Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher Series #12)

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Overview

It wasn't the welcome Reacher expected. He was just passing through, minding his own business. But within minutes of his arrival a deputy is in the hospital and Reacher is back in Hope, setting up a base of operations against Despair, where a huge, seething walled-off industrial site does something nobody is supposed to see...where a small plane takes off every night and returns seven hours later...where a garrison of well-trained and well-armed military cops --the kind of soldiers Reacher once commanded--waits ...
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Overview

It wasn't the welcome Reacher expected. He was just passing through, minding his own business. But within minutes of his arrival a deputy is in the hospital and Reacher is back in Hope, setting up a base of operations against Despair, where a huge, seething walled-off industrial site does something nobody is supposed to see...where a small plane takes off every night and returns seven hours later...where a garrison of well-trained and well-armed military cops --the kind of soldiers Reacher once commanded--waits and watches...where above all two young men have disappeared and two frightened young women wait and hope for their return. Joining forces with a beautiful cop who runs Hope with a cool hand, Reacher goes up against Despair--against the deputies who try to break him and the rich man who tries to scare him--and starts to crack open the secrets, starts to expose the terrifying connection to a distant war that's killing Americans by the thousand.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Fan Letter by Lee Child

They say the past is another country, and in my case it really was: provincial England at the end of the fifties and the start of the sixties, the last gasp of the post-war era, before it surrendered to the tectonic shift sparked by the Beatles. My family was neither rich nor poor, not that either condition had much meaning in a society with not much to buy and not much to lack. We accumulated toys at the rate of two a year: one on our birthdays, and one at Christmas. We had a big table radio (which we called "the wireless") in the dining room, and in the living room we had a black and white fishbowl television, full of glowing tubes, but there were only two channels, and they went off the air at ten in the evening, after playing the National Anthem, for which some families stood up, and sometimes we saw a double bill at the pictures on a Saturday morning, but apart from that we had no entertainment.

So we read books. As it happens I just saw some old research from that era which broke down reading habits by class (as so much was categorized in England at that time) and which showed that fully fifty percent of the middle class regarded reading as their main leisure activity. The figure for skilled workers was twenty-five percent, and even among laborers ten percent turned to books as a primary choice.

Not that we bought them. We used the library. Ours was housed in a leftover WW2 Nissen hut (the British version of a Quonset hut) which sat on a bombed-out lot behind a church. It had a low door and a unique warm, musty, dusty smell, which I think came partly from the worn floorboards and partly from the books themselves, of which there were not very many. I finished with the children's picture books by the time I was four, and had read all the chapter books by the time I was eight, and had read all the grown-up books by the time I was ten.

Not that I was unique - or even very bookish. I was one of the rough kids. We fought and stole and broke windows and walked miles to soccer games, where we fought some more. We were covered in scabs and scars. We had knives in our pockets - but we had books in our pockets too. Even the kids who couldn't read tried very hard to, because we all sensed there was more to life than the gray, pinched, post-war horizons seemed to offer. Traveling farther than we could walk in half a day was out of the question - but we could travel in our heads ... to Australia, Africa, America ... by sea, by air, on horseback, in helicopters, in submarines. Meeting people unlike ourselves was very rare ... but we could meet them on the page. For most of us, reading - and imagining, and dreaming - was as useful as breathing.

My parents were decent, dutiful people, and when my mother realized I had read everything the Nissen hut had to offer - most of it twice - she got me a library card for a bigger place the other side of the canal. I would head over there on a Friday afternoon after school and load up with the maximum allowed - six titles - which would make life bearable and get me through the week. Just. Which sounds ungrateful - my parents were doing their best, no question, but lively, energetic kids needed more than that time and place could offer. Once a year we went and spent a week in a trailer near the sea - no better or worse a vacation than anyone else got, for sure, but usually accompanied by lashing rain and biting cold and absolutely nothing to do.

The only thing that got me through one such week was Von Ryan's Express by David Westheimer. I loved that book. It was a WW2 prisoner-of-war story full of tension and suspense and twists and turns, but its biggest "reveal" was moral rather than physical - what at first looked like collaboration with the enemy turned out to be resistance and escape. I read it over and over that week and never forgot it.

