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I’d Like to Meet Jack Reacher


MIDNIGHT LINE

Copyright 2017 By Lee Child

You probably know Jack Reacher from the movies, but have you ever met him on the printed page?

I stumbled upon the Jack Reacher novels while looking for a good book to read in a Palm Beach sundries shop.  As a science fiction/adventure/thriller fan, I’m surprised it took me so long to discover the Reacher novels and their brilliant author, Lee Child.

In the character of Jack Reacher, Child has created one of the most compelling protagonists in contemporary fiction.  First of all, he doesn’t look anything like Tom Cruise.  Cruise is a shrimp in comparison to the character described in the novels.  Reacher is an ex-Army Military Policeman, standing six feet five inches tall, in top physical condition, with hands as big as sledgehammers.  He’s a decent looking guy, but nothing to write home about, aside from his size.

Something in Reacher’s past keeps him riding buses and drifting from town to town in search of something.  That something usually turns out to be someone in need of help.  Reacher’s involvement with the something always leads to mounting trouble and extreme danger.

While Jack Reacher is a tough guy who can stand up to six guys at once, he’s also a good Samaritan.  In The Midnight Line, the first novel I had the pleasure of reading, Reacher takes an aimless stroll past a pawn shop in a small Midwestern town.  In the window, he sees a West Point class ring from 2005.  It’s tiny; a woman cadet’s graduation present to herself.  Why would she give it up?  Reacher is a West Pointer too, and he knows what she went through to get it.

Reacher tracks the ring back to its owner, step by step, down a criminal trail leading west into the deserted wilds of Wyoming.  All he wants is to find the woman.  If she’s OK, he’ll walk away. If she’s not, he’ll stop at nothing until the situation is rectified.

I found The Midnight Line to be an engrossing tale enriched with interesting, believable characters.  The story kept me absorbed all the way through to its satisfying ending.  I’ve followed up with Child’s penultimate book in the series, Past Tense.  It’s a unique story that begins a bit slowly with Jack Reacher visiting a small town to trace his roots.  The story veers off in an unusual subplot that unfolds at a remote hotel and merges with the main plot in an explosive, thrilling climax.

The prose and dialogue in both books flow in staccato, muscular sentences, much like Reacher’s speech pattern.  It’s cool, once you get used to it. Occasionally, the characters sound too much alike, with Child’s hyper intelligent voice seeping through.  This is a minor gripe.  I find Child’s prose eminently readable, enjoyable, and interesting.  The author packs his story with enlightening background information which relates directly to the story.  I heartily recommend the Reacher series to action/adventure/mystery fans everywhere.

After reading both novels, I’m left wondering what drives Jack Reacher?  It’s not money.  He’s comfortable living off his Army pension.  While his life is lonely, he isn’t looking for love.  Women are attracted to him, but he’s only capable of forming brief relationships.  In Midnight Line, one of the women Reacher is helping wants to bed him.  She’s a beautiful twin-sister to the woman they are searching for.  She’s unhappily married to an emotionally distant husband.  Reacher could easily rationalize having sex with her, but he won’t do it.  He has integrity.  He has a code of honor, maybe resulting from his military background, but he’s hardly a goody-goody.  Reacher is not afraid to break the rules or think outside of the box when confronted with difficult situations.  He’s resourceful, observant, and downright ingenious at times.  He’s a leader, in a lone-wolf, non-conformist sort of way.

Reacher may sound like a big cliche, but somehow, Lee Child breathes life into the guy.  He may be strong, but he’s deeply wounded emotionally.  He doesn’t fit in, and he can’t settle down.  But unlike so many contemporary protagonists, he isn’t haunted by his past.  He doesn’t spend a single minute feeling sorry for himself.  He’d rather get on with his life, help someone else, solve a mystery, or whatever he does in the books I haven’t read yet.  Granted, there’s a strong tendency towards avoidance going on inside this man, but it’s hard to hold it against him.

Reacher is street smart and highly intelligent.  He’s seen too much of the dark side of human nature, but it hasn’t made him cynical.  His attitude is always upbeat.  He communicates with tongue-in-check humor occasionally laced with irony.  He doesn’t judge.  He acts and reacts, sometimes with tact and diplomacy, sometimes with blunt force.  Yet, he never looks for a fight.  To get what he wants, Reacher always tries diplomacy and straight-forward-honestly first.  If the people he’s dealing with refuse to listen to reason, they usually wind up in various stages of disrepair when they choose violence as a solution.

