|Jack of Spades
Joyce Carol Oates
"Out of the air... the ax."
From one of the most inimitable writers of our generation, Jack of Spades is an exquisite, psychologically complex thriller about the opposing forces within the mind of one ambitious writer, and the line between genius and madness.
,br> Andrew J. Rush has achieved the kind of critical and commercial success most authors only dream about: his twenty-eight mystery novels have sold millions of copies in nearly thirty countries, and he has a top agent and publisher in New York. He also has a loving wife, three grown children, and is a well-regarded philanthropist in his small New Jersey town. But Rush is hiding a dark secret. Under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades,” he writes another string of novels—dark potboilers that are violent, lurid, even masochistic. These are novels that the refined, upstanding Andrew Rush wouldn’t be seen reading, let alone writing. Until one day, his daughter comes across a Jack of Spades novel that he has carelessly left out and begins to ask questions. Meanwhile, Rush receives a court summons in the mail explaining that a local woman has accused him of plagiarizing her own self-published fiction. Rush’s reputation, career, and family life all come under threat—and unbidden, in the back of his mind, the Jack of Spades starts thinking ever more evil thoughts.
This is Joyce Carol Oates at what she does best... CREEPING me the *bleep* out. The story starts at the end (with a glimpse at what happens) then rolls back to show you the whole picture. Normally I wouldn't be so into a book about an acclaimed mystery writer living with his family but this is just the simple backdrop for something much more complex. It's a story of an artist with multiple outlets for his creative juices. One outlet is safe, acceptable, and what a family man ought to have. The other outlet has to be hidden away so that judgement won't follow him and change his glowing persona into something creepy and dark.
This brought up so much to think about, does it matter what an author writes? Does writing something dark and disturbing make you dark and disturbing? Would it change you over time? Should you suppress your talent just because others think it not acceptable? So many questions here. Ultimately, you know this guy is completely unraveling, with a court case against him, he begins to question things. Is he the family man that writes the cool, happy ending mysteries? Or is he the darker twisted macabre writer?
I wonder if JCO was sitting there writing this to reflect her own conflicts on who she is. Most of the time she writes on the darker side of human nature but she also has her academic side, the one she has to maintain for her exemplary reputation. I can certainly tell you which side of her I prefer. This one was pretty short and read quickly, it would be a great one to pick up for any of fan of JCO, especially those who can value her talent in putting herself into the shoes of the dangerous. For fans of Zombie, this one is a must. What about you reader? Are you a fan of JCO? Do you like her academic side or the darker one?
Support Shelf Notes! Purchase your copy of this book here: