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                        Celebrating the Art of Cinema, ... and Cinema as Art


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  * I'm JUSTIFIED (Elmore Leonard's Rylan Givens goes to TV)

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     ... And over the next few months the hosts of our first slate of online shows will be introduced via regular written columns here at the GullCottage online magazine. 

    Cindy Falteich is an author with five novels, two screenplays and over 120 blog posts to her credit.  Not only is the rant her favorite form of communication, it's possibly the least effective one.  Currently a Philadelphia studio is converting one of her novels, THE ALIQUOT SUM, to a screenplay for feature film production; and many of her ABabesTake posts have appeared on  In her current blog, THE ABNORMAL MOM'S SURVIVAL GUIDE (at, she shares humorous and insightful stories about her progression toward that enigma known as middle age.  She is a Press Club Of PA board member, and committee member for it's Professional Development Workshops; and she volunteers for GMO Free PA, Open Connections Educational Resource Center, and the Victorious Woman Project Girlfriend Gala.  She has been a caregiver for LaMancha Animal Rescue, a frequent guest on "Happy Hour With Annmarie Kelly" at WCHE 1520 AM, and most recently joined the GullCottage new online network of writers.  In the past she was a horse trainer, stand up comic and small business owner.  She now writes full time in suburban Philadelphia.

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Cindy Falteich

     I started writing eight years ago.

     This is normally where writing conversations start, don’t they? And there’s usually an impetus for the inception of said “writing”—a point in time when it was imperative that a person start. Like a calling.

     Most importantly, we’re normally not talking about the articles or the writing that occurs because someone records words at a job. We’re talking about the object of that writing being “the book”.  In other words, a zillion people create content and make a living at it, but when someone talks about what they want to someday “write,” they’re really talking about “the book”.


     Lee Child fits this paradigm. In the second Berkley trade paperback edition of his debut novel, Killing Floor, initially published in 1997, Child added an introduction in which he openly shares his progression into writing, which started on a whim. When pressed for the answer to what he would do once the new position he had acquired in 1988 would inevitably end, he said, “I’m going to write books.”  That’s irrespective of the fact that he had already written.  

It’s true. He’d previously used his law degree to integrate his interests in the hard-wired subjects of history, politics, economics, etc., and developed an appreciation for the succinct and cautious nature of legal language, claiming it “teaches a person how to write.” Child was also a veteran of the UK’s commercial television industry - as a presentation director, which was full-time immersion in portrayals of the written word.

     He claims to have been possibly the last generation to receive a classical English education where reading isn’t optional, nor is the subject matter.  And he says his compulsory education included “Latin and Greek and Old English, all the ancient myths and medieval sagas and poems.” Last but not least, he was an insatiable reader, which means basically that studying the means by which words are recorded was not only mandated, it was voluntary. Even still, he was only ever that guy standing at the plate, waiting for the pitch.

     But when pushed for an answer to what life would look like after eleven years in television, he spontaneously said he would, in an evolutionary sense, write.  Six years later, he was standing on the mound.  He was the hurler.

     At one point in time, Child had discovered a favorite in author John D. MacDonald and his character, Travis McGee (Darker Than Amber, The Empty Copper Sea), in a series that assisted Child in grasping the structure of story. He not only went back to that moment when he professed he would write a book and attempted to record the thoughts he’d harbored, he went back to when he started reading, identifying what he liked in literary devices and characterizations and what he didn’t.

     There’s one thing to be said for sitting your ass down at the brink of middle-age to begin an entirely incredulous journey—you definitely know who you are.

     I was 28 years old and doing stand-up comedy. Part-time. I was that good. The place I called "my home club" was very strict on one policy: no swearing. The owner was smart that way. You couldn't own a club in the bible-toting panhandle of Texas and offend your clientele, no matter how drunk they were. Only the comics whose headshots were familiar from television could pull that off.

     We openers were far from recognizable. We weren't even locally popular. Admittedly, it was a stretch to even call us entertainers. But I had enough material to get paid to open on a regular basis, and part of my duties included being the M.C. on open mic nights.

     Open mic nights are how everyone who's ever done stand-up got their start. And in that era of Eddie Murphy and Andrew Dice Clay we'd encounter young bucks who were certain they could imitate those callous masters and gain overnight success. The problem was they were warned straight-away they'd have to shelf the f-bombs.

  Jim Grant (aka "Lee Child")

     The other problem was, when you're 18 years old, you're sure even the club owner doesn't know shit. That's where I, as M.C., made myself useful. After the first infraction, the owner would give them the light.  After the second, he'd blind them with it, and after the third he’d send me on stage to summon a loud round of applause to break the mesmerizing bond of a high schooler plagiarizing an entire act so I could disguise his exit.

     This happened one week when we had a rare female comic as the middle act, and I found it a great change of pace to work with her.  After the above offender had been inevitably whisked out the front, she said what the veterans in the room were all probably wondering, but it was an iconic statement to me:

     "I don't know what these kids are thinking. They're what, 18 years old? What could they possibly know about life?

     Her point was, to write stand-up (and inevitably, to write in general) ... you have to know who you are. 

JACK REACHER (2012) Theatrical Trailer #2


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  "Main Title" (J. Kraemer) - JACK REACHER score

     Did Lee Child know himself when, desperate and out of work at the age of 39, he drafted his first story on legal pads? Or was he primed? From his love of outlaws, intrigue, winners and crushing victories, and from an interest in dislocation and alienation, Jack Reacher was carefully crafted. And in 1997, just nine years after Child made the proclamation to write, Killing Floor made its debut.

     From the reception it received, I’d say he was not only vividly familiar with himself, it allowed him to be intimately acquainted with character. Winning both the Anthony Award (named after legendary writer, reviewer and editor Anthony Bouchercon, one of the founders of the Mystery Writers of America – a very prestigious award), and a best first novel Barry Award (after American critic Barry Gardner, and designed to recognize the best mysteries, suspense novels and thrillers), I’d have to think that Child came relatively close to his goal to “stay in the entertainment industry, but work for myself in the world of books”.

     Or maybe it’s just me.

  Lee Child's JACK REACHER cameo, as the desk sergeant

     By the age of 35, Tom Cruise had compiled a film anthology that put him in the realm of, well, immortal studliness. The year after he graduated from high school, he embarked on an acting career that, by 1988, the year Lee Child stated his desire to someday write, included Endless Love, Taps, Risky Business, All the Right Moves, Legend, Top Gun and something Cruise was growing increasingly acquainted with, The Color of Money.  Add Cocktail and Rain Man to the list, and Cruise cravings weren’t something relieved by Nicorette. Even marrying the versatile Ms. Kidman didn’t deter his female devotees like Nicole-ette.
     Bad pun, I know.



     By the time Child’s debut, Killing Floor, hit the shelves in 1997, Cruise had added to his resume films now integral to the library of Hollywood. Let’s start with Days of Thunder, Far and Away, and the movie that would complete me, Jerry McGuire.

     He’d been cast alongside film icons like Paul Newman (The Color of Money), Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men, and possibly the upcoming El Presidente) and Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man); and had taken direction from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola (The Outsiders), the brothers Scott   (Ridley in Legend, and the late Tony in Top Gun); Martin Scorsese (The Color of Money), Barry Levinson (Rain Man), Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July), Ron Howard (Far and Away), Rob Reiner (A Few Good Men) and Brian De Palma (Mission Impossible).


     He’d acted in the adaptation of a play written by Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men) as well as a television series adaptation (Mission Impossible), and played characters in book adaptations from Scott Spencer (Endless Love), Ann Rice (Interview with the Vampire), Devery Freeman (Taps - adapted from "Father Sky"), S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders), John Grisham (The Firm), Walter Tevis (The Color or Money) and Ron Kovic (Born on the Fourth of July). 

     Then things got weird. He tried on some strange hats but had brief brushes with success, at least in my opinion, until he was reacquainted with his action roots with the third installment of the Mission Impossible franchise in 2006. Couple that with his familiarity with books to film, and then ponder if it’s any coincidence that he (a) bought the rights to adapt the Lee Child character, Jack Reacher, to the screen, and (b) would attempt / is attempting to turn it into a franchise.

     Could it be that Tom Cruise had finally figured out who he was?

