when all else fails...
when nothing else works...
Repairman Jack is the rough and ready hero of a series of books by thriller novelist F. Paul Wilson. He is a man who does not officially exist. He has no social security number; he doesn't pay taxes; he works exclusively in cash. He lives and works in the shadows of New York society, always behind the scenes. He is a successful small businessman, but his business is "fixing" things. When someone needs something "fixed" quickly, discreetly, often violently, and with a minimum of official involvement, they call Jack. If the problem interests him, and the price is right, Jack will take care of it before fading back into the shadows.
The nature of his business requires Jack to appear ordinary at all times. He's of average height and build, and spends a great deal of time cultivating an aura of ordinaryness so he can pass through society unnoticed. He keeps enough abreast of fashion trends so he can stay respectably below the height of fashion; too much flash would start to catch people's eyes. He even keeps a close watch on his mannerisms, especially after discovering that even the way he crosses the street causes people to immediately identify him as a New Yorker.
Jack operates as a last resort in situations where the system has failed and people have run out of options. He's no "knight in shining armor," like Edward Woodward's Robert McCall in The Equalizer, solely interested in saving the victims and punishing the bad guys. He's a businessman and expects to be well paid for his services. That's not to say he doesn't often take extra pains to make the justice he inflicts highly poetic and fitting; Jack seems to take great pride in setting up exactly the right punishment to fit the crime. In that he's more like Vengeance Unlimited's enigmatic Mr. Chapel, though his fees are considerably lower than one million dollars, and he always expects cash -- no favors to be collected at a later date. He's also considerably less obviously insane than Mr. Chapel, and more of a real, ordinary, human character beneath his facade. Like John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, he prefers to operate on the very fringes of society, but still sometimes longs for the kind of life denied him by his own anonymity.
Also like Travis McGee, Jack is distrustful of a lot of modern technology. The more complicated something is, the more likely it is to fail at the worst possible time. However, once he was dragged into the digital age, he embraced the Internet, and gets many of his clients from his website, www.repairmanjack.com. He's also become almost addicted to collecting credit cards under various names; using falsified records of long dead children to construct a multitude of new identities for himself in the credit databases. He also prizes and guards his anonymity far more than Travis ever did, never using his real name with anyone and varying his meetings with clients enough that none ever know if he has a regular hangout. In fact, at least through the first four novels, even the reader doesn't even know the last name he was born with.
Jack's life began in a ordinary enough fashion. He grew up as part of a middle-class family in New Jersey, living with his parents and brother and sister. Until he was seventeen, he followed the normal path of most kids his age: school, sports, odd jobs to make a little extra money. Then he found his true calling.
Mr. Canelli's lawn became his first "fix-it" job. Mr. Canelli, a retired widower, spent every waking moment grooming his yard, and it was absolutely perfect, except when joyriding kids would cut the corner and leave tire tracks through it. At first it was accidental, but it soon became a game to the local teens. Canelli would repair the damage each time, and finally put up a white picket fence to discourage such activity. This seemed to work until a group of youths deliberately crashed clean through the fence and tore the lawn apart doing donuts before roaring off into the night.
For reasons even he did not understand, Jack was deeply affected by this and, quelling his initial instinct to seek out the guilty parties and punish them himself, he told Mr. Canelli that for fifty dollars he could fix everything so it would never happen again. Jack had a perfect plan, and together he and Canelli planted bushes and hid four-inch concrete-filled steel pipes behind each of them. As soon as the lawn was back to a near perfect state, the teens came through again to play their part. But instead of tearing up the sod, they totalled both their vehicles against the pipes and sent themselves to the hospital. Canelli paid without a word, and Jack's repair business got its start.
Jack's strongly antisocial nature and thirst for justice did not, however, come to a head until his mother was killed. As Jack and his parents were driving home along the freeway, someone droped a cinderblock from an overpass as a prank, but it landed in his mother's lap, killing her. Jack dedicated himself to finding the one responsible and making him pay. Once he found the guy and got him to admit dropping the cinderblock (under the guise of pretending he wanted to drop something cool off the overpass himself), Jack tied a rope around the pranksters ankles and dropped him off the overpass to hang in the path of an oncoming semi. Justice was done.
Jack would up withdrawing entirely from society, refusing to be a part of the system that had failed him. He moved to New York City and continued "fixing" situations for people, though his father thought he had a small appliance-repair business. He met and became close friends with gunrunner Abe Grossman, who gave him the name "Repairman Jack" as a joke. As the years passed, the name stuck, and Jack's "repair" business boomed.
In New York, Jack also met and fell in love with Gia DiLauro, a beautiful and talented artist and single mother. He let her believe he was a security consultant, never telling her how he really made his living or that he didn't officially exist. They grew ever closer, to the point Jack was wondering if it wasn't time to rejoin society and hopefully be a new father to Gia's daughter Vicky. Then, while Gia was cleaning Jack's apartment as a surprise, she came across a cache of weapons and false ids. She confronted him with them, but had already decided he must be come kind of common street thug. She didn't want that kind of violence in her life, and left him despite his attempts to explain who he really was and what he did.
The Repairman Jack series:
- The Tomb (1984)
- Also the second book in Wilson's Adversary Cycle, The Tomb introduces Repairman Jack to the world and pits him against an ancient curse and the rakoshi.
- Legacies (1998)
- Repairman Jack's triumphant return to novels after a fourteen year hiatus pits him against a shadowy group of Middle Eastern petroleum producers who will stop at nothing to prevent broadcast power technology from seeing the light of day and ending their energy monopoly.
- Conspiracies (2000)
- Back on more familiar, of paranoid, ground, Jack must immerse himself in the world of rabid conspiracy theorists while searching for a missing wife.
- All the Rage (2000)
- Jack's dragged face to face once again with an old enemy as he tries to find the connection between a pharmaceutical company, a Serbian gangster, and a new designer street drug called Berzerk.
- Hosts (2001)
- Repairman Jack's latest client turns out to be someone he hasn't seen in fifteen years: his own sister. As he struggles to help her get a friend out of a sinister cult, he finds he must scramble to protect his identity after having to shoot his way out of a subway massacre.
- The Haunted Air (2002)
- Jack takes the case of a pair of mediums being threatened by other New York psychics and finds himself face to face with real ghosts and a secret cult of ritual child murderers.
Jack also appears in and has a crucial role in the final Adversary Cycle novel, Nightworld, where he helps save the world once and for all from the menace of the Otherness. Dr. Wilson's intent is to keep writing Repairman Jack novels that follow a story arc out from The Tomb, but inevitably lead up to the events in Nightworld. He doesn't know yet how many novels this will be; he plans to keep on writing them as long as it's fun to do so and the stories remain fresh. There's even the possibility of some prequel stories, describing his life and work before The Tomb and the trial and error way he built his business.
As of February 2003, plans are underway to bring Repairman Jack to a theater near you. A script based on The Tomb is complete, and even has the author's own blessing. No names have been officially announced for director or actors in any of the roles, but things are on target for a summer 2004 release.
Wilson, F. Paul. All the Rage. Tom Doherty Associates. 2000.
----. Conspiracies. Tom Doherty Associates. 2000.
----. Legacies. Tom Doherty Associates. 1998.
----. The Official Repairman Jack Web Site. <http://www.repairmanjack.com> (February 28, 2003)
----. The Tomb. Whispers Press. 1984.