Repairman Jack

Created by F. Paul Wilson

“You know, sometimes I wish there was someone else around to handle these jobs.”

Got a problem? He can fix it.

First introduced in the 1984 novel The Tomb, horror writer F. Paul Wilson’s REPAIRMAN JACK is simply one hell of an an intriguing, compelling character. He’s not a private eye, per se–he’s been called everything from an “urban mercenary” to a “paranormal fixer”–but what he does certainly qualifies him as an honourary eye.

Mind you, he keeps it low key. He dresses like a plumber, meets his “clients” in coffee shops and bars, and works for cash only, specializing in “situations where the system can’t help.”  Plus, he repairs things, is a bit a gadget freak and he’s handy with tools–hence the nickname (although he prefers just “Jack”).

He lives in Manhattan, with no last name or social security number, living under a variety of names and identities, and trying to keep below the radar of any and all authority (can you say “paranoid”?). Although, in this case, it may be justified, seeing as Jack’s Big Apple is chockfull of assorted occult, supernatural and just plain weird peculiarites, from ancient god-like entities of pure malfeasance and cosmic battles between good and evil, to relatively humdrum sociopathic cults and serial killers, not to mention 9-to-5 goofballs who do some illegal spelunking in the sewer system on weekends.

Thing is, malignant messiahs, beasts from the netherworld or blackmailers, the quirky, quixotic Jack is willing to do whatever it takes to help his clients, up to and including murder. He relies on a underground (sometimes literally) network of contacts, mostly shadow people themselves, from arms dealers to building hackers, and shows a propensity for building some truly lethal little gadgets. Imagine Andrew Vachss’ Burke without the obsession, or television’s Mr. Chapel  without the questionable sanity, in a world where things repeatedly go bump in the night and you’ve got a good idea of what Jack’s all about.

Unfortunately, while Jack may qualify as a sort of cock-eyed P.I., the first book I read by him, after much urging from several fans, was 1998’s Legacies, the long-awaited (fifteen years!) sequel to The Tomb, and frankly it registered as a disappointment. A tight little 200-page tale of justice-for-hire puffed up and padded out to almost 400 pages, I thought it’s length actually diluted and weakened the story’s impact.

But Jack was such a compelling character, I decided I’d give him another shot. And I’m glad I did. The sheer 9-5 familiarity of Jack’s world (more urban than Stephen King’s, more recognizable than Lovecraft’s) makes even the most far-fetched scenarios almost believable–and worth checking out. Even better, it looks like Legacies served notice that Jack was back–with a vengeance. In 2000, Wilson released two more books featuring everyone’s fave fix-it man, Conspiracies (2000) and All the Rage (2000),which tie the first two books together, as one fan puts it, “in ways you can’t imagine!”

He goes on to say “It’s almost as if Wilson made the second book a little cut-and-dry in order to set up the kill in the third book. The rest of the books afterwards follow the new underlying theme established in the third book so you might get hooked.”

And there have been several noteworthy follow-ups. In fact, since Legacies, Wilson has regularly churned out novels and short stories featuring Jack, who has gained quite a large and loyal following. So much so, in fact, that Wilson’s even released a young adult novel, Jack: Secret Histories (2008), that’s set in 1983 and serves as a sort of prequel to the entire series, with a fourteen-year old Jack just discovering his peculiar talents, and in 2020 announced the first of presumably (hopefully?) many graphic novels.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Best known for his horror writing, the genre-bending F. Paul Wilson is a New York Times bestselling author with more than twenty novels under his belt, including The Adversary Cycle, the Repairman Jack series, and several collections of short fiction. His works has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula Award, and the Bram Stoker Award. He’s also responsible for 1989’s Dydeetown World, a sci-fi novel about a down-and-out gumshoe called Sig Dreyer trying to keep it together in a world populated by clones of dinosaurs and dead movie stars. Wilson, however, lives on this world, and is reportedly hiding out somewhere on the Jersey Shore.

UNDER OATH

  • “Jack is righteous!”
    –Andrew Vachss onThe Tomb
  • “No one does this kind of weird meets crime better…g ripping, fascinating, one of a kind.”
    –Joe R. Lansdale onThe Tomb
  • “Repairman Jack is one of the most original and intriguing characters to arise out of contemporary fiction in ages. His adventures are hugely entertaining.î
    — Dean Koontz
  • The Tomb is one of the best all-out adventure stories I’ve read in years.”
    –Stephen King (President of the Repairman Jack Fan Club)

NOVELS

YOUNG ADULT NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • “A Day in the Life” (1989, Stalkers; also 1998, The Barrens and Others)
  • “The Last Rakosh” (1990, The World Fantasy Convention 1990 Program Book)
  • “Home Repairs” (1991, Cold Blood)
  • “The Long Way Home” (1992, Dark at Heart)
  • “The Wringer” (1996, Night Screams)
  • “The Long Way Home” (2005, digital) Kindle it!
  • “Interlude at Duane’s” (2006, Thriller)
  • “Infernal Night” (2014, FaceOff; also featuring Heather Graham’s Michael Quinn)

COLLECTIONS

COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS

THE DICK OF THE DAY

  • May 30, 2021
    He dresses like a plumber, and only takes cash, but when things go bump in the night, he bumps back.

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Special thanks to Hy for the heads-up on the short stories, and Phil for clueing me in on recent news. Illustration by Antonio Fuso, from Scar-Lip Redux.

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