Bookmarks: Jack Reacher and his family affair

Brothers in arms
Who is Andrew Grant, you might wonder? Here’s a clue – he’s the younger brother of James Grant. And who’s James Grant? Well, he’s better known by his adopted name, Lee Child. And Child – as if you didn’t know – is the creator of Jack Reacher, the rock-hard righter of wrongs about whom he has written 24 novels that have sold millions around the world. His 25th, The Sentinel, being written in conjunction with his brother, is due out later this year, and perhaps that co-authorship is because Lee Child has announced that he’s passing his hero on to his brother because he feels someone younger should write the Reacher novels.

Lee Child has revealed a new future for Jack Reacher.Credit:Dan Callister / Alamy Stock Photo

‘‘I love my readers and know they want many, many more Reacher stories in the future. So I have decided to pass the baton to someone who can.’’ Said Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus novels: ‘‘Not much surprises me these days, but this news did.’’

Child described his brother as the best tough-guy writer he had read in years. Last year Andrew Grant published the first in a new series featuring army veteran and intelligence agent Paul McGrath, which just happens to be the name of one of the best-known former players of Premier League side Aston Villa, of which the Grant brothers – both born near Birmingham in England – are enthusiastic supporters.

Viskic keeps Caleb
When Lee Child visited Australia last year, award-winning crime writer Emma Viskic did an ‘‘in-conversation’’ with him. She thinks it’s fascinating that he’s offloading Reacher onto his brother. ‘‘I can believe it because of his mind and his approach to writing,’’ she told Bookmarks. He is extremely focused and seems to have a one foot in front of the other approach, like an explorer, and doesn’t emerge until he’s got the book finished.’’ Viskic has written only three novels about her hero, Caleb Zelic, with a fourth in the works, but says she couldn’t do what Child has done. ‘‘I can’t imagine he’d be handing over the reins unless he’s really thought it through.’’

Life after death
Of course it’s not unheard of for others to continue writing characters after the death of their creators. Many more James Bond books have been written by authors other than Ian Fleming, the man who first breathed life into 007, David Lagercrantz continued writing the Millennium books after the death of Stieg Larsson, and Eric van Lustbarder has been writing Robert Ludlum for ages. (When the first post-Ludlum book came out, The Altman Code, written with Gayle Linds, there was a comment from The New Yorker on the cover: ‘‘Ludlum transcends the genre.’’ It was either a comment on the work or euphemism for Ludlum’s state?) And the estate of writers such as Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse have commissioned new books about Poirot and Jeeves.

Credit:Andrew Dyson

But Ian Rankin, who has so far written 22 novels about his main man, John Rebus, says when he dies, Rebus will die with him. ‘‘My thinking is that when I’m gone, Rebus is gone – as happened with Rendell, P.D. James, etc etc,’’ he tells Bookmarks. But then, tantalisingly, he adds: ‘‘But who knows?’’

The Rowley legacy
The late Hazel Rowley died almost nine years ago but she lives on in her fine biographies of Christina Stead and Richard Wright, the Roosevelts, and also Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Her legacy lives on in the Hazel Rowley Fellowship, worth $15,000, which is given to a biographer to help fund an ongoing project. This year’s shortlist for the fellowship consists of nine writers. They are: Margo Beasley (biography of doctor and political activist Eric Dark); Diane Bell (account of Ngarrindjeri woman Louisa Karpany and South Australian ‘‘Sub-Protector of Aborigines’’ George Mason); Tegan Bennett Daylight (biography of writer Ruth Park); Stephenie Cahalan (life of Australian artist Jean Bellette); Gabrielle Carey (biography of writer Elizabeth von Arnim); Madelaine Dickie (a life of Indigenous leader Wayne Bergman); Shakira Hussein (her memoir, Nine Eleven-itis); Lance Richardson (life of American writer Peter Matthiessen) and Suzanne Robinson (for a book about art, artists and immorality in the 1890s). The winner will be announced on March 20.

Another look at Ronald McCuaig
When Nicole McCuaig was in year 8 at Canberra High School her English teacher gave the class a poem called Mokie's Madrigal to study. It was by a poet called Ronald McCuaig so not unreasonably the teacher asked her whether she had anything to do with him. Certainly not, she replied. She had never heard of him; nothing to do with her. But when she got home and asked her father about the coincidence of the name, he told her that the poet was none other than her much loved grandfather, whom she knew as Pop.

The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature describes McCuaig as ‘‘a highly original avant-garde poet, who was both satirical comedian and serious artist’’. Now Nicole McCuaig, a documentary filmmaker, has created an exhibition about her grandfather, Vaudeville: Ronald McCuaig's Life in Letters (named after his best-known collection), running at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane until February 8. It consists of archival material, filmed interviews (including with her father, Ronald McCuaig's son), and other elements.

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