James Dover Grant CBE (born 29 October 1954), primarily known by his pen name Lee Child, is a British author who writes thriller novels, and is best known for his Jack Reacher novel series. The books follow the adventures of a former American military policeman, Jack Reacher, who wanders the United States. His first novel, Killing Floor (1997), won both the Anthony Award, and the Barry Award for Best First Novel.
- Jack Reacher
Grant was born in Coventry. His father was a civil servant. He is the second of four sons; his younger brother, Andrew Grant, is also a thriller novelist. Grant’s family relocated to Handsworth Wood in Birmingham when he was four years old so that the boys could receive a better education. Grant attended Cherry Orchard Primary School in Handsworth Wood until the age of 11. He attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham.
In 1974, at the age of 20, Grant studied law at University of Sheffield, though he had no intention of entering the legal profession and, during his student days, worked backstage in a theatre. After graduating, he worked in commercial television. He received a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) Degree from the University of Sheffield in 1977 and returned to the University to receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) in 2009.
Television production career
Grant joined Granada Television, part of the UK’s ITV Network, in Manchester as a presentation director. There he was involved with shows including Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. Grant was involved in the transmission of more than 40,000 hours of programming for Granada, writing thousands of commercials and news stories. He worked at Granada from 1977 to 1995 and ended his career there with two years as a trade union shop steward.
After being made redundant from his job due to corporate restructuring, Grant decided to start writing novels, stating they are “the purest form of entertainment.” In 1997, his first novel, Killing Floor, was published, and he moved to the United States in the summer of 1998.
Grant starts each new instalment of his book series on the anniversary day he began writing the first book in the wake of a job loss.
His pen name “Lee” comes from a family joke about a heard mispronunciation of the name of Renault’s Le Car, as “Lee Car”. Calling anything “Lee” became a family gag. His daughter, Ruth, was “lee child”.
“Child” places his books alphabetically on bookstore and library shelves between crime fiction greats Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie.
Grant has said that he chose the name Reacher for the central character in his novels because he himself is tall and when they were grocery shopping his wife Jane remarked: “‘Hey, if this writing thing doesn’t pan out, you could always be a reacher in a supermarket.’ … ‘I thought, Reacher — good name.'”
Some books in the Jack Reacher series are written in the first person, while others are written in the third person. Grant has characterized the books as revenge stories – “Somebody does a very bad thing, and Reacher takes revenge” – driven by his anger at the downsizing at Granada. Although English, he deliberately chose to write American-style thrillers. In 2007, Grant collaborated with 14 other writers to create the 17-part serial thriller The Chopin Manuscript, narrated by Alfred Molina. This was broadcast weekly on Audible.com between 25 September 2007 and 13 November 2007.
On 30 June 2008, it was announced that Grant would be taking up a Visiting Professorship at the University of Sheffield from November 2008. In 2009, Grant funded 52 Jack Reacher scholarships for students at the university.
Grant was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America in 2009.
Grant was the Programming Chair for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in 2018, part of the Harrogate International Festivals portfolio.
In 2019, it was announced that Child would be curating a new TV show called Lee Child: True Crime. The show will dramatize real-life crime stories from around the world and focus on average people who go to extraordinary lengths to fight crime or seek justice.
In January 2020, Child announced that he would be retiring from writing the Jack Reacher book series, and hand it to his brother Andrew Grant, who would write further books of the series under the surname Child. He intended to write the next few books together with Grant before passing the series entirely over to him.
Grant’s prose has been described as “hardboiled” and “commercial” in style. A 2012 interview suggested that many aspects of the Jack Reacher novels were deliberately aimed at maintaining the books’ profitability, rather than for literary reasons. For instance, making Jack Reacher have one parent who was French was suggested as being partly because the presence of only American members of Reacher’s family would limit the series’ appeal in France. The same interview stated that Grant “didn’t apologize about the commercial nature” of his fiction.
In January 2012, Grant donated £10,000 (about US$16,000 at the time) towards a new vehicle for Brecon Mountain Rescue Team in Wales. His brother is a senior member of the team. The team’s former control vehicle was written off after a collision in 2011.
Grant is an annual sponsor and original member of Thrillerfest.
Grant married his wife Jane in 1975. Since 1998 they reside in New York state. They have a daughter, Ruth.
Grant is a fan of Aston Villa Football Club and has been known to include the names of Aston Villa players in his books.
In 2013, the Daily Mail quoted him saying that he writes while intoxicated (“high”) by cannabis. However, in a phone interview in November 2013, he clarified his comments to the Irish Examiner, saying he’s never written while high. “Yeah, that’s true,” Child told The Post-Standard. “I mean, people say to me, ‘There was that story in the newspaper,’ and I say, ‘No, that’s The Daily Mail.’ In Britain, that’s not a newspaper, you know, that’s a scandal sheet where they make stuff up. It’s not very reliable. And certainly I don’t deny smoking the occasional joint, but I don’t work when I’m stoned because you don’t get much done that way.”
- Jack Reacher (2012), film directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie, based on novel One Shot. An American thriller film starring Tom Cruise. Grant made a cameo appearance as a police desk sergeant in the film.
- Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016), film directed by Edward Zwick, and written by Richard Wenk, Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz, based on novel Never Go Back. With Tom Cruise reprising the role. In the film, the final scene is set in New Orleans, which was not a location in the book. The author approved this addition to help the New Orleans economy. In the film, Grant made a cameo appearance as a TSA agent. In the bonus footage on the Blu-ray disc, Child explained that in both films, his cameo appearance involves passing judgment on the character of Jack Reacher, and speculated that he will repeat these type of appearances in future Jack Reacher movies.
Grant was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature.