Why Jack might be hard to identify with: He’s a Republican homeless drifter. Who can identify with that?
- It’s tricky because he doesn’t have a life: He’s just drifted into town, seemingly for no reason. No job, no friends, no history he wants to talk about. So he doesn’t have much life for us to believe in, but he has a very consistent voice, plainspoken with a lot of periods, and a very unique way of looking at the world.
- I mean, it’s very tricky that a tweedy Thatcher-hating BBC writer with no military or police background (who’s never lived in America) can one day choose to write about a badass Clinton-hating American military-policeman-turned-drifter (who’s never lived in England). And Child insists he does no research! It’s really remarkable that he’s created a believable voice, but it’s totally convincing. He has really channeled this guy, seemingly out of the ether.
- The first paragraph is “I was arrested in Eno’s diner. At twelve o’clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee. A late breakfast, not lunch. I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain. All the way from the highway to the edge of town.” We can tell he’s being falsely arrested, and there’s no bigger humiliation than that.
- We love what he can see, and what he knows. As he’s being arrested, he notes: “The guy with the revolver stayed at the door. He went into a crouch and pointed the weapon two-handed. At my head. The guy with the shotgun approached close. These were fit lean boys. Neat and tidy. Textbook moves. The revolver at the door could cover the room with a degree of accuracy. The shotgun up close could splatter me all over the window. The other way around would be a mistake. The revolver could miss in a close-quarters struggle and a long-range shotgun blast from the door would kill the arresting officer and the old guy in the rear booth as well as me. So far, they were doing it right.”
- But then they make a mistake and Jack convinces us he could turn the tables, but he’s too smart to do so: “The guy with the shotgun came closer. Too close. Their first error. If I had to, I might have lunged for the shotgun barrel and forced it up. A blast into the ceiling perhaps and an elbow into the policeman’s face and the shotgun could have been mine. The guy with the revolver had narrowed his angle and couldn’t risk hitting his partner. It could have ended badly for them. But I just sat there, hands raised.” We believe him.
- As he’s being arrested, he tips the waitress, so we know he’s a good guy. (And he does so in a very manly way: “I crammed egg into my mouth and trapped a five under the plate.” Lots of cramming and trapping in this book!)
- He gives us lots of news we can use has he describes his arrest. Number one: Never say anything at all, not even to acknowledge your rights. “Again I didn’t respond. Long experience had taught me that absolute silence is the best way. Say something, and it can be misheard. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. It can get you convicted. It can get you killed.”