Getting to Jack Reacher, or Someone Like Him

reacher said nothing

I am reading an extremely interesting book which will see the light of day next week — Tuesday, November 24, 2015, to be exact — everywhere books are sold. It is titled REACHER SAID NOTHING: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me. It is written by Andy Martin, who teaches at Cambridge but is nonetheless capable of writing a fun book, and more so, a fun book about the writing process. What occurred is that Martin approached Child via email in August 2014 about writing a book that would take the reader from the very beginning of the process by which Child does what he does so well to the very end. Martin’s timing was perfect, given that Child was about to start writing what ultimately became MAKE ME, his latest Jack Reacher novel.


I’m not going to present my review of REACHER SAID NOTHING now — you’ll have to go here next week over the Thanksgiving weekend to see that — but I can tell you that if you have ever thought of writing a novel you need to get a copy of REACHER SAID NOTHING and sit down and read it. You’ll feel better about the process, for sure. I can assure you that, whatever problem you may have had with completing your work, Child has had it as well, and yes, still has it and works to overcome it year in and year out. You will find within the pages of REACHER SAID NOTHING how he does it, as well as the very first thing that Child did when he started writing the very first Reacher book, lo those many years ago. Child utilizes many tools — copious amounts of coffee and cigarettes among them — but you don’t have to have move into Starbucks or have access to a secret stash of Chesterfield Kings to have similar results, with “similar results” being finishing your book, and then writing another, and another. And no, I’m not going to give away the specifics. Martin gave up a year of his life following Child around with  proximity and access that would make a proctologist jealous, and then compiled it all into something readable, so it would be neither fair nor right. I will tell you in one general word, however, how Child does what he does: discipline. That’s it. He sits down (among other things) and gets it done. The process of doing that is a part of Martin’s book, and so far, that book is an entertaining hodgepodge of an account consisting of emails, diary entries, and transcripts of conversations.


Will reading REACHER SAID NOTHING help you to write a bestseller or a critically acclaimed work? No. No. No. Life is not fair. Equity is not equal. If you want justice go to theology school and cross your fingers; maybe you’ll get it. But, if you model your work ethic after Child, you’ll finish your book, The rest is a combination of luck and ability and timing. As far as writing goes, remember that just because you like sausage doesn’t mean you want to make it. Have at it, by all means, but know what you are getting into. And if you still want to by the time you finish REACHER SAID NOTHING, by all means: start, and never stop until the job is done.


From my house to yours: Happy Thanksgiving! I’m old and grumpy and experiencing a health issue that is more an inconvenience than a herald of mortality but it’s a reminder that the sand is running, ever running, through the hourglass. Still, I have much to be thankful for, and you would be very high on that list, for stopping by The Kill Zone and spending a few minutes with us. Thank you.


25 thoughts on “Getting to Jack Reacher, or Someone Like Him

  1. I’m sorry to hear you’re suffering with a health issue, Joe. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

    Funny you should post this today. I just sent my new thriller to my publisher and thought, does it ever get easier? The stress we place on ourselves, doubt screaming in our ears, and the dreaded question: What if readers hate this book? At least I can rest easy knowing Lee Child experiences these things too.

    • Thank you Sue! It’s not a major deal, it started as a relatively minor ear problem which has evolved into what may be a permanent hearing issue. All those years of Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and Cheap Trick…only to be done in by a microscopic beastie. Anyway, good luck on the new thriller! By finishing you are in that golden single digit percentage that actually completed the work. Let us know how it goes.

  2. Joe, I’m sorry for your health issues–got ’em myself, which only shows that the mileage is piling up. But glad we both can still write.

    Thanks for sharing word about this book. I’ll pre-order it now.

    • Thanks, Richard! I’m really lucky, all things considered. I check the obits every day and have reached the stage where fully half of those regretfully listed are younger than I am. And I haven’t really had any major problems until now. I told my wife to brace herself, for when something DID happen…it will undoubtedly be a biggie. Until then, however, I’ll keep playing pool, as Thomas Aquinas would say. Hope you enjoy the book, which gives an interesting look into the personality of Jack Reacher’s daddy as well.

  3. From one curmudgeon with health issues to another, sorry about yours. I just finished Make Me and have mixed feelings about it. I will get the book. Have a very happy Thanksgiving.

    • Thank you David. Hope you are getting over yours. I’ve really got nothing to complain about. MAKE ME wasn’t my favorite Reacher book, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly the mystery behind it. These books may be thrillers, but man, there are really, really good mysteries that run through some of them, and MAKE ME was right up there for me in that regard. What I loved about the REACHER SAID NOTHING is that it documents that Child, at the end of the day, has the same obstacles toward getting it done that we all do. Plus, he’s got the expectations of what has gone before to deal with as well. Anyway, hope you enjoy!

    • Joe, thanks so much, I’m fine, really, it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. Thank you as well for all that you do for TKZ, including re-tweeting my modest and mixed efforts. For those who don’t know, Joe M. contributes a significant amount of time to fine tuning TKZ, improving things, making sure things are running, and generally making it easy for technological schlubs like myself to sit down every couple of weeks and pound out three or four paragraphs. If not for Joe, this blog wouldn’t be here. Thanks again, Joe, for all that you do.

  4. This just got me excited in a way a book should never do before my first cuppa! Wait. Maybe that is exactly what an aspiring author should try to write. My detective is a mashup of characters, both fictional and true life. Reacher is definitely in the mix. Can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

    “I’m old and grumpy and experiencing a health issue that is more an inconvenience than a herald of mortality but it’s a reminder that the sand is running, ever running, through the hourglass.” True that! Happy Thanksgiving Joe Hartlaub and TKZ!

