Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Books

Review: 'A Wanted Man' by Lee Child leaves Reacher meandering

In 1995 at age 40, Lee Child lost his job in television and decided to pursue his dream of writing crime fiction. His dream paid off. A Wanted Man is the 17th novel in his popular series about crime-fighting American vagabond Jack Reacher. I've read five. Child is a gifted craftsman and storyteller who has created a memorable character, but the quality of his books varies considerably with the strength of their plots.

Certainly, Reacher is a great male fantasy: After 13 years in the U.S. military police, he became a rambling man, unburdened by wife, fixed address, car or credit card. He moves around America and finds trouble wherever he goes. But that's okay because he's a 6-feet-5, 250-pound one-man army. Women adore him, but his adventures leave him little time for their charms.

Reacher recalls John D. MacDonald's big, brawling Travis McGee, who lived on a houseboat in Florida, but there's a difference. Reacher's exploits are mythic; he's a superhero, endowed with special powers.

As A Wanted Man opens, Reacher is hitchhiking when he accepts a ride in a car with two men and a woman. Soon he suspects that the men have kidnapped the woman. The complex truth in time involves terrorism, the FBI and the CIA. There are some nice moments. A female FBI agent impresses Reacher and readers with smarts and style. An old sheriff's end is movingly related: "The brain would be the last thing to die. ... He was going to switch off like an old black-and-white TV, collapsing to a tiny spot of light that burned bright in the center of the screen, before dimming and then disappearing forever."

But the novel is too long. Reacher drives endlessly until the reader fears carsickness, and the plot twists are often baffling. Depending on your fondness for Reacher, A Wanted Man could be rated either a so-so read or a shaggy-dog tale. Child can do better and surely will.

There is, by the way, a Jack Reacher movie coming soon. And who will play the huge, unstoppable one-man killing machine? Why, who else but Tom Cruise? Is this a great universe or what?

Comments
Mystery writer Lee Goldberg, author of ‘True Fiction,’ talks Agatha Christie, and more

Mystery writer Lee Goldberg, author of ‘True Fiction,’ talks Agatha Christie, and more

NightstandLee GoldbergGoldberg, the author of 30 books, has also been a writer and producer for several TV shows, including Monk and Diagnosis Murder. His new novel is True Fiction, an Ian Ludlow mystery. When we caught up with him by phone recently ...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Events: SunLit Festival concludes with Jack Kerouac event, Antiquarian Book Fair and more

Events: SunLit Festival concludes with Jack Kerouac event, Antiquarian Book Fair and more

Book Talk The fourth annual SunLit Festival concludes today with these events. For information, go to facebook.com/sunlitfestival or keepstpetelit.org/sunlit-festival. All events are in St. Petersburg. • 37th annual Florida Antiquarian Book F...
Published: 04/20/18
Review: Gilbert King’s ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ a compelling, horrifying look at Florida’s racist history

Review: Gilbert King’s ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ a compelling, horrifying look at Florida’s racist history

If Willis McCall were a fictional character, he’d be too far over the top to be believable. Readers (and editors) would scoff that no one could be such a monster of violent, unabashed racism — and get away with it for so long. But McCall...
Published: 04/20/18
Notable: Advice-givers write about their own life choices

Notable: Advice-givers write about their own life choices

NotableSince you askedThree women whose jobs involve giving advice write about navigating their own life choices.Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions From a Modern Advice Columnist (Grand Central) by Meredith Goldstein, the Love Letters columnist...
Published: 04/20/18
Rachel Slade talks books, magic hands in the library and the sinking of El Faro

Rachel Slade talks books, magic hands in the library and the sinking of El Faro

NightstandRachel SladeIn her new book, Into the Raging Sea, Slade gives an in-depth account of the tragic sinking of the El Faro, a Jacksonville-based cargo ship that plummeted to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Joaquin. While doing...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Book review: James Comey wants to explain himself

Book review: James Comey wants to explain himself

In 2016, as the director of the FBI, James Comey publicly dissected Hillary Clinton’s email server controversy. Later, we learned that Comey was keeping to himself the beginnings of an investigation into Russia’s active interference in the U.S. elect...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Review: Richard Powers’ ‘Overstory’ an ever-branching story of humans and trees

Review: Richard Powers’ ‘Overstory’ an ever-branching story of humans and trees

Henry David Thoreau once heaved a big stone against the trunk of a chestnut tree to bring down a shower of nuts. He loved their sweet meat, but the meal filled him with guilt. "It is worse than boorish, it is criminal, to inflict an unnecessary injur...
Published: 04/18/18
Florida historian Jack E. Davis wins Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Gulf’’

Florida historian Jack E. Davis wins Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Gulf’’

Florida got a shoutout from the Pulitzer Prizes on Monday: The 2018 literary prize for history was awarded to University of Florida professor Jack E. Davis for his book The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea.Davis, who grew up in Pinellas County and...
Published: 04/16/18
Notable: Lose yourself in books that reimagine tales and legends

Notable: Lose yourself in books that reimagine tales and legends

NotableLegends 2.0Three new books offer striking reimaginings of the tales and legends of different cultures. Children of Blood and Bone (Henry Holt and Co.) by Tomi Adeyemi is a debut YA novel of epic magical adventure with characters based on the O...
Published: 04/13/18
Hey, book lovers: SunLit Festival continues with events aplenty

Hey, book lovers: SunLit Festival continues with events aplenty

Lots of things to do for literary-minded folks in Tampa Bay, and most of them are free.
Published: 04/12/18