I had the pleasure of reading a fabulous book this month, A VERY SIMPLE CRIME by Grant Jerkins. Grant explores a few hot topics, including mental illness in a marriage, extreme sibling rivalry, and just how far people will go to get what they desire. I was compelled to reach out to Grant, hoping that he would join us in the lair and share some of his thoughts about these fascinating facets of his novel and I'm thrilled he agreed. Please welcome talented author Grant Jerkins!!!
Thank you all for the opportunity to play a small role in this community you’ve created here. I’ll talk a little bit about the book and answer any questions.
The effect of mental illness on a marriage and the portrayal of sibling rivalry at its most extreme are two aspects of A VERY SIMPLE CRIME that early readers have commented on, so I thought it might be worth exploring those two themes.
To peer into a marriage, I think we have to first look at the two halves that make up the whole. For me, this story started with Adam Lee, and the novel opens with Adam on trial, accused of murdering his wife. I can’t say that Adam is based on me, because he is not, but he did spring out of an incident from my childhood.
My bedroom then was in the basement of our house, and one night I got up to go to the bathroom. I didn’t bother to turn on the light because I knew the way upstairs. I’d made the trip a thousand times before. That night, though, I grew conscious of the pitch darkness and became disoriented. I got lost. I had a little panic attack. A mini melt down. I just stood there and screamed my head off until someone heard me and turned on a light. It was just one of those weird experiences we all have as kids.
Somehow, in thinking about that incident, my mind latched onto the idea of a man who was never able to escape the darkness, that it infected every aspect of his life. And Adam Lee was born.
From there, I got to wondering what it would be like if someone such as Adam got married. Started a family. What kind of woman would he be attracted to? Enter Rachel Lee.
From the start, Rachel is portrayed as someone with mental illness. There is evidence of suicidal gestures, depression, and manipulation of others through self-injurious behavior. If we had to put down a diagnosis, it would probably be Borderline Personality Disorder; so-called because the person straddles the line between neurosis and psychosis, and it is hallmarked by the symptoms described above.
Up front, Adam admits to us that this is what he wants in a wife. “Can I admit it now?” he asks. “Can I acknowledge that on some level, even then, that I was attracted to her mental illness? Certainly it was there, like a badge of achievement for all to see. I saw it, stretched and pink edged across her wrist, and I responded to it. Darkness is drawn to darkness.”
So, what we end up with is a toxic stew of a marriage, because clearly, Adam has his “issues” as well, and what those issues are make up the meat of the story as he is investigated for Rachel’s murder.
One of those issues is Adam’s relationship with his older brother, Monty. One Amazon Vine reviewer said “Adam Lee and his brother Monty are some real tales from the dark side.” and I would have to agree with that. One brother is portrayed as existing in the dark (Adam) while the other is described as being of the light (Monty, right down to his Aryan physical features.) They are flip sides of the same coin. Opposite, but the same. Each wants what the other has, and would seemingly do anything to possess it. Much like his marriage, Adam’s relationship with his brother is far from clear-cut. And it all seems to stem from a boyhood incident, a secret the two brothers covered up. A secret, as James M. Cain once put it, too terrible for two people to share.
And it could be that whatever it was that happened to him as a boy has caused the adult Adam to be drawn to broken women, to women who are “crippled inside”
Is it worth pondering, when we sit down and take inventory of our own lives, of our own relationships--and we find that we are not satisfied with what we have--to ask ourselves to what degree is it our own fault?
If your husband drinks too much and grows violent, were the signs of his alcoholism there from the start? And were you drawn to that? Is that why you picked him?
If your spouse is verbally abusive and uses humiliation to control you, was the seed of that behavior always there? And is it possible you recognized it, and you were drawn to it?
If your wife has slid into a constant state of suspicion and near-paranoid jealousy, could it be that you recognized that potential in her from your very first date? And on some level that is what you wanted for yourself?
Uncomfortable questions, to be sure.
KJ back again. Grant, fascinating thoughts. I'd love to hear how the readers would answer your probing questions. Does anyone know of any real life tales you could share?
If you would like to learn more about Grant, the book, or the upcoming film project based on A VERY SIMPLE CRIME, please visit his website: www.grantjerkins.com
The winner of the Writer’s Network Screenplay and Fiction competition, Grant Jerkins’s first novel, A Very Simple Crime, was selected from well over two thousand entries to take the top honors. The novel has since been optioned for film by the writing/producing team of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nicholas Kazan (At Close Range, Reversal of Fortune,) and Audrey Kelly, publisher of Fade In: magazine. The film is currently in pre-production with Barbet Schroeder attached to direct. This will mark the first pairing of Schroeder and Kazan since their landmark, Oscar-winning film, Reversal of Fortune.
Grant lives with his wife and son in the Atlanta area where he worked for ten years advocating for adults with developmental disabilities.