  5. Maureen, thanks so much. I hope you enjoy Reacher Said Nothing. Martin really gets into the subject, for sure. It’s more than a “how to” book…there’s “how to” and “the price of fame” and “the benefits of fame” and the “pressure of success” and more. While I’ve been reading it I’ve been thinking of a line I heard in reference to the Nashville country music scene: “You’ve got your whole life to record your first hit record and six months to record your second one.” The same applies to books. Thanks again for your kind words.

  6. Joe,

    If you’re going to turn the amp to 11, it’s only appropriate that you listen to Led Zeppelin and Hendrix. That’s a good use of wattage. And don’t forget Jeff Beck, Molly Hatchet, Yes, and Skynyrd. The classics keep us young!

    • Mike, indeed they do! I attribute my youthful attitude and spirit to listening to all of the above, and making sure that I start each morning with “Sister Ray” by The Velvet Underground. Thanks for sharing your kindred attitude!

  7. Lee is so unflappable that you assume his writing comes easy. Which is a stupid assumption of course. Thanks for the heads up about the book…it’s always cool to see the sausage being made.

    Feel better! And happy turkey day.

  8. Lee is a writer I admire personally and professionally. Thanks for telling us about REACHER SAID NOTHING. Feel better and have a terrific Thanksgiving.

    • Thank you, Kris. Re: the assumption of easy…I do the same thing, with books and with music. Anyone who has ever listened to either BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED or BLONDE ON BLONDE by Bob Dylan should listen to THE CUTTING EDGE 1965-1966, an exhaustive six-CD set of the alternate versions of the tracks on those albums. One of the CDS is devoted entirely to the different takes of “Like a Rolling Stone.” It initially was a waltz, sounding more like the opening of “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” than what it turned into. It’s a struggle from the start, and yes, it seems that Lee is no different.
      I agree about the sausage, so long as one is not the guest of honor!

    • You’re welcome, Elaine, hope you enjoy. And thanks once again for the good wishes. They’re much appreciated.

  9. Just outside the Grand Hyatt in NYC, I once asked Mr. C how much plotting he does. He said he doesn’t even know what he’s going to write in the next paragraph. Later, in a roomful of writers, one asked him, “How many drafts do you do?” Lee said: “I’ll tell you, but you’re not going to like it.”

    His answer: one.

    I do believe he is of the one half of one percent of writers who can do it this way. He’s helped in this by writing the same sort of book each time out (varying the POV choice), which he freely admits. He loves Dom Perignon, he once remarked, and doesn’t want it to taste different each time he opens a bottle! Same with Reacher. Clearly, it works. Lee Child is going to break out soon, I just know it.

    I’ll be interested to see how much the craft is discussed in the book, as opposed to working methods.

    • Those are a couple of great stories, Jim. Thanks for sharing. I haven’t finished REACHER SAID NOTHING yet, but it doesn’t seem at this point as if much is devoted to craft itself. Actually, I’m not sure if that is accurate. There’s a point where craft and method tend to blur, and that seems to be where this book is set. It’s also a bit of a cautionary tale, in a sense. Lee is a very recognizable fellow. People tend to approach him EVERYWHERE. In fact there’s this one story in this book about an author who keeps bugging Lee in front of a Hyatt in New Yo…oh…never mind.

  10. Good afternoon, Joe.

    Thanks for the heads-up on REACHER SAID NOTHIING. I look forward to reading it. And I’ll definitely read your review next weekend.

    When you described “how Child does what he does…discipline…he sits down…” I couldn’t help but remember Clare’s “Bum glue.”

    I hope your health issue is resolved soon and doesn’t consume any of your allotted
    sand from your hourglass.

    Thanks for all your wonderful and insightful posts. And Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    • Good afternoon, Steve. Thanks for your continuing good wishes and stopping by again to share some of your very limited free time with us all. Always good to hear from you. Bum glue, indeed. That’s a term I apply to parents who let their darlings destroy whatever square space — supermarket, restaurant, etc. — that they happen to be in without remonstration. Sometimes, however, bum glue is necessary, as when the task at hand should — must — be completed.

      Best to your family as well, this coming and every weekend!

  11. Joe! Howyadoin? Sick, eh? Bummer, dude. Ear issue? I know what you mean. But then I got these really cool buds from that Jamaican dude. No! Not that kinda buds. Improved the sound quality for me bigtime. ‘Specially the bass track.

    Here I am, late to the party as usual. Not commenting so much anymore, but I do check in with y’all on a regular basis. Your book recommendation sounds great. Just what I need is another book about writing. Hahaha! I pretty much let Reacher walk off into the sunset awhile back. Whaddayagonnado? ONE draft? That what Jim said? Uh-huh. Well, there it is. Wonder if there’s another Reacher movie in the works? And I liked that first movie, too. I just pretended that…

    Cheers! Y’all.
    Jim in MT

    • Jim, we all know that the party doesn’t even start until you get here. Re: my ear/hearing, I’ve been watching YouTube videos of spiders crawling out of ears and upping my anxiety level by a factor of five hundred. To answer your musing…I believe that at least one more Reacher film is in the works. Despite the VERY mixed reviews which it got, it somehow earned out between box office, DVD, streaming and the like to make a second one at least theoretically worthwhile. I haven’t seen it yet as I am still obsessed with television series like True Detective Season 1, Fargo Season, The Affair, Homeland and the like. Maybe over the next few weeks, as I offer a silent prayer of thanks for closed captioning. Thanks for stopping by, Jim, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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