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December 21, 2008

I Resent Jack Reacher

Knife cover

Jeffrey Cohen is the author of It Happened One Knife: A Double Feature Mystery and the rest of the Double Feature series from Berkley Prime Crime, as well as the Aaron Tucker Mystery series, most recently with As Dog Is My Witness. His wife says he’s a good listener.

I Resent Jack Reacher

By Jeffrey Cohen

Yeah; I said it. I know that Lee Child’s indestructible ex-military-cop is just about the most popular thing in print next to J.K. Rowling’s grocery list. I understand that people the world over wait anxiously for a new Reacher book, devour it, and then immediately begin waiting anxiously for another year. I get it.

And to be totally honest, if Reacher were an actual non-fictional person, I wouldn’t resent him out loud. Were he to show up at my door, I would probably cower in his presence and hope against hope (whatever that means) that he wouldn’t destroy me in one of the seventeen ways he’d have available to him, even if he’d shown up carrying just a toothbrush and a graham cracker.

Nor do I resent the success of Lee Child, who writes the Reacher series (in case you’ve been living on Pluto since back when it was a planet). I’ve met Lee, talked with him a bit, and email with him whenever the Yankees make an idiotic trade or free-agent signing (he and I share the Pinstripe Disease, and I live with a delusion that one day he might invite me to share his box at the new Yankee Stadium for a game). He’s a remarkably nice man, and generous, as is evidenced by the fact that he actually blurbed a book of mine once. A true mensch. No, I don’t begrudge Lee Child a morsel of his success, even though he’s handsome, too. He deserves it, and he earned it.

I’m not even more than a tiny bit jealous of the rabid fans, the lines at signings, the New York Times reviews, the inevitable movie/TV deal; none of it. I think a guy who was smart enough to tap into that vein of our culture deserves all he can get.

It’s not the money, either. Yes, I’m also an author (albeit one who aspires someday to be thought of as "mid-list"), but I think there’s enough money in the publishing industry—even today—for both Lee Child and myself. Especially at the prices I charge.

And yet, I’m still willing to blaspheme, and admit that I resent the heck out of Jack Reacher. He ticks me off no end.

It’s not so much Reacher himself, mostly since he doesn’t really exist. It’s the reaction he inspires, particularly in a large number of women.

They drool over the man. I mean, intelligent, evolved, 21st-Century women go positively weak in the knees at the very mention of a man who—and I can’t emphasize this enough—doesn’t exist. Perhaps that’s the allure.

It seems to have something to do with the idea of a big, brawny guy who makes all the trouble go away, usually with some decisive action, like shooting twelve or thirteen people.

Let’s take a quick look at the kind of guy who makes their hearts go all a-flutter: Jack Reacher is a man with no family, no ties, no permanent address, no change of clothes. He travels by bus, steps off wherever there seems to be some violence brewing, kills a number of people, sleeps with a different woman (usually either a police or military officer, but he’s not all that choosy) in every town, and after committing offenses that would get most people thrown into the gas chamber for the rest of their lives, gets back on the bus and high-tails it out of town, sometimes waving a wistful goodbye to the woman whose bed he’s been sharing, if she has been lucky enough to survive the encounter.

Asked which fictional character she’d most like to sleep with, the estimable Alafair Burke wasted no time in responding, "Reacher." Asked why, she replied (and this is secondhand, so I’m paraphrasing), "he’s gone in the morning."


, I can’t tell you how that burns me.

I’m old now, but back in the Bronze Age before I got married, I was the guy who ended up cleaning up the emotional debris for female friends and crushes after a Reacher-like guy—the dangerous ones who are so romantic, apparently—had used them like a Kleenex and been on his way. I was the one who sat up all night listening to the tales of woe. I played by the rules. I was noble.

Wow, was I a yutz!

I’ve written two series now with male protagonists. Both of them are monogamous, although Elliot Freed, my current "star," is divorced, and ostensibly plays the field. We know where his heart is, and dammit, so does he. Aaron Tucker was so enamored of his wife Abby that Julia Spencer-Fleming told me he’s "one of the two most uxorious men I know." Or she might have been talking about me. I forget.

The point is, these are the kind of men that we’ve always been told women really want. And so, you’d guess that women would flock to these characters, if for no other reason than to commiserate after Reacher throws them over for some other babe in a tight-fitting uniform.

And yet, do women start Aaron Tucker fan clubs? Show up for Elliot Freed book signings in their finest, er, finery? Call themselves "Freed Fraus?" (Sorry; it was the best I could do.) They do not.

It’s not too late, girls! My characters are still there to help you pick up the pieces. They’ll be sensitive; they’ll understand. They’ll discuss your feelings with you.

Hey, it’s what you said you wanted.


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For years men have made the ostensible distinction between the kind of girl one is supposed to marry and the kind that, well, can't be taken home to meet mother. You wouldn't begrudge us that little bit of equality would you?

Your wife is lucky--you're obviously the marrying kind!

Welcome to TLC, Jeffrey - you'll find plenty of fans here. Most of us have lived and loved long enough to be looking for the nice guy.

Two different people recommended your books to me in the last couple of weeks - one is our own William (a gentleman of this blog) who has been singing your praises between fits of laughter.

Heading over to order your books at Mystery Lovers Bookshop - if you're ever in the Pittsburgh area, we'd love to see you there. There's even a classic old movie theater right down the block!

I agree entirely with Alafair. He's gone in the morning after--we assume---a spectacular night in bed. He doesn't drop his smelly socks on the floor where they become invisible to him, leave soap-gunked hair in the sink, forget to flush the toilet or require anyone to help find his car keys or the dishwasher (as opposed to the sink---6 inches away--where he leaves his travel mug EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.) And who needs a confidante when we've got girl friends?

Sorry, Jeff. But it's lovely to see you here! Thanks for being our guest and---perhaps most of all--allow us to gush about Reacher. (Michele, are you awake yet? Or busy with the gingerbread today?)

Christmas spirit hijack. I dare you to watch this without smiling, even if you're not a dog lover: http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-166163


Nice to meet you. I recently discovered your "Double Feature Mysteries", and being the fanatic movie maniac I am, could not resist them. I have been both enjoying them tremendously and laughing out loud. I've taken to quoting the scene between Sharon and Elliot at lunch, where the condiments wouldn't DARE touch Sharon, but Elliot dips a celery stick and the dressing instantly gravitates to his shirt front. Not that I can, uh, relate to that.

Everyone here at TLC, I'm telling you.... run, do not walk, do not stroll, do not saunter, but RUN to the bookstore and get these books. SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED, and IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE. The next, PHANTOM OF THE OPERATION will be out in the spring.

This is a blog where DIE HARD gets classified as a Christmas Movie/Love Story (koff,koff, I did it, I confess), and snappy banter such as Nick and Nora is not only encouraged, it's graded...:)

Welcome, Mr. C., to the circus that never ends....:)

P.S. If there was such a place as Elliot's theatre, and if Elliot was kind enough to have a special section in the balcony for cigar smokers, I'd most likely never leave the place...:)

As far as being the Good Guy who gets wet shoulders from all the tears, but is nothing more than "a good friend", been there, done that, but I remember them all too well! All through High School, parents loved me, several wanted to adopt me on the spot, but to their daughters I was a buddy, a pal, the One You Could Count On, the 'Safe' Date who would never get out of line..........(sigh)

Even more irony, A few days back, Elaine kicked off a fascinating discussion about Don Draper on MAD MEN, and why some women find him attractive. Raymond Benson, author of several James Bond novels, was in town recently and we met for lunch. One of the discussions was who would we cast as Jack Reacher? The consensus..... Jon Hamm would be an excellent choice....

I think Joseph Wambaugh had it right all long.... Life really IS one giant circle....

P.S. Again. Ben Stiller as Elliot Freed. Only possible choice....

Welcome, Jeff. Can't women like both types of men? Reacher is for when we want a little fun, but not a commitment. Many women don't like to commit, you know? And Elliot is a keeper. We can't keep all the men -- a catch and release program is a good idea until we know what we really want for the long term. I'm sure I'd tire of Reacher the first time I needed a man to dress up for a black-tie party.
I'm saying this as speculation only, since I've been married 37 years.

The type of men women claim to fantasize about sleeping with would probably horrify and disgust them and yes, break their hearts in real life. And, truth be told, the same thing is probably true of the famous or fictional object of most male sexual fantasies. Except Diane Lane. I just know she's all kinds of awesome in real life. And if anyone knows here, could you pass that along and tell her to call me?

Well, it's certainly nice to be here. Do I begrudge women the idea of a "fling" with someone like Jack Reacher? Of course not. But I AM asking for a little bit more respect for the "nice guys" who sweep up after him. We deserve a little... attention... too.

William, it is certainly a pleasure to "meet" you! Thanks for your great enthusiasm! Just one small thing--the book coming in April is called A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION. Just in case someone wants to pre-order or buy it at the time...

Ben Stiller as Elliot? Hmmm... I have honestly never thought about it. Stiller strikes me as a little too angry--Elliot tends to see things as amusing, rather than exasperating--but at this point, I'd be happy if someone wanted to make a series of educational filmstrips from my books, starring Pauly Shore. So I might not be the right person to ask.

And I'm sorry, Nancy, but in my house, it's my WIFE who leaves the travel mug all over the place, drops dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is within arm's length, leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor and I still love her to pieces, so... what was the point I was making, again?

