No Ruth My Love in Zero Dark Thirty

Director Kathryn Bigelow and star Jessica Chastain hold a mirror up to the manhunt for Bin Laden in ZERO DARK THIRTY.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and star Jessica Chastain hold a mirror up to the manhunt for Bin Laden in ZERO DARK THIRTY.

America’s grand dame of literature, Toni Morrison, has given us many haunting words…but none have echoed in my mind more than the ones from A Mercy when a young girl who has lived through a colonial hellscape in 17th century Virginia announces to the world that she is, “In full.  Unforgiven.  Unforgiving.  No ruth, my love.  None.  Hear me?”

I’d like to think that former art student and painter Kathryn Bigelow has read Morrison, but who knows?  That’s the beauty of connecting one piece of art to another.  Morrison’s words came to clear mind while watching Bigelow’s tightly wound dramatization of events more recent – the man hunt for Osama Bin Laden – in Zero Dark Thirty.  How does one fight against terrorist enemies who are willing to kill anyone (including themselves) to achieve their mission?  Well, the answer is painfully simple.  You show them no ruth.  No mercy.  And you hunt them down by any means necessary and kill them. 

At the center of Bigelow’s film is one of filmdom’s greatest female characters of all time (all the more powerful for having been based on a real-life CIA analyst still working in the field), an agent named Maya played with calculated precision by Jessica Chastain (the doe-eyed red-head, all awkward coils that are both sinewy and frail, and with a soft voice that hides her steely demeanor beneath) who announces her talents to the world with this role much in the way that Cate Blanchett first staked her claim as the Queen in Elizabeth.  Here we see Maya’s journey over ten years from wunderkind analyst to ruthless field operative.  Continue reading

24: The Clock Stops Here

Monday, May 24th 2010 at 8PM EST Fox will air the two-hour series finale of the most groundbreaking network television show of the past decade.  The ticking clock, which at times seemed eternal, will stop once and for all on Jack Bauer and 24.  It’s time to look back and share your favorite 24 memories as The Schleicher Spin bids a bittersweet and fond farewell to an old favorite.

Take yourself back, if you will, to the fall of 2001.  Fox had a daring idea to create an action-thriller that took place in real-time over the course of an entire day where each one hour episode would be one hour in the crisis-filled life of counter-terrorism guru Jack Bauer.  The premier was delayed, however, when the ultimate act of terrorism occurred in real life on 9/11.  Wanting to remain sympathetic to a mourning populace still in a state of shock, Fox chose not to air the first episode until November.  And thus the most groundbreaking network television show since Twin Peaks debuted quietly under subdued hoopla with a sequence featuring an uber-hot terrorist (played by Mia Kirshner, whose character would become the greatest reoccurring villain on the series) casually leaping from an airplane in mid-flight and setting off a bomb that would kill everyone onboard.  It was a sobering moment of fiction that eerily mirrored an even more imaginative and horrific act of mass murder still too fresh on people’s minds.  And it was this moment that set off a spiraling series of events that would shape the television landscape and American pop-culture psyche for the next decade. 

24 plowed on from there with feverish intensity…and it caught on eventually with all its split-screen formatting, cell-phone dialing, satellite re-tasking, bomb defusing, and cliffhanging fun.  Jack Bauer would live another day…and another…and another…as the series went on ad-infinitum for what has seemed like an eternity.  Continue reading

A Review of Michael Moore’s “Sicko”

Shining Light on America’s Health Care Crisis, 8 July 2007
9/10
Author:
David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

In many ways, “Sicko” is Michael Moore’s most tightly focused film since “Roger & Me.” Recently he’s dealt with heady philosophical issues involving America’s obsession with guns and violence in “Bowling for Columbine” and then displayed the follies of the Bush Administration and the quagmire that is current geopolitics in “Farhenheit 9/11.” Here he turns his gaze to a single, tangible thing: America’s health care crisis.

Moore is up to his usual bag of tricks with his goofy pop-culture inspired propaganda, expertly combining heartfelt sentiment with big laughs in his anecdotal pieces, and essentially preaching to the choir. Informing us that insurance and pharmaceutical companies are vile profit driven machines who lobby hard in Washington and buyout politicians left and right isn’t exactly telling us something we didn’t already know.  Scary still are the review board doctors working for the insurance companies who get paid big bonuses for denying the most claims, and saddest of all, the people who actually die from not getting their treatment.  Moore, never shying from his political leanings, firmly points his finger at Nixon (whose policies paved the way for HMO’s), Reagan (who propagated the idea of socialized medicine as the first sign of Communist invasion), and Bush (who signed into law prescription drug bills that have crippled our senior citizens). He also suggests that Hillary Clinton, whose own health care plan was shot down by special interests back in the early 1990’s, is now on the same payroll after losing the good fight.

