OXFORD CROWD WILD FOR LEE CHILD

Lee ChildOn Thursday evening, May 20, Lee Child spoke before an audience of about 100 ardent fans at Off Square Books who had come to hear about his new thriller, 61 Hours. It was a beautiful Oxford afternoon, with the store windows rolled back, the day after the author of fourteen Jack Reacher novels had visited Lemuria in Jackson and just two days after the book's release. In introducing Child, Square Books general manager Lyn Roberts, remarked that the famous author could be in many places "more important than little Oxford" for the book's release, and thanked Child for coming, his publisher, Delacorte Press, for sending him, and the large crowd of readers "who have shown up impressively, making Oxford seem perhaps bigger than it really is."

The author, a native of England who lives in New York "because it's the greatest city in the world," as he told us, took the podium and thanked Lyn for her "gracious introduction," and told his fans that he would not be reading from his book -- "we all know how to read" -- but that he would be happy to answer questions. Thus began a nearly two-hour Q & A session with the tall, debonair, witty, and self-effacing suspense stylist. Jack Reacher is the character Stephen King called "the coolest continuing series character now on offer," and just whom is he based on?, we wanted to know. "Myself -- but better." Asked how he managed to make the condition of a savage snowstorm so vivid, Child answered that he wanted the cold "to be a character."

On it went, until Mr. Child had to get to Memphis to catch a plane. His fans held on for every question and answer, finally becoming fidgety, not because they were tired of the interview -- they couldn't wait to get home and start reading.

At this time, we still have signed copies, first editions, of 61 Hours.