NONFICTION

Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me

Bantam. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781101965450. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781101965467. LIT
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Martin (French, Univ. of Cambridge; Waiting for Bardot) hits on the idea of crafting a book about international best-selling thriller writer Lee Child and the process he undergoes each year to turn out another of his much-anticipated "Jack Reacher" novels (with the publication of Make Me, the series currently runs to 20 volumes). Child agrees, offering Martin unprecedented access to both his writing and personal lives. As he observes Child, Martin feels himself being drawn into the novel, seemingly as invested in its outcome as the author. "It wasn't just that I didn't really want the novel to come to an end," Martin writes of his waning time with Child and the imminent last words on the page. "I had a growing anxiety: What if I missed the ending?" For the biography of a book that emphasizes Child's focus on structure and pacing, Martin's own observations are often scattershot and random. For instance, a riff between the two about the possibility of creating an algorithm to write Reacher's adventures includes an aside on philosophers Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roman Jakobson; the book holds many similar surprises, which may remind readers of the work of cultural critic Jon Ronson. But it's in those close interactions in more than 70 tight vignettes that Child, his backstory, and his work come alive. Martin's irrepressible glee about the project is infectious.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of Child's work or aspiring novelists who could benefit from an insider's view of the messy, complicated, and transcendent act of writing.

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