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Jack of Spades: A Tale of Suspense

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Jack of Spades: A Tale of Suspense

évaluations:
3.5/5 (6 évaluations)
Longueur:
209 pages
2 heures
Sortie:
May 5, 2015
ISBN:
9780802191038
Format:
Livre

Description

An exquisite, psychologically complex thriller about opposing forces within the mind of one ambitious writer and the delicate line between genius and madness.
 
Andrew J. Rush has achieved the kind of critical and commercial success most authors only dream about: He has a top agent and publisher in New York, and his twenty-eight mystery novels have sold millions of copies. Only Stephen King, one of the few mystery writers whose fame exceeds his own, is capable of inspiring a twinge of envy in Rush. But Rush is hiding a dark secret. Under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades,” he pens another string of novels—noir thrillers that are violent, lurid, and masochistic. These are novels that the upstanding Rush wouldn’t be caught reading, let alone writing. When his daughter comes across a Jack of Spades novel he has carelessly left out, she picks it up 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. Before long, Rush’s reputation, career, and family life all come under threat—and in his mind he begins to hear the taunting voice of the Jack of Spades.
 
“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, starred review
 
“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.” —The New York Times Book Review
Sortie:
May 5, 2015
ISBN:
9780802191038
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of over seventy books encompassing novels, poetry, criticism, story collections, plays, and essays. Her novel Them won the National Book Award in Fiction in 1970. Oates has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for more than three decades and currently holds the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professorship at Princeton University.   

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3.3
6 évaluations / 23 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (2/5)
    This book was certainly a page turner and a quick read, although I really just wanted it to be over. Andrew J. Rush is a successful mystery author -- married with a wife and three grown children. He also secretly (not even known to his wife and children) writes under the pseudonym Jack of Spades - and these books are dark, violent thrillers.

    The book starts with Rush receiving a court summons that a woman in nearby locale is accusing him of stealing - basically plagiarism. He feels threatened and slowly, the unbidden Jack of Spades within Rush starts coming out.

    The book is peppered with Stephen King references and I don't typically read King's more dark novels, so I can't say if there's a comparison here. Overall, I didn't find the book scary, or even that psychologically interesting, but a bit stupid. While a character in a novel like this shouldn't be likeable, per se, you should have some sort of admiration for their cunning. Instead, I just found Rush annoying and stupid.

    Oates provides us with a back-story that is supposed to explain Rush's pathology, but it seems thinly constructed. The whole premise just seems off. I can't imagine someone not picking up on this guy and his behavior, his wife not just walking out, his kids not just taking their mother away, etc. It was just not my cup of tea.