Then almost forty years later, when my own writing career was picking up a head of steam, I got a fan letter signed by a David Westheimer. The handwriting was shaky, as if the guy was old. I wondered, could it be? I wrote back and asked, are you the David Westheimer? Turned out yes, it was. We started a correspondence that lasted until he died. I met him in person at a book signing I did in California, near his home, which gave me a chance to tell him how he had kept me sane in a rain-lashed trailer all those years ago. He said he had had the same kind of experience forty years before that. Now I look forward to writing a fan letter to a new author years from now ... and maybe hearing my books had once meant something special to him or her. Because that's what books do - they dig deeper, they mean more, they stick around forever.

Janet Maslin
Lee Child's brainiac tough-guy series has been on a steady winning streak, a pattern that began three books back with One Shot and continues through the latest installment, Nothing to Lose. The success of these books rests partly on the big, hulking shoulders of their charismatic hero, but also on Mr. Child's great love of gamesmanship…Nothing to Lose is Mr. Child's steepest feat of escalation thus far…Mr. Child's books, like Hitchcock's films, inspire a hard-won confidence: every detail, no matter how minor, has been put into play for a reason.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

At the start of bestseller Child's solid 12th Jack Reacher novel (after Bad Luck and Trouble), the ex-military policeman hitchhikes into Colorado, where he finds himself crossing the metaphorical and physical line that divides the small towns of Hope and Despair. Despair lives up to its name; all Reacher wants is a cup of coffee, but what he gets is attacked by four thugs and thrown in jail on a vagrancy charge. After he's kicked out of town, Reacher reacts in his usual manner-he goes back and whips everybody's butt and busts up the town's police force. In the process, he discovers, with the help of a good-looking lady cop from Hope, that a nearby metal processing plant is part of a plan that involves the war in Iraq and an apocalyptic sect bent on ushering in the end-time. With his powerful sense of justice, dogged determination and the physical and mental skills to overcome what to most would be overwhelming odds, Jack Reacher makes an irresistible modern knight-errant. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Soon after arriving in Despair, CO, the large, deadly, and enigmatic Jack Reacher, last seen in Bad Luck and Trouble, happily begins to take things into his own hands. He is a loner, a paladin, a wanderer who always seems to find trouble and always helps the good guys prevail. The towns of Hope and Despair are only a few miles apart as the crow flies, but guess which one is a dismal factory town ruled by a despotic religious fanatic? Good. Now guess which one Jack Reacher is going to take apart in his own inimitable fashion? It turns out that the fanatic believes the end of the world will come soon and wants to expedite the process. While this is going on, bodies are being found in the desert and people are disappearing. Child's 12th thriller may be formulaic and predictable, but Jack Reacher fans have always liked that about Child's novels. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/1/08.]
—Robert Conroy

Kirkus Reviews
In Jack Reacher's whiz-bang latest (Bad Luck and Trouble, 2007, etc.), small-town cops bust him for vagrancy-big mistake!Despair, Colo.: population 2,692, and none of them with the sense they were born with. Because Reacher warned them, nobody can say he didn't. There he was, just passing through, seated harmlessly at the restaurant table, wanting only a cup of coffee, when the four deputies, "each a useful size," appeared in the doorway, clearly intent on seeing the back of him. Says Reacher to the restaurant's surly proprietor, " ‘If I get a cup of coffee I'll walk out of here. If I don't get a cup of coffee, these guys can try to throw me out, and you'll spend the rest of the day cleaning blood off the floor . . . ' " Broken bones ensue-none of them Reacher's-but when a riot gun is added to the argument, Reacher allows himself to be arrested. The fact is his curiosity-ever a major component in the Reacher persona-requires that he stick around until he uncovers the something he suspects is rotten in Despair. Enter the lady deputy sheriff from Hope, the tiny town that borders Despair. Hope, of course, is as attractive as Despair is forbidding. Ditto Deputy Vaughan, who provides another compelling reason for Reacher to bide a bit. They join forces in an investigation that takes a series of twisty turns involving, among others, a buck-chasing religious zealot and some vexatious conspirators in Pentagon corridors of power. Answers garnered, curiosity slaked, Reacher arrives at a critical moment. He must now say to Vaughan, albeit ruefully, what those who know him best always knew was inevitable: " ‘I don't do permanent.' "When, single-handedly, Reacher takes out eight huskies in a bar-roombrawl, a million plus fans will grin happily, knowing that all's right with the action-lit world. Agent: Darley Anderson/Darley Anderson Agency
From the Publisher
“As I was reading this latest book, I was trying to understand why I like the Reacher series so much….The Jack Reacher books are all revenge fantasies. By the time the reader encounters the first fight, the reader is already mad…. Reacher doesn't go looking for trouble, but trouble usually finds him.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Explosive and nearly impossible to put down.”—People

