“In Palumbo’s riveting third Daniel Rinaldi mystery (after 2011’s FEVER DREAM), answers prove elusive as the murders begin to pile up. Palumbo ratchets up the stakes in this psychological thriller, but maintains the emotional complexity…” --- Publisher’s Weekly

Father of KDKA Radio: Dr. Frank Conrad

Dr. Frank Conrad, assistant chief engineer of Westinghouse Electric, developed the technology that made KDKA Radio possible. He constructed a transmitter and installed it in a garage near his home in Wilkinsburg in 1916. The station was licensed as 8XK.

When amateur radio operation resumed after the war, most radio messages consisted of amateur radio operators trading information, describing the equipment they were using and where their stations were located. Bored by the chatter, Dr. Conrad chose to introduce entertainment to the airwaves, and on Oct. 17, 1920, he put his microphone by a phonograph.
At 6 p.m. on Nov. 2, 1920, 8KX became KDKA Radio and began broadcasting at 100 watts from a make-shift shack atop one of the Westinghouse manufacturing buildings in East Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Post provided election returns by telephone, and returns were relayed to almost a thousand listeners, who learned through this fantastic new medium that Warren G. Harding had defeated James M. Cox in the presidential race. 

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Kings River Life Magazine Reviews Night Terrors

Night Terrors: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery By Dennis Palumbo 

Review by Cynthia Chow

Maybe Freud had it right. It’s all about the mothers. In Dennis Palumbo’s third mystery featuring Pittsburgh psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, the acerbic but still hopeful PSTD specialist finds himself enlisted in two cases, due to his reputation and featured presence in the media stemming from several recent brutal events. After Wesley Currim confesses to the robbery and murder of the missing businessman, Edward Meachem, Currim agrees to reveal the location of the body only if Rinaldi, the psychologist Currim has seen on television, accompanies them to West Virginia to deal with his “trauma.”

What they find is a grotesque sight; a snowman, topped not by a snowball, but by Ed Meachem’s severed head. This would be a gruesome case quickly closed and best forgotten were it not from a plea from Currim’s mother, claiming that she has proof of his innocence and begging Rinaldi to help her secure his
  release, and uncover why Wes would have falsely confessed to murder.

Even as Rinaldi struggles to separate himself from that case he is unwillingly drawn into a rampage of revenge being carried out by the “Biggest Fan” of a serial killer. After John Jessup was beaten to death by a guard during a prison riot, the guard responsible for the beating, as well as the judge who sentenced Jessup, was shot to death in what is not believed to be a coincidence.

The FBI have placed the profiler responsible for helping catch Jessup, John Barnes, in protective custody, but his uncontrollable fits of “Night Terrors” have them calling Rinaldi for help. A man who has seen far too much of the most horrifying of cruelties people can inflict upon on another, since his retirement and especially since Jessup’s death, Barnes has been experiencing nightmares so terrifying that the agents guarding him are unsettled. Particularly difficult in treating night terrors is that, despite the alarming screams and nightmares, those who suffer from them are often unable to remember anything about their dreams.

However, before Rinaldi and Barnes can do much exploration into this fascinating realm of night terrors, Barnes escapes from protective custody and unfortunately places himself on the very short list of suspects. Rinaldi’s sense of obligation and admiration for the profiler have him unable to give up pursuing the man’s trail, despite the FBI’s adamant declarations that the psychologist’s services are no longer needed. Rinaldi is immersed in two investigations that cross numerous police departments and where the killer is always two steps ahead, with too much insight into the law enforcements’ activities.

As a clinical psychologist, Rinaldi treats patients who have been traumatized by violence and face the difficulties of coping with the resulting fear, helplessness, shame, and survivor’s guilt. These are symptoms Rinaldi is well acquainted with, as having been an amateur boxer he still feels that he should have been able to protect his wife from a mugger’s the fatal gunshot. Rinaldi eventually pulled himself out of his depression and trauma by devoting himself to helping others suffering from the same fate, and led to his becoming a consultant for the Pittsburgh police. Although Rinaldi still mourns for his wife he has begun a very tentative relationship with Detective Eleanor Lowrey, a beautiful African-American woman, whose obligation to her family is as much as obstacle as their professional alliance.

The action never stops in this psychological thriller, populated by well-described, elaborate personalities with even more complicated motives. What the author ably crafts characters so realistic, that the reader truly feels invested in their fates and mourns those who are victimized. The brutality of the violence is always balanced by the wit and humor of Rinaldi’s narrative, making this a thoroughly enjoyable read with a very complicated plot and just as satisfying conclusion.

