Lee Child is showcasing his archive, containing early drafts, manuscripts and correspondence relating to the Jack Reacher series, at the British Archive for Contemporary Writing at the University of East Anglia (UEA) for students and readers to learn from.
Child, a CWA Diamond Dagger award-winner, who has so far published 23 Jack Reacher novels, said he hoped students and readers visiting the archive at "the writers’ university" would be able to glean insights and even helpful tips from the archive, which includes some of his very first drafts.
“For those of us out in the field, UEA has a reputation as ‘the writers’ university’, with terrific faculty and a great student body, so I thought it was the ideal venue for a peek behind the curtain, where students and readers can get a sense of what’s involved in professional, commercial authorship," he said. "I hope people will be interested, and best case, I hope a few intending writers pick up some insight and maybe a couple of shortcuts.”
According to UEA, the archive will be "a key resource" for creative writing students. It will provide "fascinating insights into the initial creation of one of English literature’s most enduring and uncompromising characters and into the structure and development of a long running and highly successful thriller series", laying bare Child's creative processes from his earliest jottings and drafts to major structuring and editing, the university said.
Child's leading character, Jack Reacher, created in 1997, is one of the strongest brands in publishing, inspiring fim adaptations starring Tom Cruise. Novels in which he features have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide in 49 languages, and 101 territories.
Professor Henry Sutton, director of Creative Writing at UEA, which includes the MA in Prose Fiction and the recent MA in Crime Fiction, praised Child as "an exceptional prose stylist who is imitated around the world". Child's use and understanding of suspense, pace and plot he hailed "second to none".
He said of the benefits of hosting Child's archive: "The archive gives us invaluable insights into the work of one of the most significant genre writers of all time ... [It] will be a key resource for creative writing students, interested in long-form fictional narratives, the novel and crime fiction. Crime writing studies and research within the academy is currently flourishing – as the genre continues to gather literary credibility, alongside ever-increasing sales and popularity worldwide. UEA already hosts a number of doctorate students researching the form, including one specifically looking at the mega-narrative/series fiction and Lee Child.
"His archive is a major acknowledgement of, and a very significant contribution to, UEA’s commitment to be the world’s leading centre for the practical and critical study of crime writing. It is also a highly significant development for the British Archive for Contemporary Writing and creative writing at UEA, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020, and maintains its position as the country’s leading creative writing institution.".
Child - real name Jim Grant - graduated in law from the University of Sheffield and started writing at the age of 40 when he was made redundant from his job in TV production. His debut, Killing Floor, won both the Anthony and The Barry Award for Best First Mystery. His most recently published novel, The Midnight Line, clocked up multiple weeks at No. 1, and his latest, 23rd Jack Reacher novel, Past Tense, will be published in November 2018.