Lee Child at UEA’s Lit Fest

Somewhere on this planet a Lee Child novel is sold every 20 seconds. Responsible for this success is Child’s character Jack Reacher, the ex-US-military alpha male, who has roamed through small American towns putting foot to ass in varying degrees for 18 novels.

Lee Child by Sigrid EstradaPhoto: Sigrid Estrada

Lee Child, born Jim Grant, was introduced by Sutton to the rapturous applause of an auditorium packed high with dedicated fans of the Reacher franchise. Rather than the suave sadistic looking gentlemen in the head shot used on the Lit Fest poster, Child is a tall rakishly thin yet charming and friendly man. Henry Sutton, a senior lecturer in creative writing and course director for prose fiction MA, opened with a discussion about the two leading female characters in A Wanted Man, two CIA operatives whom Sutton described as “remarkably strong characters,”.

Sutton wanted to understand exactly how and why such strong female characters have kept making appearances through the series. Child had a relatively simple answer. If he is to sit with characters in his head for six months trying to get them onto paper, then they had better be characters that interest him and whose company he enjoys.

From here it seemed that both Sutton and Child were trying to lead the discussion in opposing directions. With Sutton adopting the stance of academic, drawing parallels with the power structures of the US army and issues of gender within Child’s novels. Child himself took a more personal approach, claiming that the only way he knows how to write a best seller is to make sure that you write for yourself.

This seemed to be the essence of Child’s writing method, it may not have been the answer that the creative writing MAs hiding out at the back had wanted, there was no great secret. Child writes the stories that he, and evidently millions of other people, would like to read, nothing more, and nothing less.

The evening ended with a question and answer session between the audience and Child. One question asked what his opinion was of a generation who only finds validation in a book once it has been made into a film. Child replied that no, it wasn’t generational, as a writer he has come to recognise that only a small percentage of the population read for enjoyment, beyond that was not his realm to discuss. It seems that his approach to show business can be summarised with a simple ethos: always leave them wanting more.


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January 2022
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