by Marcus Sakey
I'm in love with a man.
His name is Jack Reacher.
Reacher, as I imagine most of you know, is the hero of Lee Child's wildly popular series, beginning with KILLING FLOOR and running through to the upcoming BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE. The character is a former military policeman turned wanderer, the archetypical cowboy who rides into town just in time to get caught up in the most tangled of situations.
There are a lot of interesting things at work in the books. For one thing, they successfully explore all kinds of genre territory, from mystery to thriller to adventure novel. And for my money, Lee doesn't get nearly enough credit for the calibre of his prose--he's a beautiful writer with an uncanny sense of rhythm, employing clipped Hemingway sentences and carefully chosen echoes to create a sense of velocity that's at least as compelling as his plots.
But I'm curious about something, and I hope you'll all chime in, because I'd really like to know.
Why do we like Reacher so much? And specifically, why do women like him?
I don't know sales figures, but judging by the women I've spoken to--and the estrogen comet tail following Lee at every public appearance--I'd say that there are at least as many female readers as male.
Which is surprising to me. Because though they are written with intelligence and grace, the Reacher novels feel like classic "boy books." There's a high body count and a lot of gun play. Frequent female jeopardy (though none of the 'helpless damsel' nonsense--he's way too good for that.) There's a hero who kills regularly and with little remorse. There's torture and prison and macho behavior of all sorts.
Understand, I'm not criticizing. I love these novels. I'm just curious. Is conventional wisdom wrong in stating that these elements deter women readers?
Or is just something in Reacher that overcomes those obstacles? And if so, what?
I've got my own theories, but I'd love to hear yours.