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LEE CHILD Interrogated

Written by Ali Karim

Lee Child talks about Bad Luck And Trouble To Ali Karim
Ali Karim Interrogates Lee Child In Milton Keynes


Each year I meet up with Lee Child – the UK’s No.1 Thriller Novelist. It’s a tradition of ous and marks the passage of time for this big reader. I find each Jack Reacher thriller a treat, something to look forward to, and in 2007, the 11th titled ‘BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE’ is in my opinion his best. Read the Shots’ reviews -


Bad Luck And Trouble by Lee Child Born in Coventry, England, in 1954, Child started out studying law but switched to a more compelling interest, drama. That move led to a successful 18-year career in television during the heyday of Granada Studios, where he worked in production on Jewel-in-the-Crown, Brideshead Revisited, Cracker and Prime Suspect. After a "reorg" at Granada cost him his job in 1995, Child decided to write a novel. Titled Killing Floor, that 1997 book won both the Anthony Award and Deadly Pleasures magazine‘s Barry Award for Best First Novel.

This year he has released the 11th Jack Reacher Thriller – BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE from Transworld Publishers [an Imprint of Random House]


We had dinner, with Patsy Irwin from Transworld and the very cool Brad [man of mystery] and talked a little about this new work and what’s new for the readers of Jack Reacher.


I have put some audio-visual material online in a selection of Video’s which are just a double-click away :-


Lee Talks about Jack Reacher



Lee Reads Chapter 1 – BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE






Ali : Welcome back to the UK Lee, and at last we see you at No1 with both BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE in hardcover and THE HARD WAY as No 1 in paperback – congratulations.


Lee : Thank you Ali, and great to be back in the UK and a big hello and thank you to all those who have supported my work this past decade.


Ali : So it’s taken you just over a decade to become an overnight success, so how does it feel Lee?


Lee : It’s exactly that – ten years of work to become an overnight success, it’s been a long hard road but one well worth travelling along. The number 1 position is an indication that people like Jack Reacher, which is good to know.


Ali : Well it’s a helluva an achievement, because with THE HARD WAY [2006] and ONE SHOT [2005], you got to the No 2 and No 3 positions, close but not quite there. So what did you do to celebrate?


Lee : We’ll I’m on the road so it’s kinda difficult to do much in terms of celebrating the moment. So when the news broke, we were in Southampton so we had a nice meal out, tonight we’ll have a nice meal too, and perhaps have a nice glass of wine.


Ali : The new Jack Reacher, BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE is a title of a Johnny Winter song, while KILLING FLOOR [1997] is a Jimi Hendrix line, so what is it with the blues? And are you a bluesy person when it comes to music?


Lee : Yes totally, I think blues songs are great for book titles, because the blues uses few words and you pick up a sense from them, gives a little flavour of what the book is going to be about, and the Winter title fitted the book perfectly.


Ali : And have you joined the IPOD generation?


Lee : Yes, I’ve actually got 4 IPODS, because I travel a lot.


Ali : Whoa, so how many gig of music is that….laughing…..?


Lee : ….laughing…it’s a lot believe me.


Ali : Going back to BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, what made you bring back Frances Neagley as the last time she appeared was in WITHOUT FAIL [2002]?


Lee : That’s right, well BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE is a reunion book, so if Jack Reacher is going to have a reunion with the people from his old unit, Frances Neagley has to be there. Also she acts as a perfect foil for the narrative, she’s a mysterious character, we don’t really know much about her, and Reacher is slightly scared of her, so what is it about her that makes her so powerful?


Ali : …And you got to read BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, to see if Reacher actually sleeps with her……laughing…


Lee :….see you do….laughing


Ali : Numbers and mathematics feature heavily in the plot of BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, so are you a mathematical person?


Lee : Yes I am in an amateur way. It was one of the strands that runs throughout all the Jack Reacher books that he’s good at mental arithmetic, he also likes calculations and so it was fun to bring this aspect of his character to the fore, and the actual plot. I enjoyed this as many people think that Reacher is all about rough tough action – fighting, killing and so on. In the first book – KILLING FLOOR [1997], the vital clue was punctuation, while in the 6th book – WITHOUT FAIL the vital clue was whether there was a hyphen or not. And now in the 11th book we have a of mental arithmetic going on, and I found that fun, so it’s not all about violence, it can be about cerebral stuff also.


Ali : Another aspect of BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE is that 9/11 plays a subtle part to the story, so what’s your take on the conspiracy theories about this tragedy, reported in ‘Loose Change 2’ and ‘In Plane Site’ et. al.?


Lee : Well there’s hundreds of conspiracy theories going around about so many things. I’m a born sceptic I guess, and I have always been sceptical about conspiracy theories because it presumes a lot of competence in a lot of people who don’t display that level of competence in other areas. If they can’t get real world events right, then how can they get these massive conspiracies right? And how can they keep them secret when they can’t get other things kept secret? Many of these conspiracy theories seem to me fundamentally implausible.


Ali : In the new book BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, Jack Reacher is in a really revenge / retribution mode, especially the brutal climax. Did you find it cathartic to write this book with Reacher so angry?


Lee : Yes I did, and the readers like it too from my feedback. The violence and killing is really a metaphor for closure and that is what people like, because everyone is in a bad situation at some time in their lives, and in real life there is little we can do about it, but in fiction we can see direct action taken, and that is cathartic for the reader.