Historic Pittsburgh: KDKA RADIO - First Radio Broadcast in US History!

Beginnings of KDKA, with entire staff of four
Pittsburgh's place in radio history is simple: it's the birthplace of commercial radio. KDKA, the market's all-time most successful station, was also the first station ever to broadcast to a mass market. The station was owned by Westinghouse Electric Company, who kicked off a new era in communications, in which people scattered around town could enjoy the same experience without ever leaving their homes.

It started at 8:00 pm, 2 November 1910,with the station broadcasting the  Presidential Election returns, in which Warren Harding defeated James Cox.

By the end of 1923, KDKA was heard regularly all over the United States as well as some parts of Europe, South America and the Hawaiian Islands

Top 10 Movies Made in Pittsburgh: The Deer Hunter (1978)

 A powerful Vietnam war drama starting Robert De Niro, John Cazale and John Savage, The Deer Hunter won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The movie is set in the men's hometown of Clairton, PA, west of Pittsburgh, with many of the scenes shot around Western Pennsylvania. The fearsome steel mill and the Orthodox church from the wedding scene are

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Pittsburgh Lore: Mazeroski's Home Run

Lost World Series classic found in Bing Crosby's wine cellar

It is regarded as one of the greatest baseball games ever played, but one that was lost to history.

The decider of the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees ended with Bill Mazeroski's electrifying home run which won the game 10-9 and clinched the series for the Pirates.

It was believed that a grainy 40-second clip was all that survived of the match as television networks erased the tape, as was routine up until the 1970s.

But a pristine copy of the entire two-and-a-half hour broadcast has been discovered, four decades on, in Bing Crosby's wine cellar.

The entertainer, who died in 1977, was a baseball devotee and co-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The World Series victory should have been his proudest moment, but he was not there to see it. Crosby was so superstitious that he refused to watch and went on holiday to Paris instead.

"I can't stay in the country. I'll jinx everybody," he told his wife, Kathryn.

However, Crosby took the precaution of hiring a company to record the game by kinescope, a precursor to the videotape, giving himself the luxury of being able to watch the game afterwards in the knowledge that his team had won.

The five-reel, 16mm film was then stored in the cool surroundings of his cellar, which doubled as a vault. It is the only known complete copy of the game and was discovered by Robert Bader, vice president of marketing and production for Bing Crosby Enterprises, who stumbled across it while looking for footage of old television shows in the Crosby home in Hillsborough, California.

"I had to be the only person to have seen it in 50 years. It was just pure luck. It's a time capsule," Bader said.

Crosby's widow, Kathryn, recalled the day of the game, 13 October 1960. The couple were staying with their friends, Charles and Nonie de Limur, in Paris and Crosby followed the action via a radio broadcast.

"We were in this beautiful apartment, listening on shortwave, and when it got close Bing opened a bottle of Scotch and was tapping it against the mantel," she told the New York Times. "When Mazeroski hit the home run, he tapped it hard; the Scotch flew into the fireplace and started a conflagration. I was screaming and Nonie said, 'It's very nice to celebrate things, but couldn't we be more restrained?'"

The singer's refusal to watch the game may seem extreme, but superstition and baseball go hand in hand.

The Boston Red Sox have long laboured under the 'Curse of the Bambino', said to have begun after the team sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in the 1919-20 season. They suffered a dip in fortunes which only ended in 2004, when they finally won the World Series.

Crosby's black and white film has been transferred to DVD and is available for DVD release.

The footage demonstrates how much things have changed in 50 years. The broadcast has no instant replays, no analysis and no reports in the dugout, and the game features a hand-operated scoreboard.

  Anita Singh - Read More

BookLoons Reviews

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Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

If you're ready for a good mystery, Night Terrors by Dennis Palumbo is a real humdinger.

Retired FBI profiler Lyle Barnes is falling apart mentally, most probably because of his years of working with the most violent of prisoners. Psychologist Daniel Rinaldi wants to help him escape from the horrors of night terrors. I always thought that this term meant someone had awful dreams. Night terrors go way beyond a bad nightmare. It must be like the very pits of hell.

In any case, Barnes is on a hit list compiled by an unknown assassin. Barnes thinks he can take better care of himself than the FBI and so flees his safe house. More persons are on this hit list - no one is sure why but suspect this is a serial killer with a serious grudge.

To throw more unknowns into this combined operation of the FBI, and two separate police departments, a young man is arrested when he confesses to the murder of a prominent citizen, even though his mother is positively sure he is innocent. The killer seems to be wherever one on his list is being hidden from him. The body count grows.

