Rubinstein's courtroom drama delves into love and loss

Author Mark Rubinstein has taken a step back from the grit and white knuckle suspense of his previous novels, opting this time for a more character-driven plot in his latest work, The Lovers’ Tango. Among his other works — the thrillers Mad Dog House, Mad Dog Justice and Love Gone Mad — this is the one that most draws on his personal areas of expertise: medicine, the courtroom, and the inner workings of the human brain and heart.
Released the beginning of this month by Thunder Lake Press, The Lovers’ Tango is a story first of love, as well as commitment, loyalty, deception, ambition and the quest for justice.
“I made a conscious decision to be more universal with this story,” Rubinstein said late last month in his Danbury Road office. He wanted it suspenseful but he wanted to add a depth of character. “I wanted people to care for him in the context of his love for his wife,” Rubinstein said of his main character, Bill Shaw.

Shaw, a crime novelist, meets and falls in love with Nora, a dancer and actress. They marry, but after just 15 years she becomes ill and rapidly declines, suffering first from atrial fibrillation and then multiple sclerosis. Bill cares for her until her inevitable death.
As she became weaker and weaker, Bill and Nora, as many people might, discussed how she wanted to face what was to come. Suffering, she asked Bill to help her along, but did he?
The tango — of the title and the favorite dance of Bill and Nora — is a metaphor for life, Rubinstein said. “It’s a promise and it’s intensely sensual. There’s desire, sensuality, mystery and there’s a profound sadness,” he said. “The dance must end,” as life must end.
It is at Nora’s death that the story begins in earnest, as Bill is accused of killing her with an overdose of one of her prescribed medications, warfarin. An autopsy has revealed what the medical examiner believes to be an excessive amount of the blood thinner in her body.
A psychiatrist who has given expert testimony at many trials, Rubinstein now moves the story to the courtroom and its environs, as Shaw and his best friend, the attorney Ben Abrams, mount his defense.
And the trial is brutal. It forces Bill to relive their life together, over and over. In the early years, when their careers were on track, they “danced” their way through life both figuratively and literally. Later, Bill relived the difficulties they endured as Nora began to fail, then the wrenching diagnosis, the sickbed routines, his isolation, his failure to publish another book, his relationships with others. All these things come into play as the courtroom drama — peopled by the ambitious prosecutor, the medical examiner with his damning evidence, witnesses, and the jurors, some sympathetic and some not — unfolds.
“The courtroom is a wonderful place for drama,” Rubinstein said. “It’s our modern-day form of gladiatorial combat where each side attacks with words and ideas.”
But ultimately, Rubinstein said, he “wanted people to relate to life, love and loss. The quality of life and what comes after it. What the people left behind are going to struggle with.”
It’s a story he can best tell now.
“When you’re young you haven’t lived enough,” he said. “I have so much more wisdom now than even 10 years ago.”
Readers may ask Rubinstein about The Lovers’ Tango and his writing process when he visits Wilton Library for an Area Author Affair on Monday, June 22, from 6 to 7 p.m. For information, call 203-762-3950.
The Lovers’ Tango is available through amazon.com.