MAD DOG HOUSE
Thirty years after escaping his hell on earth—a harrowing childhood in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn—Roddy Dolan is grateful to be living the life of his dreams. He has a successful, fulfilling career as a surgeon and a beautiful home in Westchester. He is passionately in love with his sensitive, smart, and sexy wife, Tracy, and adores their two children, 12-year-old Tommy (even though he’s a handful), and sweet 10-year-old Sandy, his little girl. His past—which included a brutal father who was belly-shanked in the shower at Attica; his drunk of a mother who ignored him; and her violent boyfriend who often pummeled Roddy—is now just a bad dream.
When he was his son’s age, Roddy had an explosive temper and shady friends. He nearly landed in prison at age 17. If it weren’t for a compassionate judge and the Army, Roddy might have ended up like his father. But that’s the past, gone for good. Today, at age 45, Roddy is a different man—worthy of the respect he has earned. He is in control of his destiny and his rage is no longer part of his life. Or, so Roddy thinks…until a character from his past turns up and re-evokes his long-buried “Mad Dog” alter ego.
A gripping, harrowing, and provocative psychological thriller, MAD DOG HOUSE (Thunder Lake Press; October 2012, $12.99 trade paper, ISBN:978-0-9856268-4-6), revolves around three men—Roddy “Mad Dog” Dolan; his best friend, Danny Burns; and Kenny “Snake Eyes” Egan—who grew up in hell together and never thought it would come back to bite them.
A practicing psychiatrist in between writing novels, Mark Rubinstein presents a plot packed with action and intrigue, staggering and brutal twists, and deeply disturbing possibilities.
Driven by the bonds and shackles of friendship among former bad boys, MAD DOG HOUSE raises the questions:
Will the past always come back to haunt us, no matter how hard we try to escape it?
Can any person, even the most determined, truly change his or her basic nature?
Is “like father, like son” a matter of nurture or nature? Is it an inevitable fate?
Here’s how the old nightmare starts becoming a new reality… One afternoon at his office, Roddy gets an unexpected visit from a strange man named Ken Egan. The mysterious Mr. Egan is actually his old friend Kenny McGuirk, transformed by plastic surgery and, apparently, his commitment to becoming a restaurateur. Before long, Kenny reveals himself and persuades his buddies from Sheepshead Bay, Roddy and Danny (now an accountant, with a thriving business in Yonkers), to buy into his vision of owning a celebrated eatery in Manhattan. With the support of their wives, Roddy and Danny sign on as silent partners in McLaughlin’s Steakhouse, for the price of a $100,000 investment each.
For a while, everything seems fine. Business at McLaughlin’s is booming, and it’s fun to own a piece of a hot destination. But, Roddy begins to notice that Kenny is acting paranoid and wired, and the restaurant is attracting an unsavory clientele—specifically, mobsters. Then, Danny begins to notice that the bustling restaurant is losing money, big time. When Roddy and Danny finally confront Kenny, what they learn is unthinkable. Their old friend has gotten them into debt, to the tune of a quarter million plus interest, through his deal with a monster: Grange, a grossly obese, menacing loan shark who brings intimidating protection with him.
In a flash, matters turn from unthinkable to terrifying. When the odious Grange tries to make friends with little Sandy Dolan, sealed with a kiss, Roddy loses his tight grip on his formidable anger. To protect his precious daughter and preserve his family’s life, Roddy knows he needs to do something—fast, bold, and definitive—to stop Grange and the lying, drugged-out Kenny, too. Mad Dog returns—with a vengeance and a chilling capacity for violence.
Filled with shocking turns, MAD DOG HOUSE will grab readers, keep them riveted, and leave them gasping. Throughout the novel, Mark Rubinstein provokes people to think about the haunting power of the past and the demons lurking inside their loved ones…and perhaps themselves.
About the Author
MARK RUBINSTEIN grew up in Brooklyn, New York, near Sheepshead Bay. After earning a degree in Business Administration at NYU, he served in the U.S. Army as a field medic tending to paratroopers of the Eighty-Second Airborne Division. After his discharge, he went to medical school, became a physician, and then a psychiatrist. As a forensic psychiatrist, he was an expert witness in many trials. As an attending psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell, he taught psychiatric residents, psychologists, and social workers while practicing psychiatry. Before turning to fiction, he coauthored five books on psychological and medical topics. He lives in Connecticut with as many dogs as his wife will allow in the house. He still practices psychiatry and is busily working on other novels. To learn more, please visit www.markrubinstein-author.com.
An Interview with Mark Rubinstein, author of MAD DOG HOUSE
1. Does being a psychiatrist affect your writing? Does it give you greater insight and a better ability to understand and write about people?
I can’t conceive living life constantly analyzing situations and people, looking for deeply hidden motives and strivings. So a clinical view of the world would be intolerable and, frankly, would drive me crazy. I take things as they come and react as a human being. Maybe later, upon reflection, I’ll have a better understanding of what went on in a particular situation.
But writing fiction is a process. When working on a manuscript, I don’t take a psychiatric view of what a character might say or do because he or she is a certain “type.” That being said, it’s likely that my training, education, and psychiatric experience exert some influence on my writing—but not in any purposeful or conscious way.
2. Mad Dog House is a thriller filled with violence and its effect on our psyche and our families. Why did you write a novel about our darker impulses?
Violent—even murderous—impulses reside within all of us. You see them whenever you watch news items about riots or wars or street violence. You certainly see bloodlust when people rubberneck while passing an accident or go to some sporting events (for example, mixed martial arts competitions, boxing matches, hockey games, football games, wrestling contests) or when you read some of the world’s greatest literature or view the foul arc of history. So to pretend that violence isn’t part of human nature is disingenuous. Sex and violence sell, and there’s a reason for that. Despite all my years of training in medicine and psychiatry, and no matter what kind of peaceful life I lead, I’m still intrigued by violence. And so are most people, whether they admit it or not.
3. Your novel involves people reverting to their past ways. Can people ever really change?
We’d like to think people can change, and in some superficial ways, we can. But deep, long-lasting personality templates are very difficult to leave behind. Once you’ve become whoever you are, it’s a permanent way of being.
As a psychiatrist working with patients trying desperately to change the way they interact with others, I know it’s a difficult task. There is among virtually all people a need to endlessly repeat the old ways, a perverse tendency to revert to the familiar patterns of childhood, no matter how ungratifying or even hurtful they’ve been. Some people can change to one degree or another, but deeply engrained ways of perceiving and dealing with the world (sometimes called “character armor”) are not easily renounced. As William Faulkner wrote in Requiem for a Nun, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”