Skeletons in the Reacher Family Closet

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Lee Child learned style from Hemingway. Or maybe from Elmore Leonard or Dashiell Hammett. He writes short, clean, sometimes incomplete but straight-to-the-point sentences. Brief paragraphs, plus almost as short episodic sections consisting of alternating points of view. Except when he writes long action sequences with lots of ands and Reacher did this and that and then his opponents fall down like flies after being sprayed with insecticide. Reacher gets knocked down, too, and instantly he’s back on his feet again. To stay down long means to die.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Although the writing is often sparse and minimalist, it’s also detail-rich. Child pays close attention to tiny details, and so does protagonist Jack Reacher.

Past Tense (Delacorte Press/Random House, November 15, 2018) is Child’s 22nd Reacher thriller.

Patty Sundstrom and Shorty Fleck are a Canadian potato farmer and a timber sawmill worker on their way to NYC to sell something valuable enough to raise sufficient capital to start a new life in Florida. When their old car breaks down in the woods near Laconia, NH, not far from where Reacher’s father Stan was born and raised, they plan to spend only one night. Little do they know they might be trapped there for the rest of their lives.

Jack Reacher, walking and thumbing his way across America, sees a sign for Laconia and decides to visit the town where his father allegedly  grew up. Of course, nothing is ever simple in a Jack Reacher novel. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

It’s been said that Reacher walks where angels fear to tread. Whenever he encounters a wrong, he feels duty-bound by his own internal code of honor to set it right. Whenever he finds a bully picking on an underdog, he has to step in. He’s a giant of a man, both literally and figuratively.

And when he gets mad, all hell can break loose.

Those are traits he inherited from his father.

Faithful readers will find many of the elements they expect in a great Reacher novel in the 400 pages of Past Tense: an intriguing  mystery to solve (several, actually); plenty of broken noses and broken bones; bodies piled up like cordwood (some dead, others merely knocked unconscious); a beautiful female cop who proves not only extremely competent but an excellent foil for Reacher to toy with; plenty of bad guys and a few good guys Reacher needs to protect; a realistic threat to life and limb; and a get-out-of-town deadline. What makes Past Tense different, however, is the number of previously-unknown Reachers that may or may not be closely related to Jack.

Like all the other Lee Child novels, I couldn’t put this book down. The dramatic tension and anticipation of violence kept me devouring words. Learning more about the Reacher family was icing on the cake. Highly recommended.

 

Lee and me at Thrillerfest. I’m the guy wearing glasses.

 

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A great collection worth the read

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What a wonderful way to discover series characters and their authors. MatchUp, edited by Lee Child (Simon and Schuster, June 13, 2017), is the International Thriller Writer’s sequel to the best-selling FaceOff. Both books team-up award-winning thriller writers and their series characters to solve life-and-death mysteries or bring killers to justice. If you’ve never met these characters before, here’s your chance.

And who better to introduce you to each of them than Lee Child, Mr. Jack Reacher himself.

Contributors include: Lee Coburn and Joe Pickett in “Honor & …” by Sandra Brown and C.J. Box; Tony Hill and Roy Grace in “Footloose” by Val McDermid and Peter James; Temperance Brennan and Jack Reacher in “Faking a Murderer” by Kathy Reichs and Lee Child; Jamie Fraser and Cotton Malone in “Past Prologue” by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry; Liz Sansborough and Rambo in “Rambo on Their Minds” by Gayle Lynds and David Morrell; Jeffrey Tolliver and Joe Pritchard in “Short Story” by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta; Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck in “Dig Here” by Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross; Regan Pescoli and Lucas Davenport in “Deserves to be Dead” by Lisa Jackson and John Sandford; Lucan Thorne and Lilliane Williams in “Midnight Flame” by Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice; Bennie Rosato and John Corey in “Getaway” by Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille; and Ali Reynolds and Bravo Shaw in “Taking the Veil” by J.A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader.

“Footloose”, although British, is my favorite. It’s filled with tons of wonderful puns, a foot-fetisher’s delight. Should DST Roy Grace, DCI Carol Jordan, and Dr. Tony Hill search for “an evil Elvis impersonator with homicidal tendencies”? Or a podophilic serial killer? Or should they look for both? Ten toes up for this one.

