The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin

Jack Reacher is only the second of Jim Grant’s great fictional characters: the first is Lee Child himself. Heather Martin’s biography tells the story of all three.

Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation.

Three things attracted me to this book, about an author that I have never actually read.  The price, a first chapter titled The Library, and thirdly a reference to the wonderful One Hundred years of Solitude, which I happened upon whilst flicking idly through the pages.

Despite my lack of knowledge about the author, other than seeing his many books, which are seemingly everywhere, I found this biography to be very readable, no doubt because it’s good to be nosy about someone else’s life.  it is interesting how the mundane can become rich when examined from the outside, and there is a wealth of detail here to dive into here.

Over half of the book charts Grant’s life before finding his inner (Lee) child, and whilst was good to find the origins of not only the author – an inveterate reader himself  – but also of Jack Reacher, the text does jump around a bit between times and people causing a bit of confusion at times.  This part of the book about humble and tough beginnings was interesting enough and I looked forward to reading about his writing career. Continue reading “The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin”

Insensitivity Readers

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Holding this book in your hand, sinking back into your armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me.  And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy.  But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true.   – Honoré de Balzac, Le Père Goriot

Catching Up, Again

It’s been a while since the blog got any attention, and that has been because I have been reading, real pleasure reading,  and taking simple enjoyment in the written word whenever I got a moment with a book.  And it’s been glorious!

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

It’s been good to take the time out and avoid getting bogged down in the love/hate relationship with time and trying to get things written down topost, as well as trying to make inroads into the book pile.

Combatting this has taken the form of a mix of bestsellers – strange for me, I know – and some quality Asian literature in the form of, Ahmed Ali’s Twilight in Delhi, and the wonderfully titled The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima.  The latter wasn’t because it was trendy to be reading Japanese literature last month, but rather thanks to getting the book as a Christmas present.

As a bonus, whilst walking around the streets between snowfalls, we came across a bag hung on the gate of a house inviting the passerby to take books, so I ended up with two Stephen king hardbacks, Desperation, and Full Dark, No Stars.  Enthusiasm now renewed, and notebook filled, Febuary on WP can finally start for me.

Getting on a Bit

Finally getting a few moments to write up some notes for the books that I have been reading this year, two completed so far,  a notification popped up with the news that this is my twelfth year on WordPress, making this the tenth year of Book to the Future.

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. from Pexels

An unexpected milestone for sure, not that there was ever a thought of the blog carrying on this long.  When conceived, this space was created with the soul aim of talking about books and making friends, those expectations have been far surpassed in the most surprising way.

From making friends in many different countries as well as meeting blog friends on two other continents, working with Penguin/Random House, meeting my wife,  and being an ocassional proofreader and editor with a couple of small publishing companies.

Not too mention all the free books that authors have been kind enough to send, as well as the reviews that have inspired me to read widely and have bulked up my to read list.  My writing has improved a bit too, so as always a huge thanks to the people who make this all viable, you wonderful readers, especially my regulars.

More book reviews will be coming shortly, they are like a dam waiting to burst.

Obligatory New Year’s Post

Although predictable, this type of post is an easy way to get the blogging ball rolling for the year, with the added bonus of not having to put much effort into it.

Looking back at the things I aimed to do last year, I clearly and consistently failed to achieve a single goal so this time around I will only focus on two things in the vain hope that I will be able to achieve them.

Firstly, carry on with the blog, be a bit more consistent and get all those book reviews and ideas written up.  There is so much half written stuff that I have knocking around, on a variety of topics. I also want to take the blog a bit wider than just books but retaining the literature feel, although now I read that back I have no idea if that will make sense. Continue reading “Obligatory New Year’s Post”

Paper Heart – Boomie Bol

This book is a debut poetry collection that centers on life in three parts – love, loss, and healing. It looks at love in its many different elements; nature, family, motherhood, sex, self-love, and more. Then shifts focus to the inevitable aspects of loss, grief, heartbreaks, disappointments, abuse, and more. Finally, it lends itself to life’s possibilities of rebirth. Here it touches on healing in various forms; kindness, forgiveness, joy, forward thinking, meditation, and faith.

With an introduction that shows the author’s intent, fellow blogger Boomie Bol seeks to make a connection with each reader, and have her poems infuse into the reader’s life and hopefully be remembered at a time that they are required.