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440243670
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/24/2009
  • Series: Jack Reacher Series , #12
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 42,700
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Lee Child

Lee Child is the author of twelve Jack Reacher thrillers, including the New York Times bestsellers Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, The Hard Way, and Bad Luck and Trouble. His debut, Killing Floor, won both the Anthony and the Barry awards for Best First Mystery, and The Enemy won both the Barry and Nero Awards for Best Novel. Foreign rights in the Jack Reacher series have sold in forty territories. All titles have been optioned for major motion pictures. Child, a native of England and a former television director, lives in New York City, where he is at work on his thirteenth Jack Reacher thriller.

Biography

Lee Child was born in 1954 in Coventry, England, but spent his formative years in the nearby city of Birmingham. By coincidence he won a scholarship to the same high school that JRR Tolkien had attended. He went to law school in Sheffield, England, and after part-time work in the theater he joined Granada Television in Manchester for what turned out to be an eighteen-year career as a presentation director during British TV's "golden age." During his tenure his company made Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. But he was fired in 1995 at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars' worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series.

Killing Floor was an immediate success and launched the series which has grown in sales and impact with every new installment.

Lee has three homes —an apartment in Manhattan, a country house in the south of France, and whatever airplane cabin he happens to be in while traveling between the two. In the US he drives a supercharged Jaguar, which was built in Jaguar's Browns Lane plant, thirty yards from the hospital in which he was born.

Lee spends his spare time reading, listening to music, and watching the Yankees, Aston Villa, or Marseilles soccer. He is married with a grown-up daughter. He is tall and slim, despite an appalling diet and a refusal to exercise.

Good To Know

Lee Child is the author of sixteen Jack Reacher thrillers, including the New York Times bestsellers Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, The Hard Way, and #1 bestsellers Bad Luck and Trouble and Nothing to Lose. His debut, Killing Floor, won both the Anthony and the Barry awards for Best First Mystery, and The Enemy won both the Barry and Nero awards for Best Novel. Foreign rights in the Jack Reacher series have sold in forty territories. All titles have been optioned for major motion pictures.

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    1. Hometown:
      Birmingham, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Coventry, England
    1. Education:
      Sheffield University
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Nothing to Lose
By Lee Child Delacorte Press

Copyright © 2008 Lee Child
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385340564


1


The sun was only half as hot as he had known sun to be, but it was hot enough to keep him confused and dizzy. He was very weak. He had not eaten for seventy-two hours, or taken water for forty-eight.

Not weak. He was dying, and he knew it.

The images in his mind showed things drifting away. A rowboat caught in a river current, straining against a rotted rope, pulling, tugging, breaking free. His viewpoint was that of a small boy in the boat, sitting low, staring back helplessly at the bank as the dock grew smaller.

Or an airship swinging gently on a breeze, somehow breaking free of its mast, floating up and away, slowly, the boy inside seeing tiny urgent figures on the ground, waving, staring, their faces tilted upward in concern.

Then the images faded, because now words seemed more important than pictures, which was absurd, because he had never been interested in words before. But before he died he wanted to know which words were his. Which applied to him? Was he a man or a boy? He had been described both ways. Be a man, some had said. Others had been insistent: The boy's not to blame. He was old enough to vote and kill and die, which made him a man. He was too young to drink, even beer, which made him a boy. Was he brave, or a coward? He had been called both things. He had been calledunhinged, disturbed, deranged, unbalanced, delusional, traumatized, all of which he understood and accepted, except unhinged. Was he supposed to be hinged? Like a door? Maybe people were doors. Maybe things passed through them. Maybe they banged in the wind. He considered the question for a long moment and then he batted the air in frustration. He was babbling like a teenager in love with weed.

Which is exactly all he had been, a year and a half before.

He fell to his knees. The sand was only half as hot as he had known sand to be, but it was hot enough to ease his chill. He fell facedown, exhausted, finally spent. He knew as certainly as he had ever known anything that if he closed his eyes he would never open them again.

But he was very tired.

So very, very tired.

More tired than a man or a boy had ever been.

He closed his eyes.