Fun, Elaine? I guess. I'm wildly in love with my wife, but if Angelina Jolie shows up at the house tomorrow in a frisky mood--I'd probably just give her the directions she'd be asking for and send her on her way. The woman is, after, all, the mother of, what, nine?

It's a real treat to be here. Over at the DEAD GUY blog, we often refer (admiringly) to the lovely ladies here at TLC, and I'm flattered to have been asked.

See, I have no problem with women wanting several different kinds of men in their lives, for whatever purpose. We men do it all the time. Even old married farts like myself have different sorts of women in their lives, altho we may only have our wives as sexual partners.

For example, my best friend is a woman who is not much like my wife in many ways, tho they do have some marked similarities where things like sushi are concerned.

My young "padawan learner", as she calls herself, is less than half my age and is very much like me in many respects...if I were a hot young babe who has fatherly affection for an old fart mentor.

My other female friends run the gamut from regular shoulder cryers (who will, it seems, never learn) to those who play the bad boy game but are the ones who love 'em & leave 'em.

So if the ladies want a bad boy, let 'em have him. If they want a nice guy...or a goofball...or a geek, we'll, let 'em have them, too. Fair is fair.

Nancy, in my house, we are both pretty much equally slobby, so it's pretty hard to get upset with one another. Besides, if I complained about her 14 half finished glasses of water everywhere, then she'd complain about my leaving the bathroom in a shambles, then I'd bitch about her multiple piles of books and she'd counter with why I can't take my shoes off in the same place every day and then...well, you get the idea.

Better that we both just have our frenzied burst of cleanliness and tidying up whenever the mood hits us. It keeps the marriage happy.

I'm sorry, but Reacher doesn't do it for me. Why? He's too good to be true! Great in bed. Seemingly endless money. No potential mother-in-law (ha! like it would ever get that far!). Is gone in the morning, leaving me (or whoever) limp and sated with a smile.

No. Doesn't do it for me.

Timely! I already had your books on my list based on William's suggestion a few days ago, and after having read your blog, I'm pushing them to the top. I'll run right now and follow Kathy's lead, and order them from MLB. Merry Christmas to me!

And as for the bad boys, although he's fun to read about in fiction, I wouldn't be able to handle Reacher for five minutes. Too much for me. Give me the sensitive shoulders any day. Although it is definitely a plus if they also pick up their socks.

Great to see you here, Jeff!

Mea Culpa, Jeff! I posted pre-coffee, and got the titles mixed up.

No matter... everyone needs to go out TODAY and get The Double Feature Mysteries. Trust me, you'll laugh out loud!

I hear you, J.D. For some reason, Jane Seymour's not returning my calls, either. Let me know how it works with Diane, okay?

Ah yes, just as we claim to believe in healthy eating while secretly wishing we could live on hot fudge sundaes.
I'm in a metaphorical mood today, and adding these books to that very long list. I think I'll have to live to 200 to finish that list . . . of course, there will probably be books in heaven (or it wouldn't be heaven).
I'm going to see Twilight with my niece this afternoon -- there's a bad boy for you!

Yay, Jeffrey, yay!

I might sleep with Reacher, but I wouldn't introduce him to my children in the morning. And I wouldn't let him bring his guns over, either.

I'm sorry, William, but the state of New Jersey wouldn't allow Elliot to permit smoking anywhere in the theatre. He does get the occasional complaint, but what's a man to do?

Define "guns," Harley.

Hi Jeff,
I'm sorry but I'm one of the Reacher groupies as well. It's the combination of "bad boy" and mysterious that I think is so aluring. Now if he actually showed up int he flesh, I'd probably run for my life!

Once again I'd like say I have nothing against Lee Child OR Jack Reacher. I'm just looking for a shout-out to the wimpier types like myself who hang in there after the shooting's over. Yes, that's exactly how pathetic I am.

Oh, man, copoll.... there goes another fantasy shot...:)

"Timely! I already had your books on my list based on William's suggestion a few days ago, and after having read your blog, I'm pushing them to the top."

Ditto. Already have them on request at the library based on William's recommendation, and now I'm VERY excited to read them -- if they're half as funny as your post they'll eb fabulous. As for Reacher, I must admit that I've never (gasp) actually read any of them, largely because I wasn't certain how much the character appealed to me ... they're a shadowy maybe on the TBR list, so see, sometimes the good guys do win ;)

Thanks for a great fun post, Jeffrey. Your books are perfect for several friends and family (and I'm gonna read 'em, too!).
J.D., if you want a rendezvous with Diane, you'll have to come to terms with her step-mother-in-law being Barbra Streisand, her father-in-law being James Brolin, and hubby Josh, well, probably interested in Diane's, um, activities. But, you can always dream, why not? I haven't made the acquaintance of Jack Reacher yet, but yeah, I'd like a hybrid of man-of-action-and-unlimited-resource with soft-shoulder-willing-ear-great-lover . . . . Arriving soon at my front door. Right?

One can always dream. . . Meanwhile, I've named the Frog Prince, and just keep dreaming . . . .
Truly enjoying _Murder With All the Trimmings_, but I might have to avoid certain holiday treats for a little while . . . .

I'm glad everybody took the post in the spirit in which it was intended. I'll be taking another (tangential) cheap shot at Reacher at HEY THERE'S A DEAD GUY IN THE LIVING ROOM (which I notice is NOT linked to this page... hmmm... ) tomorrow, for those who would like to see it.

I think it was Jeff Foxworthy who riffs on this very subject. "Women want a Baaaad Boy.... when women think Bad Boy, they think of someone like James Bond. In real life, a bad boy gets you on COPS, wearing a tube-top, leaning out the trailer window screaming "Take his ass TO JAIL! TAKE HIS ASS TO JAIL! That's what Bad Boys get you in Real Life, ladies...."

Ben Stiller? BEN STILLER????!!!! nonononono!
NEVER! That is just wrong!ewwwwww!
Enough to keep me celibate!

Well, too bad I am on the elderly side, because I'd take Elliott or Aaron over Jack Reacher any day, I think. Haven't read any of the Reacher books and they aren't my style. Fortunately I have my own reasonably uxorious spouse. But I sure like those Double Feature mysteries and am glad to hear another is coming soon!

Sooooo, I'm in the minority who have never actually read a Jack Reacher novel. It's on my bucket-reading-list... :-D I guess I've spent my formative years devouring Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels: sexy, devil may care, and with historical and archealogical basis of story! :-D Cool. Mind you, I haven't read the recent several new issues due to Dirk having reached middle age and suddenly acquired two perfect children in the shape of twins: one that looks like him, and the girl who's the spitting image of Summer, the beautiful 'innocent' he first fell in love with, now dead. Urk. I always felt sorry for Loren...

Anyway, I've been courted by the odd bad boy when I was much younger and thinner, and to be truthful, they scared the hell out of me. My hubby looks like a bad boy, is my soulmate, and is a big kid at heart. Nice with a touch of spice - and I came half way around the world to marry him. I pick up the socks, track down stray glasses and clean up the bathroom after he's had a go at it. Life is too short to worry about that stuff. Besides, he pulls his weight in many other ways. :-D

I've seen your books around, Jeff. I just haven't gotten around to reading them. I get my life back in the new year and will need things to read...see you there!


Jeff, I predict membership in the Double Feature Freed Femmes will increase exponentially after this blog. Well, maybe not exponentially. Something more like according to the inverse square law. Or logarithmically. Yes. That's still more. More than now.

Lee Child designed a protagonist with almost no human characteristics; and so he can drop Reacher into almost any environment, because Reacher brings nothing with him to create snags. No baggage. No encumbrances. No dog to feed. No relationships. Not just Shane, he's plain, almost in the Amish sense. Gregory House is well-socialized by comparison.

I cite the great philosopher Jong, who noted that a Zipless F*ck is good once in a while to clear the sinuses, but after that someone will be needed to cut the wood and fetch the water. That person will not be Jack Reacher. There was a Tart in a movie to this effect, if I recall . . .

Blogs are good for every one where we get lots of information for any topics nice job keep it up !!!

Well, looks like I've added some new TBR's to the list! Guess it's about time for a new order at MLB :)

Tom, you hit the nail on the head for me re: Jack Reacher. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy the books, because I love a good action-adventure now and then. But, although I've read the entire series, Reacher has never become a "person" to me in the way my other favorite series characters have. I don't even think of him as the fantasy bad-boy one-nighter. There's not enough there there for me.

Give me the real deal - a one-woman man who isn't afraid to need a shoulder himself, who isn't threatened by a strong woman, and who's at least as uxorious as my own darling husband - any day of the week.

It's really very simple: Reacher is the one women lust for (like Erica Jong's Zipless F**k (can I say that here?)), your heroes are the type that women marry. We do know the difference between fiction and reality (but isn't fiction fun?).

Well yeah, Sheila, but my guys could use the occasional lusting-for. Stereotypically, men lust after a number of different types of women, including the "girl-next-door." Is there an equivalent of that for women?

YES, Jeff, there is an equivalent of all the different flavors of lusting-after, from a woman's perspective: the ordinary old boy next door definitely rates, occasionally . . . .

Jeff, It was even worse. I believe I said, "Big muscles, short sentences, gone in the morning." Happy holidays!


Jeff, It was even worse. I believe I said, "Big muscles, short sentences, gone in the morning." Happy holidays!


Forgive me for misquoting you, Alafair. But thanks for providing blog fodder!


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