Rinaldi – remember him, the psychologist – is told to keep his hands off anything to do with all the murders. That's like asking a bull not to charge a red cape. He is battered and shot at and exhausted. He keeps going because he knows something is not right in this manhunt.

Rinaldi also ruminates on the human condition and gives the reader some thoughts to examine apart from a very good book. Get comfortable when you open Night Terrors. You won't be able to put it down. All the clues come together for a really exciting finale. This is the third in the Daniel Rinaldi series. I do hope Mr. Palumbo is hard at work on the next one.

When All That's Left Is Writing: Turning Anxiety Into Creativity

An old deodorant commercial once proclaimed, 'If you're not a little nervous, you're really not alive.'

Pretty sage advice, even though the only thing at stake was staying dry and odor-free. But there is something to be said for accepting -- and learning to navigate -- the minor turbulences of life. I'm talking here about common, everyday anxiety. The jitters. Butterflies.

This is particularly true for writers, whose very feelings are the raw materials of their craft. No matter how mundane, the small anxieties can swarm like bees, making work difficult; distractions, like an impending visit from the in-laws, money worries, or that funny noise the Honda's been making.

Then there're the more virulent, career-specific anxieties, shared by few in other lines of work: Your agent hasn't returned your phone calls. You're three weeks past deadline with the script. You have--dare I say it? -- Act Two problems.

In other words, you're a clone of the Charlie Kaufman character in 'Adaptation'-- bleary-eyed, unshaven, sleep-deprived, staring pathetically at the empty computer screen, hoping for inspiration and yearning for another cup of coffee, and maybe a nice banana-nut muffin. A dozen nagging, self-mocking thoughts echo in your head: You're untalented, a fraud. You're getting old and fat. No woman (or man) will ever want to sleep with you again. Your life is over.

These kinds of feelings require work, to be sure, if only to be validated (and then gently challenged) by a supportive therapist, mate, good friend, or fellow writer who's been there, done that. These deeply embedded, childhood-derived, seemingly inescapable Dark-Night-of-the-Soul feelings can, in fact, be crippling, regardless of your level of craft or years of experience. And believe me, when it comes to these writer demons, we've all 'been there, done that.'

And, as I've said countless times to the writer clients in my practice, struggling with these doubts and fears doesn't say anything about you as a writer. Other than that you ARE a writer.

Frankly, this difficult emotional terrain is where a writer lives much of the time -- in a matrix of triumphs and defeats, optimism and despair, impassioned beliefs and crushing deflations. In the end, it's all just grist for the creative mill.

And, believe me, this is equally true for both beginning writers and accomplished, battle-hardened veterans.

But there's another kind of anxiety that emerges occasionally in a writer's life: the kind of gut-wrenching, dizzying upheaval from within that throws everything you think you know into doubt and that scares you to the very core. A shattering divorce. The death of a family member. A spate of sudden, inexplicable panic attacks. Terrorism. War.

Then, what balm is there to offer -- or to receive -- that doesn't seem trivial or woefully inadequate? Catharsis and validation, the foundation of most psychotherapeutic work, feel like mere word games. Medication, while often clinically appropriate, seems at best an armoring against something primal that's working within you.

What is a writer to do with that level of anxiety?

Use it.

Because when all that's left is writing, writing's all that's left.

What kind of writing? Maybe numbed-out and shapeless at first; chaotic and unsatisfying. Maybe dark and ugly, or self-pitying and shameless. Maybe a blind, angry clawing at the air with words and images.

The important thing to acknowledge, to accept and to make use of is the fact of the anxiety -- its weight, its size, and its implacability at this time in your life, for whatever reason. It's there, as immoveable as a brick wall; as deep and fathomless as a sea.

And, for now, it isn't going anywhere.

So you, the writer, must ask yourself this question: Is there a character in the story I'm working on who feels such anxiety; who feels as overwhelmed, as out of control, as terrified as I?

If so, plunge headlong into writing the hell out of that character, giving him or her your voice, your fears, your dreads. Create situations and scenes in which these anxieties are dramatized, exploited, 'acted out.'

Write monologues, rants, vitriolic exchanges between characters, letting passions and behaviors emerge that may astound or alarm you; that stretch or distort or even demolish the narrative you've been working with. These problems can all be dealt with, deleted, perhaps even woven into the story later, in the cool light of day, when you have some kind of perspective.

Because to be truly in the eye of the emotional storm, to create from a state of anxiety, is to surrender any fantasy of perspective. In fact, in the purest sense, it's the ultimate act of creative surrender from which, out of the crucible of your deepest pain, you might discover a joyful, wonderful surprise.

