So another year and
novel, except in 2010 we get two Jack Reacher novels; the first, 61
Hours, has gone on sale in the UK and into the
British charts with a
bullet, with the US release following shortly and inevitably a listing
NY Times. Its sequel is to follow in September.
I have followed
Lee Child’s work for many years now and
traditionally we meet up at Waterstones
Deansgate bookstore in Manchester where he starts his
annual UK book tour. Over
catch up on each other’s lives, and I learn a little more
about his craft and
what to expect in his latest Jack
Reacher thriller. Lee Child is one of the best
ambassadors for the crime/thriller genre as he never forgets
fans and those who supported him when he changed career from TV
writing fiction. Shots
[when it was a print edition] was the first publication to review his
year we were unable to dine after the event, as both our lives have
rather hectic. Lee
had to head
off to London that night following the talk at Deansgate,
while I had to
head off to Brighton for the World Horror Convention 2010;
a special occasion as it was the very first time the convention was
in Great Britain. However, thanks to
Nick Lewis at Waterstones, we had a coffee and chat before the event
my trusty tape recorder I managed to get some insights into the world
Child, including why winter weather features in the plot of his latest
his view on book piracy, and why there is no sibling rivalry between
and Andrew Grant.
Ali : What came first when
you embarked upon
Hours – was it a large plot that required
two novels, or was it
pressures from your publishers or purely an idea that came into your
Lee : You mean about the end
Ali : Yes …
Lee : I see the end of 61
Hours a little differently from many who have read it.
It’s about something
I have been trying to develop over the last few books –
basically to trust the
reader a little bit more, in as much as in previous books I’d
lay out the
problem and then provide the solution. In 61 Hours,
what I’ve done is
lay out the problem, but trust the reader to uncover the solution.
There is no
mystery to the solution, or the ending. Everything is there, the
evidence is there, anyone can work out what must have happened, and
it’s up to
the reader to work it out. It’s all completely transparent.
Ali : Even so, we’re
have to wait for the next book this year.
Lee : The next one comes out
in September in the UK and October in the US
Ali : And have we got a
working title yet?
Lee : Not yet, it’s
that we’re working on currently, and we hope to have it soon.
Ali : Location is always
important to you in the Jack Reacher series, so why South Dakota?
Lee : Well it’s not so
about South Dakota, but more about temperature.
thinking about one of my earlier books – Echo
Burning, set in West Texas, where it was
incredibly hot. The heat becomes essentially a character in that book,
thought I’d like to do a book where unbelievably cold weather
becomes the same
type of character. Writing about the cold is something I’ve
wanted to do for
many years, but I’ve always been a little inhibited by Alistair
big hero of mine and a thriller writer who was pre-eminent at writing
cold weather. Novels such as Night Without End and
Ice Station Zebra
are set up above the Artic circle where the cold weather is a real
he did it so well. I often wondered if I could write a novel set
cold. I decided eventually to give it a go, setting a book against an
backdrop – hence 61 Hours is set in a
cold winter in South Dakota.
Ali : You also have a piece
in another book coming this summer – ITW’s
Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads edited by David Morrell
and Hank Wagner –
so could you tell us a little about it?
Lee : Sure, the project
stemmed from a question ITW is interested in
answering – ‘What
is a thriller’? It is a very difficult question to
answer, so one way is to
lay out 100 books and say, ‘This is what a thriller
is’, using great thriller
novels to define the genre. My contribution went way, way back as there
always a secondary question: ‘What was the first thriller or
thriller?’ Many people sometimes look back a hundred years to
what was then
referred to as a novel of sensation; or perhaps Wilkie Collins, John
Erskine Childers. But in my opinion, you need to look much further
yes, there will be work[s] lost in pre-history. But for my money the
thriller that we know about was ‘Theseus
and the Minotaur’ which is 3,500 years old and in
fact is an identical
story to Ian
Fleming’s Dr No, so therefore the prototype of the
Ali : One thing we talked
about earlier is that my contribution is a piece about Eric
The Mask of Dimitrios (aka A Coffin for
Dimitrios), and you have
a link with Ambler …
Lee : Yes indeed, I went to
the same high school as Ambler, not, of course, in the same year
– he was a
little older than me [laughing].
Ali : While doing a little
research earlier I was alarmed to see 61 Hours
available as an e-book on
website for illegal download. What is your view on the piracy
of books via
the internet as well as the issues of e-books and digital rights
Lee : Well we have two major
problems, firstly we have this irrational expectation from the customer
price. There seems to be this bizarre logic that because an item is
electronically, it should be free. Electronic delivery eliminates the
book that needs to be manufactured, stored, delivered, stocked, etc,
cost within the manufacture and supply chain comes with a cost.( So if you take as an
‘over the thumb’ average cost of
an average book (ignore heavily discounted bestsellers who have volume
short-print run specialist books), say that manufacture and supply
is £4 [$7] per book, then the rest is £10 [$18]
that makes the book on a shelf
cost of £14 [$25]. So if you had an electronic book, and you
strip out the
manufacture and supply chain cost, the item would cost say
£10 [$18]. Some of
the public however feel that an electronic book should be priced at
[$1.85], which is crazy logic.
two is that digital distribution is not as cheap as people think it is,
the service costs are high as well as the piracy protection which is
expensive and complex. We are suffering piracy in the same way that
suffer shoplifting. There will always be a proportion of books
‘shrinkage’, as they refer to it in the retail
world. Authors like me, and my
peers and contemporaries are getting their books pirated several
a week. Therefore this problem needs to be addressed by some form of
rights management which is very expensive to do. So this whole idea
digital distribution is cost-free is totally wrong – in fact
Ali : The
Rap Sheet reported that you made an interesting appearance at
this year’s Left
Crime; care to tell us about it?
Lee : I remember nothing
about that interview … [laughing] … it was done
by Gregg Hurwitz
so it was completely off the
wall. Seriously, it was a great convention, and as the title LCC
was on the far left coast of America and therefore tends to
be a smaller convention, more relaxed, more chilled and I had a
Ali : And a book landing
shortly is Die
Twice by Andrew Grant; can you tell us a little bit
Lee : Yes, it is by my
younger brother, his second book that I read a little while ago and I
impressed. In fact, that reminds me of a question Gregg asked me at LCC
‘How’d I feel if Die Twice was
the next Da Vinci Code?’ I would feel
great; there is no sibling rivalry between Andrew and me, due to the
difference. I had left home around the time he was out of his crib. In
he’s closer in age terms to my daughter than me.
You’ve got kids, Ali, so how
would you feel if any of your kids were amazingly successful?
Ali : I’d feel delighted!
Lee : Exactly! And that’s
I feel about Andrew – if he becomes the next Dan Brown
I’d feel terrific.
Ali : Andrew’s writing
is very different to yours and he tends to focus on the espionage
he’s a fine thriller writer – is that anything to
do with shared reading
Lee : Yes, I think you’re
right, he read similar books to me, but where we diverge is that
he’s had much
more exposure to the corporate world, in the nooks and crannies where
some dodgy dealings and government interventions, and he knows that
real. Interview him some time, and ask him about the job he was offered
straight out of university. I don’t have that government
background or insight
so my work is very different.
Ali : And does that put
pressure on your other brother?
Lee : I actually have two
other brothers, but they’re illiterate so there’s
no worry there!
like to thank Nick Lewis, the events coordinator at Waterstones
Deansgate for the use of his office to record this interview,
Irwin of Transworld for organizing this interview.
An edited version first
appeared at THE RAP SHEET.
Here to view the special Lee Child party that Shots attended
decade of Jack Reacher.
Read Ali’s review of