There's something about a deeply flawed protagonist that tickles our brains. A mixed past. Dark secrets. Incredible gifts. Horrible failings. Pursuer and pursued.
The magic formula of the modern TV hit? A morally ambiguous hero. It's no wonder David helped craft such a figure for Cinemax. He's not without his own dilemmas. More on that in a moment.
If you're from Rochester, you may have heard or read by now that one of our own is a rising star with a TV series premiering Friday. The show is Banshee, a story about a man hiding in plain sight in a small Pennsylvania town. Hiding from his past. Redemption and peace just beyond his grasp.
David co-wrote the series with writing partner Jonathan Tropper. But it's been years coming. Just like David's own career.
He knew he wanted to be a writer early. A high school English class at Rochester's McQuaid Jesuit High School captured his imagination—grueling as the curriculum may have been.
“This teacher had ten typed pages of 'sacred errors,'” David says. “And as soon as he found one in your paper, he would stop reading and give it back to you and write 'Sacred' at the top. He wouldn't grade it until you went back and found what the 'sacred error' was.”
He took that first lesson with him to Georgetown University, and later Columbia University, where he completed his MFA—and got a taste for writing plays in one of the most important courses of his college years.
“Every week I would write a two-page scene and be paired with a different director,” he says of the play-writing class. “It would be cast with equity actors in the city, and I'd see my work up on its feet. I learned in about six weeks what makes dramatic writing suck.”
This lesson stayed with him, too. After college, David taught at a private school in Vermont. And continued writing. Early novels languished in a desk drawer. He returned to Rochester to teach high school English part time. And continued writing.
But it was the time spent living in New York City during grad school that finally sparked a pivotal collection of short stories, set in a dreamlike Manhattan.
“I saw these beautiful old apartment buildings on the Upper West Side,” David says. “I was blown away by these almost mystically beautiful buildings. So I created one.”
He eventually landed a book deal to stitch together his short fiction into a novel, Kissing in Manhattan, which went on to be a New York Times Bestseller in 2001.
Success was fleeting. After a second novel, Sweet and Vicious, David endured a years-long dry spell. But his sophomore effort had captured the attention of another writer, Jonathan Tropper—who ultimately became David's writing partner on Banshee.
The show's earned some solid reviews, but whatever the outcome, this is far from the final chapter in David's story.
This year, his third book, The Dark Path, will debut. The memoir recounts David's early pursuit of the Roman Catholic priesthood.
“I came pretty close,” he says. “It cost me a relationship in college. It was a pretty awful time.”
His spiritual journey began years before, as a teen.
“There's this one path in the woods behind my parents' house, and that's where I found God when I was young,” David says. “I didn't experience God that much in church, but when I was out in this dark-but-charmed wonderland, that's where I would pray. Despite the fact that people talk about seeing the light, I found God in the darkness.”
Darkness. Light. Peril. Peace. Like the unlikely hero in Banshee, this guy has faced demons and dilemmas all his own. Now settled, successful, with a wife and kids and a place to call home, David may be more at peace than the outlandish people he invents.
Still, there's no doubt his own character will be developing for years to come.
See more: davidschickler.com
Say hi: send David a message
* * *
Banshee premieres on Cinemax at 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11. Watch the trailer: