The Reacher Guy: Skilled portrait punctures some Lee Child myths

Heather Martin’s warm but meticulous study of popular crime author

Lee Child: Born James Dover Grant, he  was “a slippery, shadowy figure” according to a teacher.

Lee Child: Born James Dover Grant, he was “a slippery, shadowy figure” according to a teacher.

The subjects of literary biographies, by and large, are both widely revered and safely dead. There’s no great mystery in this. Chunky biographies are a seasonal phenomenon, among the dependable unit-shifters that can hold their own in the pre-Christmas big leagues. And the consensus seems to be that – unlike, say, footballers or former commandos – most living writers just aren’t box office material.

There are exceptions, of course, and at first glance it might seem inevitable that Lee Child should make the cut. He’s long been a celebrity writer, a very different breed from celebrities who’ve written books. But as Heather Martin’s title suggests, that’s not what makes him truly interesting. Lee Child created Jack Reacher, a character of such gigantic appeal that even this A-list author remains in his shadow. And to invent Reacher, Lee Child first had to invent himself.

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