If, however, you feel so impotent in the face of your anxiety that you can't even imagine utilizing it in this way, then write about that feeling -- even if you have no characters whose voices you can appropriate; even if your fingers tremble at the thought of making narrative sense out of the inchoate feelings inside you.

Do this: put those trembling fingers on a keyboard, RIGHT NOW, and start stringing words together that reflect how you feel...without context, or narrative, or character. Just raw feeling, in as many vivid, living words as you can call forth.

Then look at what you've written. Feel whatever it is you're feeling. And write some more. Soon, I believe, you'll have a sense of the logjam cracking. You'll feel the urgency of creative expression, the palpable release of banked anxiety. Without judging what comes, without needing it to be anything, I think you'll find yourself writing, even if that's just defined, for the moment, as putting words down on a page.

Does the idea of this exercise itself make you anxious? Doesn't surprise me. We're all pretty scared of writing out of the very emotional space we'd most like to avoid or deny. It's human nature.

But for those artists who have the courage to embrace their own fears, to stay conscious and connected in what seems like an ever more dangerous world, to co-exist with potentially crippling anxiety and write anyway, the rewards can be significant.

Moreover, when all that's left is writing...
Writing's all that's left.
So trust it. Trust yourself.
And write.

Harriet Klausner Gives Night Terrors Five Stars!

5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Police Procedural, May 18, 2013
Night Terrors
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen, May 7 2013, $24.95
ISBN 9781464201318

In Pittsburgh, the FBI quietly asks psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi to help former FBI special agent Lyle Barnes deal with his experiences of hunting serial killers. Barnes was the best because he could get inside the heads of these predators, but now in retirement they get inside his head every time he tries to sleep. Adding to his Night Terrors is a serial killer targeting anyone involved in ending John Jessup's homicidal reign; which includes Barnes who captured the psychopath and by extension Rinaldi may be on the murderer's list.

At the same time, Wes Currim confesses to decapitating businessman Edward Meachem in Wheeling. Wes refuses to show the body unless the shrink who works with the Pittsburgh PD accompanies them. Thus at the request of Chief Block, Daniel arrives in nearby West Virginia as an obviously disturbed Wes takes him and WPD to the severed corpse. Wes' mom Maggie believes her troubled son never killed the victim and pleads with Rinaldi to prove her contention while in Pittsburgh, the Jessup body count rises and Barnes vanishes from federal protective custody.

The third Daniel Rinaldi mystery (see Fever Dream and Mirror Image), is a fabulous police procedural as the protagonist struggles between patient confidentiality and law enforcement needs. Fast-paced throughout, readers will relish this twisting thriller as Wheeling and Pittsburgh keep Dr. Rinaldi and two police departments overworked trying to prevent further homicides.

Talking Night Terrors with Doug Foresta on Breakfree to Success

This episode features the return of writer and psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo. Dennis talks about his new book "Night Terrors" which is the latest in the Daniel Rinaldi series, and also discusses the challenges of living in an "age of trauma."


Mystery Scene Magazine

In my latest Daniel Rinaldi mystery, NIGHT TERRORS, the Pittsburgh psychologist and trauma expert is asked by the FBI to treat one of their recently-retired profilers. After a twenty year career inside the minds of the most infamous serial killers, Special Agent Lyle Barnes can no longer sleep through the night. He’s tormented by a cascade of horrifying though indistinct images, along with intense feelings of dread and imminent danger. Until, sweat-soaked, heart pounding, he wakes up screaming.

He’s not alone. Once considered primarily a pediatric diagnosis, more and more adults are currently being treated for Night Terrors. And, researchers suspect, many more are suffering from the condition but are either too ashamed to report it or underestimate its long-term negative effects. A nightly experience of disturbed sleep can result in chronic fatigue, emotional fragility, a weakened immune system and reduced concentration.

Why the upsurge in Night Terrors in adults? Most clinicians—-including therapists like myself--are blaming the increased uncertainty of contemporary life. The economy, terrorism. Even natural disasters, like tsunamis, earthquakes, and super-storms. The daily anxiety suppressed by adults during waking life, now invading their sleep.

However, since science isn’t exactly sure what causes Night Terrors, developing approaches to dealing with it has been difficult.

Most experts believe the condition is caused by a sudden disruption in the central nervous system, usually triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, or substance abuse. With such a broad range of potential causes, treatment options are limited to medication, hypnotherapy, stress management techniques, and good old talk therapy. That is, as long as you have something to talk about.

