Suicide by Knife: the Most Uncommon Suicide there is
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Guest Post by Vincent Zandri
Suicide is never a pleasant topic. Nor is the mess it usually leaves behind for some poor soul (usually a spouse or significant other) to clean up afterwards. There are many ways for a man to kill himself (the majority of suicides are men). An initial inventory of them from off the top of my brain include, but are not limited to, gunshot to the head, hanging, drug overdose, jumping off a bridge (or a building), stepping out in front of a speeding locomotive…Ok, I’ll stop there.
But after I’d heard about an incident in which my paternal great grandfather killed himself by running a straight razor across his neck, I began to ponder the topic further. Apparently, he pulled off the grisly act while seated at the kitchen table along with his wife and kids. This rather shameful blemish on the family history was rarely spoken about by my father and when it was, it usually took the form of a hushed whisper to my mother. Even I wasn’t fully aware of it until early adulthood.
I can remember the initial horror I felt imagining what kind of psychosis someone would have to be experiencing in order to run a knife across one’s own throat. But then I also couldn’t help but imagine the horror of the people who were made to not only witness the act, like my grandfather for instance, but who also would have attempted to stem the flow of dark red arterial blood. I wondered what it must have been like to have had to clean up the blood that would have surely pooled on the floor and spattered the walls.
Many years later, while in New York City promoting my first thriller, I happened to come upon an art exhibit by renowned artist, Damien Hirst. The exhibit dealt with suicide by self-stabbing. In typical Hirst fashion, there were life-size human replicas trying to puncture their own chests, throats and faces with knives of varying lengths and styles. There were clinical drawings and sketches of documented self-stabbing suicide cases. I became fascinated at the effort and strength, not to mention will-power one would need in order to follow through with something so painful as self-mutilation by knife or razor.
By the time I got home, I knew that I wanted to write a new novel that somehow dealt with suicide by the knife (not the cutting of the wrists, which is relatively easy), and I wanted it to involve the cutting of the throat and the puncturing of the chest and stomach. But first I had to do some research. Between conversations with my personal physician and information available on the internet, I discovered that suicide by self stabbing, although rare, does occur. However, it is the most uncommon method of suicide there is (the most common form is gunshot to the head, unless of course you live in Hong Kong where you will most likely jump in front of a subway train if you want to end it all).
I sat back and thought the situation over. I wondered how easy it would be to make a murder by knife look like a suicide or vice-versa. I wondered if a situation in which a body was found mutilated by a knife, including a throat being cut, not unlike my grandfather, would either confound investigators or make them simply assume a suicide had occurred. But then, what if the guilty blade in question were missing from the crime scene?
While I didn’t have the answer to these questions quite yet, I knew that at the very least, I was beginning to work out what would become the plot to my new noir novel.
Moonlight Falls author, Vincent Zandri, is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe . He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.
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