Lee Child

On this date in 1954, best-selling author Lee Child, né James Dover Grant, was born in Coventry, England. Best known for his Jack Reacher series of novels, Child attended the same high school as JRR Tolkien before enrolling in law school (with no intention of practicing law).

He then joined Granada Television in Manchester. It turned out to be an 18-year career as a presentation director during British TV’s “golden age.” During his tenure, Granada made “Brideshead Revisited,” “The Jewel in the Crown,” “Prime Suspect” and “Cracker” before he lost his job in 1995 at age 40 during corporate restructuring.

“Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars’ worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series,” says the bio on Child’s website. Killing Floor won the 1997 Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel.

As of 2020, 48 Reacher titles have been published, with over 100 million books sold. Forbes magazine called it the “The Strongest Brand In Publishing” in 2014. Two of the titles were adapted for movies starring Tom Cruise. Some Reacher fans cried foul because their hero is a strapping 6-foot-5 while Cruise is 5-foot-7.

Child was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America in 2009. He had moved to New York in 1998 with his American wife, Jane, and their daughter, Ruth, while maintaining British citizenship and other homes outside the U.S. After accepting a visiting professorship in 2008 at the University of Sheffield, where he attended law school, he funded 52 Jack Reacher scholarships. In 2019 it was announced he  would host a new TV show called “Lee Child: True Crime.” Child announced in 2020 he would be turning over the Reacher series to his brother Andrew Grant, who would write them under the surname Child.

Child identifies as an atheist and has made Reacher, an ex-military cop vigilante, one also. “Anyone who writes will use a good deal of autobiography in a protagonist,” Child said in a 2016 interview. “You can insert your own enthusiasm, jokes and opinions.” In Nothing to Lose (2008), Reacher tells a Christian preacher, “We’re all atheists. You don’t believe in Zeus or Thor or Neptune or Augustus Caesar or Mars or Venus or Sun Ra. You reject a thousand gods. Why should it bother you if someone else rejects a thousand and one?”

In Bad Luck and Trouble (2007), Reacher pays a higher fare for another airline because “Reacher hated Alaska Airlines. They put a scripture card on their meal trays. Ruined his appetite.” 

Child in 2010 at Bouchercon XLI in San Francisco; Mark Coggins photo under CC 2.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation