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HE is one of the world’s biggest-selling thriller writers, with his Jack Reacher novels so successful one is bought every two seconds.
Now author Lee Child has admitted he keeps his writing razor-sharp by working while high on cannabis and even claims that it should be made compulsory.
“I’ve been smoking weed for 44 years, five nights a week,” the author confessed. “I’m the poster boy to prove it doesn’t do you much harm.
“I have a guy on speed dial in New York who comes over with a huge range of marijuana. I smoke it in a pipe because I’ve never been any good at rolling my own joints.”
Child was brought up in Birmingham and moved to America in 1999 after he published the first of his Reacher novels, of which he has now sold 70 million.
The latest, Never Go Back, comes out on August 28 and is his 18th. Last year, Tom Cruise starred in the movie Jack Reacher.
The books, all revenge-themed, have brought huge material success to this British author with an all-American hero.
Reacher, a former soldier, roams the country, uncovering wrongdoing and dispensing rough justice, before drifting off again.
His life is so stripped down that he doesn’t own a change of clothes. Something of an enigma, he has much in common with his 58-year-old creator who, despite his wealth, leads a spartan life.
The kitchen cupboards of Child’s Manhattan apartment are bare: no food, no cooking equipment, because he exists mostly on coffee and marijuana. “I am indifferent to food,” he said. “I have to eat, obviously, but I work better when I am hungry.”
Child – who is wafer-thin and 6ft 5in – went on: “And the weed, well, that’s part of the diet. I was 14 when I smoked my first joint. That was when I had sex for the first time, too. Then I had sex for the second time. With the first girl’s sister.
“It was April 1969. I remember it well. I was in bed with a girl and her sister came in and joined us. It was a fantastic weekend. Not something easily forgotten. Although I’m sure those two girls have long forgotten me.” By way of explanation, he added: “It was the 1960s.”
Child’s own story reads like a rags- to-riches cliche. After 18 years as a presentation director at Granada Television, he was abruptly made redundant in 1995, at 40, after a spell as a union activist.
Blacklisted for “guerrilla union tactics and flat broke, Child wrote his first Reacher novel in long-hand because he couldn’t afford a computer. “It wasn’t a hobby,” he says wryly. “Frankly we were in the s***. I had to find a new profession. And fast.”
His debut novel, Killing Floor, was an instant success. Its theme of revenge was doubtless not lost on his former employers. It was, he says, his way of letting Granada know how angry he was. “Fiction is always autobiographical. I wanted to break the legs of certain people at Granada.”
He now spends most of his time in America, where marijuana use is not considered a serious criminal offence. A first infringement entails a fine of about £65, but arrests are rare. Meanwhile, his wife Jane, a New Yorker, has chosen to live 3,500 miles away in Sussex, visiting several times a year.
“I enjoy being anonymous,” he confided. “I have sat next to people on aeroplanes who were reading one of my books but I have never introduced myself.
“A fellow author once saw a man reading one of his books and asked what he thought of it. The man replied, “It’s s*** but it was the only thing I could get at the airport.” Need I say more?”
And he insists Reacher is the star, not him. ‘When anyone walks into a bookshop, they ask for the new Reacher, not the new Lee Child.” He also firmly believes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and doesn’t foresee switching his books to Britain.
“People have a perception of places,” he explains. “They think London is full of bobbies in pointy black hats. The reality is that it is full of cops in flak jackets with machine guns.
“The only time I have ever seen a gun fired to try to kill someone was in Manchester. I was driving to work one afternoon when two gangs in a drugs war started shooting over the top of my car. I ran a red light and b******d off. I’ve never seen guns used like that in America.” - Mail On Sunday