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[personal profile] sinanju
Some weeks ago my lovely wife and I went to the coast for the weekend. It was a little getaway for us from the day-to-day trials of her recovery from (her second) surgery on her (second) inner ear to cure her of a debilitating vertigo she's been suffering for over a year now. Not that she's completely recovered yet--that won't happen (per the doctor) for another three or four months. That's when she can expect to be fully recovered from both the surgeries AND from the vertigo that prompted them. But she was recovered enough to enjoy a weekend at the coast.

It was a very nice weekend. We drove down Friday afternoon. We spent a large part of Saturday on the beach, basking in the sun that shone on us despite the predictions of cold and rain. (Which came along on Sunday, a day late.) It was a great day. That night I wandered down to the lobby of the hotel to choose a few DVDs from the huge collection they provide for guests to watch.

We settled on JACK REACHER, the Tom Cruise vehicle from a year or so ago. I'd heard things about the movie, that Cruise was in no way the Jack Reacher from the novels (which I hadn't read), that it was a vanity project (another attempt to prove he was an action hero), etc. But still, we gave it a try.

And it was good. Really, really good. No, Tom Cruise is not 6'5" tall and 250 lbs. But the movie was still a damn good story, and he was convincing enough. We both were really impressed by that movie; so much so, that we bought a copy to own.

And I went to the library to find a copy of the book it was based on, ONE SHOT by Lee Child. The movie followed the novel pretty well. They filtered out a few characters and gave their duties to surviving characters, or simply did without. They gave some of the bad guys some scenes not in the book to flesh them out for the movie. And they added some action that wasn't in the book. But overall it was still a fairly faithful adaptation of the book--and it worked because of that.

I enjoyed that book very much. So I went and borrowed four more, and I'm working my way through them. They're entertaining and instructional. (From a writer's POV, any writer who can write a very popular novel series and get all the books optioned for movies is doing something right, even if his stuff isn't your cup of tea--and these are my cup of tea.)

Tom Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher. Reacher is huge, physically imposing, and a drifter. Jack Reacher is a "murder hobo" in the parlance of some gamers I know. (Your standard RPG action hero PC is a rootless wanderer who finds trouble, kills the guys behind it all--with or without collateral damage, to taste--and then moves on. A murder hobo.)

Jack Reacher is a murder hobo. A former officer in the Army and an MP, he lives with no job, no fixed address, and owns nothing but what he carries with him: the clothes he's wearing, a passport, an ATM card, a roll of cash, and a toothbrush. He supports himself with his pension and the occasional replenishment of his reserves from odd jobs, or cash liberated from bad guys who won't need it anymore. He wears the clothes for a few days, then discards them for new. Expensive habit? Other characters have remarked on that--and he counters with the question, "How much do you spend on your mortgage and insurance every month?" He takes the bus (doesn't fly) when he can, hitchhikes when he can't, and walks when he must.

Typically, he stumbles across villainy in the course of his travels, and when he is unable (sometimes) or unwilling (mostly) to ignore it, he gets involved. While he's capable of cunning, and definitely experienced at violence, he tends not to be subtle. The bad guys can't ever say they weren't warned at least once. By the time all the dust settles, you can be sure that a lot of bad guys will be fucked up, and at least some of them will be dead. Again: murder hobo. Let us be clear: some of the deaths are self-defense. Others are executions.

Jack Reacher is DOING what Jules only talked about in Pulp Fiction*: he walks the earth (well, the USA, anyhow) like the guy in Kung Fu, just going where fate takes him, with no job. Or in the words of Vinny Vega: "A bum." Or in other words, a murder hobo.

These are not "thriller" novels (they're too slow paced and densely written for that). They're mysteries, with action. There's always a mystery at the heart of each novel, one that Reacher will slowly unravel in the course of scratching his curiosity itch and/or teaching the bad guys that they messed with the wrong folks (either Reacher himself or someone he's protecting), before he lights the fuse on the final explosion (literally, in the book I just finished), and then heads on down the road while chaos reigns and the authorities swoop in to pick up the pieces and tag n' bag or arrest the bad guys.

They're not quite like any other novels I remember reading, but I'm enjoying them.

*To be fair to Jules, he may well have followed up on his plan. We just don't see it happen.

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sinanju

December 2016

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