of them look anything like Reacher. So which one is probably going to be able to act like Reacher? They can’t do the visuals but can they do the personality. And Cruise was the only one that could.
Abby: Were you pleased with his performance?
Lee: I was very pleased with it. I was very relaxed about it because it was very firmly fixed in my mind that the book is the book and the movie is the movie. It’s a parallel track. So they are not sequential. The movie does not come along and erase everything that went before. It’s parallel. And so I was overly cheerful about it. You know they could have set it on Mars with aliens as far as I was concerned. I wanted to see another creative team’s take. I just wanted to see their version. And to me whether or not it was similar to the book didn’t matter because the book’s still there. I used to say to people, “I guarantee you Tom Cruise is not going to come to your house and steal your books.”
Abby: Do you have a favorite joke or saying?
Lee: My 2 favorite sayings in this business are completely contradictory. One is, “Do it once and do it right.” And the other is, “Don’t get it right get it written.”
Abby: You said their will be 21 books?
Lee: I am signed up for 21 now and after that I will probably quit.
Abby: Writing or just Jack Reacher?
Lee: Writing. I’ll retire. It is my vision to retire.
Abby: Do you have anything to say to the fans?
Lee: I’m just always very grateful that they read the books and very grateful that they take it so seriously. For instance you know the Tom Cruise issue, it’s fantastic that they have an opinion. It means the character means something to them. If somebody told me that all those years ago that you are going to write a character that people are going to get so invested in that they are going to get angry about the choice of actor. You would take that as absolute gold standard. You would say that it doesn’t get better than that. So I am just grateful for their time and attention.
Abby: I feel a “Misery” episode coming on.
Lee: Do you know much about baseball?
Abby: A little. You’re a Yankees fan.
Lee: Lou Gehrig had that streak of unbroken appearances. And then Cal Ripkin eventually exceeded it. And I think he should not have. What happened with Gehrig was he got sick. That’s what terminated his streak. He got sick with a fatal disease. I think as a remark of respect Ripkin should have matched him and stopped. Just taken a day off. It’s not that Ripkin was a better player it’s just that Ripkin didn’t get a fatal illness. And I feel, my favorite series of all time was the Travis McGee series by John MacDonald. He did 21 of those but died. On the same theory, I would like to match that.
Abby: Please don’t follow that the last part.
Lee: No I won’t follow that. I hope I don’t follow that. But I would like to do the 21. And as a mark of respect I’ll say, “I’ll match you but I won’t exceed you because you had the misfortune of dying and I haven’t.”
Abby: We want to keep you around.
Lee: Well I’m going to stick around. I can’t wait to come back to these things as a fan rather than as a participant. We get into writing because we are fans of the genre. We are always readers first. There are dozens of people here that I am a fan of. I would be really happy to just come back and listen to them and get my books signed.
Abby: Do you have a favorite that’s here? Or dare you say?
Lee: I’m not going to say because it’s too hard on the others. Their is a rotating cast that are always here that are worth listening to. This year Anne Rice who’s generally speaking not often in public so it is a rare opportunity to see her. Michael Connelly is a Spotlight guest and I’m a big fan of his. There will always be 4 or 5 people here that I would really pay money to see. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll be retired. I’ll be living on a beach but I’ll come back here once a year to check up on it.
Abby: Thank you for talking with me today. I look forward to reading High Heat on August 6, 2013.
Lee: Thank you. Thank you for your time.