2


The line between Hope and Despair was exactly that: a line, in the road, formed where one town's blacktop finished and the other's started. Hope's highway department had used thick dark asphalt rolled smooth. Despair had a smaller municipal budget. That was clear. They had top-dressed a lumpy roadbed with hot tar and dumped gray gravel on it. Where the two surfaces met there was an inch-wide trench of no-man's-land filled with a black rubbery compound. An expansion joint. A boundary. A line. Jack Reacher stepped over it midstride and kept on walking. He paid it no attention at all.

But he remembered it later. Later, he was able to recall it in great detail.

Hope and Despair were both in Colorado. Reacher was in Colorado because two days previously he had been in Kansas, and Colorado was next to Kansas. He was making his way west and south. He had been in Calais, Maine, and had taken it into his head to cross the continent diagonally, all the way to San Diego in California. Calais was the last major place in the Northeast, San Diego was the last major place in the Southwest. One extreme to the other. The Atlantic to the Pacific, cool and damp to hot and dry. He took buses where there were any and hitched rides where there weren't. Where he couldn't find rides, he walked. He had arrived in Hope in the front passenger seat of a bottle-green Mercury Grand Marquis driven by a retired button salesman. He was on his way out of Hope on foot because that morning there had been no traffic heading west toward Despair.

He remembered that fact later, too. And wondered why he hadn't wondered why.

In terms of his grand diagonal design, he was slightly off course. Ideally he should have been angling directly southwest into New Mexico. But he wasn't a stickler for plans, and the Grand Marquis had been a comfortable car, and the old guy had been fixed on Hope because he had three grandchildren to see there, before heading onward to Denver to see four more. Reacher had listened patiently to the old guy's family tales and had figured that a saw-tooth itinerary first west and then south was entirely acceptable. Maybe two sides of a triangle would be more entertaining than one. And then in Hope he had looked at a map and seen Despair seventeen miles farther west and had been unable to resist the detour. Once or twice in his life he had made the same trip metaphorically. Now he figured he should make it for real, since the opportunity was right there in front of him.

He remembered that whim later, too.

The road between the two towns was a straight two-lane. It rose very gently as it headed west. Nothing dramatic. The part of eastern Colorado that Reacher was in was pretty flat. Like Kansas. But the Rockies were visible up ahead, blue and massive and hazy. They looked very close. Then suddenly they didn't. Reacher breasted a slight rise and stopped dead and understood why one town was called Hope and the other Despair. Settlers and homesteaders struggling west a hundred and fifty years before him would have stopped over in what came to be called Hope and would have seen their last great obstacle seemingly within touching distance. Then after a day's or a week's or a month's repose they would have moved on again and breasted the same slight rise and seen that the Rockies' apparent proximity had been nothing more than a cruel trick of topography. An optical illusion. A trick of the light. From the top of the rise the great barrier seemed once again remote, even unreachably distant, across hundreds more miles of endless plains. Maybe thousands more miles, although that too was an illusion. Reacher figured that in truth the first significant peaks were about two hundred miles away. A long month's hard trekking on foot and in mule-drawn carts, across featureless wilderness and along occasional decades-old wheel ruts. Maybe six weeks' hard trekking, in the wrong season. In context, not a disaster, but certainly a bitter disappointment, a blow hard enough to drive the anxious and the impatient from hope to despair in the time between one glance at the horizon and the next.

Reacher stepped off Despair's gritty road and walked through crusted sandy earth to a table rock the size of a car. He levered himself up and lay down with his hands behind his head and stared up at the sky. It was pale blue and laced with long high feathery clouds that might once have been vapor trails from coast-to-coast red-eye planes. Back when he smoked he might have lit a cigarette to pass the time. But he didn't smoke anymore. Smoking implied carrying at least a pack and a book of matches, and Reacher had long ago quit carrying things he didn't need. There was nothing in his pockets except paper money and an expired passport and an ATM card and a clip-together toothbrush. There was nothing waiting for him anywhere else, either. No storage unit in a distant city, nothing stashed with friends. He owned the things in his pockets and the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet. That was all, and that was enough. Everything he needed, and nothing he didn't.

