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The Suicide by Mark SaFranko

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By David Noone

Mark SaFranko’s eighth novel, The Suicide, revolves around Detective Brian Vincenti, a man haunted by the past and battling with the present, a lost man searching for a lost truth. This is a cliché simply put, but where most writers (and critics) would pretentiously wave this off as unimportant, it is in fact an integral part of SaFranko’s book. The singer Nick Cave once stated he was a purveyor of clichés, i.e., that he sang love songs and laments. What Cave and SaFranko both know is that the cliché is not the problem. It is what many the world round have screamed: it’s what you do with it that counts. The cliché is what makes you aware of the innovation, what makes you aware of what a writer or a good writer can show you through a form beaten into the ground by a million (including some bestselling) hacks.

Vincenti is indeed searching for a lost truth, and that’s exactly how this truth remains: lost. The truth is that Vincenti is an escapist, and the thing that he is trying to escape is exactly what haunts him. He takes up an apparent suicide case, that of a Gail Kenmore, to get lost in while ignoring a more pressing rape case that he merely shrugs off. He follows every possible lead concerning the suicide and interviews a single man about the rape. See what I mean?

Of course like all escapists he is contemptuous of others who are the same as him. These include his ex-partner who’s had a sex change, his adulterous wife (let me not neglect to mention Vincenti is an adulterer himself) and anyone else he believes is avoiding reality as he interprets it, priests, doctors, and what have you. He follows his path nonetheless blindly ignorant of what lies in front of him; dead end leads don’t deter him, nor do orders from his boss. He continues to keep moving further and further away from that which he wrongly feels is persecuting him. It is this misinterpretation that soon threatens to drive him into the ground. He begins to neglect everything, everything but his son, who remains throughout the novel the only stabilizing force in his life, but what of it? Can’t we see this man jumping out the same window as Gail Kenmore did? It seems inevitable. So much so that as you go on reading you have to wonder if someone else will take up the case -- but who would run around like a madman to investigate the suicide of a disillusioned cop? Only the man splattered on the pavement.

SaFranko is best known for his confessional novels featuring Max Zajack (Hating Olivia, Lounge Lizard, God Bless America, Dirty Work) but in this writer’s opinion it is his crime fiction that displays his best writing. The Favor, Hopler’s Statement, No Strings (soon to be re-published by Thomas & Mercer ) and The Suicide show a far greater versatility than his not-to-be-dismissed Zajack work. The troubles of life and death are dealt with in a far greater and more inclusive manner than when he writes outside the crime genre.

For most writers, working within the specific limitations of a formula would be a constraint, for SaFranko it’s a release.