The Jack Reacher Industrial Complex

So this big guy walks into a bar…

Now, I’m as big a fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, the best-selling, coffee-slurping palooka, as the next jasper, and I’m happy for his success–Lee’s a great guy. He’s generous to a fault, and kind to other writers and fellow human beings. I’ve had the good fortune to interview him, and have run into him a number of times. I wish him well.

But come on! Of course, everyone should have friends, and I don’t begrudge Reacher making new friends occasionally–it can be fun seeing the big lug stray from his comfort zone. Despite the rumours, Reacher can play well with others, as evidenced in these short stories co-written by Child:

  • “Good and Valuable Consideration” (2014, FaceOff)
    Co-written with Joseph Finder, featuring Finder’s ex-Special Forces bad ass turned “corporate intelligence specialist” Nick Heller.
  • “Faking a Murderer” (2017, Matchup)
    Co-written with Kathy Reichs, featuring Montreal forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.
  • “Cleaning the Gold” (May 2019, audio/digital) | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
    Co-written with Karin Slaughter, featuring her Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Will Trent.

For fans, these are enjoyable little forays, and I don’t think Reacher’s Creatures mind much about Child and Reacher’s occasional hook-up with another author.

But whole series and publishing careers by other writers have sprung up in Reacher’s wake that pretty much owe their entire raison d’etre to the man with the folding toothbrush. They all function more-or-less within Reacher’s universe (and apparently with Child’s approval), but they remind me of nothing so much as those tiny parasites that attach themselves to a shark’s skin, and go along for the ride. Sure, they serve a purpose (the wheel of life, etc.), but you have to wonder… why?

  • The Jim Grant Thrillers
    By Colin Campbell
    A “friend” of Lee Child, who blurbed the first book, calling it “very real, very good,” Campbell’s Jim Grant is essentially a clone of Reacher’s, a former British cop wandering the U.S. of A., a freelance trouble-magnet with no fixed address. Campbell at least gets points for cheekiness– Jim Grant is Lee Child’s real name.
  • The Jack Reacher Cases
    By Dan Ames

    Lauren Pauling, a former FBI agent turned private eye, keeps crossing paths with Reacher, but never quite hooking up. Always the bridesmaid?
  • Jack Reacher’s Special Investigators Series
    By Dan Ames
    Not content with penning the Jack Reacher Cases (above), the ever-prolific coattail rider Ames double dips with this series. Supposedly, while travelling across the USA armed only with a bankcard and a toothbrush, Reacher somehow finds the time to handpick “a group of the smartest, toughest and most fearless individuals in the Army’s 110th MP to form an elite unit.” And of course it’s once again “set in the Reacher universe by permission of Lee Child.” Really, Lee?
  • The Hunt for Jack Reacher Series
    By Diane Capri
    FBI Special Agents KIM OTTO and CARLOS GASPAR have a special, off-the-books assignment–find Reacher. But somehow, over a dozen or so novels, they always seem to just miss him, and find themselves cleaning up the messes he leaves behind.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

4 thoughts on “The Jack Reacher Industrial Complex

  1. This raises the question of whether Child/Reacher are the heirs of the old “men’s adventure” series. Mack Bolan was always spinning off like this.

    1. Or Bulldog Drummond and Nick Carter. Maybe in fifty years, Jack Reacher (under the house name of “Lee Child”) will be a super-spy or maybe a time-traveling barbarian with a talking cat.

  2. Amazon has done some great things for the genre — providing a venue for shorts and reviving the novella to promote established but perhaps unfamiliar authors, offering cheap collections of lesser-known PI and noir stories and novels, giving those with limited space options or book budgets a lower-cost digital alternative. But self-publishing and resulting hack piggybacking on popular series and authors (King and Patterson even have imitators tweaking their names to hook gullible readers) has cheapened the crime genre to a point where I simply threw up my hands at the idea of trying to get anything published. The house name alias was a publisher decision. These Reacher lampreys and their ilk (thought I’d get drawing room on you) simply annoy, and cheat potentially promising new authors out of a slot by filling the digital shelves with an impossible supply of crap.

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