Jack Reacher author Lee Child on why the Orkney Islands are his dream destination, how the British accent is worth 20 extra unearned IQ points in the USA… and his love for New York
Lee Child checks in to our travel Q&A
This week best-selling author Lee Child checks in to our travel Q&A.
He recalls his first visit to the USA in the 1970s, and more…
EARLIEST HOLIDAY MEMORY?
Flying to Belfast on an unpressurised plane to visit my grandparents when I was three, in 1957. I remember the steep incline of the aisle because the plane sat tail-down on the grass. Best of all, the steward came round before landing with a platter full of boiled sweets. I was rigid with joy.
FIRST TRIP ABROAD?
A school trip to France, aged 11. We took the ferry to Granville, on the Cherbourg peninsula. I still like those solid, medium-sized French towns. And French is the only other language I can speak. The school’s strategy worked.
YOUR FIRST VISIT TO THE USA?
July 1974, New York, and it was love at first sight. It was a raucous, brutal, high-speed cacophony, allegedly dangerous, but I walked miles through the streets that summer and never had a moment’s trouble. I also saw Nixon resign on TV, so my visit spanned two administrations.
FAVOURITE PART OF THE USA?
I have an immigrant’s neutrality — I don’t have a place I was born or grew up — so it’s a level playing field. To understand the country you have to understand the beautiful emptiness of a lot of it. I can be at my place in the Rockies for three months, fly back late in the day to New York, go shopping for breakfast stuff, and I’ll see more people in one city block at midnight than I saw out west all season.
DO YOU SHARE YOUR CHARACTER JACK REACHER’S LOVE OF DINERS?
I do. They’re perfect in every way. But they depend on being there round the next curve, just when you’re hungry.
TOP TIP FOR BRITS WHO ARE VISITING THE USA?
Whatever their faults, Americans are instinctively polite and helpful. Plus the British accent is worth 20 extra unearned IQ points, and you might know Harry, so the default reaction will be full of goodwill.
The best stuff is on the beaten track — it’s beaten for a reason — but random side trips to lonely places might get you the best conversation.
My rule is to take only the shoes I’m wearing. That’s the key to packing light. Not for everyone, I know. I like legroom on planes and rooms overlooking the street in hotels. Noisy, but all five senses contribute to the experience. I suppose the only real essential is: take it all in.
Lee says his dream destination is the Orkney Islands, which are like ‘living inside a watercolour’
TOP JETLAG TIP?
Ignore it. Go to bed at the normal local time and you’ll be fine in the morning.
It’s almost two years since I was in the UK, so that’s top of the list.
The Orkney Islands. They’re wild and dramatic, but also calm and soft. Like living inside a watercolour. I’d like to go back. Maybe hang out there a month or two.
- Better Off Dead, by Lee Child and Andrew Child (Bantam Press), is out now.