I’m Your Middle-Grade School’s Substitute Librarian Today. Call Me Reacher.

Come in.


Sit down.


No, not in the front row. I don’t like people getting too close.


My name is Reacher. Not Mr. Reacher. Just Reacher. Now look around. You’re in a library, and words literally surround you. Words like payback. Justice. Vengeance.


Those are words I live by every day.


You, don’t tilt back in that chair. I can see you haven’t been trained to execute that maneuver without injury—and right on cue, we’ve got a man down. Kid, you dropped faster than your reading scores on the last state test. But it’s just blood, so stop howling. You don’t need stitches. There’s some Superglue right here.


The rest of you can start your literary research projects in a moment. But first, are there any questions? Okay, go ahead. Yes, I was in the military. No, I don’t have any war stories. All you need to know about me is that the Dewey Decimal System is my bayonet. And books are my garrote.


If you don’t know what that word means, look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls.


And I meant questions about your topic. None? Then it’s my turn. You in the back, excellent seating choice. Tell me the literary topic you’re working on. Mark Twain? Okay, that’s Samuel Clemens’ pseudonym. You can learn a lot about a person by their pseudonym. As a young man, Samuel Clemens worked on steamboats. Sailors like him had to be vigilant about the water’s depth. So crew members would regularly check it and shout “Mark twain!” if the water was 12 feet deep or more.


Can you guess why 12 was an important number? That’s correct. If the water was any shallower, the steamboat would run aground. Maybe it hits a rock and sinks. Steam engines explode. People drown.


The point is, details matter. And assumptions kill.


Like the assumption that you have that literary research is stupid. I know you’re all thinking it. But let me tell you something. In the real world, the most lethal weapons of all are the right books. And today is your lucky day, because I know just where to find them.


The books, I mean. My reference there may have been unclear. So think of your literary research as a self-defense project. Do it right, and you’re going to be a more dangerous person by the time you finish.


Get started.


And remember: have fun.