However, there are some points about the Reacher character that I find a little over the top and I would like to get them clarified and/or explained in further detail. I tried to email the author to ask my questions but that effort bore no fruit as I could not find a viable feebback link on his website. So, I am left with writing my comments/questions here in hopes that some reader who knows Lee Child will take note and pass them on to the author. I will, largely, confine my remarks to the book version of Jack Reacher. I will not mention, therefore, the movie any further except to point out the fact that Reacher is described in the books as 6'5" and 250 pounds, while Tom Cruise, on tiptoe, is 5'7" or 5'8" and 165 pounds on a good day after a big meal.
Now to my observations on the books. As Mr. Child relates his hero's background, Reacher is supposed to be a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and a vet of 13 years as an Army military policeman. Moreover, he rose to the rank of Major, was reduced in grade to Captain for some indiscretion and regained the rank of Major before retiring. Now, that raises a problem for me because of a timing. First, one is in the Army from the time he enters West Point, so if Reacher has 13 years of service and 4 of them were as a cadet, then his actual on active duty time is only 9 years. That's hardly enough time to make Major under normal circumstances, let alone to do it TWICE! Additionally, and although it may be possible, in my nearly 30 years in the Army, I have never heard of an officer being reduced in grade for cause without him also having his term of service ended. That is, he was asked to leave Uncle Sam's employ. To think that such a reduction could be made because of some transgression and the officer is then subsequently re-promoted to his previous rank is ridiculous. Now, I have known enlisted soldiers who have suffered a reduction in rank (that is, they have been busted") and who regained a stripe or two later in their careers, but I have never known an officer who survived such event.
I am also amazed at the great expertise that Jack Reacher has acquired in a wide variety of specialties during a relatively short career. He is a championship long distance marksman, he is conversant with nuclear physics and metalurgy, he's an expert in surveillance/counter-surveillance as well an unarmed and hand-to-hand combat. When travelling incognito, he uses aliases based on New York Yankee second basemen, but only those who played during seasons when the Yanks did not take the American League Pennant--and he has all of these players' stats at his fingertips. He is familiar with the Latin names for diseases such as Parkinson's, keeps accurate (plus or minus a minute) time in his head, has the characteristics, nomenclature, capabilities and short comings of most small arms, edged weapons, aircraft and motor vehicles committed to memory and is a good tipper. All this picked up in 9 years--13 if you count time at the Academy---as a military policeman? However, I suppose I shouldn't be too skeptical, I am informed by my daughter that "Barbie" is similarly accomplished.
A discussion point made in the Reacher book I'm reading now was actually the catalyst for this blog entry. It concerns the explanation early in the book "Bad Luck and Trouble" where Reacher's expertise as a finder of people is being established and the author cites some characteristics of AWOL soldiers. Among these are that the AWOLs are heading AWAY from something, NOT TOWARD something and that they want to put mass between themselves and their pursuers.
Well, let me tell you a couple of things. When I was a private soldier, I spent some serious time assigned to duties as what was called, at that time, "a prisoner chaser" and, in my experience, these statements are baloney! AWOLs ARE heading somewhere---they're going home! And nobody, least of all the MPs, actively pursues an AWOL---to do so is a waste of time and money because everyone knows where he is going. What the Military Police do do when a guy "goes over the hill" is call up the cops in his hometown and tell them to be on the lookout for Private J. Studley Coolbreeze. They also request that when J. Studley shows up at his Mom's or his girl's house---which he surely will--- the local police apprehend him and throw him in the slammer. Then, once he's in custody and tucked away in the local jail, if the police report the arrest to the MPs, the Army will send a couple of guys (prisoner chasers like I was) to pick him up and take him back to the post from which he went AWOL for his court martial.
All of these things got me curious about Lee Child himself and what background he has relative to West Point, The United States Army, the US Marine Corps, Special Operations, military policemen, The Uniform Code of Military Justice and large, complex number theory, so I looked him up. It turns out that Lee Child is actually Jim Grant and he's a BRIT, with no recorded contact what-so-ever with the US military, policemen in general nor MPs in particular. Indeed, before he lost his job due to corporate downsizing and decided to become a writer, his professional area of expertise was commercial television. I, therefore, must assume that the particulars of the US military and military culture about which he pontificates in the Reacher books come from advisors who, in turn, have gotten their information from reading Sergeant Rock comic books.
But, all that said, even with their "flaws", the Reacher series is very entertaining "revenge literature" and I highly recommend it for your next beach book. Beach Book---that's one that is entertaining, a quick read and you don't care if you get it wet.