I’m a fan but I can't forgive Lee Child for his Tom Cruise move

I’m a fan but I can’t forgive Lee Child for his Tom Cruise move


Durban – First you would see a gnarily-handsome giant of a man who is fully aware but still to his core.

Next, unless you were a dull bad guy or a wicked narcissistic psychopath, would be the watchful eyes, the ones that are slightly etched with life lessons learned and miss nothing. The primal survivor’s instinct that makes his movement fluid, but coiled.

He’s the not-homeless homeless former Army military investigator who aimlessly hitches and buses around the US, discovering miscreants and murderers, sometimes getting the girl for a short time, and vanishing into the night, leaving good people safe and jails (or morgues) full behind him.

Aaah, the mighty Jack Reacher.

Unless, of course, you only saw the movies. Then, poor sod, you’re left with visions of the short, pretty boy who wouldn’t know a wrinkle if it wrapped itself around his face, and the total opposite of the real Reacher.

Until Reacher's creator, Lee Child, insisted on using pint-sized poser and oddball Tom Cruise as his hero, I read every Reacher novel. I introduced him to family and friends and was first to pounce when a new one hit the bookshelves.

I never read another one, because clearly the writer and this reader were at total odds about who Reacher was.

How could the very creator of this rugged, tall superhero insist on this selection? According to stories at the time, Child actually pushed to have Cruise as his man.

Apparently other people felt the same way about Tom-as-Jack; only two (I think) of Child’s more than 20 Reacher books hit the screen and didn’t do spectacularly, even as he continued to top best-seller lists around the world. Real Reacher fans couldn’t buy into that fake Reacher.

As “they” say: no, man.

Some authors who have commented on this say writers don’t have a lot of say in what ends up in the screenplay and how true it is to their writing. But Child wanted Cruise, and I can’t forgive him for that.

One of the authors who got it right, whose TV series I have watched over and over, and whose books are never to be missed, was Michael Connelly. His creation, LAPD detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, is played perfectly by the gravelly, hard-nosed Titus Welliver. Books and series fit more loosely, but the character depiction is perfect. This author did not get precious about his hero.

Thankfully, Child, with his brother Andrew as co-writer, has released a new Reacher novel, The Sentinel, which has cleansed the palate a bit and proves that bad taste can fade with time. It’s Jack back at his best, this time taking on gangs of organised Russian teams working on a secret spy mission driven by a famous local resident through devious and clever means to cause election chaos in the US and create division, mistrust and uncivil war. Sound familiar at all?

Struggling a little with cataracts and electing not to have elective surgery during Covid-19, reading has slowed a lot in this house. Things are only read if they’re work or worth it. But I’m glad I settled in with Jack for an afternoon and had the time to finish it in one sitting.

One can only hope there are some gnarly Reacher types out there getting the real bad guys.

The Independent on Saturday

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