Lee Child was born in 1954 in Coventry, England, but spent his formative years in the nearby city of Birmingham. By coincidence he won a scholarship to the same high school that JRR Tolkien had attended. He went to law school in Sheffield, England, and after part-time work in the theatre he joined Granada Television in Manchester for what turned out to be an eighteen-year career as a presentation director during British TV's "golden age." During his tenure his company made Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. But he was fired in 1995 at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars' worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series.
Killing Floor was an immediate success and launched the series which has grown in sales and impact with every new installment.
Lee has several homes— an apartment in Manhattan, country houses in England and the south of France, and whatever airplane cabin he happens to be in while travelling between them. In the US he drives a supercharged Jaguar, which was built in Jaguar's Browns Lane plant, thirty yards from the hospital in which he was born.
Lee spends his spare time reading, listening to music, and watching the Yankees, Aston Villa, or Marseilles soccer. He is married with a grown-up daughter. He is tall and slim, despite an appalling diet and a refusal to exercise.
Jack Reacher walked out of the Baltimore bus depot into a world of frozen streets and dirty snow. The sun was weak and watery and very low in the sky. He headed toward it, west, down a wide street, on the traffic side of a high berm of plowed snow, with his thumb out. Every car passed him by. Which he expected. Hitching rides in town was hard. Especially Baltimore. He would do better when he got to the highway ramp. His goal was I‑95 South, for however many hundreds of miles it took to get fifty degrees warmer. Maybe as far as Miami. Or all the way to Key West. He had been there before. Always had a good time. Except it was the end of the line. Which meant the only way to leave was to double back. Which he didn’t like. He preferred forward motion.
As always he had decent shoes, and for once he had a decent coat, so the weather didn’t bother him. He had known colder. Korea in the winter, and the advanced units on the German plain. And some American bases. Baltimore in February was balmy by comparison. But even so, he couldn’t afford an all-nighter. In the summertime he could sleep under a bridge. But not in February, however balmy. Happily the traffic was heavy. Rush hour, all across the civilized world. Lots of potential benefactors. But Reacher was a large man, and not especially attractive. Lots of rejection, too, for all kinds of gut-level reasons.
But the sheer weight of numbers and the overall odds were with him, and, sure enough, inside an hour and twenty minutes a guy in a rental Impala pulled over and agreed to take him as far as Savannah, Georgia, right then, a straight shot, as late as it took. Maybe conversation would keep the guy awake. That seemed to be the motive behind the offer. So Reacher climbed in, and they took off. The driver was a dark fleshy man who could have been forty. He had a black five o’clock shadow against what in better days would have been pale and papery skin, but was now dark red and swollen with capillaries. Which was a problem all its own. Reacher could stop the guy falling asleep, but he couldn’t keep him alive from a heart attack. He wasn’t a doctor.
There was no conversation at first. The guy had the radio playing, on a mostly sports talk station, where all kinds of mostly wonderful things were happening. Then at eight o’clock a different voice in a different acoustic read out the local news from Baltimore, just as they were leaving it, and then the voice called upon expert opinion to expand on and explain the news, in the form of respectful conversation, as if between the best of friends. Reacher tuned it out, until he heard a name he knew, and then one he didn’t.
The anchor asked a question, and the expert answered, ‘You’re absolutely right; to understand this case, you have to understand the Calder Massee case, and some say the dispute about that case’s original findings has now gone on so long we should take the issue seriously at last. The official line has always been suicide, and indeed the government’s last communication on the subject dates from four years ago, when it said it welcomed what it called Dr. Temperance Brennan’s meticulous and independent analysis, which as expected confirmed conclusions made at the time, and therefore the case was now closed.’
(C) Lee Child 2017
This is an extract from his short story co-written with Kathy Reichs in the forthcoming ITW anthology Match Up, published by Little, Brown on June 13th
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