Lee Child: An Exclusive Interview on Night School

Lee Child: An Exclusive Interview on Night School

An Exclusive Interview on Night School Transcript

Well Night School is a prequel. It’s set twenty years ago which doesn’t sound like a lot to me but in terms of the kinds of security threats that we face now – the terrorist threats that we face now – we feel that we’re pretty used to them, we know what we’re doing, but twenty years ago it was all brand new. And we had no idea what we were doing. And I think the security people were smart enough to understand that they didn’t know, so there was this kind of panicky policy where they were just rushing around trying to deal with whatever needed dealing with, without really seeing a coherent structure there. So I wanted to go back to when Reacher was in the army, and he was involved in one of the very first of those operations where the national security people are quite open about it, they say ‘we don’t know what’s going on, we’re just running around with our hair on fire’. And Reacher had to get involved with that, he had to go to Germany, to Hamburg, where there was this mysterious messsage had been overheard; the American wants 100 million dollars. That’s the only message they had. What American? What for? Who was paying the $100 million? So that’s where it started, and it ended up I think just at the very beginning of the new terrorist threat. Reacher’s involved.

Why did you decide to take Reacher back to the army?

I like to take him back into the past every once in a while because it’s a challenge for me as a writer. Instead of making him just a little bit older and wiser each year, he’s got to go back and be that much younger and slightly dumber, maybe slightly more optimistic, slightly more naive about things. So it’s a good writing challenge and it also just changes it up. I like to think of him when he was inside the structure, not totally happy there, obviously a little friction going on but basically he trusts the organisation and he has to work with it. And just gives a whole different canvas really, a whole different style of storytelling and a whole different context for what’s going on. He’s not on his own you know, he’s part of a team.

Did you enjoy writing about old characters again?

Yeah I always like to revisit the relationship between Reacher and Neagley it’s… there’s so many classic pairings in crime fiction you know right back to Holmes and Watson, right up to the modern-day stuff that’s on television, Morse and Lewis, and all that kind of thing. I love the pairing and so yeah it was fun to reintroduce it. But the thing about Neagley is you can’t explain her too much. She’s appealing because she’s a mystery so she just comes and goes and I don’t say much about her.

Will we ever find out about Francis Neagley’s past?

I think we will never really understand why she is like she is. I think it would sort of puncture the mystery a bit if we understood why.

Can we expect a change in lifestyle for Reacher?

I think, you know, Reacher would love to change his lifestyle, except you can’t. You know, that’s his problem, that he just can’t settle down. I think partly he would like to but his tragedy is that he just can’t. And the sort of women that he’s attracted to are intelligent women, and because they’re intelligent they know it’s not going to work. And so he usually has three or four days of fun and then it’s over. So that’s Reacher’s problem, he’s perpetually wondering, hoping to settle down, but he never will.

How has Reacher changed?

Well I think twenty years ago in 96 Reacher was obviously younger, he was he was probably a little more optimistic, a little more trusting in the system. You know not night and day, he is still a cynical tough guy, but I think that he was more at home in an organisation that he trusted. Now of course he’s out, he’s on his own, it’s a complete aloneness. So I think that in the past we see a more sociable Reacher maybe and certainly more communicative and in the current day stories he is just on his own. Just one man against the world.

What research did you carry out for Night School?

Well some of the research was about Hamburg obviously because it’s a location I wasn’t totally familiar with, but mostly it was about the weapon that is at the centre of the story, that has gone missing. And I can’t say too much about it without spoiling the story but that required quite a lot of research and some very bizarre discoveries really it’s all true and nobody’s going to believe it but believe me it is, it’s true.

What’s your favourite scene in Night School?

Gosh that’s a difficult question. My favorite scene in the book is probably towards the end where Reacher is having his final conversation with a guy called Dremmler. And I’ll leave the reader to discover what happens at the end of that conversation but there was some substance in that conversation, it was really what Reacher wanted to say to the world and so I think that’s probably the favorite bit. Of course also the way he takes down seven guys one after the other in a little courtyard behind the building.