Action hero Jack Reacher has leapt from the pages of Lee Child’s best-selling thrillers onto the big screen.
And thanks to a Sheffield charity auction, a supporter of Sheffield Children’s Hospital could one day see their own character starring alongside actor Tom Cruise.
Author Lee, alias former University of Sheffield law student Jim Grant, will sit down to write a new Reacher epic on September 1.
He’s offering a fan the chance to be immortalised in the story as an auction lot at Sheffield’s Daffodil Ball on March 3, the glamorous annual event that has raised over £1million for The Children’s Hospital Charity since it began in 1990 at the soon to close Baldwin’s Omega.
The winning bidder could end up being a major character or get killed off in the first few pages; it’s all down to how Jim’s imagination flows.
But the author confirms it’s highly likely the winner will be portrayed as a ‘goodie’ - and could well see himself in the film of the book in years to come.
Says Jim: “Offering a character name as an auction prize is something I’ve done several times and it’s a win-win for me.
“I’m hopeless at coming up with convincing names so it saves me a struggle, and usually it raises more money for the charity than anything else an author can offer.”
Jim, who now lives in New York but has retained strong links with Sheffield, confirmed: “Usually I make the winner a good guy - I don’t want to make a generous person a mad psycho!
“The auction winner’s name might easily be in a movie. The second film had a character named Pete Espin, who was a winner of an auction arranged by Aston Villa, another of my UK loves.
“I had cameos in both Jack Reacher movies, and plan to do it every time, like Alfred Hitchcock.”
The prize, which includes an early proof copy of the book and a signed and dedicated hardback on publication, is expected to bring in thousands for the charity which supports Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Jim first set foot in Sheffield as a young law student from Birmingham in 1974. Until 1977 he lived in Overton Road, Hillsborough, then Thornsett Road, Nether Edge, and Crookesmoor Road. He met his American wife Jane in the university’s drama studio, where he spent time on stage productions, and later his two brothers, David and Andrew, studied there.
“Sheffield is an honest city which feels almost like a second home to me and my wife. The fact that we met there gives the place extra significance,” said the author.
After graduating he went to Granada Television and produced Prime Suspect, The Jewel in the Crown, Cracker and Brideshead Revisited.
When his TV career ended in 1995 he tried his hand at writing crime fiction. His first book Killing Floor in 1997 was an instant success and introduced the world to Jack Reacher, a former US military police officer. There are now 22 successful books, of which 100 million copies have been sold worldwide.
He stages masterclasses at the university and funds over 50 Jack Reacher Scholarships which support students through their studies.
Jim was asked to get involved with the Daffodil Ball on behalf of David Fyfe, MD of Chartered Financial Planners Fyfe Financial. who with wife Jean has been involved with the event for the last 28 years, raising over £1million for TCHC to fund specialist equipment for Sheffield Children’s Hospital..
David became a fan of the Jack Reacher thrillers after discovering he and the author had both been students at the same university.
He went to see Lee Child’s lecture at Sheffield’s Off The Shelf Literary Festival last year and contacted him afterwards.
“He came straight back with an offer of a prize. We were thrilled,” said David, who spends months persuading contacts to donate valuable raffle prizes and auction lots.
“We never know how much things will go for, but every year we are amazed at people’s generosity and I’m told there could be phone bids from some big Jack Reacher fans on the night.”
Tickets for the event - the last at Baldwin’s Omega, which closes in July - are already sold out. But Lee Child fans can bid by contacting Tonya@TCHC.org.uk
David Fyfe is keen to get more star lots for the auction, which already features a hospitality box at Katy Perry’s Sheffield Arena concert, a signed Ryder Cup shirt from Sheffield’s star golfer Matt Fitzpatrick, a table for 10 on the last night at Baldwin’s before it closes and the ball’s ever-popular giant Easter egg.