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Don’t disrespect Jack Reacher in new novel


Jack Reacher is back on both page and screen.

The page is in the form of “The Secret,” the 28th volume of the series, now co-written by series creator Lee Child and his brother Andrew Child.

On screen, it comes in the form of the second season of Amazon Prime’s “Reacher” series, this time based on the 11th Reacher novel, “Bad Luck and Trouble,” set to air on December 15.

The last time I wrote about my enjoyment of the Reacher novels, I received one of the angriest reader emails in my decade-plus as Biblioracle, accusing me of stupidity for embracing a series and character that glorifies violence. I won’t deny that the Reacher stories contain a large amount of violence, but I would also like to point out that the characters and sequences are not mindless, and the Reacher books are a pleasure to read, even if you don’t confuse them with literary award winners. These are important and real.

“The Secret” is set in 1992, when Reacher is still serving as an active military police officer. The film begins with Reacher reporting a theft at a military armory in Chicago, using his unique instincts and cunning to ensure that the perpetrator does nothing but confess. In alternate episodes, we see a pair of female assassins claiming their victims as acts of personal revenge. Before long, Reacher is pulled into Washington, D.C., as part of a team of misfits from various government agencies trying to catch these killers. As the story progresses, we also see a deeper mystery reaching the highest levels of government and corporate America.

It’s not a spoiler that Reacher eventually triumphs and ensures justice is done on all fronts, because every Reacher novel ends this way. The pleasure is in seeing the mystery unfold and how Childs keeps the reader guessing as to the inevitable conclusion.

Reacher is a classic chivalric hero who acts on the principle of honor and service, protecting the weak from the strong, often putting him at odds with people in power. The fact that rules are so important means that Reacher pursues justice regardless of the possible consequences for himself. Yes, this kind of devotion to a cause is largely absent in real life, but it’s part of what makes Reacher an intriguing character. In principle, it acts as we wish, decisively and effectively.

The violence in the Reacher novels is always purposeful, never gratuitous, and is told in a signature realistic style that makes clear the method and purpose behind the violence. Reacher’s actions are precisely calculated to stay one step ahead of his enemies. He says he believes in disproportionate violence because it is more likely to end the violence more quickly.

Does this glorify violence? I claim no. When a non-violent solution to a problem is found, Reacher uses it, often giving his opponents the chance to choose peaceful surrender. It is also clear that we should see Reacher as a fictional character rather than a real one.

The Reacher novels are certainly not sexist either. Women in the Reacher universe — including “The Secret” — are just as capable as men of subtly evil or great heroism. Reacher makes no prejudices based on race, social standing or gender. The rules require that everyone be treated equally.

The Amazon Prime series makes violence more internal as a visual tool. Excellently cast with hunky Alan Ritchson in the lead role (a much better take than Tom Cruise in the film adaptations), Reacher both takes and takes a lot of hits, and it shows. This isn’t necessarily for the squeamish.

But please note that the Reacher stories are not implausible.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Requirements.”

Twitter @biblioracle

Book recommendations from Biblioracle

John Warner tells you what you should read, based on the last five books you’ve read.

1. “1619 Project” By Nikole Hannah-Jones

2. “Kennedy Withdrawal” By Marc Selverstone

3. “1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed” By Eric Cline

4. “Revolutionary Samuel Adams” By Stacy Schiff

5. “Homo God” By Yuval Noah Harari

—Ben T., Austin Texas

Ben is interested in non-fiction works that reveal some interesting underlying insights into a story we think we know. Nicholas Buccola’s “The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr. and the Race Debate in America” is both a fascinating work of history and a work that sheds light on the conflicts that continue today.

1. “Babylon” by R.F. Kuang

2. “Small Fires Everywhere” By Celeste Ng

3. “Namesake” By Jhumpa Lahiri

4. “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood

5. “A Gentleman in Moscow” By Amor Towles

—Dean B., Highland Park

I need a book for Dean with high quality prose that is also successful in terms of story. I also want to go outside the box and surprise him with a book and author he may now know: “Saul and Patsy” by Charles Baxter.

1. “Fraud Manifesto” By Colson Whitehead

2. “Normal Rules Don’t Apply” By Kate Atkinson

3. “The Time of the Old God” By Sebastian Barry

4. “Candy House” By Jennifer Egan

5. “Evil Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver

— Anne O., Buffalo Grove

I don’t normally recommend books to be part of one of the big celebrity book clubs because they get so much attention, but I’ve been highly recommending Lauren Grodstein’s work in this area since I started, so I was excited to see this. her new novel, “We Shouldn’t Think About Ourselves,” was the latest pick for “Today Show” Read with her Jenna book club. I think Anne will be very successful.

Get a reading from Bibliocle

Send a list of the last five books you read and your hometown to: biblioracle@gmail.com.


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