    (Note: I received an advance ebook copy of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    Andrew Rush is a successful mystery writer who writes a noir series of books under the pseudonym Jack of Spades. The persona of Jack of Spades takes over Rush's persona and he descends into madness. Great job by the reader.
  • (1/5)
    After the glorious We Were the Mulvaneys I was keen to read more of Joyce Carol Oates. This book, however, is repetitive, tedious and inconsequential. It just goes to show that one cannot recommend authors, only individual books.
  • (4/5)
    Everytime I read one of this author's book, I ask myself. "How does she do it?" She is incredibly prolific, writes a wide range of material. from novellas like this one, to short stories and long novels. Yet, she manages to write complex scenarios time and time again.This is a twisty psychological one. Can't say I liked the main character much, but that doesn't really matter in this story. Maybe you are not meant too, because what happens to him mentally is the story and it is in turns frightening and maybe a bit of a warning. One can have everything and then have it taken away, become to immersed in a creation and let it take over. Or maybe a thought process. Strange, like many of her books, but thought provoking at the same time.
  • (5/5)
    This book is good stuff. It's strikingly visceral with proficient use of the first person narrator. I kept flipping back through, as unsure as the narrator of what came before.And like with all of my favorite horror stories, this one touches on deeper issues, like how one's image of oneself matches (or doesn't) what others see, and the centuries-old way in which women's support and wisdom have, directly and indirectly, made possible the successes of mankind while at the same time the women themselves are kept hidden, walled-up behind duty and claims of psychological and physical deficiency stemming from biology. Like, why did I not know until this month that Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins was the architect of the New Deal? My spouse was incredulous when I told him. "But that's the primary thing FDR is known for," he said, as though that's an argument that refutes the claim that a woman was actually behind the plan.New Deal notwithstanding, this was an excellent novel.
  • (4/5)
    Jack of Spades is an interesting change of pace (yet again) for Joyce Carol Oates. While this is not one of my favorites of hers I still found the writing to be effective and the story to be dark and compelling.Dark is probably the word that best sums up this short novel. Unlike some readers I can find a book enjoyable when I find the main character unlikable. I had to mention that since many seem to judge a book by whether they find the protagonist likeable or not. Make no mistake, if you find the main character here likeable you may need help.While the story is fast-paced it is still like watching a horrific accident and being unable to turn away as it seems to slow down. Watching the out of control spiral that is Andrew J. Rush's life is unnerving but still hard to turn away.This might be one of Oates' novels that won't please all of her readers, though many will enjoy reading as she once again skips from genre to genre. Fans of psychological suspense will enjoy this as well.Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
  • (3/5)
    A curious little read but then that's how Joyce Carol Oates writes this one was a bit like falling down a short flight of stairs where everything seemed to be happening in slow-motion and yet you just knew any second now there'd be a thump or a bang and maybe an injury of some sort and sure enough that's what you get.
  • (4/5)
    Andrew J Rush and Jack of Spades write books. Rush writes the perfect mystery, carefully plotted, with endings that will not leave readers edgy and squirming. On the other hand Jack of Spades writes a brutal, sexist book that is full of violence. Opposite writers, but they are the same man. Rush lives the idyllic suburban life in NJ writing one book by day and at night covertly, he writes the other. Rush's life is not what it was, he is drinking, thinks his wife might be fooling around and finds more pleasure in writing the Jack books than he knows is healthy.A frivolous potential law suit pushes him over the line. Very well written and that is a given with JCO. Other mystery authors, in particular, Stephen King, are woven into the story. The deception of the mind, the avoidance of reality and the ability to let the thoughts and emotions that are destructive rule your life are major themes. A short novel but one that will probably be read from beginning to end without stopping. One that will stay with you.Read as a NetGalley.
  • (5/5)
    Oates is one of the most versatile writers I have every encountered, and I have never been disappointed in her work. In "Jack of Spades" we see the deterioration of the protagonist throughout the story--personally, in his relationship with family, professionally, socially, and psychologically. One thing I love about Oates' stories is that I often feel like I know where the story is going and what is going to happen, but without fail, there is a plot twist that I don't see coming, and in her writing, it always seems like the most logical path for the story to take after all. That's what I love about her work. It's amazing that Oates can entertain so thoroughly time and time again. She is definitely one of the most prolific writers of our era. Thanks to Edelweiss for this ARC.
  • (4/5)
    This is an interesting psychological thriller. Andrew J. Rush is a prolific writer of mysteries as well as writing under the pseudonym Jack of Spades. As the story opens he is being sued by someone in his community for plagiarism. The judge dismisses the case and initially we have the impression that the woman is insane. Then the story progresses as Andrew breaks into her house, kills her and becomes more and more unbalanced.
  • (5/5)
    This book's page count is listed as 208, but it felt much shorter than that to me. This mystery/thriller/psychological story flies by, while the reader is always wondering what the hell is going on?

    Andrew Rush is a mystery/thriller novelist and quite a successful one at that. He also writes under the pseudonym "Jack of Spades". Jack writes very different books than Mr. Rush. Jack's books are gory and avoided by the literati, while Andrew is celebrated as the "Gentlemen's Stephen King."

