61 Hours is 21,960 Seconds and Feels Like It

Bill Keeth slings the 14th Jack Reacher thriller

Lee Child is the pen name of an English author, nowadays US-domiciled, who over the last decade or so has produced a continuous flow of popular thrillers featuring a very singular kind of main protagonist – namely, the ultra-macho Jack Reacher, formerly a US Military Police officer.

Reacher is a tough cookie indeed – the sort of hunk who has muscles in his spit. Accordingly, he is well capable of beating any red-blooded American male (or males, plural) in a fist fight. Furthermore, it seems the entire female complement of the 200M strong US population would be instantaneously responsive to our hero’s amatory advances if and when it might suit him to snap his fingers, so to speak.

Yeah! Like as if! We’ve heard it all before, haven’t we?

Well, no, not quite.

Psychologically, you see, Jack Reacher is a sort of hick James Bond in the sense that, quite unlike Bond and his fictional kin, Reacher eschews all the trappings of modern society – the car, the cash, the plethora of techno hardware, the annual vacation beside some exotic littoral, even a family (extended or otherwise) – indeed, every kind of twenty-first century commitment or frippery, ranging from health insurance premiums to mortgage payments is anathema to Jack Reacher. Not to put too fine a point upon it, the only things Reacher’s got are an army pension, the clothes he stands up in and a toothbrush.

Literally!

If Reacher needs to change his shirt, he bins what’s on his back and buys another. So wash and brush up facilities are essential to his way of life; as is a regular fix of caffeine-rich coffee. Meanwhile, Reacher spends his time criss-crossing the USA like a latter-day Johnny Appleseed except that it is not apple seeds but the seeds of trouble he serially sows and reaps, each kind of which dread commodity our boy then contrives to deal with in much the same way as a mallet will deal with a may-fly.

At first sight this would appear to be a pretty unlikely scenario for third millennial readers to take on board. But Lee Child’s books are tremendously successful worldwide. By way of example, my good friend Hughie Gaffney* lays claim to a full set of autographed first editions – no mean feat, I can assure you, given that it was well-nigh impossible to access Lee Child’s recent appearance at Waterstone’s, Deansgate, Manchester branch. (Remarkably, best-selling thriller writer Michael Connelly was easily accessed at a subsequent book signing.)

But what elevates Jack Reacher to a different level of dedicated derring-do, I think, is that, whilst he can obviously tell us how to strip down a Bren gun or rig up a rudimentary arquebus should need arise, readers will also find him ruminating about Aristotelian philosophy, the moons of Saturn, Picasso’s Blue Period or the migration habits of birds. Yes, our boy ruminates from time to time about all sorts of interesting stuff quite unrelated to the storyline, a proclivity which presents the reader with a much more rounded character than would otherwise be the case with an unreconstructed Action Man. This aspect of Reacher’s character is surely author Lee Child permitting us a brief insight into his own personal interests and fertile imagination.**.

On the down side, though, some of the Reacher books are better than others. And, sadly, 61 Hours, is the absolute pits. Accordingly, I won’t even be looking at the 15th Reacher novel, Worth Dying For since ’tis said to be a continuation of 61 Hours.

So what’s wrong with 61 Hours then?

Well-hell, folks, I trudged wearily through snowbound South Dakota as far as page 219 of this, Lee Child’s 14th Jack Reacher thriller and give you fair warning by applying Captain Scott’s words to my own purpose: “Great God! This is an awful place!” Because, come page 219 of 395, nary a shot has been fired, neither has any mandible or nasal cartilage been peremptorily busted by our normally ultra-belligerent main protagonist. In fact nothing very much has happened at all, barring a bus crash (survived by all passengers, thank you very much) and a walk in the snow. Ooh, but it was cold!

Meanwhile, with just 176 pages to go, our libidinous hero’s potential love interest remains a disembodied voice on the telephone still. So, if truth be told, every reader of Life magazine has conjured up more excitement playing Cops and Robbers or Postman’s Knock as a kid.

Accordingly, I, a seasoned veteran of Reacher’s previous campaigns, slammed the book shut in disgust at this point and promptly advertised it for sale on Amazon. With the exception of its South Dakotan location, 61 Hours is a complete and utter bore. A real let-down! Even so, it surely represents a bargain-buy, “second-hand”, “as new”, for any Amazon customer whose interest in the matter extends to Personal Deportment only. Because, left unopened, 61 Hours is impressive indeed. Weighty, too! Of course, it goes without saying that collectors of first edition vintage volumes will also have an interest in 61 Hours on the grounds that, when it comes to “chloroform in print”, 61 Hours by Lee Child beats Mark Twain’s long-standing allegation about The Book of Mormon into a South Dakotan whiteout of a cocked-hat!

* See his kid brother David Gaffney’s Sawn-off Tales reviewed on Amazon by Bill Keeth – to my mind, an infinitely better choice for any Life reader’s Christmas stocking.

**Lee Child’s liking for Chicago Blues saw the first book in this series being entitled Killing Floor (after the Howlin’ Wolf number), another book title, Bad Luck and Trouble, being borrowed from Boogie Jake. Sadly, the author’s affected bluesman’s disdain for Tex-Mex music causes him to imagine elsewhere that Ritchie Valens’ hometown was Lubbock, Texas. We-he-hell, that’ll be the day: Ritchie’s hometown in reality being Pacoima, California.


Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website, http://www.novelnovella.com.

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