Podcast

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Annotation Project: Killing Floor

Let’s do our first Annotation Project in a while. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books are comically macho, but they’re big fun and massive bestsellers. He’s living every aspiring author’s dream: Start at 40, get a big hit with your first book, crank out one a year every year starring that same beloved hero until you’re ready to retire. Let’s figure out how to do that.  You can download a Word version of these notes here.  (I promise our next book will be more literary!)

9 comments:

James Kennedy said...

Jesus Christ, this shit is unreadable.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree James. This book was given to me as a gift, and I think I read about five pages before closing it forever.

James Kennedy said...

Lest I come off as too harsh, Matt's comments and analysis of the text are great, and I guess useful if your goal is to write this kind of thing. And why not? Clearly these books sell! Maybe I should keep an open mind about stuff that's outside my usual tastes. But I've always been repulsed by this kind of fake macho shit, and especially right now, wish-fulfillment stories of hypercompetent white soldier/cop dudes who are really good at guns and violence just seems revoltingly toxic. The empty "badassery" is so comically bombastic, such a blatant overcompensating, fearful fantasy, that it makes "Lord of the Rings" feel like kitchen-sink realism.

Matt Bird said...

Channel your inner Lee Child, James! He sells a book somewhere in the world every 9 seconds.

James Kennedy said...

@Matt That feels crass. I know that in the U.S. the ultimate smackdown is "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" but perhaps there's more to writing than that. We all want to sell more books, but I can't help but feel the reason one writes -- indeed, the only thing that can get you to drag yourself to the keyboard -- is because there are certain stories one wants to tell, a certain style one wants to explore, perhaps even certain values one wants to embody. Of course Lee Child sells lots of books, no argument, but for someone who dislikes Lee Child, taking seriously the advice "Channel your inner Lee Child!" sounds like an invitation to the worst of both worlds: one would write stuff one hates, AND one would probably be unsuccessful at it. If your motivation is getting rich, go be an investment banker. I think in literature there may be other values at play.

Matt Bird said...

I just thought it was a neat pun.

James Kennedy said...

Oh, Matt, you got me again. How can I ever stay mad at you?

Eric C said...

Good advice as usual.

Though, I just want to say that as I was reading the pages, I got to the bit about the relative merits of a revolver vs a shotgun in the diner, and it's like... exactly wrong. Guns don't work like that. Child even points out, just a bit later, one of the reasons that the shotgun would be a worse choice for close quarters - the guy being arrested could easily grab the barrel, certainly making it a lot harder to shoot him and giving him a much easier time attacking the officer and possibly gaining control of his weapon.

It's a moment sort of like having an EMT confidently remark on how important it is to tightly hold a person having a seizure so that they don't roll off of their back and hurt their neck, and the sudden shocking loss of credibility colored the way I read everything afterwards.

This was obviously not a dealbreaker in the 90s when the book was published, but I wonder if it wouldn't cause more problems getting traction these days, where the youth have all been reading lists of "top 10 things every movie gets wrong" for years and video-game style shotguns are kind of a running joke unto themselves.

The kind of people who would be most into reading fantasies about tough guys with guns are a lot more likely to notice that sort of basic research failure now.

Liam Walsh said...

I'm excited for your notes on this one. These books are great fun and really well written. Certainly they're not the best or deepest books ever written, but they're superb at what they do.

And no need to apologize for not doing a more literary book. I stopped listening to people who reflexively criticize pulp novels (but make sure the Joyce on their shelf is highly visible) when all sorts of people who wouldn't dream of being seen reading a lowly crime thriller started gushing about Breaking Bad (which, if it had been a novel would have been relegated to the "crime" section -- possibly with a lurid paperback cover). Give Lee Child another thirty years and he'll join the pantheon of Chandler and Hammett and Thompson and Cain: respected writers who during their heydays were too pulp or too successful for the self-conscious, "literary" set.

Thanks for the post.