Sunday’s New York Times brought a surprise – a short story in the editorial pages! It’s hard enough to find fiction in a general interest magazine, quite the shock to find Lee Child’s Jack Reacher in the newspaper. It’s evidently one of a series of Summer Thrillers, so I will be having even more fun on Sunday mornings for the foreseeable future.
It’s a good story. For those who haven’t read him, Child’s Jack Reacher is the ultimate free agent, traveling the US, often on foot, with nothing but an ATM card and the clothes on his back. (Seriously. Reacher buys a new outfit in every new town, throwing away or donating the clothes he was wearing. His underpants are never specifically mentioned, but I have to wonder.) Any woman he gets involved with will be either A) dead or B) heartbroken by the end of the book.
Reacher sometimes does some pretty bad things, but he has a highly developed personal moral code. Sticking up for the underdog is a given. He’s definitely the guy you want on your side if there’s a psycho stalking you, or your husband embezzled money from the mob, or if a carjacker has his eye on your Lexus.
The story on page 8 of the Week In Review section is titled “Guy Walks into a Bar…” and it’s a classic. Brooding, engimatic loner walks into a bar and in short order, susses out that there are two bad guys waiting for the chance to make bad things happen for a lovely young Russian girl. Noticing a bodyguard nearby, he figures there’s a rich, indulgent Russian daddy behind the scenes, keeping his daughter safe while she plays groupie to the guitar player in the band. Reacher, of course, needs to make sure that the thugs do not prevail, even to the point of following them into the ladies’ room and sending them packing. But there’s a twist (of course!) – the rich daddy is father to the Guitar Player and the girl is in cahoots with the two thugs. Oh, no, it’s a honey trap! Thank heavens Reacher figures it out at the last minute and foils the plot – the bodyguard shows up when the action’s all over and hands his T-shirt over to Reacher because “blood stains attract attention.”
I’m hoping Jack Reacher shows up next week, too – he’s pretty fun and even when you’ve read tons of Lee Child, he still reels you in and fools you. His current Jack Reacher novel is Gone Tomorrow, but if you’ve never read him, visit your local library or used book store and snatch up the earlier ones – it helps to read them in order!
So here’s a question for you (assuming you are out there – hello? anyone? anyone?): If you could wave your magic wand to make a 1,000-word short story appear in your morning paper, who would the protagonist be? Robert Langdon from Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons? Jill Wasserstrom of Crossing California? Michael Connelly’s Hieronymous Bosch? I’d love to know.