And there’s the problem. Patients suffering from garden-variety nightmares can usually recount the content of their dreams, which perhaps leads to interpretation. Often, once the meaning of a patient’s dream becomes clear, the therapist can aid the patient in working through its various themes. The patient may find support in leavening the anxiety and dread left in the nightmare’s wake.

Unfortunately, people with Night Terrors can’t find the same solace, for the simple reason that, unlike nightmares, they don’t occur during REM sleep. Typically, Night Terrors erupt during Stage Four of the sleep cycle. Which means the sufferer doesn’t remember the dream images, giving both patient and therapist very little to work with.

In my novel, Rinaldi’s approach is to get the retired FBI agent to open up about his years as a profiler. His thousands of hours of contact with the most heinous and notorius serial killers. Since Barnes’ work was his life, Rinaldi believes that the best way to address his nocturnal demons is to get him to open up about the real-life demons with whom he spent most of his career. 

Not an easy task, since Lyle Barnes is also the target of an unknown assassin who’s already killed three others on a seemingly-random hit-list.

    A fictional reminder that in crime novels--as in life
--the real terrors occur when we’re awake. 


Top 10 Movies Made in Pittsburgh: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This Academy Award-winning crime thriller stars Anthony Hopkins as a psychopathic serial killer locked up in the Memphis, TN Town Hall (portrayed by the Pittsburgh Soldiers and Sailors Museum) and Jodie Foster as the FBI cadet in charge of the interrogation. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History also makes an appearance.

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Thinking About Books Reviews Night Terrors

Thinking about books

An editor and writer thinks about recent books, films and television shows — particularly in the science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery genres

Night Terrors by Dennis Palumbo

Night Terrors by Dennis Palumbo (Poisoned Pen Press, 2013) is the third in the series featuring Daniel Rinaldi and, as with Fever Dream, our forensic psychologist with the hero complex has yet again survived to the end of a book. Back in 2003, there was an appropriately titled film called the Bulletproof Monk. Once you realised the hero had supernatural powers, all the silliness of his invincibility faded into the background. When something is explicitly a fantasy, you willingly suspend disbelief. But this book pushes the envelope of credibility as our hero is variously assaulted, rear-ended into a ditch, and shot at on several different occasions. To say he’s leading a charmed life is an understatement. Yet, if you’re prepared to look beyond this blurring of reality, what we have here is an above-average mystery puzzle for our sleuth to solve. After all, to write a series, the author is always obliged to keep the hero alive (or else pivot into a supernatural book in which his ghost continues investigate crimes in the mortal coil — observing what people say and do is not a problem, but telling the police whodunnit is a challenge unless they take instant messages by ouija board).
So where to start? Well there’s no better place than the first introductory scenes which represent one of the best starts to a mystery that I’ve read in quite some time. Boiling it down to its essentials, the narrative structure of this series is for there to be two “crimes” for our hero to investigate. In the last book, we had him consulting over a bank robbery while worrying about why someone committed suicide. This time he gets called out by a country sheriff who has a confessed killer in custody. The “accused” says he’ll take them to where the body is hidden but only if the increasingly high-profile Rinaldi is there to keep him safe from harm (both internally generated and externally applied by the local police). Very reluctantly, he gets into his car and navigates the icy conditions into the night. What they find when they finally reach the house in the woods is wonderfully atmospheric with a delightful twist borrowed from the horror genre. The only problem with such a strong opening is that, by contrast, the pace of the next section of the book feels so slow. Fortunately, the FBI then invite our hero to consult on one of their cases.

Dennis Palumbo deciding how not to kill off his hero
Dennis Palumbo deciding how not to kill off his hero
Before his retirement from the Bureau, an old FBI profiler had tracked down a serial killer who died while in prison. As a direct result of this death, he may now be on a hit list. Under normal circumstances, he would support the investigation through his expertise but not only has he retired, his mind is also worn down through his inability to sleep properly. He suffers from night terror. Because the FBI agent in charge considers both Rinaldi and his new patient outside the magic circle, neither are given access to the case files relevant to the threat. Needless to say, this excessive following of the book and rigid thinking is not going to solve the case. The real catalyst for action therefore comes when the sleep-deprived old guy decides to exit the hotel where the FBI has him in protective custody. This was not at all what the FBI operatives were expecting and it leads to Rinaldi going out into the field with one of the local detectives to interview a witness who may be able to identify the killer.
In the midst of this, the mother of the man who has confessed to the first somewhat gruesome murder contacts Rinaldi. She’s convinced her son is innocent and a situation is engineered forcing our hero to talk with the “killer”. But as our sleuth says to this highly respectable woman who swears her son was with her around the time of death, “If he’s innocent how did he know where to find the body and why would he confess if he was innocent?” Two very good questions, I’m sure you’ll agree. As is always the case when reaching the end of this type of book, our hero is able to say with compete certainty whether the man who confessed to the killing is innocent and who has been going around killing a prison guard, a judge, a prosecutor, and so on. The fact the key scenes of revelation take place on a factory roof at night gives the second meaning to the title.
Summing up, this is a top-class mystery with thrillerish overtones as our psychologist with an unadmitted death wish triumphs yet again. This is far better than Fever Dream so Dennis Palumbo is an author developing in technique and threatening to become one of the top mystery writers.
For another review, see Fever Dream.

