In the last of my holiday season special posts, I thought as we’ve just had the big opening of the year 2014, it might be the time to think about what we’re going to be doing next year. I don’t know you, but I’m planning for big changes. Job, life in general, writing… Probably writing is the thing I’m clearer about. My first plan is to publish Escaping Psychiatry (that I had published as three separate novellas) as a single book, with an epilogue and a fabulous new cover by the very talented Ernesto Valdés.
I’ve mentioned a Young Adult series in the past. I’m planning on finishing writing the whole of it before publishing it, and I’m at the moment writing the second novel. We’ll see. (The title of the series, if it doesn’t change, is: Angelic Business). Recently I’ve had some ideas for a new romance (as it seems that Click Me Happy! has been well received by those who’ve read it). I’m also planning on revisiting some of my finished works and there’s one I think will see the light soonish…
As a teaser, and because I hope Escaping Psychiatry should be published (with a bit of luck, and I must confess I haven’t had much of that recently) by the end of January, I leave you with the description, the cover, and a bit of the second story ‘Teamwork’. I hope you enjoy it and I’ll keep you up-to-date on my progress.
‘Escaping Psychiatry’ has it all: intriguing characters, noir style, thrilling pursuits, dangerous situations, crime, serial killers, religion, family secrets, murder, psychological insights, mental illness, trauma, debates about prejudice and morality, heated trials, police investigations, corruption, and mystery. If you enjoy ‘Wire in the Blood’, ‘Cracker’ and ‘Lie to Me’ and you are not scared of going deeper and darker, dare to read on.
‘Escaping Psychiatry’ is a collection of three stories with the same protagonist, Mary, a psychiatrist and writer. She is trying to develop her literary career but circumstances and friends conspire to keep dragging her back to psychiatry. Initially published as three separate novellas, this volume compiles the three stories and adds an epilogue that brigs closure to previous narrations whilst at the same time opening avenues for new adventures for Mary and her friends.
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 says he can hear God’s voice. And more important 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,Mary’s investigation uncovers some very damaging revelations about his family life, beliefs and local attitudes. 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 dangerous secrets are. Like time-bombs ready to set off any minute.
‘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 real expert in matters of the heart and soul?
In ‘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.
The epilogue revisits Mary at the point of the trial of her abductor and sees what changes have taken place in her life. Will she finally manage to Escape Psychiatry?
Although these stories are fictional, the author, a forensic psychiatrist, brings her expertise and insight to the material, lifting it above a standard crime caper. Olga is thinking of writing more stories in the series. If you’d be interested in reading them, let her know.Links and points of contact available at the end of the book.
Beginning of ‘Teamwork’:
It’s true what they say. ‘There’s no such a thing as a free lunch.’ She should have known. Mary had wondered why Capt. Tom McLeod had invited her for dinner at home. He was one of Phil’s friends and she’d met him while Phil was giving legal advice to one of Tom’s men regarding a complaint of police brutality. He’d also been instrumental in helping her research the role of the profiler for one of her books. She owed him one. When he asked her to a family dinner she couldn’t say no. Now, at his door, with a bunch of flowers for his wife, Maureen, and a bottle of Spanish wine, she wondered how he knew she was in town, and why he had bothered to trace her. Only for dinner? It seemed like too much of an effort. Maybe it was her suspicious mind…
“Hi Mary. Lovely to see you after all this time.”
Tom McLeod was as smart as usual. Not the typical image of the cop with a fag in his mouth and an untidy shirt. Although in his fifties and with greying hair, he was always dressed in neat dark suits, clean-shaven, and with shiny shoes. Even at home, though?
“Hi Tom. These are for your wife. And this…for you” she said, handing him the flowers and wine.
“Thank you. Excellent choice.”
Mary smiled, although she wasn’t truly convinced of the honesty of his comment. She had asked for the shop assistant’s advice when choosing the wine as she understood nothing about it and hardly ever drank.
“How did you know I was here?”
“I was talking to Phil and he told me you were coming to San Francisco. Research? He didn’t tell me much about it.”
“Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The scenery, the buildings, the old San Francisco, Spanish colonialism…Maybe…Depends on what I can find.”
“It sounds good. Maureen is in the kitchen putting the last touches on the meal.”
A young man, ash blonde, with blue eyes and a baby face, stood up from the sofa when they walked in.
“Oh. This is Justin Kelly, one of the detectives in my department. Dr. Mary Miller. A friend of the family.”
