January 24, 2020

I’m alright, Jack: Lee Child passes Reacher to his brother


Lee Child: keeping it in the family (Mark Coggins via WikiCommons [under CC BY 2.0])

Unusual news broke last week that Lee Child is retiring from writing—and passing the mantle of his all-action hero Jack Reacher on to his brother, Andrew Grant.

The BBC and others reported that Child, whose real name is James Grant, apparently considered killing off Reacher, before realising “I love my readers and know they want many, many more Reacher stories in the future.”

The first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, was published in 1997 after Child was fired from a job at Granada Television in 1995. The series has since sold over 100 million copies, and been adapted for the big screen in 2012 and 2016, with Tom Cruise playing Reacher on both occasions.

Andrew Grant is also a prolific thriller writer. Child described him as a natural heir to the Reacher dynasty: “We share the same DNA, the same background, the same upbringing … He’s me, fifteen years ago, full of energy and ideas.”

The Guardian noted a few days later that Child was not the first best-selling author to bring on board co-authors, or even wholesale replacements, to continue their long-running series. Wilbur Smith and James Patterson have both done so, with considerable success.

On the other hand, some writers are content to let their characters die alongside them—the same Guardian article quoted Andrea Camilleri before his death in 2019. He stated that the final Inspector Montalbano book had already been written many years ago, with the detective meeting a decisive end: “…it will not be possible to recover Montalbano. In that last book, he’s really finished.” The final book has yet to emerge.

Still, for Reacher fans, there is much to celebrate, with the 25th in the series, The Sentinel, due out in October, and a new TV series also in the pipeline. Besides, how would you even go about killing off this seemingly indestructible figure? “It would take an army to bring him down,” acknowledges Child.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.