    Things begin to go sideways when Andrew is summoned to court by a woman who claims he robbed her house and stole her works in progress-her writing. She's calling him out in public as a plagiarist and he cannot stand for it.

    Enough rehashing of the plot. This book constantly left me guessing. I couldn't pluck out even one thread and follow it to a logical conclusion. I could only hang on and enjoy the ride, and that? That I did because it was one hell of a ride!

    In the past, the work of Joyce Carol Oates been hit or miss with me. I'm happy to report this book was a major hit. Fast paced, always leaving the reader guessing with major plot twists-this book was a delicious treat.

    Highly recommended for fans of fast paced mysteries and thrillers, and also to fans of psychological tales with a dash of the horrific.
  • (4/5)
    The ending's a bit . . . conventional? . . . but I really liked the "getting there" with a highly unreliable first-person narrator who's a "distinguished" mystery writer who also writes sado-masochistic detective "potboilers" pseudonymously, as if Oates is poking fun at her own frequent pseudonyms. Quite amusing, also, is the way the narrator is so very familiar with books but so little familiar with actually "reading them" — and here I don't want to say anything more for fear of SPOILER, because it's a kind of humor that has to be experienced and allowed to creep up on you.
  • (3/5)
    I don’t know why I haven’t read more works by Joyce Carol Oates. I remember her books being big in the nineties and discovering her as an editor and writer of various short story collections like American Gothic Tales and The Collector of Hearts. I picked up Blonde but never got around to reading it. She wrote psychologically dark contemporary fiction, way before even Gillian Flynn, straddling the spiky edges between literary fiction and the horror genre.Oates’s latest work, Jack of Spades: A Tale of Suspense, tells the first-person account of Andrew J. Rush, a commercially successful mystery author, dubbed the gentleman’s Stephen King, who has written more than twenty novels and sold millions of copies of his books. Rush even has a few literary laurels to boast of. He has won an Edgar, the coveted award for mystery writers in the U.S. Everything is hunky-dory for Rush; his literary pedigree is sound. But there are cracks: Rush has a dark side. His lineup of books are sacrosanct, a sure-thing brand you just don’t mess it, but Rush feels restless, he has demons to exorcise. Writer that he is, Rush writes out these urges in a series of books penned under a pseudonym, Jack of Spades. Spades writes potboilers and noirs filled with masochistic anti-heroes who ply in violence and sex. The stories are lurid, sensationalistic. “The endings of Jack of Spades’s mysteries were crueler, as they were more primitive,” Rush confesses. “There was too much evil spilling over everything to be tidily mopped up and mostly, everybody died, or rather was killed.” When Rush discusses how he writes these noir books, he talks of a completely different creative process: “Often I had no idea how a novel by Jack of Spades would end until the last chapter, which came rushing at me like a speeding vehicle; mysteries by Andrew J. Rush were models of clarity, carefully outlined months in advance, and rarely surprised the author. […] Writing as Jack of Spades I rarely write before midnight. When the rest of the house is darkened. When I am totally alone, and not likely to be interrupted. When the tartest of white wines won’t do the trick and a few ounces of Scotch whiskey tastes very good—very good.” Brooks Brother-wearing Andrew J. Rush gets a special thrill from writing these books, a special satisfaction that not even his Edgar awards can satiate.I’m not much of a cards geek, but I do know that the Jack of Spades is fitting symbolism that resonates throughout Oates’s book. The Jack is the lowest face card in the deck. The Jack is the knave, the King and Queen’s Valet. In tarot, the Jack of Spades is the resourceful charmer. Smart, with an intelligence that borders on manipulative.No one knows that the Jack of Spades books are connected to Rush. He keeps these works secret from his family, even his own wife and kids. When his daughter accidentally stumbles on one of these novels, Rush is alarmed, but he manages to keep his cover intact. His daughter’s reaction later in the book is telling. Much to her horror, she recognizes scenes in the book culled from her own childhood. A terrifying incident on a bridge is replicated in one of the Spades novels—only in the book version, the child dies, an accident possibly directly caused by the