At its core, Paper Heart is a celebration of women, and also women of colour. Boomie’s poems are unapologietic and unashamed, she lays out her innermost feelings and this reader found himself appreciative for the insight into the author’s world and mind and thought process. Continue reading “Paper Heart – Boomie Bol”

Interrogation of Author Nicholas Conley (Part Two)

Part one is posted back here (however many days ago, now). A huge thanks to Nick who took time out of his busy schedule to share the background to his latest novel, Knight in Paper Armor:

You spoke with a holocaust survivor, can you give us an insight into what that was like and how that affected you and the subsequent drafts of the book.

During the Jewish holiday of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jewish people around the world will take the day to remember the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. While many people can trace direct relatives, pretty much any Jewish person of Ashkenazi heritage lost family members to this event, whether they’re aware of the names or not. And on this day, many synagogues will invite a local Holocaust survivor to tell their firsthand story of what they went through, what it felt like, and so on.

In 2018, the year following the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally– wherein people with torches repeatedly shouted “Jews will not replace us,” amid other ethnic slurs towards Black people, Latinos, and so on – the woman who spoke at our synagogue for Yom HaShoah, a Holocaust survivor born in Hungary, made a point of directly calling out how much these recent events echoed what had happened in her own childhood. She described it vividly—the hatred, the look in these men’s eyes, the fact that America’s own leader would not denounce white supremacy after that, and so on. What she said stuck with me. It’s one thing to draw comparisons, as a younger person, but when someone who actually survived this historical atrocity draws these same comparisons … you know? Talking to her, after that, was something that really spurred me to write this book. Continue reading “Interrogation of Author Nicholas Conley (Part Two)”

What’s in a Novel?

Most people, left to their own devices, think not in clichés but with originality and brilliance; that most individual voices, once heard, turn out to be voices of beauty and wisdom.

Photo taken by Alfons Morales.

I think we all agree that a novel is nothing if it is not the expression of an individual voice, of a single view of experience — and how many of the good or even interesting novels, of the thousands published appear each year? Joan Didion (I Can’t Get That Monster Out of My Mind – 1964)

From Knights to Hearts

A theme of books being published by blogger friends, of late, seems to be a homage to the medium with which we, both readers and writers alike, feel the most affinity, the humble sheet of paper.

For those of you who love poetry, I present, or remind you, of Boomie Bol , a prolific writer and long term blogger who digs deeply into all things emotional.

Her debut collection paper heart – out today – is a wide ranging assortment of poems ranging from nature, family, heartbreaks, and faith, to name but a few subjects.

A review will follow soon enough, but in the meantime, check the link above if you wish to get a feel for Boomie’s poems.

Interrogation of Author Nicholas Conley (Part One)

Nothing beats the feel of a solid, weighty book in one’s hands, and recently reviewed Knight in Paper Armor is just such a book, both hefty in your desired unit of measurement, and also in message.

Getting a much needed , and rare, bit of Vitamin D, whilst rereading selected passages of the book.

Having enjoyed the book immensely, I was interested to dig deeper into the book and the mind of author, Nick, himself, who kindly agreed to answer some questions, a taster of two are below, and the the others will follow in an upcoming post:

Knight in Paper Armor has been with you for a long time, how long has this story been formulating in your writerly mind and what were the specific inspirations?

The first inklings of the concept – and the title – came to me all the way back in 2010, actually, before my first book even saw print. It took me a long time to figure out how to write it, however. Every time I tried to draft it, it felt like I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t crack the code. Most of these drafts had very little in
common with the finished novel, but there was always one core element that remained—the idea that, basically, there’s something wrong with the world, and there’s this boy—Billy—who, through his strange powers, feels the pain of everyone out there, and wants to help.

Here’s the thing. What is this “pain of others,” exactly? As a writer, with a concept like that, you have to decide whether you’re going to be vague, for the sake of not polarizing readers, or if you’re going to be upfront, honest, and forthright about the brutality, inequalities, and unfairness of the real world. Explicit parallels felt necessary, but back then, I don’t think I had yet gained the maturity and life experience to tackle these sorts of complex, heavy subjects, yet. Writing Pale Highway, which came out in 2015, was the book that really propelled my skills and confidence forward, in that regard. Continue reading “Interrogation of Author Nicholas Conley (Part One)”