“Mary, please” she said, offering her hand. He shook it, looking at her with…worry?
Mary went to say hello to Maureen and do a bit of gossiping, leaving the men alone. Maureen was one of the very few women she knew who seemed born for the role of housewife and mother and truly enjoyed it. After some chitchat about the McLeods’ two sons, Tony and Patrick, Mary decided to proceed with her investigation.
“Who is this Justin, then?” Mary asked.
“Oh…Poor guy. He’s going through a really hard time. He comes from a very traumatic background. One of Tom’s men, Sgt. David Leaman…did you meet him?…took him under his wing and…treated him like a son. A truly good job he did with him. Recently…about two months ago, they were working together in a case and…Sgt. Leaman was killed. Tom is quite concerned about Justin, who seems to have reacted very weirdly to the whole thing. He just wants to go back to work, won’t talk to anybody, won’t have counselling…”
So that was it. An informal consultation. That’s what Tom wanted. Fair enough, but at least he could have told her. However hard she tried to leave psychiatry behind and get on with her other career, it didn’t seem to work. She was always pulled back.
“Is it nearly ready?” Tom asked from the dining room.
Dinner was somewhat weird. It was evident that Justin wasn’t a regular visitor to the house and didn’t quite know what to say. And he didn’t seem the talkative type either. He was sitting opposite Mary, and asked her:
“Doctor in what?”
“Literature and film, aren’t you?” Tom replied for her. Once Tom got distracted by his wife’s conversation she added:
“I also studied Medicine. And Psychiatry. I still work at it sometimes.”
She’d hit the target. His face changed and he became even quieter. Shortly after, he said that he needed to make a phone call. He wasn’t too long and remained as quiet as before when he returned. Both Justin and she made their apologies quite early and left together. Once in the street, as he opened his mouth to say goodbye, Mary said:
“Listen, I didn’t know anything about it. I asked Maureen in the kitchen and she told me what happened to Sgt. Leaman. I’m terribly sorry. But Tom hadn’t told me anything. I can see why he invited me, and I must say I found it a bit weird at the time, but he’d always been helpful and kind to me, I couldn’t say no for no reason. I just wanted you to know that I didn’t come here with the intention of analysing you or anything like that. Goodnight then. And good luck.”
As she turned to leave, he asked:
“Could we…talk? In confidence?”
“If you think it might help…”
“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t talk much. David was one of the few people I’ve ever talked to…And his wife Lea, but less…She’s too distraught to bother her with the way I’m feeling right now.”
“Let’s go somewhere. Do you know any place?”
“There’s an all-night diner not very far away from here. There’re never too many people there.”
He was right. There were a couple of people having something to eat, but otherwise the place was dead quiet. Mary ordered a hot chocolate and he had some ice-cream and coffee. He had a spoonful of the ice-cream and put it to one side.
“No appetite? You didn’t eat much at the McLeods either.”
“No. I don’t feel like eating.”
“Have you lost weight?”
“Probably. Clothes seem loose now.” He went quiet. Mary asked.
“Are you sleeping all right?”
“Not really…I fall asleep easily enough, and then…I wake up in the middle of the night. I keep having these horrible nightmares…I can see David being shot in the head over and over again…”
“Did you see it?…I knew you’d been there, but I didn’t realise…”
“Yes. I was there. When I close my eyes I keep seeing him…falling down…Yes, I know…post-traumatic stress and all that crap. I don’t care what you call it; I’m not going to let it beat me. Not after what I’ve been through. I was beaten up by my father, tortured by him, really…He sent my mother and me to hospital time and again until one day…he hit her; she knocked her head against a banister and died. I pushed him downstairs, he was drunk…He didn’t die but ended up in a coma, like a vegetable. He finally died a couple of years ago and I couldn’t have cared less. It was a relief. I was 14 when all that happened. And then…They put me in a children’s home, and I did drugs, and drank, and…other things…And David caught me at a robbery…I was 16 at the time, and…I don’t know what it was, but he felt sorry for me. Lea says I probably reminded him of the son he lost as a child. Anyway, he took an interest, took me home with him and…He can’t be dead!” Justin burst out crying and Mary kept quiet, offering him a tissue after a few minutes.
“I hadn’t cried…for a long time. It makes me feel stupid and…”
“Vulnerable?…We’re all human and we hurt. It’s allowed, you know?”