From Fellow Mystery Writer Carl Brookins

"This is the third in an excellent series featuring psychologist Daniel Rinaldi. He is one of the most intriguing, authentic, characters in American crime fiction today."



Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is now a licensed psychotherapist and author of Writing From the Inside Out. As a fiction writer, his short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Strand, Written By and elsewhere, and are collected in From Crime to Crime.

Palumbo is also the author of the Daniel Rinaldi series of mysteries. The debut novel was Mirror Image, followed by Fever Dream, and the newly released Night Terrors.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of the series:

After writing three books in my Daniel Rinaldi series, I have a pretty good feel for the continuing characters who populate my “mean streets” of Pittsburgh.My lead character, Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, is an Italian-American psychologist who was born and raised in the Steel City (okay, so he wasn’t exactly a stretch!). He’s passionate about his work treating crime victims, is stubborn and opinionated, and has a snarky sense of humor. He’s also a former amateur boxer (Golden Gloves, Pan Am Games), so casting him for a film isn’t easy. I could see Anthony LaPaglia playing Rinaldi, or one of Hollywood’s “usual suspects” like Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe, though I really like Viggo Mortensen. I admired the intelligence, intensity and humor that he brought to his portrayal of Freud in the recent film, A Dangerous Method. I figure, if Mortensen was good enough to play the father of psychoanalysis, he’s good enough to play Dan Rinaldi. 

For Noah Frye, a paranoid schizophrenic and Rinaldi’s best friend, I think it’s a toss-up between Zach Galifianakis and Jonah Hill. Both are fine comic actors with just the right amount of pathos and lunacy in their eyes.

For Eleanor Lowrey, the beautiful Pittsburgh PD homicide detective whose relationship withRinaldi goes from professional to personal, I like either Kerry Washington (from Django Unchained and the TV series Scandal) or award-winning actress Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help, etc.)
In Night Terrors, Daniel Rinaldi is asked to treat Lyle Barnes, a whip-smart, arrogant retired FBI profiler suffering from agonizing, debilitating nocturnal visions. I could definitely see character actor David Strathairn (the Bourne movies, Good Night and Good Luck, etc.) as Barnes, though either Jeremy Irons or Sam Elliott would make fine choices, too.

Finally, as the gruff, seen-it-all veteran police sergeant Harry Polk, I’d be happy with
either Dennis Farina or Michael Chiklis. Though the perfect choice would be one of my all-time favorite character actors, the late, great Jack Warden. If you remember him in The Verdict, you also recall that he stole every scene he was in!

    Well, that’s my cast list. Now the next thing I need to see and hear is the words “Coming to a theater near you...”

--Marshal Zeringue   

Top 10 Movies Made in Pittsburgh: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This low-budget cult classic written and directed by George A. Romero revolves around people in a Pittsburgh suburb being stalked by ravenous, flesh-eating zombies. Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985) were also filmed in Pittsburgh, but the 2005 Land of the Dead was filmed in Canada for budget reasons.

Booklist Review!

Issue: May 1, 2013
Night Terrors.

Palumbo, Dennis (Author)
May 2013. 352 p. Poisoned Pen, hardcover, $24.95. (9781464201295). Poisoned Pen, paperback, $14.95.

Psychotherapist Dan Rinaldi has his hands full in the third entry in this series (following Fever Dream, 2011). A confessed murderer in West Virginia tells police he’ll lead them to the location of his victim’s body only if Rinaldi comes along. Returning home to Pittsburgh, Rinaldi is literally abducted by a spectacularly arrogant FBI agent and delivered to his new patient, a retired FBI profiler whose decades of communing with deeply twisted minds have unhinged him. 