So, what drives Jack Reacher?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll find out if I read more of his books.  Maybe not.  For sure, I’d like to sit down and have a long chat with this intriguing fellow.  I know this much, if nothing else: it’s hard not to like Jack Reacher, and I can’t wait to tag along with him on his next adventure.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels.  Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.   For more information, please visit www.davidgittlin.com

 

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A Man of Passion


Chaz Mena is a man of passion. Whether it is creating roles for the stage and screen or spending time with family and friends, there is nothing this forty-one year old, Cuban-American actor does half way.

Chaz was born and raised in Miami, Florida where his earliest memories included scenes of his parents and grandparents telling each other stories of daily life in their long lost homeland of Cuba. Today, the population of South Florida is predominantly Spanish speaking. A large segment of the Hispanic population is Cuban-American. This is the exact opposite of the situation in the early Sixties. At the time, the first waves of Cuban exiles were literally lost in America. Chaz remembers “coming alive” when listening to the colorful stories his family members acted out on the front porch of their two story home in “Little Havana.” In hindsight, Mena realizes that telling these stories in a theatrical style enabled his family members to reconnect with their history and culture. These childhood experiences and an innate drive to tell a story that creates a shared experience have made Chaz Mena the man he is today.

After completing an MFA in Drama at Carnegie Mellon University, Mena arrived back in Miami with eighty thousand dollars in debts from his undergraduate and graduate studies. Even worse, he didn’t have a single lead or personal contact that might lead to gainful employment. It took a full week of sleeping in bed and the encouragement of wife, Ileana, before Mena was able to face the situation. He had been brought up to be a man of action rather than words. This led him to bravely pursue his childhood dream of becoming an actor without worrying about the consequences. Now, the first of many gut-wrenching reality checks Chaz Mena would have to learn to deal with waited unannounced on his doorstep.

By working odd jobs, Mena scraped together a nest egg of three thousand dollars. He set sail for New York City to establish himself as a legitimate, working actor. Chaz leased an apartment and began searching for an agent and acting roles. A few months later, Mena was penniless. All he had to show for his earnest efforts was a case of walking pneumonia. Then, serendipity or something akin to Divine Intervention changed Mena’s fortunes. While auditioning for a stage role, Chaz met the manager of the Spanish Repertoire Theater. The manager, whose name was Gilberto, recognized Mena’s family name. It turned out Gilberto had gone to college with Chaz’s father. He liked the father and enjoyed having his son, who bore a striking resemblance to Gilberto’s old college mate, around. “It made him feel young again,” Mena explains. So Chaz became a regular member of the theater company, which gave him the opportunity to play as many as six roles at a time in classical and contemporary Spanish speaking plays written by Spanish playwrights.

 

The Spanish Repertoire Theater was the vehicle that launched Mena’s career. He began landing roles on TV and in Independent films. Mena was now living his dream as a respected and well-reviewed New York actor. Yet something was still missing.

Mena says he felt like “a fisherman constantly casting his line for roles with no real anchor. “ It isn’t hard to understand this statement since most actors live from role to role in their working life. One night, as Chaz was lamenting about the situation to his best friend Juan Carlos, something amazing happened. Instead of commiserating with Mena, Juan Carlos came up with an inspired idea. He knew Chaz had been, from early boyhood, a fan and avid reader of the work of Jose Marti, a 19th century Cuban Poet, Humanist, and Revolutionary. Juan Carlos suggested that Chaz write a one man play about Marti and act the role of the man whose ideas were instrumental in helping Cuba win independence from Spanish colonization.

 

Chaz’s response to his friend’s idea might have been, “Are you kidding?” if not for the fact that Juan Carlos was a member of the Board of Directors of the Florida Humanities Council. All Chaz needed was his resume, some head shots, and of course, the play, Juan Carlos explained. He chose to ignore the fact that Chaz had never written anything for the stage or screen before in his life. Nevertheless, the next morning, Mena woke up with the first sentence of the play in his head: “Jose is still with us.”

Nowadays, between stage and screen roles, Mena travels to colleges and universities to enact the one man show with the sponsorship of the Florida Humanities council. As part of the presentation, audience members can ask questions and hear a carefully researched answer from the actor who has brought a great historical figure and his ideas to life. Getting into character, Mena expresses a “Martiano” idea: “That which is beautiful is moral. That which is moral is beautiful.”

If you are an educator and would like to invite Jose Marti to your school, please contact Chaz through his web site http://www.chazmena.com/.

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