Hunting Jack Reacher Is Deadly Business
Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) famously said that life can only be understood backwards, but we must live it forward. Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011) believed we can only connect the dots of our lives looking backwards; we must simply trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. I say they’re both right, evidenced by my Hunt for Jack Reacher thrillers.
Here’s the convoluted, inside story of how my FBI Special Agents Kim L. Otto and Carlos Gaspar came to be on the Hunt for Jack Reacher, how I write these books, and where it’s all going.
The stage was set almost twenty years ago.
I met Lee Child by chance. Killing Floor, Lee’s first Reacher novel, was published in 1997. My first novel, Due Justice, was published in 1999 (revised and republished in 2012). We were new authors, making the rounds of libraries and conferences and bookstores, introducing ourselves to readers and writers and publishing professionals, building our writing careers.
Before Jack Reacher became the world-wide phenomenon he is today, before the successful Tom Cruise movies, before Lee Child was a household name, before I’d written more than thirty books and become a bestseller many times over myself, and along with hundreds of other people, our separate paths led us to attend one of many Bouchercons, the World Mystery Conventions.
I’m not sure which Bouchercon it was. Maybe Las Vegas. Maybe Milwaukee. Maybe a different one. Maybe you were there? Anyway, here’s how I remember our first meeting. Very mundane. No big music score to clue me in that this could be important and to pay attention to the details because I’d want to share them with you here one day. Nothing like that at all.
Lee is a smoker. I am not. But during Bouchercon and other conferences, the smokers and non-smokers frequently stand outside in the smoking zones, talking about books and life and simply getting to know one another, the way most friendships begin. Lee and I met each other and lots of folks for the first time in similar situations and you probably have, too.
We had quite a few things in common in addition to our interest in writing thrillers. Such as? Well, we’d started publishing crimefiction as a second career around the same time. I’m an American fascinated with British crime fiction; he’s a Brit who loves American style. Lee had obtained a law degree but never practiced law; I was a practicing lawyer, writing and publishing crime fiction when I could find the time.
And so on.
Which is to say that we enjoyed talking shop once or twice a year when we’d see each other in passing, usually in the smoking section, or later at the bar, at a conference.
By the time I read Killing Floor years later, Lee’s star was firmly on the rise. Reacher had grabbed the public interest in a phenomenal way and Lee was becoming more and more popular. I’d written and published four novels at that point and was still practicing law. He was on number five or six or seven, or thereabouts.
During a library event in Jacksonville, Florida, where we were both speaking, we chanced to talk about his first novel and how writing Reacher had changed his life. I had no idea back then that Lee Child and Jack Reacher would someday change the trajectory of my writing, too.
The murky middle.
By late 2004, when International Thriller Writers was being created, Lee and I were both asked to serve and help to build the fledgling organization. He joined the board and I chaired the national events committee for a year before joining the board as a Vice-President.
In 2006, for the first ThrillerFest in Phoenix, we performed a mock trial. I created the trial using Lee’s novel, Persuader, as the source material and played the role of Judge. Jack Reacher was charged with murder. Lee, of course, played Reacher. Thriller writers who were also real-life lawyers and cops played the prosecutor, witness, defense attorney, and bailiff. Our jury members were well-known reviewers and dedicated thriller readers. We all had a blast.
After a hard fought contest, and intense jury deliberations, Reacher was acquitted by jury nullification. Meaning all three juries ignored the overwhelming evidence of premeditated murder to find Reacher not guilty. The deliberations highlighted all the reasons readers love our favorite vigilante hero with a heart.
Looking backwards, maybe my Hunt for Jack Reacher Series was really conceived back then. But I didn’t know about it and neither did Lee. Not for another six years.
That was then.
By 2009, we had both rotated off the ITW board. At a cocktail party in New York during another ThrillerFest, Lee suggested that we write something together. We began to discuss the possibilities and knocked around a few ideas for several months. Eventually, we came up with the bones of the concept for what has become my series.
The concept goes like this. Two powerful men are looking for Reacher. We don’t know why. All we know is that he’s being considered for some sort of special project. Two FBI agents, Otto and Gaspar, working off the books and under the radar, are building a file on Reacher. Before he can be asked to handle the project, they first must find him.
The problem is that while Reacher was in the army, he had a tendency to, well, ignore the rules and take justice into his own hands. Sometimes, with murderous consequences. There’s a lot of evidence in the files from back then that Reacher was dangerous and uncontrollable, prone to fight first and ask questions later.
After Reacher left the army, his name never appears in any file, anywhere, ever again. Witnesses won’t talk about him. There are no photos or other physical evidence to be found. Certainly, none of Reacher’s DNA exists anywhere. In short, for the past fifteen years, Reacher has been a legend to those who knew him and a terrifying ghost to those who, well, Don’t Know Jack.