Moore really scores, though, when he starts globe hopping and shows us just how well socialized medicine works in countries like Canada, Great Britian, and France, and how much all of the people involved (doctors and patients) think it’s wonderful and that our system is absurd. The most telling anecdote is when he’s able to get a group of 9/11 heroes suffering from the debilitating effects of having worked at Ground Zero some much needed treatment in Cuba (of all places!) after they have been repeatedly denied by their insurance companies here in the States.

Other than marrying a Canadian or moving to one of these countries where health care is free to all, he offers no solid suggestions for how people who want to stay in America can fix the system other than to give this vague sense that “socialized medicine works.” He’s shed some light on the topic, and points us in the right direction, but isn’t willing to lead the way with any practical solutions.

Some of the most interesting points are made while in France, where the citizens enjoy free higher education, free health care, 35-hour work weeks, and government issued nannies. One of the Americans living now in France points out, “the people in France get all this because here the government is afraid of the people while in the States the people are afraid of the government.” Marie Antoinette, it seems, lost her head so the French could get free health care.

Funny, sobering, and frustrating, “Sicko” is a wake-up call for America to start their own revolution.

Message to Washington: Off with their heads!

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0386032/usercomments-196

Reviewer Magazine Takes in The Thief Maker

 

The Thief Maker A Novel by D.H. Schleicher (iUniverse Press)

Review by Kent Manthie for Reviewer Magazine

It’s been said that the events of September 11, 2001 forever altered America in profound ways as well as the individual psyches of its people. Most Americans, but especially those who were directly affected, can chart their lives as “before 9/11” and “after 9/11”, using it as an ugly milestone to put other, tangential things in perspective.

Some people had their lives turned upside down and were forever altered by 9/11 and others who were thousands of miles away were also affected, those images having been seared onto the consciousness of millions of TV viewers.

Now that we’re a ‘safe’ distance from the actual event, six years on, there have been a couple movies, lots of non-fiction books, websites, tons of commemorative this and special issues of that as well as that horrible made-for-TV travesty last year, not to mention the legions of conspiracy buffs who’ve made their neuroses a cottage industry.

If anything positive emerged out of the mountain of dreck that 9/11 spawned it was the third novel by one D.H. Schleicher, entitled “The Thief Maker”, an inventive, stylistically nihilistic novel that uses the events of September 11, 2001 as a backdrop and even then in the latter half of the book. It’s only on the peripheries that the realities of that day interpolate, making bad situations worse or complicating matters further, but nonetheless it’s an essential element of the novel.

“The Thief Maker” jumps back and forth, from the mid-1980s to the 1990s, up to the present and even into the future – as far forward as 2008. It may sound confusing but when one is immersed in the novel it actually works quite well as a literary device.

Seemingly disparate sets of highly complex people are introduced and their character traits are developed in front of our eyes only to slowly morph into something unexpected; there’s a thread that connects these people, they all seem to be intertwined in this intricate web of humanity. The characters in the novel are all so vividly portrayed and developed so well that you come to not only visualize them in your head while reading the book but you begin to feel like you know them.

There is William Donovan, the con man whose past is never far behind him; Felice Morrison, the cold as ice lesbian psychiatrist who grows up to hate humanity and for whom love and hate are interchangeable, Frank Morrison’s a man with a secret past and a dark future. Looming above it all, haunting everyone in the story is the recently deceased Marie Gail, a hopeless young junkie with AIDS whose hate was so strong that it contaminated those around her. She died in a lonely, dark rage from the pneumonia not uncommon to those with AIDS. Marie left behind Rex, a young son who was initially taken away from Marie in her days of heroin addiction and general bad craziness, which leads us to the foster parents that take care of Rex for a few years until shortly before her death, Catherine and Rodames Fowler, two psychologists who are doing a long-term experiment with their deaf children in psycholinguistics and into which Rex had been enveloped. Marie had gotten clean and with Felice, her lover, won back custody of the boy and together they lived as much like a normal family as they could for the short time they had before Marie succumbed to her disease. Just before she died, Marie had asked Felice to take care of Rex, to raise him as if he was her own. Felice willingly accepts this responsibility and agrees to adopt him as a final act of love for Marie before she dies. This is all so complicated and I’m afraid there’s much more but instead, you’d better just read the book.

