Guest Post: Fear is the Common Denominator, by: Mark Rubenstein, author of Mad Dog Justice

Publisher: Thunder Lake Press

Publication Date: September 1, 2014

Synopsis: Roddy Dolan, a surgeon, and Danny Burns, an accountant, are being hunted as prey. Someone is after them with lethal intentions but they don't know who or why. Whoever it is, and for whatever reason, they and their families are in the crosshairs of killers. Everything they know is unravelling. They must hide, send their families away, abandon their homes, and leave their lives behind.

The second book in the Mad Dog series, Mad Dog Justice is a harrowing tale of friendship, morality, betrayal, and dire consequences.

Guest Post: Fear is the Common Denominator

My recently published novel, Mad Dog Justice, is a psychological crime thriller. It plumbs the depths of dread and fear. Roddy Dolan, a surgeon, and his lifelong friend Danny Burns, realize they are in the crosshairs of mobsters after a business deal has gone bad. The novel asks what price men must pay for doing very bad things for very good reasons. It also grows into weightier issues of friendship, love, vengeance and betrayal.

Above all, fear plays an essential part in the novel.

As a novelist and forensic psychiatrist, I’ve become intimate with fear. I’m not referring to ordinary worries or anxieties, such as, will I get a promotion, or will the IRS audit my return? These are troubling concerns, but they don’t rise to the level of true fear.

I’m talking about raw, gut-quivering, life-threatening fear—the primal upsurge of emotion that has been with human beings since they first populated the earth. It’s fear so profound, it can be life-altering. It arises from the brain’s limbic system, which plays a central role in triggering that primitive emotion upon which our ancestors depended for survival. It can cause a heart-thumping, pupil-dilating, sweat-pouring, knee-quaking bodily reaction—the nervous system’s fight-or-flight response. It’s elemental, basic, biologic. Fear is a legacy every one of us has inherited. Most of us manage to avoid fearful situations, and we strive to live secure, peaceful lives where we don’t feel threatened or endangered. But, as we all know, sometimes the unthinkable happens.

Through my work as a forensic psychiatrist, I treated or examined combat veterans; survivors of concentration camps; people who lived through the 9/11 terrorist attack; railroad, airplane and bus crash victims; survivors of vicious dog attacks, catastrophic accidents; and people who lived through riots, rapes, and other near-death experiences.

As a writer, I know when it comes to fiction, the most frightening depictions are those describing events that could really happen. They resonate deeply because, unlike paranormal experiences, they fall within the realm of possibility. They could happen to any of us.

In psychological thrillers, fear drives the plot and mesmerizes us.

I think the most frightening novel Stephen King ever wrote is Gerald’s Game because it depicts a terrifying situation that could happen to anyone. (Imagine being handcuffed to bedposts in a remote cabin, miles from civilization. Your spouse is dead at the foot of the bed and a wild dog roams nearby.)

For a shrieking level of fear, there’s none better than Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, or for that matter, The Silence of the Lambs. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is not only compellingly well-written, but conjures real fears: where and how has my wife disappeared? Why am I suspected of being a murderer? What will happen to my life?

There are good reasons why the best-seller lists are populated by Stephen King, John Sandford, Lisa Gardner, Dennis Lehane, James Patterson, Andrew Gross, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Dean Koontz, Janet Evonovich, and others. Their novels depict people dealing with unmitigated fear, the primeval common denominator of the human condition.

Mad Dog Justice, a sequel to Mad Dog House, is a standalone novel. I wrote it because so many of my readers told me they wanted to go down the rabbit hole once more, feeling and smelling the fear with every inch of the descent.

We all love to experience fear, so long as we can do it from the safety of our armchairs.

Mark Rubinstein
Author of Mad Dog House and Mad Dog Justice

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