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Jack of Spades: A Tale of Suspense Paperback – May 10, 2016
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A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Mystery & Thriller for Spring
Just when you think you’ve got her all figured out, Joyce Carol Oates sneaks up behind and confounds you yet again. She does it with a wicked flourish in Jack of Spades.”Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
Few writers better illuminate the mind’s most disturbing corners. Oates tightens her silken noose around our necks with the story of a mainstream mystery writer who secretly writes shocking, violent, explicitly sexual thrillers. This hidden life implodes, and he becomes increasingly unhinged after a bizarre woman sues him, claiming that he steals her ideasliterally, by breaking into her house to pilfer manuscripts.”Adam Woog, Seattle Times, The 10 best mysteries of 2015”
Suspenseful, fast-moving.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Entertaining, page-turning . . . [A] perfect summer read."Tampa Bay Times
Oates’s latest suspense tale follows the psychic takeover of Andrew J. Rush . . . by the secret persona he uses to pen lurid genre novels. For added fun, Oates garnishes this machismo-laden struggle with a leavening pinch of one of her favorite feminist topics: witchcraft.”O Magazine, The Season’s Best Mysteries & Thrillers”
"Sleek and suspenseful . . . Readers are sure to be gripped and unsettled by [Oates's] depiction of a seemingly mild-mannered character whose psychopathology simmers frighteningly close to the surface.”Publishers Weekly (boxed and starred review)
A great psychological noir novel . . . [A] tour de force . . . This tale of suspense makes for another high-caliber Oatesian outing, displaying flair, noir sophistication, and [Stephen] King-like flourishes.”Library Journal (starred review)
A chilling thriller . . . Gothic in its paranoia, but thoroughly modern in its observations on fame’s destructive powers.”Bustle
A mystery writer slowly becomes subsumed by his dark alter ego in Oates’ tale of literary madness . . . With its homages to Poe . . . and the horror masters Jack of Spades so admires, this latest unsettling and chilling thriller from Oates does not disappoint.”Kirkus Reviews
Joyce Carol Oates is known for her psychological thrillers, and she does not disappoint with her latest, Jack of Spades . . . Oates creates characters that make you think about the potential madness in others, something that, in the end, turns out to be more than a little scary.”Missourian
Playful . . . With Jack of Spades Ms. Oates places her cards on the table and shows us a Royal Straight Flush.”Three Guys One Book
A very good read . . . Oates does not let her fans downand she undoubtedly will pick up new ones with her latest effort.”Bookreporter
A fast-paced read filled with high drama and the expertly-rendered delineation of a writer’s descent into madness.”Lonesome Reader
About the Author
Top customer reviews
But then he begins writing noirish type mysteries that push the envelope. Andrew J. Rush uses a pseudonym to write them, Jack of Spades. He writes them after he's finished working on his Andrew J. Rush novels, well past midnight. He tells no one, not even his wife. They're much easier to write. It's almost as if they write themselves. Worse yet, Jack of Spades begins to talk to Andrew.
Then he gets a summons to appear in court. He's being sued by a woman who claims he's broken into her house and stolen her work, publishing it as his own. His publisher furnishes him with a lawyer, who makes good on his promise “to bury her.” But before the court date, the lawyer tells him not to call C.W. Haider. At this time, Andrew doesn't know why she's suing him. He calls her anyway, and she has a conniption fit.
What makes things easier for Andrew is that C.W. Haider has sued other famous authors: Stephen King, Peter Straub, even John Updike. John Updike? Come on lady! Andrew's lawyer tells him this sort of thing is par for the course; it's surprising he hasn't been sued before. Andrew gets unsolicited manuscripts all the time; he even reads them sometimes, and offers advice. He's asking for it, in other words.
Oates has a reputation for not answering all the questions a reader might have about what's going on in her stories, and that's the case here, too. Is this guy nuts? Does he have a split personality? It seems so. After the case is thrown out of court, he can't help but drive by C.W. Haider's house. Is this the sensible Andrew J. Rush who labors over almost every word, or is it Jack of Spades whose books Andrew barely remembers writing?
To further complicate matters, we learn that Andrew once had a brother who died under suspicious circumstances in a diving accident. Some people thought Andrew was responsible. Jack of Spades even writes about it.
Okay, here's the part that really bugs me. Andrew talks his way into C.W. Haider's house. He has a present for her, MISERY, one of Stephen King's books, with a snarky dedication to C.W. Haider, forged by Andrew or Jack or whomever. He finds all kinds of first editions in her library. Bram Stoker's DRACULA. THE IMP OF THE PERVERSE by Edgar Allen Poe. FRANKENSTEIN. Andrew collects rare books, but he doesn't have anything close to this. He takes some of them. He also finds Haider's old manuscripts and journals. Some of them sound an awful lot like the books she claimed other authors stole from her, and they predate the best sellers. Stephen King's THE SHINING; Peter Straub's GHOSTS; even John Updike's THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, all under different titles but definitely the same ideas. There's even one of Andrew J. Haider's novels there, with a slightly different title.
What are we supposed to believe here, that John Updike stole THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK from an obscure old woman whose only publication was released by a vanity press? Andrew's answer is that she had the ideas but not the talent to make them publishable. That might happen with one book, but not with several different famous authors. Oates leaves this thread hanging.
I do like the theme that we are all plagued by childhood events, if not quite as traumatic as Andrew's, and that we all have a perverse nature like Jack of Spades. Think about it. Do we behave because we're afraid we'll get caught if we don't? Freud had a theory that the personality is made up of the id, the superego, and the ego. Most of us are rotten little kids at heart, but our conscience, the Superego, keeps us under control. But sometimes the Id needs to get what it wants, or we'd be miserable. We fall off our diet. We start smoking again after quitting for a year.
I think it's Andrew's Superego that wins out; he doesn't think he deserves what he has, and that's why Jack of Spades gets stronger and stronger.
Jack of Spades is the pseudonym of Andrew Rush, an extremely prolific, successful writer of blockbusters who lives comfortably in an 18th century home with shelves filled not only with his books, but his collection of rare editions. But forces inside and out threaten this existence. Told completely from Andrew/Jack's first person POV, events in his life are revealed sparingly, building to a remarkable climax. Oates does King proud.
Definitely has more Zombie in it than We Were The Mulvaneys. Even as a long-time Oates fan, she can still scare the crap out of me!
Oates is still taking risks and is intriguing, intelligent and unpredictable. Can't wait to see what she does next!
Most recent customer reviews
Cuddeling,angry, velvet soothening, realistic, philosophical AND exciting!
MOOOOREE of this, pls Ms Oates!!
Luv U+may U get the Nobel Prize!