     Legions of Child fans don’t think so. At least not in the capacity of being Jack Reacher. My friend, Bob, is one of them. Coincidentally, he’s the reason this article even came about. One day at our favorite coffee house we were talking about authors, and since I hadn’t been introduced to the literary Reacher, there was no use for Child to appear in my peripheral vision.


     I’d seen the 2012 movie Jack Reacher, and I was even aware that it was based on a book, but I couldn’t have pinned the tail on Child’s donkey with a heat-seeking drone and the world’s sharpest needle. Enthusiastic for the writing of Lee Child, Bob enlightened me, which led to a discussion about his personal opinion for why Cruise was awarded the rights to the adaptation.

     Which wasn’t pretty.  Bob claims Lee Child sold his soul.

  Jai Courtney as the mysterious "Charlie"

     Let’s look at the facts. Since Child’s writing debut in 1997, he’s published a total of 20 books (one per year) plus a handful of short stories.  His titles have sold 70 million worldwide. He’s 60 years old, and the claim is that his regular partaking of cannabis (as dramatically portrayed by Daily Mail) could someday permanently infuse his brain cells with bong residue.

     Even so, while reading two titles, I had to check my dictionary on a number of occasions, i.e. "querulous", "suborned" and "subterfuge", all sadly having no sexual connotation. But had I known he had the tendency to get high, I might have figured he was just making them up. Aside from his overuse of “trawling” and a rash of “tired” characters in one spot, I was certainly entertained. My point is, all things considered, it’s hard to say how many more stories the guy has in him. Fans hope he’s like Poppa Elf. He didn’t make master tinker until 490.

     Sorry. Too many Christmas movies.

     But the question remains: by handing over the rights to an actor who doesn’t visually personify the character, did Child sell out?

     Tom Cruise was touted by Hollywood economist Edward Jay Epstein as "one of the most powerful – and richest – forces in Hollywood".
That was in 2005, the same year he purchased the rights to the Lee Child novel that had just been published called One Shot.

     This is the story that would be produced into Cruise’s first Lee Child film adaptation, Jack Reacher.  In One Shot / Jack Reacher a string of evidence points to a dishonorably discharged former U.S. Army sniper as the perp in a vicious Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shooting spree which kills five people.  Knowing of the accused man's past, retired Army Military Police Corps officer, Jack Reacher, arrives in town, certain that he's guilty. When his investigation however places him at violent odds with a group of local "business men" with international connections, Reacher slowly comes to believe the former military gunmen is in actuality a mere patsy in a far reaching conspiracy which now only he, with his background and special training, can close the book on.

      David Oyelowo as Detective Emerson

     When Cruise bought the rights, Child (actually born Jim Grant) was 51 years old. Nine years later, the sequel has yet to be released and frankly, there was a question as to whether it would even be made. But with Deadline reporting about a year ago that Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions are moving ahead, it appears to be only a matter of coordinating production with the talent. And that squad might not include the screenwriter of the original, Christopher McQuarrie, who also wrote The Usual Suspects (1995). Need I say more?

     That has me worried. Not that I have little faith in screenwriters; I think they’re sheer genius. However, after seeing Jack Reacher, reading One Shot and watching the movie again, I gave the adaptation an A+.  It’s not easy to pare away at 300 pages of prose and come away with the bulk of the original story, less some ancillary storylines and characters.

     But here’s the thing. Online there are excuses made for the portrayal of a giant of a man by a pip squeak, something that could be called the 90/100 rule - in that with Cruise you get 100% of the Jack Reacher attitude with 90% of the mass (that’s being generous). Whereby, with another actor you might get only 90% of Reacher with a whole lot of gas.

     The question is, is that true 100% of the time?

     Back to my friend, Bob.  During our initial conversation on his beloved Lee Child, Bob confessed that he was good friends with someone he claims is not only a good likeness to Reacher, ... he actually is Jack Reacher.  Better yet, when I asked if he'd mind connecting me with this person, he gladly obliged.  A few weeks later I was scheduled to talk to actor Chance Kelly about the Reacher role.  It was my first significant journalistic interview. 

     I owe Bob a lot of coffee.

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