I’ve been a fan of Andy Martin’s writing for several years. I also loved his little advertising film recruiting for his home department of modern languages at Cambridge.
However, I wasn’t drawn to his more recent Lee Child project. Interviewing and writing articles around Child’s writing and his Jack Reacher character. Child is prolific with Reacher, and a lot more besides apparently. Martin’s Child project culminated in Reacher Said Nothing.
By rights, given my taste for Martin’s writing, I should be reading Nothing, but as I noted on Twitter a month or so ago, I’d never read any Child, certainly not any Reacher. Obviously I’m aware of Reacher in general through the crash-bang-wallop man-of-few-words genre of films he’s spawned, but not the kind of films I go out of my way to watch. May have seen the odd one on TV. There was a big Child shaped hole in my reading which meant I probably couldn’t appreciate Martin’s latest?
So, for 2017 I’ve been reading Child’s Reacher oevre, starting with his first two; Killing Floor and Die Trying. Having lived in the US myself, the cultural and geographical references amuse, particularly Die Trying set in far north-west Montana locations same as Zen and the Art, same way as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods also does in some of the same locations as Killing Floor. But for the characters, the ballistics and the anti-hero-doesn’t-get-the-girl “thriller” plot lines, truly awful. Worse than I’d feared (*).
OK, so the Raymond Chandler-esque machine-gun narrative of short sharp phrasing I can see has a certain charm and interest maybe for a language scholar. But is there a level of irony I’m not seeing? A joke I’m not in on?
So my quandary is, why would I read Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing, and is there any other Child I should be reading?
[Post Note: Added links to previous Andy Martin reviews, and …
(*) I say worse than I’d feared. Clearly a phenomenon to succeed over dozens of books, and clever to craft so many stories to a winning formula. But, even having read only the first two, alarming how many formulaic plot and narrative devices are already repeated. The whole man-of-few-words device, an update of the man-with-no-name, leaves endless options for filling out the backstory as hooks for new themes in later pieces. Clever as a craft, but is it not too transparently obvious, a thriller with neon sign-posts?]
[Post Note: As an anlytical piece on the best-seller creative process I see Martin specifically follows Child’s writing of “Make Me”. Oh my god, does that mean I need to read another before embarking on “Reacher Said Nothing”. I’m beginning to see literary criticism of the popularly successful process, not (necessarily) concerned with other qualities of the literary content. Fair enough. Catching-up on Martin’s blog, I see he’s been covering a lot of the Nordic-Noir genre too. Again several very successful strains of the genre have resulted – our house is full of Nesbo, Adler-Olsson and the rest – but has it not all been repetition to the point of boring cliche since the original “Killing”?]
Also published on Medium.