January 28, 2023

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher

Lee Child

Memorial Weekend is over and it’s back to work for everyone except the soldiers and institution everyone praised on their way to the golf course and beach. The military was already back to work, with eight soldiers killed in Afghanistan over Memorial Weekend.  The military doesn’t get weekends off, and going to the beach means Normandy for the World War Two vets.  Neville Chamberlain had asked Hitler to cancel the picnic. Hitler refused and the Brits sent Churchill in his place. The Allied soldiers were the ants at Hitler’s picnic. The rest is history that we celebrated this past weekend.

What’s really worth dying and living for was the agenda for Memorial Day, and for every day.

Lee Child’s Worth Dying For is the 13th of 14 books in the Jack Reacher series. Child’s 14th is 61 Hours, with a review here in Esquire, asking if American fiction is killing the tough guy. Not if Jack Reacher is still around.

Jack Reacher has some rules for living and dying, unless he’s in a fight. When in a fight, Reacher has no rules other than to win, explaining his streak of going without a broken nose. It’s his way of saying he’s still standing.

Nothing is really worth living for unless the day begins with coffee. I can’t argue about the day beginning with coffee. Not that I’d ever want to argue with Jack Reacher about anything. When Reacher asks for coffee, he means the real stuff, black and strong. The coffee can burn a hole in a sewer pipe but that’s okay. Reacher’s got a strong stomach for a lot of things and he can handle the hard stuff in a coffee mug. Like a real pro, equipment is everything and to Reacher, the coffee mug is as important, if  not more so, than the coffee. Reacher is not a Starbucks kind of guy. Certainly not tea,  especially not green tea, and God forbid, decaf anything. Reacher has been fighting since he was five years old. Concern for his health comes from his fists, and attention to detail, not tea bags.

Now, about that broken nose. Everyone is going to get one, metaphorically speaking. It comes from letting your guard down, believing the hype, thinking you’re all that because you conquered or vanquished an enemy or opposition of some kind. But every day is a new day. The situation has changed, and so has the enemy or opposition. Coffee and situational awareness, paying attention to the little details, the change in rules, if there are any rules in this fight, ignoring the plaudits from your coaches, teachers, cheerleaders, fans, friends, employer, and study the new landscape in front of you.

Jim Tressel and Ohio State just got a broken nose for NCAA infractions. He sure fooled me with the sweater vest. Reacher comes down hard on the football guys in Worth Dying For. For the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Worth Dying For, beating Reacher is a hell of a lot tougher than beating Oklahoma. It’s that hangup about rules, traditional way of doing things, asking why. Don’t ever ask why or worry about the rules when in a fight with Reacher.  Worry about your nose. Everyone gets the broken nose. It’s only a matter of time. Or as Jack Reacher would say, a matter of human nature. If you’re human and I’m assuming Google’s unique visitors is counting only humans, your CRACK (!) is coming, if it hasn’t already. False confidence is a dangerous thing, and a very human thing.

Don’t waste good food. That’s a way of saying make something of yourself and your life. Turn your life into something worth living and dying for. If you’re going to eat something good, do something good. Reacher doesn’t eat the fancy meals, but he appreciates the importance of a full stomach. Fighting and killing someone on an empty stomach is just more aggravation.

Cases go cold, not your heart. Reacher operates in a lot of cold, lonely environments, and with people who have given up on themselves. They’ve accepted their fate, the learned helplessness. Reacher is a big guy, all of six five, and has a bigger heart. If Reacher has a cold heart, it’s because he’s dead. Reacher won’t ever die. He might fade away into some literary rocking chair in the sky, but if Child decides to knock him off, it’ll be Armageddon time for all of us.

Don’t try to take all the glory for yourself. Reacher buried a lot of bad guys who tried to go it alone against him, wanting to impress their bosses. Each of them thinks they’re the invincible one in the group. Reacher breaks their egos with their legs.

The earth listens. You may think no one is watching, but the earth still listens. Mother Nature gets more respect than human nature. The harsh setting of the Nebraska landscape in Worth Dying For reminds me of this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“Nature understands no jesting. She is always true, always serious, always severe. She is always right, and the errors are always those of man.”

Those Nebraska football players make a lot of errors against Reacher. They need to add a military cop to the coaching staff.

Everyone has a “barn.” That place where you think your bad behavior is safe from public viewing. It’s that human nature thing, as Jack Reacher would say. Jim Tressel’s barn door was just opened. It’s better to just let the old barns rot and collapse into the earth.

The British author said he named his character Jack Reacher because people in grocery stores kept asking him for help reaching items on the top shelf. His wife said if writing didn’t work out, he could become a “reacher.”

His writing is working out. Fourteen Jack Reacher books and Lee Child is still standing.



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