Thinking about my writing and particularly with the publishing of my new YA novella Twin Evils? I’ve noticed I’ve talked a fair bit about The Man Who Never Was and more recently I’ve launched Twin Evils? but I never talked much about my series: Escaping Psychiatry. It came out just before Christmas and with the hustle and bustle of Christmas and one thing and another, other than showing you the covers and links, I’ve not brought it to anybody’s attention much.
I thought maybe it was time to do something about. Escaping Psychiatry is a series of 3 novellas (Cannon Fodder, Teamwork and Memory) all linked by the same main character, Mary, a psychiatrist and writer (like me) who in each one of the novellas gets involved in a case (sometimes more personally than others) and has to work through sometimes not only the patients’ issues but also her own.
I’ve decided to offer you the description and a sample of each one of the novellas and see if you find them interesting. I also have an epilogue that have not published, but in time I might decide to publish the three together in a volume, depending on the response. I’d really appreciate your comments. And share if you find it interesting.
In ‘Cannon Fodder’, Phil, a lawyer who is good friends with Mary asks
her to provide a report on one of his clients, a young African-American
man called Cain White. Cain is a very religious man and has been accused
of inciting a riot at a religious meeting. Although his actions have
never been violent, some people find the content of his speech
inflammatory and disturbing. He not only says he can hear God’s voice,
but also he insists that God is black and his appears to be a Black
Nationalist message. Is Cain insane, deluded, misguided, looking for
media-attention, or a Saint? To find an answer to these questions Mary
talks to his family and friends. Although she concludes he is sane, some
very damaging revelations about his family life, beliefs and local
attitudes result from Mary’s investigation. Who is a saint and who is a
sinner is a matter for debate. The more Mary gets involved in the lives
of Cain and those close to him the more she realises how damaging
Cannon Fodder contains damaging family secrets, court
procedures, psychological insights, discussions around morality and
religion, sin and ultimately redemption. This novella offers you an
emotionally affecting and challenging read in a small package. It is
well worth the time and investment.
Extract from Cannon Fodder
“I’m only me, Cain White, a fairly normal boy.”
“Do you think fairly normal boys say they can hear God?”
“I don’t know any who say that, but that’s probably because they can’t hear him. But I do.”
“Do you hear his voice as you hear me? Is it a voice outside your head?”
“It’s difficult to explain. It isn’t a voice like anything I’ve ever heard before. It isn’t a man or a woman, it’s God.”
“How do you know?”
“Because the voice says so. And I believe it.”
“Does it talk to you or does it talk about you or others?”
“It talks to me.”
“Does it call your name?”
“Yes…It says something like: “Cain, listen. There’s something I want you to tell the others. Tell them they must love themselves. Tell them they are beautiful.””
“Who are the others?”
“You mean God is talking to the black people through you.”
“I mean God is black.”
Mary had to bite her lip not to smile. Cain wouldn’t stand a chance if the judge were white.
“You don’t believe me.”
Mary looked at him straight in the eyes.
“I’m not trying to determine if God is black or white or any other colour. “
“You only want to know if I am mad. I guess I must be a raving lunatic to say things like that to a white psychiatrist.”
“Do you think black psychiatrists have different criteria for diagnosing madness?”
“This voice, is it inside you head or outside?”
“Outside. I’m not imagining it.”
“I didn’t say you were. Do you hear it at any particular time of the day or in a particular place?”
“No. It comes to me any time, any place.”
“When was the first time you heard that voice?”
“I heard it once as a child, just after my father died, telling me that I should look after my mother and siblings. And then, a few months ago. First I thought I was tired and I was hallucinating. But I had to accept it. It was God.”
“Are you taking drugs?”
“I don’t touch the stuff. I’m not off my head or anything like that.” he said in a brisk manner.
“I must ask this type of questions.”
In ‘Teamwork’ Captain Tom McLeod, from the San Francisco Police
Department, invites Mary for a meal at home with his wife. When she
meets their other guest, a young detective called Justin, she quickly
realises there is an agenda well beyond a friendly meal. Justin’s
partner, mentor and father figure, Sgt. David Leaman, was killed a
couple of months earlier during a routine investigation. Justin
witnessed the event but he insists in going back to work and refusing
any therapy or counselling. Tom and others at the department are
concerned about his mental state but have failed to convince him to
accept professional help. Both Mary and Justin are reluctant to engage
in the ambush informal consultation organised, but eventually decide to
give it a try. At first sight it appears to be a straight forward case
of unresolved grief, but things aren’t as clear-cut as they appear and
Mary ends up getting too personally involved with the case, to the
detriment of her professional objectivity. Who is the expert in matters
of the heart and soul?