Ali : I’ve been reading your Jack Reacher books for years now, but I have to say that maybe I’m getting old, because I felt that BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE to be the most violent, and brutal what with people getting tortured, thrown out of helicopters, necks being broken like twigs……


Lee : Hmmmm, that’s interesting as I don’t feel it particularly different from the rest of the series, I think the real issue is the implacable approach – If you mess with Reacher’s friends or you mess with him personally, you’re in big, big trouble. I guess people would find it reassuring to have a friend of that nature, so it’s the inevitable conclusion that appears to be brutal – you know these people are going to die because they made some bad choices in picking on Reacher’s friends, and that’s why you probably perceived it to be particularly brutal.


Ali : One thing I noticed in this, the eleventh Jack Reacher thriller, is that the chapters appear to be particularly short. Was that a conscious decision or a by-product of this plot?


Lee : I guess its conscious, in fact the last two books have been that way, THE HARD WAY also had shorter chapters – it had 70 or so chapters, while BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE I think has 77, whereas the earlier ones had 15 to 20 or so chapters. It’s a way of re-labelling because I have always broken up the books into short segments which initially appeared as page-breaks within the chapters, where now I’m tending to label each segment as a separate chapter, but nothing has changed in terms of structure, it’s just a different way of laying it out on the page. And it’s where the market is frankly, people need to feel that they are making progress, the gratification, it’s a bit like the bite-size candy / chocolate you can buy, it’s short and punchy, making the reader read another chunk, then read another chunk and then another chunk  – it also creates a greater narrative drive.


Ali : The action in BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE alternates between Las Vegas and California – so did you visit these locations while researching the book?


Lee : Not while writing the book, I do my research backwards, as I do travel widely and if a location makes an impression, I may well use it later. I’ve been to Los Angeles many times, while if you recall, you and I were in Las Vegas together for Bouchercon in 2003, and we had a lot fun if I recall….laughing…..


Ali : …laughing..yes we all did….but you had the work to do as you were The Toastmaster….laughing..


Lee : I loved Las Vegas….it was my first time and it stuck with me, including some interesting places that no doubt you remember….


Ali…laughing…maybe I’m getting old…as my memory is not what it used to me…laughing…..Anyway moving on briskly…I’ve heard that Ian Fleming Publications have been onto you about taking on the writing mantle with their English secret agent…..have you any regrets in turning it down?


Lee : Twice over the period of five years they’ve asked me to write the series, no regrets really because I think it is a thankless task in terms of first financial remuneration, as the terms were more favourable to the Ian Fleming estate than to me, and secondly there is the technical and cultural aspect. I see this as an impossible job as it’s now 2007, around 50 years on from the world that James Bond first appeared in. The world has changed, and one of the reasons the world has changed is because of James Bond, this country has altered its cultural frame of reference because of things like James Bond, so any follow-up fifty years later would be somewhat self-referential, and reading the book would be like watching an ABBA tribute band – i.e. what’s the point?


Ali : I noticed that you are one of the judges in the Daily Mail / Transworld Publishing writing competition, so any hints from budding thriller writers contemplating submitting something for this competition?


Lee : Yes, firstly just get it done, finish it. And secondly do not under any circumstances listen to any advice, thirdly write exactly what you want to write, it’s an organic product not a laundry list of ingredients, write what you want to write, even if you feel everyone will hate it – that’s the only way of having a living, breathing manuscript that has a chance of winning.


Ali : And finally as we approach Reacher’s Dozen, any news on what book twelve will be about?


Lee : Book 12 will be out a year from now and will be called PLAY DIRTY [2008], it’s a lonely rural setting, two towns, Hope and Despair twelve miles apart in the state of Colorado. Hope is a nice place, Despair is not a nice place, and that’s as much as I can tell you right now.


Ali : Thank you for that snippet and for your time Lee.


Lee : Pleasures all mine, and great to see you again. I appreciate the continued interest from Shots and the Shots Readers -


Interview recorded April 3rd Waterstones Milton Keynes.


Shots wishes to thank Lee Child for his time as well as Patsy, Selina and Brad of Transworld Publishers, Maggie at www.leechild.com and Andrea of Waterstones Milton Keynes for helping to organise this interview. And if you haven’t seen Lee Child in action, he will be at International Thriller Fest in New York July 12th -15th, and at the Harrogate Crime Festival July 20th – 22nd.


Lee Child Bibliography


The Jack Reacher Novels

  • Killing Floor (1997)
  • Die Trying (1998)
  • Tripwire (1999)
  • The Visitor (US re-title Running Blind) (2000)
  • Echo Burning (2001)
  • Without Fail (2002)
  • Persuader (2003)
  • The Enemy (2004)
  • One Shot (2005)
  • The Hard Way (2006)
  • Bad Luck and Trouble (2007)
  • Play Dirty (2008)


Short Story Work

  • James Penney‘s New Identity from Fresh Blood 3 /
  • James Penny’s New Identity [Re-edit] THRILLER
  • The Snake Eater by the Numbers from Like a Charm
  • Ten Keys from The Cocaine Chronicles
  • The Greatest Trick of All from Greatest Hits


More information about Lee Child and Jack Reacher is available from www.leechild.com and www.jackreacher.co.uk


Lee Child ‘Listening to Lee Child‘ profile & Interview [2002]
http://archive.shotsmag.co.uk/Lee Child Interview.htm


The Persuasive Lee Child [2003]



Shooting the breeze with Lee Child [2005]


Lee Child : David Beckham Washed My Car [2004]


A decade of Jack Reacher [2006]



The Shots Editor Mike Stotter and Ali Karim say ‘If you’ve not read Lee Child, where have you been Bro?’


Take a look at the slideshow of Lee at Milton Keynes…
Click here to view the slide show



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