Palumbo, an award-winning Hollywood screenwriter turned psychotherapist, uses all his professional experience to craft short, action- and tension-filled chapters and insightful sketches of people traumatized by violence. The pace accelerates when the stricken profiler escapes from the FBI’s protection; the Feds believe he’s on the hit list of a determined killer. Since Rinaldi can’t do what he was abducted to do, he agrees to meet the West Virginia killer’s mother, who convinces Rinaldi that her son couldn’t have committed the murder he has confessed to committing. A twisty plot, lots of action, and a stalwart shrink make Night Terrors solid crime fare.

— Thomas Gaughan

The Big Thrill Interview

Night Terrors by Dennis Palumbo

By Sandra Parshall

Dennis Palumbo’s love of writing took him to Hollywood, where he enjoyed a successful career as a screenwriter, with credits that include the feature film MY FAVORITE YEAR. He was also a staff writer on the television series WELCOME BACK, KOTTER and wrote episodes and pilots for other series.

Eventually, his interest turned to psychotherapy, and after training he developed a private practice specializing in helping show business clients deal with creative issues. He never stopped writing, though. His first novel, CITY WARS, was published by Bantam, and his short fiction has appeared in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, THE STRAND and elsewhere. He contributes articles and reviews to national publications, and his popular Hollywood on the Couch column for writers and other creative artists appears on the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY website. He is also the author of WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT and the mystery short story collection FROM CRIME TO CRIME.

With MIRROR IMAGE (2010), Palumbo began his popular and critically praised thriller series featuring psychologist Daniel Rinaldi and set in the author’s hometown, Pittsburgh. BOOKLIST called the second in the series, FEVER DREAM, “a smart, strong read” and KIRKUS REVIEWS described Rinaldi as “Jack Reacher with a psychology degree.”

In NIGHT TERRORS, Palumbo delivers another compelling tale, as Rinaldi works with two difficult clients who couldn’t be more different: one is a former FBI profiler who is tormented by grisly memories and pursued by a murderer bent on revenge; the other is a loathsome confessed killer whose mother believes he is innocent and wants Rinaldi to prove it. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY calls NIGHT TERRORS “riveting” and KIRKUS REVIEWS notes, “Some thrillers are beach reads. Palumbo’s are strictly for late at night and for readers who have no pressing engagements early the next day.”

In a recent interview, Palumbo talked about NIGHT TERRORS, his protagonist, and his writing life.

First, the inevitable question: Is Daniel Rinaldi a fictional version of Dennis Palumbo? What qualities does he share with you, and how do the two of you differ? Does he have attributes that you envy?

Rinaldi both is and isn’t a fictional version of me. We certainly share biographical data—both Italian-American, born and raised in Pittsburgh, and graduates of the University of Pittsburgh. As therapists, we also share theoretical beliefs and treatment techniques, along with a fair amount of skepticism about much in the psychotherapy field.  Particularly when it comes to the pervasive use of diagnostic categories to label people: to try to define, limit or explain away every idiosyncratic or contrary response of individuals. As if anyone has a clue as to what constitutes “normal.”

But there, my similarity with Daniel ends. He’s a former amateur boxer, for one thing.

He’s also a lot more brave and resourceful than I am. Most of the things he encounters would have me running for the hills! So I guess I envy his courage, even though, in the books, his friends and colleagues consider some of his actions merely foolhardy.

When you decided to write a crime fiction series about a therapist, did you consider using Hollywood as your setting? Why did you rule it out and place Rinaldi’s practice in gritty Pittsburgh instead?

I never considered using Hollywood, because—much like the rest of Southern California—it’s been over-used as an arena for crime fiction. On the other hand, I feel that mid-Atlantic states like Pennsylvania, and mid-sized cities like Pittsburgh, haven’t been exploited as much as they could be. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I love Pittsburgh, and have fond memories of the kind of childhood a kid could have in a tight-knit, ethnically-diverse community like that.

Moreover, there’s the wonderful dichotomy of the “old” Pittsburgh—steel mills, smokestacks, coal barges gliding along the Three Rivers at night—in contrast to the new, gentrified Pittsburgh, with its world-class hospitals and universities, its pioneering role in organ transplants and nanotechnology. As I like to say, it’s a shot-and-a-beer town colliding with the Information Age. Blue collars being exchanged for white ones, with all the unease and uncertainty that implies. It’s a rich, complex, vibrant setting for a contemporary crime series.

I assume you don’t have a lot of serial killers and outright psychopaths as patients in your Hollywood practice. How did you develop and deepen your understanding of such people and the crimes they commit?