Towards the end all bets are off and suddenly the “post-9/11 world” has turned into Bedlam and realities are getting destroyed left and right; things aren’t as they seem, they never are. The climactic buildup is a shrieking anxious ride that gets thick with complexity and before you know it you’re being hit in the head with a dynamite denouement. I won’t spoil things by describing it any further, but let me just say that you’re in for some rollercoaster-style twists and turns.

You know, originally, I wasn’t really in the mood for having to read another book – I’m already juggling three books as it is and so, when they gave me “The Thief Maker” to review I didn’t look forward to reading it. I went into the book with an unenthusiastic drudgery and I wanted to hate the thing just for being made to read it. Nevertheless, I kept on and while I never thought Schleicher’s writing was without great style or that the clarity and precision wasn’t there I was just – oh, I don’t know…I mean, at first the book wasn’t what I’d call a “page-turner” but when I got to the midway point the excitement was turned up a couple notches and pretty soon I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I can’t tell you exactly what sort of action makes it pick up because that would spoil much of the plot – I probably shouldn’t have even said that; therefore, you’d better just go buy the book to find out.

I thought D.H. Schleicher wonderfully captured a lot of nuances surrounding modern-day American living spot-on. He brings these characters to life; I found myself really identifying with characters; I really felt emotional about them, amazed by some and hating others, empathizing with some of them too and disgusted by others. Schleicher draws the reader into this smartly crafted parallel universe – one that is remarkably like our own world. The action takes place between Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and even [banjo music playing] takes a detour down to North Carolina for a spell.

It was hard to tell at first where the story was going to go; whether it’d be to a boring, clichéd neighborhood from which you’d want to exit ASAP or a fabulous world where you want to stay around as long as you can. The latter was the case for “The Thief Maker”; in fact, I purposely took my time reading this novel. I didn’t want to flip through this too quickly; it’s only 214 pages, easy to read, not at all verbally confusing or convoluted in its prose. Mystery man, Dave Schleicher, who graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in psychology in 2002, seems to have found his voice, developed a style of his own; it’s not an ostentatious one, though; the book reads quite easily, smoothly, not too rough or stilted, making the storyline roll along with no bumps or obstacles, no extraneous riff-raff built up throughout the paragraphs either, making the basic story stick out that much more. Schleicher’s currently living in Voorhees, New Jersey, where he takes time out to smell the roses between writing binges. He also keeps a pretty regular web log at https://davethenovelist.wordpress.com – check it out, there are plenty of things to read: reviews, opinion pieces and so on.

What with the hot season coming up, “The Thief Maker” would be a great addition to your summer reading list. Check out the publisher’s website:. http://www.iuniverse.com – KM.

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Reviewer Magazine has been covering the cutting-edge of the music scene, idependent film, and books since 1996 from their home offices in San Diego, CA.  They have a circulation of over 10,000 in the U.S. and Canada.  For more, check out:

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Daniel Jolley Left Awestruck by THE THIEF MAKER

Daniel Jolley, an Amazon.com Top 50 Reviewer, says of the novel, “Schleicher keeps everything real and gritty, leaving you awestruck by the depth of the misfortune that these people have had to endure.  The Thief Maker… hangs around in your mind, percolating with its pathos and all of its insights into human relationships.”

An ambitious, intricately structured novel that resonates with emotion and suspense

Reviewer: Daniel Jolley “darkgenius” 

See all my reviews

D.H. Schleicher has given us quite an intricate story of mystery and intrigue with The Thief Maker. This is not a whodunit, and it does not follow the kind of straightforward narration of your typical mystery. Actions and events are not the true focus of this novel; they merely reflect and determine the natures of the personal relationships established among all of the important characters. The author has really taken a psychological approach to telling this story, showing us different pieces of the puzzle from many different angles. Adopting a multiple viewpoints approach, Schleicher provides the reader with glimpses of the world through various eyes caught up in a series of events that seem fated to end badly.