father. Authors steal from real life all the time. Here, Oates vividly shows us what dark corners of his own life Andrew J. Rush is willing to exploit and cannibalize under this secret identity. As more and more of Rush's life is revealed to us, it's easy to wonder about these twin identities...maybe it's Spades who is the real person and Rush who is the alter. The main crux of the novel centers on a lawsuit brought on by an eccentric woman, C.W. Haider, who claims that Rush plagiarized from one of her own works—mostly books published by vanity presses and unpublished manuscripts. The suit is quickly and rightfully dismissed by the courts, but the Rush can’t let it go. When he learns that Haider has brought similar lawsuits against writers such as Updike, King, Straub, he becomes obsessed with the woman’s obsessions with him. Haider claimed Rush broke into her house to steal her ideas from her journals and notebooks, which was untrue. In a twist, Oates manages to turn the failed lawsuit into a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy for Rush. It’s hard to say more without spoiling the book, but Oates deftly, if predictably, takes Rush down the rabbit hole of his own obsessions. Rush and the Jack of Spades are authors who write mysteries, albeit mysteries of a different sort from each other, but Jack of Spades the book, the one written by Oates, is hardly a taut mystery. More than anything, it’s a psychological thriller that plays out in the character’s head, a character that becomes exceedingly irrational as the novel builds to its climax. I know it’s weird to say this, considering how gratuitously violent a lot of books can be, but Oates doesn’t raise the stakes as much as she could here. Toward the middle and latter part of the book, Rush flirts with disaster. He starts drinking more, alienating himself from his wife, and thinking cruel, violent thoughts. Several times, he contemplates killing a male colleague he thinks his wife is having an affair with. It leads to a horrible accident. But overall I found the growing depravity of Rush’s alter-ego rather tame. It’s like cancer. Cancer is scary and daunting. Cancer can kill. But it’s a scariness that’s all too familiar and predictable. Jack of Spades has the blueprint of an engaging and complex page-turner, but for all its plucking into the destructive side of the creative impulse, the novel plodded along predictably for me. Jack of Spades does make you wonder about the constraints of the writing life for many successful writers. The fact that many have to resort to pseudonyms to write outside their ouevre is fascinating to me. You could argue that writers write fiction to break the confines of everyday life, and yet some writers, like the fictionalized Andrew J. Rush, break through only to find themselves inside another box, if you will. Jack of Spades isn’t the best of Oates’s work by a long shot, but it’s a solid, satisfying read.[Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest and candid review.]
  • (4/5)
    Andrew J. Rush is a successful, award-winning mystery writer. In secret, he also writes a series of ultraviolent noir thrillers under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades.” His dual identities exist in harmony until Rush is accused of plagiarism by C. W. Haider, a wannabe writer. Feeling threatened and under stress, Rush becomes subsumed by his dark Jack of Spades persona who wants revenge against Haider.The point of view is first person with Rush as the narrator. It soon becomes obvious that he is an unreliable narrator so what he says cannot be taken at face value. The opposing forces within his mind become clearer as his knavish alter ego takes precedence. Then, as a childhood incident is described and Rush’s relationship with his family more closely examined, one begins to wonder whether the Jack of Spades personality is the true one and Andrew J. Rush is merely the public façade.In many ways, the story is an homage to Edgar Allan Poe. Allusions, both direct and indirect, are made to several of Poe’s stories. At the beginning, Oates quotes from Poe’s story “The Imp of the Perverse,” and her story does suggest there is an imp inside each of us – we are all susceptible to impulses which may lead us to perform irrational acts. Numerous studies have demonstrated correlations between creative occupations and mental illnesses, and this novel does reinforce the idea that there could be a connection. Certainly, there is almost a “madness” to how the Jack of Spades novels are written: after midnight in “a protracted siege of concentration” so “entire passages and pages, even chapters, by ‘Jack of Spades’ passed in a rabid blur leaving [Rush] exhausted.” (Edgar Allan Poe is thought to have had bipolar disorder.)This book is best described as a psychological suspense novel. Certainly there is a great deal of suspense as aspects of Rush’s personality are revealed and his downward spiral continues. Will Rush be able to resist the dark side of his soul? My one complaint is that there is, however, a predictability to some events. I guessed, for example, what Rush would find in Haider’s house. Anyone who has read Poe will certainly see similarities and so be able to predict events. But what is to be made of Haider’s writing of works like The Glowering, Sister Witches of Hecate County, Ghost-Tales of the Chilliwick Club, and Murder at Dusk? What Rush discovers cannot be dismissed as mere coincidence. Unfortunately no explanation is offered. Could cryptomnesia be so prevalent?Perhaps the best indication of the quality of this book is that it is one I will probably re-read in the future. Even a quick second skim hints at wonderful touches (like the misspelling of Rush’s surname and the mishearing of Haider’s) which might be initially missed. Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
  • (1/5)
    If you have read Stephen Kings “The Dark Half”, then you will get the joke behind this rather mediocre short novel. At 200 and a few more pages, it reads more like a novella or an unfinished novel.If this was supposed to be a humorous or even satirical book, I just didn’t get it. The characters are thinly written, the plotting was weak, the story-line was silly and so unbelievable that even for horror it had me scratching my head in bemusement and the humor was for me- non-existent. I couldn’t find myself emotionally bonding with any of the characters. On the other hand this book does seem to find so many of today’s issues that are plaguing the writing world, especially the self-published and yanks these issues out into the open and lays them bare.I wish I had read this book in its finished format to see just how the author explains her using Stephen Kings name (among other very famous authors) and his reactions when Ms Oates made him a plagiarist as part of her story. I have heard of Ms. Oates before and had always meant to read something by her, but if this is what I can expect then I think I will take a pass at anything else. *ARC supplied by publisher
  • (5/5)
    Andrew J Rush has it all. He lives in a small rural community in New Jersey with his loving wife where he writes well-plotted and intelligently written mystery novels with just a touch of the macabre, each word carefully chosen, and never a hint of sexism. According to some in the media, he is ‘the gentlemen’s Stephen King’. Andrew also has a secret: he has a fictitious alter ego, Jack of Spades, who is ‘cruder, more visceral, more frankly horrific’ than the staid professorial Rush, all of which is reflected in the noir novels written by ‘Jack’. Rush is having a bit of a problem with his newest novel but nothing he can’t deal with. But when he is accused by a woman of stealing her stories and his daughter finds one of his Jack of Spades novels, Rush begins a downward spiral into paranoia and murder spurred on by the voice of Jack in his head and bolstered by a secret guilt he has carried since boyhood.Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most prolific and esteemed writers in America (sorry, Gore Vidal). Her writings are always a joy to read and never more so than in Jack of Spades. She suffuses this novel with just the right amount of noir and ‘creepy’ as the character devolves on the page from Rush, normal well-adjusted author of intelligent mysteries to the psychopathic Jack of Spades. With her use of crisp, concise language, short sentences and the active voice, she gives the tale a real sense of urgency. Even the endearments Rush uses as he speaks of his wife begin to feel chilling as they seem to portend his growing paranoia and feelings of betrayal, giving the novel a real sense of impending violence. Jack of Spades is a fast read but a deliciously dark and wonderfully engrossing one, the kind of book that is almost impossible to put down. It is a definite must-read for fans of Oates but even if you have never read one of her novels and are just looking for a well-written and spine-tingling psychological thriller that will keep you completely engaged from beginning to end, this one’s for you.
  • (5/5)
