The Painted Lady

How would you respond if your wife was murdered?

Would you devote your life to finding the killer? Would you be able to methodically put all the pieces of the puzzle together, find the guilty party then turn him over to the police? Or perhaps you would be able to move on, to recover from a horrible act and start your life anew. In The Painted Lady, Miles Greene does neither. He chooses to commit suicide via lethargy. Miles is drowning himself in beer, cheap food, sleeping tablets, and darkness. A former commercial artist that dealt in two dimensional visual fantasy, he is now slow-tracking himself to a quiet death in a dark, lonely apartment filled with his own sorrows. Miles is sinking into a morass of despair and when he looks for a hand to pull him up, he only sinks deeper.

"A hole Miles still occasionally found himself in with no one around to offer him a hand, no one to even distract him, no one to fill the empty place that his wife had filled for twelve years. Just him, alone in the hole that had only grown deeper since that day in September. The sides all around him were muddied and soft. Trying to get out too fast by himself only resulted in sinking deeper."

The Painted Lady is the latest novel from Joseph Falank. Mr. Falank is a teacher, a comedian, a New Yorker, and a documentary filmmaker. He is also a great writer. He crafts his words with a measured hand; his stories focus on the very personal journeys that many of us face: divorce, the death of a parent, adolescence, career, adulthood. In his debut novel, Seeing, Mr. Falank wrote of the heartbreak of a divorce from the perspective of an adolescent. In his latest novel, Mr. Falank stretches out and tackles true love, a murder, addiction and the supernatural. It's a story that no one would ever want to actually live through yet Mr. Falank turns this chilling scenario into a satisfying page turner that addresses that very fear. Full disclosure; Mr. Falank is published by Winter Goose Publishing, which is also my publisher.

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"The inspiration behind The Painted Lady was me wondering what I would become if something ever happened to my wife and I was left alone. Would I become a loner/shut-in like Miles? Would it take something as miraculous as what happens to him to bring me out of solitude? I was also interested in writing a type of love story my wife would read - of course putting my own spin on it."

And spin he does. Without providing any spoilers, I can say there's a trove of beautifully crafted scenes: a marriage proposal on a wind-swept beach, a beer and wing spiked conversation with an easy going brother-in-law, a cryptic visitor that might be supernatural, a sleeping tablet induced nightmare that might not be a nightmare. It's all very early Stephen King...ish.

"I grew up admiring Stephen King, and I love his work, along with his thoughts on writing. He's been my writing role model, but it was my wife, Rebecca, who inspired me (and pushed me) to be a writer. Every word I put to page will always be dedicated to her."

Like most writers, Joseph Falank began telling stories when he was much younger.

"My first attempted piece of solid fiction (with the goal of getting published) was a zombie story called Rise Of The Dead that I tried to write when I was 13. I worked on it on an old Brother word processor my grandmother got for me. I didn't get far though because I couldn't create the "perfect" zombie story. I still don't know how (yet) to create an ending that would satisfy me on an emotional level. The physical problem of the zombies can't be solved in order for the book to be truly apocalyptic."

And the conundrum of Mr. Falank is that his books are anything but apocalyptic. He has a knack for turning the everyday angst of life into cleverly scripted essays. Eventually he might create that perfect Zombie story but until that happens, I'll be content with his current offerings.