As I've complained about before, working has seriously cut into my reading time. Recent high-minded self-improving reading projects, like re-reading "Moby Dick" for instance, are now a thing of the past. All I want to read these days is mindless trash, but it has to be good trash, written by skilled practitioners of the mindless, formula page-turner.
Like Lee Child.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times told me (in a review) that Lee Child's new Jack Reacher novel was fantastic, as were all of Child's 10 previous Jack Reacher novels. Like a good little NYTimes reader, I raced out to the Barnes&Noble and picked up the 10th Jack Reacher novel, "Bad Luck and Trouble," in mass-market paperback, and plowed through it. Good stuff. I had a blast reading about Reacher and his pals running around Los Angeles and Las Vegas, driving up Sunset and Hollywood, killing guys in places I knew. One bad guy meets his end on the Las Vegas strip on that dark, pre-construction no-man's land section of sidewalk that stretches between the low-end Stratosphere side of the strip, and the glitzier Bellagio and MGM Grand side. It's fun knowing exactly where a scene in a book is taking place. And there's just so much killin', and Child makes it so entertaining. After I finished "Bad Luck and Trouble," I read the first novel, then the 2nd, and now I'm into the 3rd. Child writes the pulp, I eat it up. So I think my reading for the foreseeable future is set. Nearly 4 down. Seven to go.
A bit about Jack Reacher. His distinguishing characteristic is that he's "huge" apparently. 6'5" and 22o lbs is "huge" in Lee Child's view. I'm 6'6" and 220 lbs myself, but I'm not sure I really qualify for "huge" the way Lee Child wrote the sentence. In context, "huge" might as well have been "so enormous he could arm-wrestle Hagrid and win." So he's big, and it's kind of fun for me when Child makes some reference to how daily life is slightly different for people who are somewhat taller than the average. Anyway, he's big, but he's also a brilliant detective, and when he finds out who did things he don't like, he likes to deal with the bad guys with his hands, and he's not shy about administering the ultimate sanction. In "Bad Luck and Trouble," for instance, Reacher knocks out two guards and then, while they're lying unconscious, suffocates them to death with his hand over their nose and mouth. Makes good practical sense in the story, the stakes are life and death after all, but there's just something weird about rooting for the hero when he's such a cold-blooded executioner. Maybe I'm just grooving on that frisson between knowing what's intellectually right, and wanting Jack to do what feels right. And in these books, killin' always feels right.
The Jack Reacher novels may be so popular because they pose the eternal question: What would Sherlock Holmes be like if he lived in modern day America, was tall and muscular, looked a bit like Brock Samson from "The Venture Bros.," and liked to commit more murders than he solved?
Well, he would be a bit like Jack Reacher.
I've read a few of the books now so I'm wise to Child's formula but I don't mind it yet. I don't know if I'll get through all 11, but right now they're fun as hell and they're good for those snippets of the day that lend themselves to a quick read -- like the 19 minutes at the fast-food joint of my choice at lunch, for instance, or sitting in line at the 8-minute left turn light on my way home. I was surprised to find how quickly I can knock out a book that way. Anyway, they're definitely worth checking out if you have the time or inclination.
Okay. End of book-related blog post.