“No. Not me. If I let everything come out…It’s a can of worms, Mary…Can I call you Mary?”
“Sure you can.”
“It’s…The only way I can get on with my life is by forgetting what went on before. Dave used to tell me that I didn’t have control over what the bastard of my father did to me, and that he’d been punished for it, and I might as well concentrate on the rest of my life, because over that…I had some control and I could decide what to do. I could change it over; I could become anything I wanted if I just tried hard enough.”
“He was right, of course. But it isn’t always that easy. We need help sometimes, we aren’t that strong. We need to understand how we feel to move on. We cannot block everything out.”
“I am trying. I am trying very hard…Dave was…I was going to say like my father, but that’s an insult given the circumstances. He was like my father would have been if I had been given a choice…He accepted me when I was at my lowest, helped me through all the crap of coming off drugs and alcohol, taught me how to behave in civilised company, and managed to convince the police department that I deserved a chance…with my past…Oh, I don’t know why I’m telling you all this shit.”
“I don’t talk. It isn’t my way. Even with Dave…We did things, he gave me advice, but he wasn’t the touchy-feely kind of guy, and he always taught me to put a brave face on things and get on with it.”
“He must have been a very strong man.”
“Yes. He didn’t…Not long ago Lea told me about the son he lost. From his first marriage. His son drowned in an accident when he was six, and his wife died in a car-crash a year later. He never told her anything else about them, or talked about his feelings. And he never mentioned them to me. He had a picture of his son in his bedroom, but I never dared to ask.”
“That was his way of coping, then. Not everybody is the same, Justin, and it isn’t a weakness to talk about the way one feels. It’s OK.”
“I’ve been trying to go back to work for ages. They gave me time off following the shooting, gave me compassionate leave, and now don’t want me to go back. They insisted that I have bereavement counselling, but I refused. I know Capt. McLeod wanted me to have an assessment, a psychological assessment, of how I was before I went back. I imagine just in case I became a homicidal maniac and shot everybody in sight or something like that.”
“As I said, he didn’t tell me anything, so I don’t know their worries. Although Maureen told me that they felt you’d reacted in a rather weird way to his death, not saying anything, not expressing any feelings.”
“What do they want me to do? Cry? I won’t. Why do I have to express myself their way? And what do I need counselling for? Is it going to bring Dave back?”
“No. Of course not. It might help you come to terms with…”
“The only thing that could help me come to terms with it would be to catch the fucking bastard who did this to him, and kill him.” Justin’s eyes were bright, his lips trembling, the veins in his neck bulging, and his breathing had become shallow.
“Justin…You’re a policeman. You can’t take justice in your own hands.”
“And who is going to stop me? Who? This hatred is the only thing that makes me get up in the morning, the last thing I think of before I go to bed.”
“Revenge and hatred are destructive emotions. You’ve learned to control your behaviour and your anger, don’t let them get the better of you.”
Mary wondered if her advice was the wisest thing to tell him. That young man was evidently not only bereaved, but also depressed, and maybe his anger was the only thing he was living for. The only person he trusted had died. He must have felt an orphan all over again.
“Maybe you’re right. I know Dave wouldn’t have approved of what I’m saying, but it drives me mad. I keep fantasising over it. I think about killing him. Not shooting him, but killing him with my own hands. I want to see the life escaping from that bastard…Sorry…I shouldn’t talk like that.”
“Talking about it isn’t a problem. If you came to do it…that would be a problem.”
Justin looked at her in the eyes, and then looked down.
“I know. I know. Now you’ll talk to Capt. McLeod and I won’t have a chance of ever going back until I’ve undergone therapy. It’s my own fault. I should have shut up.”
“Justin…Capt. McLeod didn’t ask me to assess you. At least not yet. And I could only talk to him about whatever you allowed me to. There are confidentiality issues. I would never agree to do anything without your consent. Although, if you ask me, I think you need to ventilate your feelings and not let them destroy you. What you feel is perfectly normal and reasonable. If you refuse to allow yourself to feel it, though, it might become a problem.”
“Who can I talk to about it?”
“Maybe counselling isn’t such a bad idea.”
“Oh no, I can’t talk to one of the police counsellors. I don’t trust them. And they don’t know what they’re talking about. But I’ll talk to you…You’re easy to talk to.”
Thank you for reading. Sorry it ended up being a bit long but I wanted to give a bit of an idea…And if you’ve enjoyed it, please comment, share, and like! And Happy New Year 2014!