December 14, 2006 Keith Ablow
There are three clear tenants says Dr. Keith Ablow in his 1999 novel Projection, “That people are connected to each other in mystical and immeasurable ways, that we have the power to heal another, and that the truth often precipates out of society and settles at the bottom.” (54) It is, I think, the spirituality alluded to in that passage that sets Ablow apart from so many others.
Although I am not an avid reader of psychological thrillers, I picked up Ablow’s Frank Clevenger series recently. I wouldn’t have known that he even wrote fiction, except that my grandmother picked up several of his books. She recommended them and I grabbed a couple from the library last week out of curiosity. Now I’m hooked!
On the surface he writes well structured thrillers. His plots tend to twist and turn, which keeps the reader glued to his books. His characters are incredibly deep. They are well rounded portrayals of human beings. It is all too easy to judge such people and the atrocities that the commit, but Ablow writes with minimal judgment. He is, for the most part, incredibly insightful and compassionate. Although there are many biblical references and religious themes, Ablow comes to discard the traditional views of Good vs. Evil. Original Sin and the idea of The Bad Seed Child are shown as illusions. He believes that no one is born evil. They are born innocent and due to various traumas and abuse, become lost souls. Violence is a result of anger and anger stems from past problems.
The cause of a murder is much more complex than a single motivation. Ablow focuses on a particular aspect the broken psyche in each of his novels. Denial, Projection and Compulsion can lead to outright Psychopathic behavior. Murder and Suicide are two sides of the same coin. Lack of Mercy for oneself leads to Lack of Mercy for others.
The first book, Denial seems more straightforward and personal in a way. Drugs, sex and violence create a roller-coaster ride, but Ablow’s subsequent books are indeed more layered and in-depth. You see Ablow the author progressing with his character Frank Clevenger. Though there are personal touches in all the other books, I think the later ones address more universal themes, hence the biblical and literary references.
In Projection, his main villain was Lucas. I couldn’t help but reminded my antagonist in my story “Night,” Lucas Hyde. The killer Kathy made me think of Lucas’s alter ego’s ex-wife. in my story Lt. Patterson could be a nod to James Patterson. Rice could be a nod to Anne Rice. There were the Biblical or Christian names of Grace, Gabriel, Bishop and Calvin. Not to mention Josiah King who is perhaps King Josiah from the book of Kings in the Bible.
In Psychopath his antagonist is Jonah Wrens. Jonah is in the belly of the whale and sad as in The Fall of the Sparrow. Other characters are named Benjamin and Paul and they too are from the bible. A horrible woman and abusive mother has name of Heaven. Although I thought of my own story Heaven’s Home, I realized that the character was supposed to represent the nature of mothers. Mothers are supposed to be heaven, although they can be hell as well.
In The Architect his antagonist is named Crosse. Perhaps the name signifies the Christ archetype and perhaps it signifies that we ALL have a cross to bear. That sort of subtext points to Jung and Gnosticism. Ablow also quotes Nietzsche and Yeats. Nietzsche was a critic of religion, but not an atheist if I remember correctly. Yeats was a mystic and part of The Golden Dawn. Is Ablow Gnostic or New Age? Certainly Buddhism fits with the reference to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but it doesn’t complete the picture. Although his degree is in medicine, one might wonder if English Literature was a passion. In The Architect he also references Thomas Wolfe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Graves, Horace Walpole, Robert Lowell, William Thatcher, James Joyce and possibly philosopher Bertrand Russell.
The name Frank Clevenger is clever in of itself. The word Cleave means to split apart. The character is split apart. He is dark and damaged, but he is also full of compassion and kindness. He is also clever. Quite a play on words! A clever character that is cleaved. The name Frank could add to that, denoting the fact that he is forthright and honest to the point of being brutally, candid. His honesty with himself, in fact, is what allows him to have insight into others.
In an interview Ablow said, “The truth is what we need to surrender to.” In another interview he says, “Yes, it is all about find the truth.” He was referring specifically to forensic psychiatry, but it applies to his whole approach to life as well. So it is no surprise that his next book was a nonfiction self-help book about Living The Truth.