The novel is ostensibly about William Donovan, a con man stooping so low as to rob Alzheimer’s patients inside a nursing home. With the help of his girlfriend Alice, who works at the nursing home, and the purchased silence of security guard Lucas Tolliver, it is almost as easy as stealing candy from a baby. That story is only a small part of the novel, however, and I wouldn’t even call William the main character, although the demons he has fought ever since the utter breakup of his family when he was a child prove a driving force in everything that transpires. For me, though, the heart and soul of The Thief Maker is a child named Rex Gail. In one sense, Rex represents all of the main characters, individuals trying to make sense of lives that have become far too complicated and have included more than their share of trauma. Rex was born with AIDS to a mother who gave him up after birth. He spent his earliest years with psychologist foster parents communicating through sign language instead of his own voice. Then his mother Marie cleans up her act, gets custody of Rex, and takes him to live with Felice, her new lesbian partner. When Marie dies of AIDS, she leaves Rex with Felice for all the wrong reasons. William eventually enters the boy’s life and becomes something of a foster father to him (albeit a pretty unreliable one), ultimately introducing even more chaos in to the young lad’s unfortunate life.

If you were to draw a diagram of the links between all of the major characters in this book, you might end up with something looking like modern art. These are sets of seeming strangers who have profound links to one another that gradually surface – sometimes in rather shocking fashion – as events unfold. You have, for example, a young lady who discovers, as a young adult, that her sister and mother are not what they have always claimed to be. Then there’s a family that falls apart, against the backdrop of the 9/11 attacks no less, when a deadly emotional bombshell is dropped at the feet of the mother. The husband and daughter, as it turns out, are intimately connected with William’s past, playing a crucial part in his childhood separation from the rest of his family. Mucking up the waters even more is a detective who sort of plays two sets of characters against one another and becomes a major part of one of the novel’s most shocking surprises (and this is a book full of shocking surprises). With so many links emerging among so many characters, and with the author telling the story in a nonsequential manner, you really have to pay attention to what you’re reading. I sometimes had to pause and go over the cast of characters in my head in order to truly understand the consequences of certain revelations. This may sound like a wild daytime soap opera, but rest assured that Schleicher keeps everything real and gritty, leaving you awestruck by the depth of the misfortune that these people have had to endure.

Needless to say, you won’t find the words “and they lived happily ever after” on the last page of The Thief Maker, although a measure of peace does finally prevail in the end. The conclusion is a tight and fitting one, and I think Schleicher deserves some real literary kudos for pulling that off. With most mysteries, you get the big “reveal” scene at the end, and you basically forget about what you just read as soon as you put the book down. The Thief Maker, though, hangs around in your mind, percolating with its pathos and all of its insights into human relationships.

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Author Nancy O. Greene Digs Deep into “The Thief Maker”

Nancy O. Greene calls The Thief MakerA Fascinating Examination of Human Nature.”

The title of the book is referenced early on when William the would-be Conqueror reflects upon the “days of castles and knights,” and bounty hunters/con men supposedly known in those times as thief takers and thief makers. The novel itself spans many years and 214 pages.

There are many clues in this book to understanding the psychological states of the characters. Take for instance the quote in the beginning, which says that there are the arrogant elite, fatalists, and the fringe groups. This story is about the fringe group. All of them, even Catherine and Rodames, two psychologists that adopt deaf children as well as one child, Rex, with HIV. They appear to be the perfect “elite” couple, caring and interested in healing the wounds of the world but they unfortunately are no different from the rest of the characters in the story—often angry at themselves and others, uncertain of their own motives and true emotions until it’s too late. They try hide all of this and suffer just like the rest of the players.

On the surface The Thief Maker is a mystery revolving around con man William Donovan. But it’s more than that—it is also an examination of the events and mental attributes that shape the lives of these characters. The major events that most people are aware of—such as 9/11, which plays a role in the book—and the all too common murders and everyday cons that go unreported in the newspapers and unnoticed by the public in general. The lives of the characters in this book are completely messed up when 9/11 occurs and that doesn’t change much afterwards. Some of the players are impacted by the terrorist attack more than others, but only as it relates to the already in-motion circumstances of their existences. Frequently they are not “masters of their destinies,” or aware of more than their own small worlds, even when they believe they are.

The author uses an interesting metaphor—E. Wisdom Foster’s photography collection titled Shadows and Dust: A Portrait of the living Earth in Four Seasons—to introduce the various sections of the book and this is wholly appropriate. These lives are indeed revolving, going through frightening, beautiful, and unstoppable changes that color the characters’ moods and actions in ways that they are at times oblivious to. And in the end at least some of them amount to little more than shadows and dust, unfulfilled and ultimately (almost) insignificant because of their own actions or lack thereof.

