Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.: 5/5/2015
eBook review copy, 208 pages
Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates is a very highly
recommended psychological thriller that also pays homage to
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
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.