He got to his feet and stood on tiptoe, high on the rock. Behind him to the east was a shallow bowl maybe ten miles in diameter with the town of Hope roughly in its center, eight or nine miles back, maybe ten blocks by six of brick-built buildings and an outlying clutter of houses and farms and barns and other structures made of wood and corrugated metal. Together they made a warm low smudge in the haze. Ahead of him to the west were tens of thousands of flat square miles, completely empty except for ribbons of distant roads and the town of Despair about eight or nine miles ahead. Despair was harder to see than Hope. The haze was thicker in the west. The place looked larger than Hope had been, and teardrop-shaped, with a conventional plains downtown mostly south of the main drag and then a wider zone of activity beyond it, maybe industrial in nature, hence the smog. Despair looked less pleasant than Hope. Cold, where Hope had looked warm; gray, where Hope had been mellow. It looked unwelcoming. For a brief moment Reacher considered backtracking and striking out south from Hope itself, getting back on course, but he dismissed the thought even before it had fully formed. Reacher hated turning back. He liked to press on, dead ahead, whatever. Everyone's life needed an organizing principle, and relentless forward motion was Reacher's.

He was angry at himself later, for being so inflexible.

He climbed off the rock and rejoined the road twenty yards west of where he had left it. He stepped up onto the left-hand edge and continued walking, long strides, an easy pace, a little faster than three miles an hour, facing oncoming traffic, the safest way. But there was no oncoming traffic. No traffic in either direction. The road was deserted. No vehicles were using it. No cars, no trucks. Nothing. No chance of a ride. Reacher was a little puzzled, but mostly unconcerned. Many times in his life he had walked a lot more than seventeen miles at a stretch. He raked the hair off his forehead and pulled his shirt loose on his shoulders and kept on going, toward whatever lay ahead.

3


Despair's downtown area began with a vacant lot where something had been planned maybe twenty years before but never built. Then came an old motor court, shuttered, maybe permanently abandoned. Across the street and fifty yards west was a gas station. Two pumps, both of them old. Not the kind of upright rural antiques Reacher had seen in Edward Hopper's paintings, but still a couple of generations off the pace. There was a small hut in back with a grimy window full of quarts of oil arrayed in a pyramid. Reacher crossed the apron and stuck his head in the door. It was dark inside the hut and the air smelled of creosote and hot raw wood. There was a guy behind a counter, in worn blue overalls stained black with dirt. He was about thirty, and lean.

"Got coffee?" Reacher asked him.

"This is a gas station," the guy said.

"Gas stations sell coffee," Reacher said. "And water, and soda."

"Not this one," the guy said. "We sell gas."

"And oil."

"If you want it."

"Is there a coffee shop in town?"

"There's a restaurant."

"Just one?"

"One is all we need."

Reacher ducked back out to the daylight and kept on walking. A hundred yards farther west the road grew sidewalks and according to a sign on a pole changed its name to Main Street. Thirty feet later came the first developed block. It was occupied by a dour brick cube, three stories high, on the left side of the street, to the south. It might once have been a dry goods emporium. It was still some kind of a retail enterprise. Reacher could see three customers and bolts of cloth and plastic household items through its dusty groundfloor windows. Next to it was an identical three-story brick cube, and then another, and another. The downtown area seemed to be about twelve blocks square, bulked mostly to the south of Main Street. Reacher was no kind of an architectural expert, and he knew he was way west of the Mississippi, but the whole place gave him the feel of an old Connecticut factory town, or the Cincinnati riverfront. It was plain, and severe, and unadorned, and out of date. He had seen movies about small-town America in which the sets had been artfully dressed to look a little more perfect and vibrant than reality. This place was the exact opposite. It looked like a designer and a whole team of grips had worked hard to make it dowdier and gloomier than it needed to be. Traffic on the streets was light. Sedans and pick-up trucks were moving slow and lazy. None of them was newer than three years old. There were few pedestrians on the sidewalks.

Reacher made a random left turn and set about finding the promised restaurant. He quartered a dozen blocks and passed a grocery store and a barber shop and a bar and a rooming house and a faded old hotel before he found the eatery. It took up the whole ground floor of another dull brick cube. The ceiling was high and the windows were floor-to-ceiling plate glass items filling most of the walls. The place might have been an automobile showroom in the past. The floor was tiled and the tables and chairs were plain brown wood and the air smelled of boiled vegetables. There was a register station inside the door with a Please Wait to Be Seated sign on a short brassed pole with a heavy base. Same sign he had seen everywhere, coast to coast. Same script, same colors, same shape. He figured there was a catering supply company somewhere turning them out by the millions. He had seen identical signs in Calais, Maine, and expected to see more in San Diego, California. He stood next to the register and waited.

And waited.

