Mark Rubinstein author of the book Mad Dog House stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.
THE GENESIS OF MAD DOG HOUSE
by Mark Rubinstein
I’ve been asked how my new novel, Mad Dog House, came into being. It was a very strange—almost dreamlike—process for me. It’s as though I went through a semiconscious period where things from the past and present coalesced and began building on themselves. In all honesty, once the story was on paper, I was unable to precisely recall its genesis. It was almost the way you feel when you wake up some mornings knowing you’ve dreamed, but the dream dissolves before you’re completely resurrected from a sleeping state.
The novel begins with a classroom scene in which the class bully (named “Cootie”) is “finger-snapping” the ear of the boy in front of him (the protagonist). So how did this become the start of my novel?
When I was in the seventh grade, there was a kid in the class nicknamed “Cootie.” It was a strange nickname, and through all these years, the moniker has stuck with me. Years later, while at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, tending to paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division, I worked with another medical corpsman whose laugh sounded like the howl of an insane dog. We jokingly nicknamed him “Mad Dog.” That too stuck with me.
In addition, as a high school freshman I sat in front of some wise guy who constantly finger-snapped my ear. At the end of the period, the ear felt like a hot coal. It was, to say the least, annoying. At thirteen years old, I weighed a prodigious 105 pounds, and this bullying kid was far bigger. I sat there day after day, feeling helpless and humiliated.
One day, after the third or fourth finger-snap, I was smoldering with rage. Not thinking, I turned to the bully and challenged him to a fight behind the candy store near the school. For a moment, I thought I detected a hint of fear in his eyes. Then he laughed. But somehow, my animal instinct kicked in, and I could almost smell his fear. He’d never expected so brazen a challenge from such a skinny kid.
When class ended, we headed for the candy store. In an empty lot, out of view, we went at it. Long story short: I beat the hell out of him.
So all these very disparate elements wove their ways onto the first page—actually, into the first sentence—of Mad Dog House: “When he was twelve years old Mad Dog ripped off Cootie Weiss’s ear.”
Fist-fighting was a way of life in the neighborhood where I grew up. I eventually earned a degree in business, served in the army, learned plenty about acute medical care and guns, became a physician and then a psychiatrist, and now practice adult and forensic psychiatry. I’ve always loved and had an interest in restaurants but, wisely, never owned one. However, I could never have predicted that these vastly different elements from my life (past and present) would come together, be reconfigured, and coalesce into part of the plotline of a novel.
As the process of storytelling took over, one thing morphed into another and the plot took unforeseen turns. By the time I got to page 150, I had to go back and change page 35 to make them consistent. Eventually, I’d written the story as it now exists. And I simply cannot remember exactly how it all came together.
When I look back on the genesis of the novel, it’s clear that bits and pieces of my own past, my strivings, my knowledge base, my fears, my wishes, and my inner emotional landscape merged into the narrative. Everything came together and told a story—a crime-thriller that seemed somehow to have leaped from my brain and its imaginings.
It’s all pure fiction, of course.
About the book:
Roddy Dolan, a successful suburban surgeon, long ago left behind his past—one that nearly landed him in jail at 17. When he's approached by an old friend about becoming a silent partner in a Manhattan steakhouse, he's understandably wary. So he consults with his lifelong blood brother, Danny Burns.
Danny's convinced this "vanity project" is the perfect trophy to illustrate how far they've travelled. Certain he's buried his checkered past, Roddy joins in this venture with serious reservations. Danny is quickly sucked into the high-energy glitz of the restaurant, but Roddy is suspicious.
Amidst the glitter of New York's nightlife, amongst Mafia honchos and Russian thugs, events spin out of control and the lives Roddy and Danny knew are over. Hidden shady dealings drag them and their families into life-threatening terrain. Struggling with a monster he thought he'd buried, Roddy must make momentous choices, and none are good. But he has a daring plan . . .
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.