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Jack Reacher: An Iconic Action Hero

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Having just finished, Gone Tomorrow, the 13th of the books in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher thriller series, and with two more still to read to catch up with the latest of his oeuvre, perhaps it is time to say a few words about the iconic hero Child has created.

Jack Reacher was a major in the Military Police. He left the service to wander through the country with only a toothbrush and the clothes on his back. When he wants a new shirt, he buys one and throws the old one away, ditto for slacks, shoes and any other bit of clothing. He is a man without possessions, without ties.

Physically he is a large man, but he is agile and he is strong. He knows how to fight — one, two, three, 16 men, it makes no difference. He knows all about fire arms and he knows how to use them.

He has a clock in his head that keeps better time than a Rolex. He knows what bad guys are going to do before they do it. When he puts his mind to it, he can work his way through almost any problem or get around any roadblock.

Now, as he travels the highways and byways he continually manages to get himself involved in some kind of trouble with criminals, with terrorists, with political assassins. Once in awhile the problem has something to do with his past; more often he just happens into somebody else’s nightmare and feels compelled to help.

He stops an assassination attempt on the vice-president. He tries to help a mercenary deal with the kidnapping of his wife and daughter. He tries to find out why an accused sniper tells police: “Get Jack Reacher for me.”

He is a kind of Lone Ranger without a mask, without a horse, and without Tonto. If he had a mask, every one of the novels could aptly end with him riding off into the sunset — probably on a bus — while local lady fair he has just saved from the villain says: “Who was that masked man?”

Reacher is one of those improbable superheroes, the ones without super powers, but who really don’t need them. Think Jason Bourn. Think James Bond. Think Jack Bauer. Jack Reacher matches up with the best of them.

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