Jack of Spades: A Tale of Suspense
By Joyce Carol Oates
Oates is back again, this time with a compact psychological thriller/horror tale. The setting is New Jersey. The protagonist is a successful author of popular mysteries, the well-plotted sort, wherein always evil gets its comeuppance in the end. However, he is also the secret author of a sub-genre: bloody, gratuitously violent thrillers featuring a killer who always wins in the end.
Known as Jack of Spades, said Mr. Spades progressively takes over author Andrew J. Rush’s mind, forcing Rush to commit vengeful acts, scare the bejesus out of his loving wife, further alienate his adult children, and confront a haunting, selfish incident from his young preadolescent days involving his brother.
Rush tells the story of his psychological deterioration. You might think of JCO’s tale as a little touch of Jekyll and Hyde.
Jack of Spades is another addition to JCO’s shorter novels dealing with crime and depravity, like the really superb Daddy Love (pederastic killer posing as a preacher) and Zombie (weirdo as a stupid Dr. Frankenstein). The latter two have more depth and dimension than Jack of Spades and aren’t marred by JCO’s more recent and annoying first-person talking as third-person voice effects. Nonetheless, it’s a satisfying thriller that has a bit of fun with Stephen King’s colossal stature and self-published writers’ desire for validation. Most JCO fans will not be disappointed. w/c