This goes on for pages — pages! Fans of the John Carpenter classic They Live! will thrill at the agonizing protraction.

The best thing about the ultraviolence is that it comes guilt-free in service of a liberal agenda. Reacher is a good old-fashioned Great Society Democrat. He's acutely sensitive to racial and economic injustice. The baddies are wealthy and/or powerful — Reacher has taken on defense contractors and right-wing militia. Trouble comes when the baddies use the public sector for their private gain. Police officers, soldiers, FBI agents — all are fallible, and some are downright corrupt.

The Affair — which tells the story of the end of Reacher's military career in the late '90s — is Child's most overt critique of conservative values to date. The Army is undergoing budget cuts that will put decent servicemen and women — Reacher among them — out of a job. See what happens when you don't want to pay taxes?

In a one-star Amazon review of The Affair, a person identifying themself as "Avid reader" took Child to task. "Child has become a liberal hack without a decent tale. If you enjoy Vince Flynn, John Sanford [sic], etc., pass this one. I regretfully think it is time to pass Child altogether."

Pity the conservatives! Leave them to Vince Flynn and John Sandford and Tom Clancy. Meanwhile, the left can express all the aggression that NPR doesn't through a righteous drifter, initials J.R.


Comfort food: Lee Child is glad people like his cheeseburgers

The thing you notice when you get Lee Child on the phone, is that he talks exactly like his hero, Jack Reacher. You'll see.

I LOVE HOW CONSISTENT REACHER IS. His consistency is ultimately very comforting to the readers. They've got an enormous amount of entertainment choices, and I expect, at least once a year, they can relax with a comfortable, familiar figure where they know pretty much what they're going to get — except it will be slightly different. It will be familiar, but still fresh.

I think familiarity is very important. I think people need to be able to rely on certain things. If they are going to do me the compliment of choosing my book as opposed to some other choice, they do so because they like the guy. How stupid would it be to suddenly present them with a whole different type of character? I think that predictability is generally considered negative. In this case, I think predictability is what people are looking for.

DO YOU LIKE COFFEE AND CHEESEBURGERS AS MUCH AS REACHER DOES? I absolutely live on coffee. Sometimes I can go for many days drinking nothing except coffee, no water, no nothing. All coffee, all the time. I love it. . . . and if I'm eating out I'll always have a cheeseburger. I have very colloquial taste.

YOU'RE ENGLISH. HOW DO YOU WRITE ABOUT AMERICA? It's actually a lot easier to create America from the outside. Everything is new and everything needs to be observed and analyzed. Nothing can be taken for granted. I think Americans have huge blind spots in their perception because they are just so used to things.

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