Felcie Morrison is a cold, calculating, and tormented woman that puts into motion events that damage those she claims to love–all without much care for herself or seemingly anyone else. William is just as confused about himself, though he clings to the idea of being a predator, a con man, in order to escape his own feelings of vulnerability and inadequacy. Alice is something of a mystery, at times coy and innocent but also possessing a darker side that she seems to be more aware of than her counterparts are aware of their vulnerability. Frank Morrison and Marcus are presented initially as observers, brought into the drama through their professions, and they too have their somewhat hidden, yet inescapable parts. There are other characters that are introduced throughout the story, to play their parts, exit, and return as necessary to complete the web in which they are all entangled.

And in the middle there is Rex, so much like young William at the beginning of the novel, trying to figure out the events as they play out and his own role within it all. Perhaps how his circumstance plays out is central to the theme of the story, as he is just a child unable to act on his own life without being tied to the adults that are involved in it.

The story itself is very good as an entertaining mystery as well as an in-depth look into those that interact with the real world but separate from it as well, consumed by their own universes. There are times when the book moves along too slowly, where it could be tighter and the writing could be less clunky. But these spots are far between and are easy enough to get through. Also, at times, the characters come across as stereotypes—weak or unaffectionate women, brutish or love-deprived macho men—but as the story develops this matters little as the stereotypes fill out and the characters become real within the life of the novel. The Pulp Fiction out-of-sequence style of writing fits for this particular tale; a linear style would not do justice to symbolically display the characters’ confused, messed up emotional states and lives. Overall, it is a well-written, inventive story that strikes at the heart of what it means for some people to love, hate, be indifferent and get carried along in global as well as personal events.

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The reviewer, Nancy O. Greene, is the the author of Portraits in the Dark and the moderator of the Writers’ Block:

http://www.writersgroupblog.wordpress.com
 

The Thief Maker Captivates ReaderViews.com

“Thought-provoking, entertaining, and sometimes shocking.”-Joe Graham for ReaderViews

 http://www.readerviews.com/ReviewSchleicherTheThiefMaker.html

Twisted lives, January 22, 2007

Reviewer: Reader Views “www.readerviews.com” (Austin, Texas)   

Reviewed by Joe Graham for Reader Views (1/07)

The first clue to whether I will enjoy a book is how quickly I am hooked into the story. And from the first, I was hooked as William Donovan and his young brother and sister’s lives are turned upside down and I immediately wanted to know why?

From the initial pages, Schleicher then moves you into the life of the now adult William Donovan who has developed into a con man. Schleicher follows Donovan as he interacts with a girlfriend, Alice and a security guard, Lucas Tolliver who have been as emotionally scarred by life as William. Also entering William’s life are a private investigator, Marcus Pierce, and Felice Morrison, who is the granddaughter of a nursing home resident that William is trying to con.

As the story continues, the characters interact and we begin to discover that they have connections to each other that they, and the reader, are not aware of at the beginning of the book. At times some of these connections are so startling that the reader may have to stop and take a big breath to process the new information before continuing the story.

To add to the mix of intriguing characters, Schleicher gives the reader Rodamas and Catherine Fowler who work with deaf children and who have tried to adopt Marie Gale’s son, Rex. Marie is Felice’s girlfriend. Marie takes her son back and the little boy is part of the story of want and need that swirls around William, Alice, Marcus and Felice.

“The Thief Maker” is for anyone who loves a good mystery with a psychological edge to it as Schleicher examines the events that have formed each of the characters and has turned them into the people they are in the book. I would recommend the book to anyone who loves a mystery that is not just simply a police detective thriller, but a post 9/11 psychological study. My only suggestion is that reader pay close attention to the Chapter Titles. The story is told in a non-linear style and many times I would start another chapter and not realize that Schleicher had jumped back or forward in time in the narrative and I would have to turn back to the beginning of the chapter to check where I was.

Schleicher has done a good job of creating a mystery that is mysterious, thought-provoking, entertaining and sometimes shocking. All in all, that is just what most mystery lovers want. By the way, you finally do learn what turned William’s young life upside down, but there are many twists and turns in “The Thief Maker” before you find out that answer.

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