Friday, December 03, 2010

The diplomatic bag

Andy Martin does a hilariously good interview with Lee Child for The Independent, including a moniker origin-story that I'd never heard before:
The origin of his name goes back to a mid-1970s train ride in the US. He and his wife fell into conversation with an American who told them that he owned a "European" car. It turned out to be a Renault 5, marketed in the US – to give it a certain Parisian chic – as "Le Car". But the friendly American said: "Lee Car". After that, "Lee" became their surrogate definite article: "Can you pass lee butter, please," and so on. When he and his wife had a baby, the kid was inevitably nicknamed "Lee Child". "I was looking for a name that was short, crisp and memorable," he says. Lee Child (Snr) was born.
It is well known to regular readers in these parts that I think Lee Child is a genius of light reading; he is also a genius of (or at least signal innovator in) publicity, witness the recent Reacher Ambassador campaign! I was invited by Lee's longtime publicist Maggie Griffin to become a "Reacher Ambassador," and seized the opportunity; in my office at Columbia is a box full of copies of the book pictured below (one of those slightly-unsightly-in-its-handling-proportions elongated mass-market paperbacks), and if you see me in New York in coming months (I have a plane ticket from Cayman to JFK on January 5) you should ask me for one...

(Given how few novel ideas there are out there about how to publicize good books, this seems to me an excellent one - give away an earlier installment in the series to hook new readers who will purchase or at least obtain all the others. I don't think the first installment in the series is as good as the later ones - I liked it very much when I read it, but it didn't exude that crack-like addictive aura that the few-volumes-later ones did, and I don't know that it would be the best choice for the give-away - but I see why this one was chosen out of recent installments. I think I would have picked Die Trying, personally; my favorite two are Persuader and The Enemy, but each is slightly anomalous in its way and probably wouldn't have been the best choice.)
(Apologies for the flash - I was too impatient to remind myself properly how to turn it off...)

Also: Jack Reacher recently made my list of the fifteen most memorable fictional characters that I could think of off the top of my head who had notionally influenced me (why, though, didn't I think of Sherlock Holmes?).

1 comment:

  1. The three-page ad in the New Yorker recently for the newest volume was also some really sharp marketing: two of the pages took the form of a typescript of a scene from the novel, annotated by Child, and the effect was exactly, at least in my case, what they wanted: I've never read a Reacher novel, but after reading that ad, I definitely wanted to.

    Your praise, combined with my dad's, is eventually going to break down my resistance, maybe even this winter.

    {And did I mention that, in my day job, we're trying the give-away-one-to-sell-a-bunch strategy . . . with my favorite book of all time!?}