Lee Child is my new favourite author. This is a stunning conclusion for me to make since my lifelong favourite has thus far been Stephen King. Child does not compare to King in any way, shape, or form other than to say they are two highly accomplished authors.
King is outstanding to me for several different reasons but the most significant reason is that he weaves humour and horror together in an almost indecipherable pattern that works in ways that are phenomenal. I will never ever forget laughing my head off while cowering in fear at Pennywise the clown as I read through It. As annoying as Richie’s “beep-beep” moments got, as tired and old as it got, I laughed every single time. Even in the midst of the most horrifying moments crafted in writing … ever.
Child, however, has managed within the space of a few paragraphs to surpass all of King’s awesomeness. In one scene, he has summed up the most difficult confrontations in history … ever.
His main character, Jack Reacher, finds himself at odds with a particular special forces unit and decides he needs to counteract their bullying in a very visible and unrepentant manner. He walks into their domain, and pushes through their non-verbal bullying gestures. A room filled with hostile and highly-trained men, all silent, all watching him, all moving to obstruct his passage through their domain. He pushes through it all to one end of a long room, turns around and pushes through back to the door. It’s about 10 paragraphs describing maybe 5 minutes of activity – something Child excels at in ways I can only hope to rise to in future. He describes every muscle movement, every breath, every thought in detail … and when he’s done you feel as if you’ve just experienced it yourself.
At the end of this narrative, Reacher’s companion (a black woman MP), says to him “Now you know.” Reacher asks “Know what?”
And her response is dead simple. She says:
“How the first black soldier felt. And the first woman.”
No judgement. No indictment. Just powerful observation.
What’s more potent is that in reading the book, one discovers that this sort of reaction to Reacher is as unfounded as it is against all people of colour, all women, all sexual orientations. There’s no reason to bully people because you think they may be guilty of something you classify as heinous … because more often than not when the facts come to light, you end up having to eat your words.
In short: you may feel wronged; hell you may even be wronged. It doesn’t give you the right to wrong me.