It happened when I was down country visiting fam last year, and I noticed there were half a dozen Jack Reacher books on a shelf. I think my overseas-based brother had bought them, probably airport-novelling on his way over to New Zealand, and had left them behind.
So I decided to read one to see what the fuss was about.
I picked one of the Jack Reacher books off the shelf, and I read it and I really liked it. Since then I've read a half a dozen or so more, (Thanks, bro).
The latest to pass in front of my eyes, ie on the shelf, was "Make Me."
It was the weekend of New Year, and I started reading. I was well in to it and about ready to send a marriage proposal to the married author, when I hit the last few chapters of the book.
I need to pause a moment here and take a deep breath, because the ending of Make Me was the most disturbing thing ever.
I was all like, I don't believe I just read that Vile Ending, and I had to go and read it again to make sure, and, well, that was just the dumbest move ever.
Who revisits a nightmare scenario to make sure they saw what they saw? Who?
Thus it was that I decided, pretty much as soon as the book was back in its place alongside the others, that it was over.
I was done.
No marriage proposal.
I was never going to read another Jack Reacher ever again.
Thank you for nothing, Lee Child. Thanks a bloody lot.
That Vile Ending... oh my golly gosh... was the stuff of those hideous nightmares you wake up in the middle of, entirely freaked out, scrambling to get some light on in the room, and you can't un-see it or forget it. Maybe some people are just 'get over it, Jo', but no. It was sick. Real sick.
I vowed to knit a scarf next time I visited.
Then, about one week later, I kid you not, one week later I happened across a book in the library, "Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the making of Make Me" by Andy Martin.
Intrigued, I got the book out.
It is indeed, as the front cover says, "an up close and personal look into the world and ways of an expert storyteller's creative process as he undertakes the writing of the much anticipated twentieth Jack Reacher novel, Make Me."
To be fair, if it had been "Lee Child and the making of Any Other Jack Reacher," I may not have picked it up just then. I may have waited a spell, and thus not had to put down everything else I was reading to finish it.
But this wasn't just any old Jack Reacher.
It was the brutal Make Me, the book that had put an end to my short love affair with both writer and protagonist.
I had to know how he came up with the Vile Ending.
I was in fact desperate to find out how the hell this warped, hideous (and really quite brilliant) idea came to be.
When I finished, I read it again to absorb more of it.
There were indeed several things I learnt about the writing of Make Me, and the Vile Ending.
Lee Child does not know where a book is going when he starts out. It is not plotted, there are no notes, he really has no idea at all. He just makes it up as he goes along. Thus when he wrote Make Me, he did not write it with the Vile Ending bit at the end in mind, because the Vile Ending only came to him when he had nearly finished the book.
He doesn't re-write. He goes back if something troubles him, and fixes things up the next day kind of thing, and he doesn't rewrite. That's it.
He smokes a lots of cigarettes and a bit of dope.
I was talking to a colleague the other week, who had also read the Andy Martin book, and I said to him, that reading about Lee's constant lighting up and inhaling made me want to sit at the laptop with a fag, like in days of old, and ponder my stories, like Lee does.
My workmate said, Forget it, Jo.
I was touched. He was concerned for the state of my lungs. What a guy,
He soon corrected that.
Forget that dream, he said, because the price of smokes is crazy, now they've had a New Year price hike.
(It is true: the price for a packet of cigarettes did indeed rise on Jan 1st.)
What else in the book? Well, there's the story of how Lee Child lost his job and decided to write the book, finished it and sold it. Nothing new in that. We've all done that, ie. decided to write a book and make a few quid. Most of us don't actually sell the thing, though.
There is much one could discuss, but those are the main points I am thinking about. I recommend the book if you're a Reacher Fan or even if you're not, and just want some insight into Lee Child's writing process.
Significantly, I have now taken back my decision to never read another Jack Reacher ever again, as long as I live, although I am approaching them with some caution now after the Vile Ending incident. I've put a request in at the library for the very first one, Killing Floor, so I can start at the beginning of the series. There are several people ahead of me on the list so I guess a lot of readers are doing the same thing. I may even buy copies and build up a Reacher collection and be a legit fan.
I will also watch the Tom Cruise movie one day (I love Tom), probably sooner rather than later, as I suspect there is a chance I, too, will become one of those angry people who rant about the gross betrayal that was Cruise playing Reacher. But at the moment, cos I do love Tom, I am okay with that.
If you haven't read a Reacher, give it a go and see what you think. And to be fair, the Vile Ending of Make Me is really quite brilliant. But if you're anything like me, it just pays not to think too much about it once you've turned the last page.