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« Controlling Characters In Your Book Before They Lose Control | Main | Why do People put Embellished Bios on Websites: For Credibility and Justification? »
Thursday
Mar042010

Suicide by Knife: the Most Uncommon Suicide there is

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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Reader Comments (23)

You'd think fingerprints would be a dead-giveaway someone else had been involved, I also read in most suicides by knife there are multiple superficial cuts or stabs instead of one clean wound because it really takes an incredible amount of guts to do it in one go. In any case a violent death will be investigated so I doubt it would be easy to make a murder look like a suicide, especially if the victim wasn't known to be mentally ill or despondent. I think the appeal of suicide by knife is that a) knives are a very common household object, b) the lethality rate if an major artery is cut (low chance of survival) and possibly c) the dramatic effect it has on other people. It could also be seen as a manly way of committing suicide since a weapon is used (women aren't known to do this) and as a sign of courage since it'll likely hurt a lot. I do wonder if people try to lessen the pain by using some type of aneasthetic beforehand. In general the lack of reliable means is a serious problem for people who are suicidal and this drives them to violent means like jumping, cutting, shooting, hanging etcetera that are very messy, high risk (just imagine destroying half your brain and still live) and potentially very painful. Since I am against unnecessary suffering and in favour of a pro choice stance on the issue I'd recommend euthanasia or the dispenment of lethal drugs to be made legal for every adult asking for it, regardless of the reason. I know this has little to do with your post but suicide will always be there, despite every effort made in prevention and treatment of the underlying causes, so we might as well be pragmatic about it and try to reduce suffering as much as we can. It might even lessen the suicide-rate since everyone'll know there's a good, painless way out if necessary so they might be inclined to hang in there a little longer. As to the actual method: since stabs are generally more lethal than cuts a strong stab in the heart or major artery would probably be the fastest way of dying, hopefully combined with the ingestion/injection of a anaesthetics to lessen the pain as much as possible. Of course there'd be the problem of dosage as related to the actual execution of the act (being completely wasted will not aid accurate aiming, if not make it completely impossible) but that's another topic entirely.

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