Agents Otto and Gaspar are tasked with finding out everything they can about what Reacher’s been doing since he left the army. To do that, in each of my novels they are sent to interview two characters from one of Lee Child’s novels. Using skill, wit, guile, coercion, or whatever they have at hand without committing a felony, Agents Otto and Gaspar uncover the truth about Reacher like an archeologist discovers buried treasure. Along the way, Otto and Gaspar get into all kinds of trouble and must fight their way out again. These books are thrillers, after all.
We planned to write the Hunt for Jack Reacher Series together. Child and Capri. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Would have looked great on the bestseller lists. But for a lot of mundane reasons, like scheduling conflicts and publishing contracts, that plan never materialized. Lee encouraged me to write the series myself, with his full support. So, after a lot of thinking, I did.
This is now.
Since 2009, in addition to my other books, I’ve written four novels and three novellas in the Hunt for Jack Reacher series. All have been bestsellers. Don’t Know Jack, Get Back Jack, and Jack in the Green have landed on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists more than once. Jack and Joe was a finalist for the 2016 Thriller Award and won the Silver Award from the Independent Publishers Association. Deep Cover Jack released on September 2, 2016.
Writing the Hunt for Jack Reacher books is a challenge. I’m very aware of Reacher’s iconic stature and I strive to respect him and his fans. At the same time, Agents Otto and Gaspar, unlike fans, don’t have the luxury of assuming the best about Reacher. They’re cops. Cops are skeptical by nature, training, and most of all, experience. Rightfully so.
And let’s face it, Reacher is a dangerous guy. Loyal friend, lethal enemy. Which one is he to Otto and Gaspar? They don’t know Reacher, and Reacher aims to keep it that way until he’s damn good and ready to change things. He’s never killed a cop, not really. But there’s always a first time.
How it works.
My writing process for the Hunt for Jack Reacher books is always the same. I begin by selecting a Lee Child source book. I look for situations in the source book that I can use to spin a new tale. I read the book several times and make notes about characters, settings, plots and other matters I can use for a good Otto and Gaspar story.
I choose two characters from the source book as interview subjects, one man and one woman. The women are trickier to interview than the men because Reacher has slept with most of them. By all accounts, Reacher is a respectful lover and the women are especially loathe to reveal too much. Both male and female interview subjects are protective of Reacher and suspicious of Otto and Gaspar, usually because the source book is riddled with Reacher’s illegal activities and the subjects don’t want those old bodies to surface now.
I build my story around the aftermath of the murder and mayhem Reacher dependably produces in every Lee Child novel. When I get stuck, I have two great resources available to me. The Reacher’s Creatures group knows the Reacher books backward and forward. And, of course, I can ask Lee.
Don’t Know Jack, the first novel in my series, starts in the same place Reacher begins: Margrave, Georgia, and Killing Floor. Otto and Gaspar are sent to Margrave to interview the two main characters, Roscoe and Finlay.
Crime begets crime. Reacher solved some problems in Margrave, but he left a mess behind. Otto and Gaspar handle the rest of the story.
The entire series presents a sort of Rashomon Effect, contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people. In this case, Otto and Gaspar encounter people who like Reacher, and those who don’t, and they see Reacher in competing ways.
In short, creating a Hunt for Jack Reacher book is like taking a huge jigsaw puzzle out of the box for the first time and trying to put it together without benefit of a picture.
What does the future hold?
Perhaps the most common question readers ask me is whether Otto and Gaspar will find Reacher and, if they do, what will happen when that confrontation presents itself. Reminds me of the old joke about dogs who chase cars: What does the dog do if he catches one?
Reacher is bigger and smarter and cleverer than anyone else. And he’s willing to die trying, when most people, including Otto and Gaspar, are not. It’s always a battle between Goliath and Goliath, with Reacher coming out on top. Every time.
Otto is a petite female, a tiny stick of dynamite with a deadly aim. Gaspar is a disabled father of four, soon to be five, with a lot to live for. If they are to win a battle against Reacher, brains — not brawn — must be their weapon.
Lee and I have discussed this. He says in every fight, Reacher will win because Reacher always wins. That is, perhaps, Reacher’s most defining characteristic.
Bet you can guess what I say in response, can’t you? I stick my chin up and look way up there to stare him in the eye. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
What say you?
Deep Cover Jack
The Hunt for Jack Reacher Series, Book 7
“Make some coffee. You’ll read all night.” – Lee Child
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diane Capri is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling author of numerous series, including the Heir Hunter Series, Hunt for Justice and Hunt for Jack Reacher series and the Jess Kimball Thrillers. A former lawyer, she now divides her time between Florida and Michigan. Capri has been nominated for several awards, including the International Thriller Award, and she won the Silver award for Best Thriller e-Book from the Independent Publishers Association. She is currently at work on her next novel. Visit her website to connect with her: http://DianeCapri.com