Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Thrilling Lee Child

By Kay Kendall

When my first mystery was months away from publication, other writers suggested I should attend ThrillerFest, the high powered writers’ conference held every July in New York City. I protested that a) I don’t write thrillers, and b) that conference was pricy. Then I was told that International Thriller Writers, the group that holds the annual meeting, has a special program for debut authors that helps put newbies on the map. I was persuaded to attend, thinking I would go only once in order to participate in that program.
Janet Maslin of the NY Times interviews ThrillerMaster Lee Child.
That was back in 2013, and I have just returned from my fifth ThrillerFest in a row. Yes, I got hooked, pure and simple. The authorial fire power at ThrillerFest can’t be equaled, and contrary to its name, the International Thriller Writers do welcome authors across the full spectrum of crime writing. Whether you write cozy mysteries, true thrillers, traditionals, historicals, suspense, or whatever. It does not matter. All are welcome.
An awards banquet concludes each conference. Besides handing out six book awards, ITW honors one author who is deemed the year’s ThrillerMaster. Beginning in 2006 when the conference debuted, in chronological order the honorees were Clive Cussler, James Patterson, Sandra Brown, David Morrell, Ken Follett, R.L. Stine, Jack Higgins, Anne Rice, Scott Turow, Nelson DeMille, Heather Graham, and—this year—Lee Child. Also part of the hoopla centering on the ThrillerMaster is an hour-long interview by another notable person. This year Lee Child was interviewed by Janet Maslin, long-time film critic (1977-1999) and book reviewer (1999 on) for the New York Times 
If you aren’t up on your thrillers, here is some background about the suave and ever-genial Lee Child, who hails from Coventry, England. Although a resident of New York since 1998, he has not lost his gorgeous British accent—or his elegant manners either, for that matter. Within the thriller/mystery writing community, his name is a watchword for bestseller-dom. In fact, his twenty-one novels starring the tall, sexy drifter Jack Reacher are so popular that I was shocked that Lee Child had not been named an ITW ThrillerMaster years earlier.
Near the beginning of his interview with Janet Maslin, Child announced that he had become eligible for the award only three months previously. There was a twenty-year rule that explained everything, one I had not known about. His twenty-second Reacher novel is due out in the fall, and two popular films featuring actor Tom Cruise as the legendarily tall Jack Reacher have been produced. I will never forget when the news first broke that Cruise would play Reacher. Much consternation ensued. Cruise is known to be well under six feet tall. Reacher is described in book after book as six feet five, weighing 220 pounds, with a chest expanse of 50 inches. To note: Child himself is six feet five, but his frame is rail-thin. .
Lee Child says he tires of being asked about the choice of Cruise, but his ire is never evident.  Which is a good thing. At the awards banquet, two thriller authors performed a mashup of Beatles songs with lyrics restyled to fit known events in the life and career of Child. The medley opened with “Tiny Jack Reacher” sung to the tune of “Paperback Writer.” This performance brought down the house. And Lee Child smiled through it all. He also gave everyone in attendance a hardback of collected Jack Reacher short stories that debuted just this month. Now that’s what I call class.
Read the first 20 pages of Kay Kendall’s second mystery,
That book won two awards at the Killer Nashville
conference in August 2016—for best mystery/crime and also for best book. 
Her first novel about Austin Starr‘s sleuthing,
DESOLATION ROW, was a finalist for best mystery
at Killer Nashville in 2014. 


  1. As always, great commentary.

  2. Thank you so much, Pam. Next conference I will be attending, YOU and your Ontario gang will be there. Seems like I have been waiting forever for this!