Saturday, May 9, 2015

Jack of Spades

Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.: 5/5/2015
eBook review copy, 208 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9780802123947

My Thoughts:

Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates is a very highly recommended psychological thriller that also pays homage to Stephen King.

Andrew J. Rush is a mainstream mystery writer who has published 28 books and was even dubbed "the gentleman's Stephen King" in one review. Andrew is successful, pompous, and egotistical, but likes to think of himself (and he likes to think of himself a lot) as a humble, mild mannered family man. He has been happily married for years and has three grown children. However, unknown to everyone, he is also writing decidedly different novels under the pseudonym Jack of Spades. His Jack of Spades novels are violent, dark, and disturbing. He has a secret room in his house where he keeps these novels. He even writes them on a different desk in his study.

When Andrew is accused of plagiarism by a local woman his carefully separated, murderous Jack of Spades alter ego begins to push to the forefront. C. W. Haider is a local woman who claims he physically stole his novels from her. She is very litigious. He's not the first author she has sued for the same thing, including Stephen King and John Updike. At the same time Andrew's adult daughter finds one of his Jack of Spades novels in his study and decides to read it. She thinks this "friend" of her father who writes the horrible books is stealing ideas/events from their family's lives. And his wife may be having an affair. 

As these events collide and suspicions begin to plague Andrew, his carefully ordered and compartmentalized mind begins to crack. His alter ego, the vicious Jack of Spades, begins to push to the forefront and he wants revenge. What we get is a mind disassociating with itself and see an author's slow slide into madness. 

The writing is brilliant in this novel. Narrated in the first person, Andrew Rush is really the only character in the novel, and we get to know him very, very well. Oates has also made this novel a tribute to Stephen King, who becomes a minor character in the novel through Andrew's thoughts. This is a short novel so it moves quite quickly. There are a few surprises too, so be prepared.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Mysterious Press for review purposes.

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