Liz Sansborough and Rambo in “Rambo on Their Minds” by Gayle Lynds and David Morrell is, in my humble opinion, the best-written tale in this collection, a taut thriller with a ticking time-bomb and an impossible task.

But all of the other stories are truly superb and well worth the read.

Several feature their authors’ usual supporting characters (i.e., John Sandford’s Johnson Johnson, Gayle Lynds’ Simon Childs, Lara Adrian’s Gabrielle, Michael Koryta’s Lincoln Perry, J. A. Jance’s Leeland Brooks). If you want a feel for what you’ll get in a Virgil Flowers novel, read “Deserves to be Dead”.

“Past Prologue” by Gabaldon and Berry is a fascinating time-travel story. “Dig Here” and “Midnight Flame” both have supernatural elements. “Short Story” piles complication atop complication. “Faking a Murderer” marries Jack Reacher’s military past with Temperance Brennan’s forensic acumen. “Honor &…” whacks-a-mole. And “Getaway” has a lovable dog that steals the show.

A great collection with new stories from some of the best writers in the business.

 

My Return from the Dead

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Coming back from the dead is never easy.

I deliberately killed myself off twenty-five years ago. I stopped writing fiction to help my wife overcome chronic life-threating illness. Instead of writing fiction, I earned several masters degrees and worked on doctorates in educational psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I learned hypnotic techniques to help prolong human lives and improve the quality of life. I made a name for myself as a hypnosis instructor and author of journal articles.

But Paul Dale Anderson–the author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and thrillers–was buried and forgotten.

When I returned to fiction writing in 2012, it took two long years for my novels and short stories to again appear in print. I’m still in the process of resurrecting my backlist, but new Paul Dale Anderson novels are now available as paperbacks and e-books.

I began making live personal appearances in 2014, and this year I’m doing the full convention circuit. I’m getting my face and name out there to show people I’m still alive.

I have been back in the fiction game for four consecutive years, and I am about to have a breakthrough. Breakthroughs come when an author publishes consistently for at least five years in one genre or related genres. Breakthroughs occur when name recognition and writing quality reach critical mass.

It takes at least five years before people in this industry take you seriously, five years of writing your heart out, five years of pitching and submitting manuscripts to agents and editors, five years of attending conventions and doing readings and book signings, five years of reaching for the golden ring, missing it by millimeters, before you can grab hold and hang on.

It takes five years for word to get around that your work is worth reading. Any writer worth his or her salt who sticks around for more than five years should notice a breakthrough at the five year mark.

It takes ten additional years to produce a bestselling book. Your writing improves with each book you write, so the more books you write, the better your writing becomes. Sales, also, are accumulative, and the more you write the more books you’ll sell. And the more you sell, the more readers will recognize your name. The more people who recognize your name, the more books you’ll sell. It’s a vicious circle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Writing is a numbers game.

In order to play the writing game and have a chance at winning, you need:

1. Name recognition

2. Facial recognition

3. Genre recognition

4. Quality (Content) recognition

5. Peer recognition

People will want to buy your work only if other people buy your work. You must fist show that other people like and trust you. Humans are socially conditioned to do what they see other people doing. That’s why books have lots of blurbs from other bestselling authors and reviewers on their covers and in their front-matter.

That, my friends, is a hard truth most writers refuse to admit.

I now have a New York agent, one of the best in the business at a literary agency I respect. I have made new friends, many of them bestselling authors, who know my name and like my work. I help fledgling authors with reviews and blurbs. I have found heaven on earth and I am once again alive and well.

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Watch for my breakthrough novel to appear from one of the Big Five publishers. I’m hard at work on a sequel and three stand-alones.

I’m scheduled to appear on panels at MidAmeiCon II, the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, in August. I’ll be at BoucherCon in New Orleans in September.

Life is good.

Rather than endure long TSA lines at O’Hare International Airport on July 4th,I chose to drive two thousand miles to attend Thrillerfest XI July 5 through July 9 in New York City. It was worth the time and money to attend.

 

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