The man behind Jack Reacher

Never fear Jack Reacher fans – Jack’s still got plenty of life left in him.  The James Hay Theatre was packed with Jack Reacher fans last night as his creator, Lee Child, landed in Christchurch as part of his Australasian tour.  He held his audience captive for over an hour with anecdotes about the craft of writing, the appeal of Jack Reacher, and his dislike of the Fleming family.

He started by discussing why he sets his books in America instead of his native Britain.  Jack Reacher, he said, is an isolated loner so you can’t have him in a populated, civilised country like Britain.  He needed the American frontier mysteriousness to give Jack the wide-open spaces and lots of isolated small towns.  While other crime writers tie their main character to a particular place, Reacher is able to go anywhere and do anything. 

Child also has a dislike of James Bond and his creator Ian Fleming.  I think it was Frederick Forsyth that compared Reacher to James Bond, but Child disagreed with this comparison and said that he’s more like the Lone Ranger or a medieval knight errant because you don’t know much about his past or who he really is and there is always somebody who needs his help when he rolls into town.  Although, Reacher firmly believes that he’s not helping the little man, he just hates the big man.

People have asked Child what the appeal of Jack Reacher is, particularly to women, and he thinks that it is probably because he is offended by injustice and he treats women well.  It is a compelling character, such as Reacher, that Child suggests is the most important part of a story, and that all the details of the plot are secondary to this compelling character.  The character of Reacher is definitely the main reason I love his books.

Lee Child will keep writing the Jack Reacher books for as long as he can (and as long as they sell) so we don’t need to worry about losing him quite yet, although Child already has Reacher’s final scene worked out so I now know how he’ll die.

Why Evolution is True!

Cover of The Greatest Show on EarthLet’s get things straight – the above is not the title of Richard Dawkin’s most recent book The Greatest Show on Earth.  But it might as well be (and you get the feeling that Dawkins is slightly miffed that Coyne got the better title in last year’s plethora of books about evolution celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species).

If anyone could be described as my “hero” then it is probably Dawkins so I am delighted to be attending The Press Literary Liaison on Thursday. Dawkins is an entertaining speaker, an outspoken atheist and a champion of science (he was the Professor for Public Understanding of Science in the UK until 2008).

His arguments for the case for evolution are rational, evidence based, logical and very thorough. He discusses how we know the Earth is very old  from from counting tree rings to radiometric dating.  He explains in very easy to understand terms evidence that animals change over time, both in history and today. This includes an experiment with flasks of bacteria in a lab that have been evolving independently for over 20 years, molecular (DNA) evidence, evidence from embryology, and the “unitelligent” design of many animals.

With so much evidence to support Evolution and nothing found to contradict it, for Dawkins, the fossil record simply the “icing on the cake”.

Both he and Coyne introduce their books with a worrying statistic that less than 40% of adults in both America and the UK “believe” in Evolution and prefer Creationist explanations for life.

Dawkins is a man who is right and who knows he is right. His frustration at the supporters of creationism and intelligent design is apparent from the transcript of a radio debate. Dawkins repeatedly tells a creationist opponent that fossil evidence is available in the Smithsonian and to go look, but she adamantly denies such evidence could exist “or she would know about it”. Dawkin’s repeated and insistent  imploring to “go look”  shows why he has earned the nickname “Darwin’s Rottweiller”.

He does come across as somewhat arrogant and smug (his writing is peppered with name drops) but he is one of the best at explaining biology; engaging and entertaining  his readers.  So I am very excited about going to hear him talk.

Other resources about Evolution: