Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Jack Reacher Goes Free!

From Paul
“Major Reacher, isn't it true that ten years ago, you shot Francis Quinn three times?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Do you have any regrets about it?”

“Only that I didn’t kill him then.”

Strange questions for your own client, but that's me doing the asking and Lee Child doing the answering. The scene was last week’s Thrillerfest in Phoenix. The case was People vs. Reacher. The charge: first degree murder for killing Francis Xavier Quinn, the rogue Army colonel who sold military secrets to the Syrians and killed two of Jack Reacher’s military police colleagues in Persuader.

Yes, it was a mock trial. And good thing. I haven't tried a real case since 1989. In this one, Lee Child portrayed his protagonist, tough-as-nails Jack Reacher, the violent but decent avenger. The prosecutor was Michele Martinez, who was an honest-to-goodness Assistant U.S. Attorney before she turned to fiction (Most Wanted). M. Diane Vogt (Marital Privilege) served as the judge. James Born (Escape Clause), a real life Florida cop, testified as the investigating officer. Our jury of ten consisted of book critics.

“Major Reacher, did you intentionally shove a chisel into Francis Quinn’s brain?”

“It wasn’t a construction accident.”

The jury deliberated endlessly (ten minutes) before deciding it was time for cocktails. By a vote of 7-3, they acquitted Reacher. I don’t know if it was my closing argument, purloined from Jack Nicholson (“We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.”) or the jury’s fear that a conviction would have ended the Reacher series. Either way, the audience at the Arizona Biltmore seemed reasonably entertained. Michele Martinez is a savvy trial lawyer and a savage cross examiner. Jim Born is a thorough and competent homicide investigator. Diane Vogt is properly judicious. And Lee Child charmed the jury with his British accent and his forceful testimony.

So go forth, Reacher, and kill some more. Bad guys, of course.

By Paul Levine


  1. I'm currently reading KILLING FLOOR so your post was particularly meaningful. So sorry I missed the "trial." It must have been a real hoot. I hope your client paid you handsomely. How was Thrillerfest in general?

  2. I was hobbling around with a cane like the evil lawyer Everett Sloane in "Lady from Shanghai." The Thrillerfest panels were quite good, and for a first-time gathering, the whole event was exceptionally well organized. As for Phoenix in July, it's good practice for the fires of eternal damnation. I believe next year's gathering is in New York. May I suggest for 2008...Montreal, Minneapolis, Seattle...someplace above 45 degrees north latitude?

  3. Dude PAUL,

    You didn't even make Lee do community service??? I thought we had discussed this????

    I hope your knee is heeling splendidly, and I am SO ENVIOUS of you being at T-Fest.... sounds like a fabulous time was had by all.

    What a great post!!

  4. i just figured he'd be acquited because hell, who's gonna buy us all drinks if Reacher, er, Lee's not around?

    We call that enlightened self-interest.....

    Hobbling around with a cane is a way of life Chez Roscoe,

    Andi (who spent Labor Day in Phx in 1978 and STILL remembers it all too well)

  5. Hi Paul,

    I'm just back from an extended Arizona visit after Thrillerfest (I know, a glutton for punishment). Your defense at the trial was superb! Particularly your unintentional sexual grilling of the prosecution witness. I was all prepared to "save" Jack Reacher with a big jail break, featuring the cardboard gun-cutout I'd been given. Glad to see that it wasn't necessary, and that the jury saw the wisdom of your logic.

    Job well done!