‘Teamwork’ combines police procedural/crime
thriller format with psychological exploration of characters’ insights
and motivations. Despite its length this novella will have you enthused
and guessing from beginning to end.
Fragment from Teamwork
“Hi Phil. How are you?”
“I’m fine. I was a bit concerned. Tom phoned me saying that you’d disappeared and he was trying to contact you. About that guy…whatever his name is, one of his men you’ve been seeing. He wants him back working for him and he’d been phoning you with no reply.”
“Yes. Justin. What’s the problem?”
“What is not the problem would be a better question. This guy is the young man I told you about.”
“The guy whose partner had died, but who was like a father to him.”
“Exactly. You were listening to me.”
“I always do. The young attractive guy.”
“Do you fancy him?”
Mary went quiet. Phil waited and finally said.
“So you fancy him.”
“He told me he liked me. One night we went out to meet his mates from work, he got drunk, Tom drove us back, and Justin kissed me. Then he told me he liked me, and what was wrong with that, and…”
“You gave him your usual blah, blah about transference, vulnerability…Maybe at some point you should believe that somebody can like you for yourself, and not only because you’re a psychiatrist.”
“Fair enough comment if it wasn’t because in most cases it’s only my patients who seem to fancy me.”
“Oh, please, Mary, come on…Give a guy a chance, eh? If you don’t want a relationship, don’t blame guys for it. And I know what you’ll say. Mea culpa. I don’t want a relationship either. Does that disqualify me from giving you advice?”
Mary sighed and Phil continued.
“So you ran away from him.”
“No, Mr. Know-it-all. I didn’t. I told him that if he felt that way I couldn’t carry on working with him, and he said that he’d try and keep a lid on it. But, apart from all this, there’s something rather weird going on. Justin had told me that Lea, David Leaman’s wife, the dead policeman I mean, was a few years younger than him and he’d left her well covered with his insurance policy. Three days ago they had his memorial and Tom asked me if I’d like to go with Maureen and him. Justin had never mentioned it to me. Once there, I discovered that Lea was much younger than Dave, at least 20 years, if not more. She is in effect quite a few years younger than you and me, and only 4 or 5 years older than Justin himself.”
“Why did he lie? One of the other policemen made a strange comment that I can’t quite work out, but seems to insinuate that there is something between Justin and Lea. I don’t know what to make of it, but it all seems a bit fishy.”
“Didn’t you talk to the guy? Justin, I mean.”
“I bumped onto him as I was leaving the chapel and he accused me of going there behind his back, told me he needed some space…”
In the third novella, ‘Memory’, Mary runs out of her apartment after a
difficult encounter with her friend Phil, and goes missing. When she is
found it seems that she was hit in the head, abducted and raped. As a
result of the head injury she initially cannot recall what happened or
remember many details of her life. She never recovers memory for the
assault and finds it difficult to come to terms with something she
cannot recall. Her relationships and her whole life are left in turmoil
following the traumatic incident. The clues point towards a serial
killer who could not finish his job in her case. But some things do not
fit in. Who disturbed the killer? Why was she left there? The crime and
the investigation surrounding it have a profound impact on Mary who
decides that she needs to reconsider her life and start anew.
Exploring issues such as mental illness, memory, police investigation, trauma,
serial killers and life as a single professional woman, ‘Memory’ is an
intense and intriguing novella.
Fragment from Memory
At times when he felt well, he was grateful to Mary for helping him and making him accept his illness. When he was a bit high he resented her for it and blamed her. About a week earlier Phil had done something he hoped would have no negative consequences. He had a very important case to represent in court and he was feeling quite tired. He decided not to take his mood stabiliser for a couple of days. The surge of energy served him well in court, but made him irritable and impulsive. After winning the case, he decided to take a drive and go to see Mary on his days off. She was working as a locum in a private psychiatric intensive care unit upstate and it took him less than an hour to get there. The hospital was renting her a small studio-flat and he went directly there. She wasn’t at home when he arrived and he sat in his car for about half an hour, waiting. She arrived carrying some shopping bags and while she looked for her keys he came out of the car. He’d been replaying what happened next in his head over and over again since.
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As always THANK YOU FOR READING! And feel free to leave COMMENTS. And Friday guest author Eduardo Perellón.
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