There were eleven customers eating. Three couples, a threesome, and two singletons. One waitress. No front-of-house staff. Nobody at the register. Not an unusual ratio. Reacher had eaten in a thousand similar places and he knew the rhythm, subliminally. The lone waitress would soon glance over at him and nod, as if to say I'll be right with you. Then she would take an order, deliver a plate, and scoot over, maybe blowing an errant strand of hair off her cheek in a gesture designed to be both an apology and an appeal for sympathy. She would collect a menu from a stack and lead him to a table and bustle away and then revisit him in strict sequence.

But she didn't do any of that.

She glanced over. Didn't nod. Just looked at him for a long second and then looked away. Carried on with what she was doing. Which by that point wasn't much. She had all her eleven customers pacified. She was just making work. She was stopping by tables and asking if everything was all right and refilling coffee cups that were less than an inch down from the rim. Reacher turned and checked the door glass to see if he had missed an opening-hours sign. To see if the place was about to close up. It wasn't. He checked his reflection, to see if he was committing a social outrage with the way he was dressed. He wasn't. He was wearing dark gray pants and a matching dark gray shirt, both bought two days before in a janitorial surplus store in Kansas. Janitorial supply stores were his latest discovery. Plain, strong, well-made clothing at reasonable prices. Perfect. His hair was short and tidy. He had shaved the previous morning. His fly was zipped.

Continues...

Excerpted from Nothing to Lose by Lee Child Copyright © 2008 by Lee Child. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays

The Fan Letter by Lee Child

They say the past is another country, and in my case it really was: provincial England at the end of the fifties and the start of the sixties, the last gasp of the post-war era, before it surrendered to the tectonic shift sparked by the Beatles. My family was neither rich nor poor, not that either condition had much meaning in a society with not much to buy and not much to lack. We accumulated toys at the rate of two a year: one on our birthdays, and one at Christmas. We had a big table radio (which we called "the wireless") in the dining room, and in the living room we had a black and white fishbowl television, full of glowing tubes, but there were only two channels, and they went off the air at ten in the evening, after playing the National Anthem, for which some families stood up, and sometimes we saw a double bill at the pictures on a Saturday morning, but apart from that we had no entertainment.

So we read books. As it happens I just saw some old research from that era which broke down reading habits by class (as so much was categorized in England at that time) and which showed that fully fifty percent of the middle class regarded reading as their main leisure activity. The figure for skilled workers was twenty-five percent, and even among laborers ten percent turned to books as a primary choice.

Not that we bought them. We used the library. Ours was housed in a leftover WW2 Nissen hut (the British version of a Quonset hut) which sat on a bombed-out lot behind a church. It had a low door and a unique warm, musty, dusty smell, which I think came partly from the worn floorboards and partly from the books themselves, of which there were not very many. I finished with the children's picture books by the time I was four, and had read all the chapter books by the time I was eight, and had read all the grown-up books by the time I was ten.

Not that I was unique - or even very bookish. I was one of the rough kids. We fought and stole and broke windows and walked miles to soccer games, where we fought some more. We were covered in scabs and scars. We had knives in our pockets - but we had books in our pockets too. Even the kids who couldn't read tried very hard to, because we all sensed there was more to life than the gray, pinched, post-war horizons seemed to offer. Traveling farther than we could walk in half a day was out of the question - but we could travel in our heads ... to Australia, Africa, America ... by sea, by air, on horseback, in helicopters, in submarines. Meeting people unlike ourselves was very rare ... but we could meet them on the page. For most of us, reading - and imagining, and dreaming - was as useful as breathing.

My parents were decent, dutiful people, and when my mother realized I had read everything the Nissen hut had to offer - most of it twice - she got me a library card for a bigger place the other side of the canal. I would head over there on a Friday afternoon after school and load up with the maximum allowed - six titles - which would make life bearable and get me through the week. Just. Which sounds ungrateful - my parents were doing their best, no question, but lively, energetic kids needed more than that time and place could offer. Once a year we went and spent a week in a trailer near the sea - no better or worse a vacation than anyone else got, for sure, but usually accompanied by lashing rain and biting cold and absolutely nothing to do.

The only thing that got me through one such week was Von Ryan's Express by David Westheimer. I loved that book. It was a WW2 prisoner-of-war story full of tension and suspense and twists and turns, but its biggest "reveal" was moral rather than physical - what at first looked like collaboration with the enemy turned out to be resistance and escape. I read it over and over that week and never forgot it.

