Tag Archives: blackwyrm publishing

Randy Reviews: The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld

Not that the calendar controls things, but had Jed Rubenfeld’s new novel released just a few weeks sooner, I would be positioning it in my best fiction list for 2010. That gives you just a hint as to how much I like this book.

Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld
Calling Dr. Younger …

The Death Instinct begs for comparisons, which might just be the best way to convey its quality to you. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who, incidentally, could have been a character in this

compelling novel) provided a prototype for our detective hero with his classic Holmes/Watson duo. But Rubenfeld manages to combine the skills of those 2 in a single character, Dr. Stratham Younger.

Though not as sprawling, this book compares favorably with Ken Follett’s Book One in the Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants, and is also reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day.

Younger, who drove the plot in Rubenfeld’s earlier book, The Interpretation of Murder, is quickly drawn into the mystery and violence of the brutal bombing of Wall Street in September 1920 – a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

During World War I, Younger served as a medical officer, where his burgeoning skills as a forensic psychiatrist were put to the test. Now back home in New York, he encounters the beautiful Colette, a protege of Madame Curie who provided the doctor with the means to take X-rays at battlefield hospitals in wartime France.

Before we learn why Colette has crossed the Atlantic, the pair narrowly survive the “cart bomb” that killed 38 and seriously wounded 143 people on the streets and in adjacent buildings, including the J.P. Morgan bank.

Who did it? And what was their motive? Was it anarchists? Or is a greater conspiracy afoot?

N.Y. policeman Jimmy Littlemore, who we also met in the first book, pursues a parallel investigation that reveals corruption at the highest levels of power and finance. Younger even winds up consulting, again, with Dr. Sigmund Freud during trip to Vienna.

It is Freud’s lesser-known theory of “the death instinct” that helps to raise this novel above the run-of-the-mill historical detective thriller. Rubenfeld cleverly weaves the known history of the terrorist attack with conjectures that feel real enough to stand in for the best nonfiction.

It’s not hard to imagine Stratham Younger as real and I look forward to joining him again, perhaps with Rubenfeld’s next book.

The author provides a nice recap in the video embedded below.

While it’s still early, The Death Instinct stakes its claim on a top 10 read for 2011 with its cerebral heroes, imaginative premise, and breakneck suspense.


THE DEATH INSTINCT: Freud’s Lesser-known Theory

As Sigmund Freud moved closer to the end of his life, he recognized that his earlier theories regarding the pleasure principle (life instincts), including his well-known theories on sexuality being the driving force in the behavior of humans, could not explain everything.
How to explain our self-destructive tendencies? To the famed psychoanalyst, that death drive, or death instinct, exerted great influence on our behaviors. He believed that our life instincts prevented us from living lives filled with aggression and violence.

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Books That Changed Our Lives (plus: How Books and Pommes Frites Go Together)

I’ve been asked to sit in on a panel discussion next Monday, Jan. 31, at the studios of WFPL, Louisville’s NPR News station. I’ll be on State of Affairs, the locally produced public affairs show hosted by Julie Kredens, live at 1 p.m. The show will be rebroadcast that evening at 9 p.m. and then will be available afterward, online, for your private listening by download.

Laura Ellis, the acting producer of the show, has asked me to be prepared to discuss the topic in the title of this post: Books That Changed Our Lives.

I’m able to answer that question fairly quickly, and I may or may not preview for you the three-and-a-half books I chose to discuss. In the meantime, let me invite you to share with me your own books that changed your lives. Use the comments section below, if you will.

I have to admit that one of the reasons I read is that most books change my life. They allow me to travel. They allow me to experience environments and people I would be unlikely to otherwise encounter.

It may just be that those among us who do not enjoy reading refrain from doing so primarily because reading books does nothing to change their lives.

I will admit that my selected books and the stories behind them are not profound or dramatic. While my life has been filled with interesting stories, the changes wrought, by books or by other experiences, have not been the stuff of gripping memoir or biography.

Admittedly, when I was very young, I fully expected that my life would be one that provided dramatic turning points, cinematic moments, and widespread fame. And these books would have been just as important to that imagined life as they have been to the life I’ve lived so far, to middle age.

So please don’t be reticent about sharing your own book or books that changed your life. I think one thing we all share is a keen appreciation of just how life-changing reading can be.


Seasons of Death: The Smoky Mountain MurdersJoin us Saturday, Jan. 29, at 4 p.m. as we welcome Gary Yeagle and Marlene Mitchell, local authors who have collaborated on a new book series, The Smoky Mountain Murders. Their new novel, Seasons of Death, is published by our friend Dave Mattingly at Blackwyrm Publishing, and it’s already drawing great interest within our patron base. So many of us feel as if we know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (I practically grew up there) that the idea of a murder mystery set there seems perfectly natural.

In partnership with another NewAlbanyFirst pioneer, we’ll be offering a pick-your-own discount on the day of the event. If you dine at Bank Street Brewhouse on Saturday before the author event, bring your receipt to the signing and we’ll give you $2 off the $15.95 price of the book. If you prefer, come to the event and then join the authors for libations and/or dinner at Bank Street Brewhouse, 415 Bank St., New Albany. Chef Josh has promised a discount on that establishment’s amazing pommes frites, frenched potatoes double-fried in the Flemish style, accompanied by some of the most mouth-watering dipping sauces you’ve ever imagined. BSB is a non-smoking restaurant/brasserie, and the whole gang there is looking forward to hosting the authors and their friends starting around 5:30 p.m. Of course, the region’s finest craft beers, local wines, and independently produced spirits are available, also. If you follow the @NewAlbanyBooks Twitter feed, you can find out that day’s specials on Saturday, too.


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Coming Events and Store Communications Changes

I spent my birthday pondering Sunday’s blog post. I’m committed to providing a daily posting, no matter what, and I’m counting on guest bloggers to make that happen.

During the past 8 days, I’ve been populating the blog with content. But very, very few people have even been alerted that it exists. Almost none of the hundreds of subscribers to the store’s e-mail newsletter know about it. That’s soon to change.

In fact, we’re ending the e-mail newsletter and replacing it with subscriptions to these blog posts. It’s my responsibility to make them interesting enough to read. But importantly, I must make the digests and headlines informative enough that subscribers can know in a jiffy whether any given post is one they want to read.

For the record, here are the events we have scheduled in 2011. More details will follow.

Saturday afternoon, Jan. 22 – Author Lori Leroy will celebrate her Southern Indiana/Metro Louisville book launch for Inadequate Conception.

Saturday afternoon, Jan. 29 – Gary Yeagle and Marlene Mitchell will discuss their new novel, Seasons of Death.

Wednesday evening, Feb. 2 – Media lawyer Jon Fleischaker will give a presentation on censorship and the First Amendment, sponsored by the Media Law Resource Center Institute and Destinations Booksellers.

Wednesday evening, Mar. 2 – International favorite Tim Dorsey returns to New Albany with his latest in the Serge Storms series, Electric Barracuda. A special ticketed event follows the free booksigning and author talk.

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