Martin is a clearly a fan – who isn’t? – but the scholar in her keeps those impulses in check. Her archival diligence – and an obvious rapport with her subject – allows her to gently puncture the Child mythos when needed. But scholars are close readers, too, and she is just as good at combing the text for telling quotes, for traces of Child in Reacher; for traces anywhere of the hulking but vulnerable boy that Jim once was. She is a skilled and audacious interlocutor, too, but her subject is just as adept an interviewee.
The Reacher Guy, by Heather Martin, is the first ever biography of him. Written with his co-operation, it covers both his lives in extensive detail. In the early chapters we hear a lot about his unhappy relationship with his parents. According to Grant/Child, he was “totally unwanted”. He can’t remember “a single occasion when he’d had fun with his father”, while he got on so badly with his mother (“mean”, “malicious”, “a monster of martyrdom”) that he didn’t attend her funeral. Anyway, he already had other plans that day: “Why should I put them off, for a dead woman I didn’t even like?”
Truth and fiction may get blurred now and then, but, blimey, future biographers will be hard pushed to outdo Martin for detail. You’ll emerge from the first 300-odd pages knowing more about his formative years that you do about your own. James Dover Grant was born in 1954 in Coventry, the second son of four children, before moving to Birmingham, where he attended King Edward’s grammar school. He found his father, Rex, a civil servant, indifferent; his mother, Audrey, hostile. He is a gannet for facts, a compulsive reader; unbeatable, he insists, at Trivial Pursuit.