Reviewer Sandra Shwayder Sanchez: Sandra is
a retired attorney and co-founder of a small non-profit publishing
collective: The Wessex Collective with whom she has published two short fiction collections
(A Mile in These Shoes and Three Novellas) and one
Her most recent novel, The Secret of A Long Journey is soon to be released by Floricanto Press in April 2012 and her first novel, The Nun, originally published by Plain View Press in 1992 is being reissued in a 2nd Edition with additional material by PVP in March 2012.
As the title implies this book contains a great deal of violence. Michael Carson, the protagonist, is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. After his return to civilian life, he takes it upon himself to fight crime after a traumatic experience with sadistic thieves and indifferent police. He becomes a vigilante, a soldier, a hero, who commits acts of violence either to protect or avenge victims of violence. He begins with the thieves who robbed and beat him, next stops a rape in the park at night and then begins to avenge the innocent victims of perpetrators who got away with their crimes such as a priest who is well connected and thus has gotten away with molesting children, a lawyer who is acquitted of hiring someone to murder his wife because of a legal technicality. Along the way he meets someone he thinks he can love and yearns for a different life, but he cannot stop his own personal war on crime.
The story is told in the first person and in between describing his exploits with almost as much shock at himself as he clearly expects the reader to feel, the protaganist justifies them with angry but logical arguments:
“We were facing people who weren’t militarized and bowed to no codes or laws. These were formless warriors who had no qualms in taking you with them to hell. As US soldiers we had rules of engagement and procedures to follow, we were slaves to the Geneva code. The only way you could go wild and do what you wanted to do without punishment was if you were part of a private security firm. Those guys got away with anything, even mass murder. In order to truly combat unlawful beings, you must engage in unlawful actions. You must break the bars of the cage of lawful procedure and become a beast of natural disorder, a disciple of chasos.”
When talking about the men in his veterans support group:
“Like many of the others, I was having flashbacks, and sometimes they felt so real, but I just shrugged it off as the trials of being in a war. All the while there were arguments raging in congress over the existence of PSD – Post traumatic Stress Disorder. Some member said it was a real disorder while others claimed there was no evidence. The glaring difference was that the nay sayers were mostly those who sent us over to these hellholes. Not only did they send us to war but this was their attempt to deny us benefits: further proving that one of the ugliest faces of war is the bureaucratic aspect.”
After describing the scene in which he kills the lawyer who had paid to have his wife murdered (rather than split up his assets in a divorce) and who has gotten rich representing banks:
“Making money while others starved, getting bonuses while many watched their dreams shatter – these immoral actions cannot go unpunished. Those who committed these acts should have been locked away for years at a time, not handed billions in bailouts at the expense of the same people they ravaged. . . .”
I found the graphic descriptions of violence disturbing but, that being said, no more disturbing than much of what I read in the news these days. One day I read that some millionaire CEO owns a mansion with not one but three indoor swimming pools, 29 bedrooms and 39 baths and the next day I read that a poor man robbed a bank for $1 (yes that is not a typo, ONE dollar) and then waited for the police to arrest him because he needed medical care he knew he would get in prison. This kind of thing makes me think that we need to re-define that word “violence” not by its method, but by its consequences. Bankers who use bail out money to buy jets and pay themselves obscenely high bonuses even as they are foreclosing on properties and forcing families into homelessness don’t have gunshot residue on their hands or blood spatter on their clothes but the consequences of their behavior is to ruin more lives than they can (or care to) count and, in some cases, may lead to suicides they will never even hear about. And of course there is the shame of how war veterans are treated back home. This novel is dedicated to one of them, the author’s father.