14 November 2015
Spotlight on Jack Reacher

'A modern day cowboy'

It’s said no man is an island, but Jack Reacher may be the exception to that rule. Travelling throughout the US, administering his unique brand of rough justice, he makes no friends, takes no prisoners and even refuses to carry possessions, choosing instead to jettison dirty clothes in favour of new, before pocketing his folding toothbrush and leaving town.

Is he a liberal Jack Bauer, a vigilante Bond, a hardcore Sherlock Holmes? Not quite. He is first and foremost the mysterious stranger; in author Lee Child’s words, the 'knight-errant'.

He travels by road, often under cover of darkness, a modern-day cowboy hitching rides and remaining on the fringes of society. An undeniable alpha male – all head-butts, fisticuffs and physical combat – Reacher also displays a time-honoured gentleman’s code. He gives his opponents fair warning before a fight – a practice instilled in him by his mother – and lives by the mantra that if someone leaves him alone, he leaves them alone. Sadly for his opponents, they rarely do.

Animal instinct

Reacher is a listener rather than a talker. Child describes him as smart, still and quiet, yet menacing. More often than not, when faced with a question about who he is, what he knows or where he came from, the reader learns: 'Reacher said nothing.' By remaining anonymous, he can move through the world unrivalled.

In Never Go Back, Reacher is described by an acquaintance as feral. 'Sanded down to yes and no, and you and them, and black and white, and live or die.' It’s this base, animal response that makes him so easy to root for. Though he may not be a conventional hero – he’ll cheat, shoot you in the back and do whatever it takes to win – he has one aim: to deliver justice. Strong, silent and determined; Jack Reacher is a pretty difficult man to argue with.

Related articles