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The Sirens of Suspense




Mark Rubinstein graduated from New York University with a degree in business administration. He then served in the army and ended up as a field medic tending to paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. After discharge, he re-entered NYU as a premed student.

As a medical student, he developed an interest in psychiatry, discovering in that specialty the same thing he realized in reading fiction: every patient has a compelling story to tell. He became a board-certified psychiatrist practicing in New York City.

In addition to running his private practice he developed an interest in forensic psychiatry because of the drama and conflict of the cases and courtrooms. He also taught psychiatric residents, interns, psychologists, and social workers at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and became a clinical assistant professor at Cornell University’s medical school.

He is a contributor to Psychology Today magazine and The Huffington Post.

Before turning to fiction, Rubinstein coauthored five medical self-help books about topics ranging from breast cancer to heart disease and the psychology of children.

His high-octane thriller Mad Dog House was a finalist for the 2012 ForeWord Book Of The Year Award for suspense/thriller novels. His 2nd thriller, Love Gone Mad, was published in September 2013 and his novella, The Foot Soldier (November 2013) won the Silver award in the 2014 Benjamin Franklin Awards competition, in the Popular Fiction category. His new novel Mad Dog Justice (September 1, 2014), was described as a "pulse-pounding tale of post-modern paranoia" by The Providence Journal. His new novella, Return to Sandara, will be released on November 3rd, 2014.


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I'm occasionally asked why I write crime-thriller novels.

They say write what you know, but I prefer to write what I love. And they always say, write the kind of book you would love to read. So, I write crime-thriller fiction.

But as a psychiatrist and novelist, I think there's more than that when it comes to crime thriller fiction.

While the range of human emotions and experiences can be tapped in any genre, there's something about crime novels—something elemental about villains and victims—that makes them so compelling.

Partly, I think crime novels are so popular and gripping because they describe events that could actually occur. They describe experiences could happen to any of us. The chance of being transported to another planet, or of having some paranormal experience is quite remote. Sci-fi and dystopian novels truck in pure fantasy, which is fine, but these events don't seem to be within the realm of possibility (at least for now).

However, you could very well be the victim if some thug's violent intentions, or become the target of extortion, or death threats. Any of us could unwittingly run afoul of the law, or become embroiled in some criminal enterprise while unaware aware of the snake pit into which we've fallen. These events can actually happen. One look at a newspaper or the evening news makes that very clear.

In other words, crime novels tap into the prospect of the possible which makes them so compelling and frightening. These things could actually occur.

But more than fear or the possibility of evil drives the popularity of these novels.

Greed, lust, avarice, revenge, cowardice, nobility—all run rampant in crime and thriller novels. Yet, it's vicarious, so the tension, anxiety, and outright fear occur to someone else—not to us. We can live it through a character's experiences, not our own. That makes it tolerable—even enjoyable. We can pull back from the tension or horror anytime we want.

Of course, there's the page-turning, heart-racing element of suspense. Will this brilliant and bold bad guy (who we admire, despite his crimes) really get away, or be brought to justice? (Think of The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth). Will this flawed detective or FBI agent prevail, despite his or her shortcomings? Will a thriller novel's protagonist survive the horrendous experiences described in the book?

Many characters in thriller fiction are larger-than-life. (Think of Jack Reacher in any Lee Child novel). If they're well-developed, they draw the reader inexorably into their spheres. The reader is "there" amidst the danger, pulse-pounding exploits, or the nerve-racking chase to a rocket-driven conclusion.

Think of the power of Vito Corleone in The Godfather, or the tenaciousness of Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly's novels. Consider the stealth and patience of Barry Eisler's John Rain, a master assassin; or the characters in virtually any novel written by the Dickens of Detroit, Elmore Leonard. How about the cunning brilliance of Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter? (He's even in Wikipedia).

John Rain and Hannibal Lecter raise another point about crime fiction. Some villains are portrayed so richly, are so complex, and are so brilliant and out of the ordinary, they fascinate us. Who among us isn’t mesmerized by the exploits of Vito Corleone, or his son, Michael? Who can resist admiring John Rain—master assassin—for his skills, cunning, and despite his profession, his ethics? How many of us would admit—however secretly—admiring the incredible skill and tenacity of The Jackal in Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal? What is the psychology of our fascination with these characters? Is it because they can and will do things we wouldn’t dare do ourselves? Are their exploits those which we only dare fantasize about? Do we play out our own evil fantasies vicariously, by reading about them? It’s safe to do in the comfort of an armchair.

Whether the characters are heroes or villains, we love some, hate others, and even fear some of them. The most memorable have become American icons. Think of Vito Corleone, in The Godfather. Or Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

Maybe it all boils down to basics -- the good versus evil dichotomy of human existence. There’s good and evil in each of us—maybe more evil than we care to admit to ourselves.

I just love crime thriller novels. I love reading them and writing them.




WHICH HERO AND VILLAIN DO YOU FIND MOST MEMORABLE? Tell us by commenting on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a a copy ofMAD DOG JUSTICE! (U.S. entrants only, please.)



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