Then almost forty years later, when my own writing career was picking up a head of steam, I got a fan letter signed by a David Westheimer. The handwriting was shaky, as if the guy was old. I wondered, could it be? I wrote back and asked, are you the David Westheimer? Turned out yes, it was. We started a correspondence that lasted until he died. I met him in person at a book signing I did in California, near his home, which gave me a chance to tell him how he had kept me sane in a rain-lashed trailer all those years ago. He said he had had the same kind of experience forty years before that. Now I look forward to writing a fan letter to a new author years from now ... and maybe hearing my books had once meant something special to him or her. Because that's what books do - they dig deeper, they mean more, they stick around forever.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 286 )
Rating Distribution

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(99)

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(45)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 289 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2008

    Total Nonsense, Worst Reacher Ever

    I have read and enjoyed every one of the prior Reacher novels, but without a doubt this is the worst, most inane, and nonsensical ever. What a totally ridiculous plot and a completely lame Reacher character. Really, the author and publisher should be ashamed of this tripe. I don't mind the 'political' overtones, per se, but the fundamental story is so completely and wildly ridiculous as to make this almost painful to read. Also, 'whole-town conspiracies' rarely work, and this story is no exception. Skip it...

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2008

    Hate to beat a dead horse but....

    If you're looking for Jack Reacher, you won't find him here. This book was so disappointing that I feel as if I am in mourning. I'm embarrassed that I told friends to go out and buy it before I had read it. Very boring and the author's agenda too apparent. I'm on the other team politically I guess.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2010

    Political Screeds Ruined an Otherwise Decent Thriller

    Child expressed two political rants: first that soldiers are pitiful victims of evil powers in the exercise of war; and second that fundamentalist Christians are insane hypocrites. The villain is such a stock caricature as to be laughable, and Child's knowledge of the Bible is as bad as Dan Brown's.

    There is a primary plot and a subplot. The subplot, rescue of military deserters to Canada does not blend into the book as a whole and seems to be a vehicle for Child to rant on about Iraq. The main plot involves the villain's machinations to "immanentize the eschaton" by planning a major explosion falsely attributable to Iran, thus jumpstarting Armageddon. Within this plot we have a thread of government corruption in hiding the disposal of uranium used in tank production. So it appears the whole book was plotted out as a way for Child to get in his favorite political rants.

    I do like the Jack Reacher character and was disappointed in Child abusing him for political purposes. Having said that, I found most of the book to have a fair amount of suspense to keep me turning the pages. I will keep reading the Reacher series in the hopes this was a lone divergence for Child.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2009

    So So....

    Overall, I enjoyed the book. There were times when Mr.Child went too far into detail or repaeted things but I just skipped those parts. I mean how many times do you expect someone to reread about the shape of the same buildings. It is the first of the series I have read. I just ordered the first 3 books of the series and the last one.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reacher's Woes

    "Nothing to Lose" is not one of Lee Child's best books featuring his hero Reacher. The first two hundred-odd pages plod along as Reacher goes back and forth between two towns with the patently allegorical names of Hope and Despair. Meanwhile, there is very little in the way of plot development to propel the story.

    That being said, I have to admit I like the ending, and midway through the novel the pace does pick up satisfactorily.

    I found the villain to be an interesting character and, ultimately, I do like the complex, if at times bewildering, plot of this thriller. If only it hadn't taken so long for it to play out!

    --Bryan Cassiday, author of "Blood Moon" and "Fete of Death"

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2009

    Disappointing

    I discovered Lee Child's books several years ago and found them to be great entertainment and a unique view point. I was a big fan. When this book came out I was excited and could not wait to start reading it. Nevertheless, I found Jack Reacher behaving out of character in this story and the book was a "politically correct" monstrosity. I would not recommend to my friends or even my enemies. I hope Lee Child gets back to his old ways because I will never waste my time with another of his books unless he does.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2009

    Lee Child's "Jack Reacher" never lets me down.

    "Nothing To Lose" is a fast paced--keep you guessing-and on the edge of your seat brilliantly written book. The characters are well defined and full of life, the suspense is so intense I could not put it down. Lee Child is one of my favorite writers and Jack Reacher is my favorite character.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2009

    Read Earlier Works, ONLY

    Boring, silly attempt to make a buck from your loyal fans of Jack Reacher. You owe me $ 15.95!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008

    I know what happened.

    Mr. Child must have been under a contractual obligation to churn this one out. How many times can you walk back and forth between towns? How many times can you double dog dare a 6 on one confontation? This is not the Jack Reacher I have grown to adore over the years. Mr. Child, maybe it is time to let Reacher evolve just a little bit? At one time he was to be admired, now he is laughable.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2008

    what happened???????????

