Lee Child was born in the exact geographic center of England, in the heart of
the industrial badlands. Never saw a tree until he was twelve. It was the sort
of place where if you fell in the river, you had to go to the hospital for a
mandatory stomach pump. The sort of place where minor disputes were settled with
box cutters and bicycle chains. He's got the scars to prove it.
But he survived, got an education, and went to law school, but only because he didn't want to be a lawyer. Without the pressure of aiming for a job in the field, he figured it would be a relaxing subject to study. He spent most of the time in the university theater - to the extent that he had to repeat several courses, because he failed the exams - and then went to work for Granada Television in Manchester, England. Back then, Granada was a world-famous production company, known for shows like Brideshead Revisited, Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect and Cracker. Lee worked on the broadcast side of the company, so his involvement with the good stuff was limited. But he remembers waiting in the canteen line with people like Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Natalie Wood and Michael Apted. And he says that being involved with more than 40,000 hours of the company's program output over an eighteen-year stay taught him a thing or two about telling a story. He also wrote thousands of links, trailers, commercials and news stories, most of them on deadlines that ranged from fifteen minutes to fifteen seconds. So the thought of a novel-a-year didn't worry him too much, in his next career.
But why a next career? He was fired, back in 1995, that's why. It was the usual Nineties downsizing thing. After eighteen years, he was an expensive veteran, and he was also the union organizer, and neither thing fit the company's plan for the future. And because of the union involvement, he wasn't on too many alternative employers' wish lists, either. So he became a writer, because he couldn't think of anything else to do. He had an idea for a character who had suffered the same downsizing experience but who was taking it completely in his stride. And he figured if he brought the same total commitment to his audience that he'd seen his television peers develop, he could get something going. He named the character Jack Reacher and wrote Killing Floor as fast as he could. He needed to sell it before his severance check ran out. He made it with seven weeks to spare, and luckily the book was an instant hit, selling strongly all around the world, and winning both the Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel.
Lee moved from the UK to the US in the summer of 1998. He has three homesan apartment in Manhattan, a country house in the south of France, and whatever airplane cabin he happens to be in while traveling between the two. In the US he drives a supercharged Jaguar, which was built in Jaguar's Browns Lane plant, thirty yards from the hospital in which he was born.
Lee spends his spare time reading, listening to music, and watching the Yankees, Aston Villa, or Marseilles soccer. He is married with a grown-up daughter.
Jack Reacher series
Lee Child's website
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An Interview with Lee Child, 2003
Your latest book, Persuader, is one of your best yet. Was there anything in particular that energized you while writing it? Perhaps the return to the first-person narrative?
Thanks for the compliment! I guess I find each new book a very energizing experience, but for this one the return to first-person coupled with a powerful idea for the opening couple of sequences gave it extra momentum early in the process. Certainly it was fun to write -- really very linear, and very focused.
Almost all the reviews for Persuader have been dazzling. How do you come off that high and buckle down for the next book? Or is your confidence strong enough that fear no longer enters into it?
Fear is always a part of it. Graham Greene once said "Success for a writer is merely failure delayed." But really, the thing is that a book-a-year writer like me works so far ahead that by the time, say, Persuader comes out, I've already written the following book and am starting the one after that. So in response to Persuader reviews, I'm thinking, what, that old thing? And in general I'm pretty self-confident, for a writer. By now I know I can do this.
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