    Andrew Rush writes mysteries fora living, but he also anonymously writes a darker series, the Jack of Spades series, which covers the more violent, darker side of human nature. His life is moving along quietly and smoothly until a rich eccentric older woman in the community sues him for plagiarism. Andrew and his lawyer get the case dismissed, but this lawsuit opens up a darker side of Andrew Rush. This book follows this darker side as it unfolds across Andrew’s life. I found the book very interesting and fascinating. In fact, I had difficulty putting it down once I began reading. I had read other books by this author, but none were quite as good and interesting as this one. I became completely involved in Andrew’s spiral downward during and after the lawsuit incident. There were many interesting and intriguing twists and turns throughout, all of which kept me wondering and waiting to see what would come next. Ms. Oates definitely has produced a fantastic piece of fiction that is really quite noteworthy. The story plot and execution are unique and creative. The characters and their interactions are superb. Anyone who enjoys a great story, on particular and unpredictable mystery, will enjoy this one. I highly recommend it. I received this from NetGalley to read and review.
  • (3/5)
    This rather short (200-page) new psychological thriller is told as a first-person narrative by successful mystery author “Andrew J. Rush.” Rush thinks of himself with quote marks around his name, perhaps because he’s beginning to realize identity is more ephemeral than he’s heretofore believed. The reader soon learns he’s begun secretly writing a new series of books under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades.” These books are an exceptionally dark, crude, and surprisingly popular [!] departure from AJR’s usual output. Worse, writing books under his own name is laborious, whereas Jack of Spades books fly onto the page from the tip of his pen.AJR is one of those intriguing characters, the unreliable narrator. He is self-obsessed, but not self-aware. The reader realizes immediately that, given a choice between behavior that makes sense and behavior that will get him into trouble, he will choose trouble every time. When a woman from the local community launches a baseless plagiarism suit against him, he has two choices: a) call his publisher’s legal department; or b) telephone the woman and try to reason with her. You or I would lawyer up. AJR, of course, chooses b), which leads to a frightful scene.It turns out this plaintiff is slightly unhinged, with a history of suing prominent authors for stealing her outlines and ideas—she’s even sued Stephen King, his lawyer tells him—and the court readily dismisses her complaint. But AJR can’t let it go; he becomes obsessed with her. Added to this is the increasingly insistent voice of Jack of Spades who, like a malevolent Jiminy Cricket, goads AJR toward further steps in all the wrong directions. Early in the book, the dogged plaintiff reminded me of the fangirl-turned-vicious in Stephen King’s Misery. (Although Oates takes her novel in a different direction, the King thriller must have been in her mind, too, because she includes a reference to it.) Strangely energized by his growing fears, it is AJR who repeatedly courts a confrontation with his litigious nemesis, escalations conveyed vividly in Oates’s tension-filled writing.This being a novel whose narrator is an author, it includes some early passages disguised as notes on craft that are actually deft foreshadowing. AJR is discussing the structure of the book he is currently working on and how he plans to include a contrasting “hero” and “villain” in alternating chapters, with the hero prevailing in the end. AJR and the asides from the Jack of Spades play those contrapuntal roles, as well. His planned final punishment of the villain is part of the implicit contract between mystery authors and their readers that allows for “an ending that is both plausible and unexpected.” If there’s a flaw in Oates’s book, it is that the ending falls short of that goal. By making the narrator a somewhat high-brow mystery writer, Oates can quite naturally adopt a voice for the book that reveals a great deal about AJR in its pretentiousness and deprecating attitude regarding his wife and certainly the townspeople. As a reader, you probably won’t like AJR, but it’s delicious to see such a jerk get himself into deeper and deeper trouble. It’s too bad he takes others with him.
  • (5/5)
    Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates is a 2015 Mysterious Press publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Only from the mind of such prolific writer could this chilling story stem. While this is not the author's usual genre per se, it is a thoughtful profile of the darker side of humanity, the public persona, the image we hold of ourselves and present to our family and friends, and the darker side we try to hide away, try to keep in check, try to deny. But, what if you are an author and you can allow that side of yourself to leak out by writing a series of novels completely different from the work you are known for, by using a pen name? That is pretty much what Andrew J. Rush, “The Gentleman's Stephen King” has done. He has an image to protect, but has an outlet by writing pulp detective novels under the name “Jack of Spades”. He hides Jack of Spades from his wife of many years, his children, and of course the public. This alter ego appears to be somewhat cathartic to Alex and a harmless indulgence, but Alex's carefully compartmentalized life begins to slowly unravel due to a shocking allegation. This short story/ novella is a fine example of how astounding this author really is. This story is chilling, suspenseful, carefully crafted, and perhaps there is more than a little tongue in cheek dark humor wedged in here as well. The author makes references to other writers though out, picking on Stephen King in particular. Stephen King is an author many use as a reference to compare others to, just like the Alex was in this story. But, what is at the heart of the story is how one tilt in Alex's world opens a door for his darker side, the Jack of Spades side, to slowly take over Alex's way of responding to situations, his wife, his family, revealing long held resentments, guilt, and very dark secrets, secrets that will now finally become undeniable and there will be justice! 5 stars!
  • (4/5)
    Jack of Spades – Can I Play With Madness?The prolific author Joyce Carol Oates has written an interesting, short complex psychological thriller which examines that fine line between genius and madness, Jack of Spades delivers in bucket loads. While examining the closeness of madness and genius there is also a sprinkling of dark humour which helps to add depth to the overall story.Andrew J Rush is a commercial success as an author, something which many aspire but never attain and it has afford him a wonderful life for him and his family. He also has a dark secret that he has been writing darker thrillers under the nom de plume of Jack of Spades, nobody knows this other than him and his bank account.When Rush receives a court summons for plagiarism and theft his life begins to spin out of control, even though told not to worry about the court case. His accuser becomes the focus of all his thoughts and more importantly it becomes an obsessive matter in which Rush believes Jack of Spades is his guide. So begins the examination between literary genius and raving madness seeing things where nothing exists and we do this through a first person narrative so we see the descent in to a darker world. As a reader you have the feeling of what is happening to Rush but feel like grabbing hold of him and shaking him from his malaise.Jack of Spades is neither too long nor too short but it a thoroughly entertaining read, something that will help Oates gain more fans.
  • (3/5)
    For such a highly regarded writer, Joyce Carol Oates has a good sense of humour and a refreshingly irreverent attitude to her own genius. Jack of Spades is a wonderfully psychologically complex literally thriller featuring that most delightful of characters, the unreliable narrator. Andrew Rush is the respected author of refined and meticulously crafted mysteries but, like Oates herself, he has an alter ego, a pen name under which he writes a very different kind of book. The reader becomes aware that Rush’s gentlemanly façade hides a judgemental bully and in truth he is more akin to his pseudonymous identity, the violent, sexist crude Jack of Spades. An Edgar Allen Poe pastiche with respectful nods to the masters of horror [Stoker, Blackwood, James] and delightfully droll digs at the enviously successful Stephen King, Oates obviously had fun writing this book. Readers will fun reading it.
  • (5/5)
    Jack of Spades is a quirky and wonderfully written psychological thriller by one of America’s greatest storytellers. Andrew Rush is a best selling author and enjoys all the trappings that go along with his achievements. But he also writes very dark and disturbing fiction under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades.” But is Andy really Andrew or is he Jack? The lines are blurred and when he is sued for plagiarism by a local woman, who herself is an odd character, the pressure mounts and Andrew begins behaving oddly himself. His external struggles with family and friends pale in comparison to the internal struggles that percolate inside. This story will grab you quickly and not let go.DP Lyle, award-winning author of the Samantha Cody and Dub Walker thriller series