    All the othe reacher books are good, but this one is so boring! If you are new to the lee child books, go and read his early stuff, its way better than this mediocre offering

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2008

    Not a Page Turner

    I've read about 1/3 of the book and was not impressed, so I turned to these reviews. I guess I'm not alone. I don't believe I will finish the book, which is disappointing in itself, since I looked forward to it. But it is pretty far fetched and not a page turner!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Jack Reacher should have gone to a different town.

    Jack Reacher is walking across America and gets to the intersection of Hope and Despair Colorado. He goes into Despair but is ordered out of town and told that they don't like strangers.
    He goes to Hope where he meets Officer Vaughan. She tells him that Despair is a company town run by Jerry Thermond.
    Reacher is a former Marine and doesn't like being told what he can and can't do. He returns to Despair after dark. He sneaks around Thermond's factory to check it out and on the return trips on the body of a dead young man.

    Back in Hope he meets a girl, Lucy Anderson. He learns that she was also told to leave Despair and that her husband is missing. His description does not match that of the deceased stranger.

    The story plods along with many parts defying belief. At one point Reacher is in a bar fight. He inflicts such damage that the six people he fights against need medical attention for such thngs as a broken arm, broken nose and a concussion. Reacher leaves the bar with hardly a scratch. Another time he's comeing back to Despair again and two to three hundred townies stand shoulder to shoulder blocking his way and chanting "Out! Out! Out!" This was absurd.

    Besides the slowness of the story, the plot itself jumps from place to place as Reacher guesses what is the cause of Despair's attitude.
    The characters are unsympathetic. Reacher usually acts as the saving Knight, helping someone who can't help themselves. In this story, no one is asking for his help and he might just as well left Despair to its own fate.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2009

    Lacks Substantial Interest with Dull Storyline.

    Reading this book was like walking around in circles which is what the main character did throughout this book. The whole thing was rather pointless and it was a chore to get through this very boring book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2009

    Somewhat Disappointing

    Jack Reacher is my favorite character. I look forward to any Lee Child book featuring Jack Reacher. Reading this particular book however, was a very tedious experience. The oft-repeated descriptions of the drabness of the town of Despair transcended across the pages so that devoting time to reading the book became a drab experience as well. I agree with other readers who say that the earlier Jack Reacher novels are far better than this one. Bring back the exciting Jack Reacher! He's always trying to extricate himself from seemingly impossible yet realistic situations. In Nothing to Lose the situations were implausible and unbelievable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Minor let-down

    Jack Reacher is my favorite 'bigger-than-life' cahracter in fiction today. In NTL, he's found 'fiddling' around a company town with much less evil than he normally encounters and overcomes. I felt this offering from Child was a bit "phoned in" and 'contructed' rather than 'crafted' as a story. I'm hoping for more next outing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Jack Reacher, a true man among men!

    Lee Childs does not write a bad Jack Reacher book! Doesn't happen. I have saved every one for my library. Reacher is so masculine that this is a great fix for gals who like men who come to the rescue!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Poorest Child Yet

    Jack is always arrested as soon as he hits town and always innocent. His only friend is always some needy female. Books 1 thru 12, change the people names and town names and they are all the same story. My advise is that after book 4 just hang it up.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2008

    What Happened to Reacher?

    I can't believe I wasted 5 hours reading this tripe. I kept waiting for the Reacher I had grown to love and expected to come out, but Mr. Child seems to has lost him. I don't think I'll waste my money on the next one.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2009

    Should be OpEd rather than a fiction novel

    I loved all of Child's other Reacher books, but this one was too political and far fetched. I felt that Child was trying to push an agenda rather than a story.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2008

    What happened to Lee Child?

    I have to admit it, but I am getting VERY disappointed in this series. After enjoying most all of the rest of the series 'earliest one the best'they have just seemed to drift off of late. This issue was very slow and repetitive, to the point where it seemed like dejavu several times as i was reading. It took me two weeks to finish it, and I have NEVER read one of this series in longer than 2 days before, cause i couldnt wait to finish them before. I actually only finished this one in order to see IF the bad guys were really bad after all 'you'll know what i mean if you find yourself compelled to read this one'. So come on, I think we need to put an APB out for Lee Child and get him back here, pronto! We just want the plots and stories to match up to the greatness of the character that he created! A fan of all but the last few novels, Kal~

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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