Well, the joke answer is, after twenty years as a Hollywood screenwriter, dealing regularly with movie producers and network executives, I already had plenty of experience dealing with psychopaths. Seriously, I guess I’ve done a fair amount of research on the topic. Though I’ve always maintained that every type of character, no matter how heinous or irrational, that a writer can imagine is already inside him or her. Within every writer, I believe, is a nun and a serial killer, a hermit and a vampire, a faithful spouse and a callous infidel. Everything encompassed by the human condition is available to the writer, is something to be acknowledged and explored. A good writer, to borrow a phrase, “contains multitudes.”

In NIGHT TERRORS, you explore a topic that many people probably wonder about: How do criminal profilers, who crawl into the minds of the world’s most repugnant killers, live with the things they’ve seen and heard? How did you learn about the emotional burdens of their work? What do you think sets them apart from other law enforcement personnel?

I’ve read interviews with profilers, and also read memoirs that a few have written.

There’s no question that the work comes with its full share of emotional burden, and burn-out is a significant issue. But curiosity about the human condition, as well as a desire to excavate evil to its very roots, tends to be the overarching motivation for those called to this work. Of course, as is also true about therapists, it would be a mistake to overlook whatever unique, perhaps dysfunctional childhood dynamics fed this desire to explore the darkest corners of the human mind. I won’t presume here to discuss what these dynamics might be, and I’m sure they are as different as each profiler is different from one another. But I feel pretty confident they’re there. As to what sets them apart from other law enforcement personnel, that’s a tough question. The simple answer is: cops and Feds want to catch the bad guy, profilers want to understand them.

You construct complex plots – all those twists and turns that readers love — without sacrificing a satisfying psychological depth. How does a story take shape for you? Do you spend a lot of time on pre-writing planning? Are you ever surprised by unexpected developments or revelations that crop up in the course of writing?

I have to confess—I never plan or outline a novel. I start with characters who seem to come to me, people with significant issues, for whom large things are at stake. Which means I’m not only surprised a lot by unexpected developments and revelations, but I also go down blind alleys and make wrong turns. But I don’t mind this. I like the discovery inherent in that kind of writing.

The truth is, I rarely know who the victim is when I start a new novel, and never know the identity of the killer or killers until far into the book. Then I have to go back and plant the appropriate seeds, red herrings, and misleading conversations. So there’s a lot of groping when I write, if you know what I mean. But I suppose I’m used to it. I also like something the novelist E.L. Doctorow once said about writing a book. He said it was like driving down a dark, twisting road at night. Your headlights only show you ten feet ahead at a time, but sooner or later you get home.

Readers have grown used to seeing corrupt cops and psychopathic psychiatrists in novels, movies, and TV dramas. Do you think writers are playing on the reader’s natural fear of being betrayed by someone they trust? Or do these characters reflect a genuinely negative public opinion of police officers and therapists?

I think both notions have some truth in them. We’re certainly a more cynical culture now, with pretty low expectations of our authority figures. Especially of the male persuasion. The days of unquestioned patriarchal authority are over. We don’t much trust male politicians, doctors, shrinks, and—let’s face it— priests. But as women assume greater positions of authority, they’re also being routinely looked at with suspicion. Take bankers and hedge fund managers, for example. Whether male or female, we don’t trust them. So, for a writer, detailing how people in positions of power betray the trust of those around them is a sure-fire way to engage the reader’s interest and understanding.

One interesting side note: When it comes to the police, as well as firefighters and other first responders, I believe there’s been a renewed respect and appreciation for their efforts. Certainly with regards traumatic events like terrorist attacks and mass killings.

Unlike almost every other governmental or civil authority, we’re glad they’re there.

Your novels are complex, atmospheric and richly descriptive – very different from screenplays. But do you use some screenwriting techniques in your book-length fiction? Can you give an example of how screenwriting has influenced your books?

First of all, thanks for the kind words about my work. As to using techniques I learned as a Hollywood screenwriter, the two aspects of that form that come to mind are a respect for pacing, and a love of good, realistic dialogue. I hear from readers all the time that one of the things they like about my books is the verbal jousting that often occurs between my characters, and particularly the use of humor. I owe much of that skill, such as it is, to my years in television and film.

How do you manage a full-time practice, personal appearances, and a prodigious writing output of both fiction and nonfiction? What is your schedule like?  If you had to give up one thing for the sake of your personal life, what would you sacrifice?

Who says I manage it all? Ten minutes after I wake up in the morning, I already feel like I’m three hours behind. To be candid, my life is a real balancing act, one that I don’t always handle with aplomb. But I like being busy, even a tad over-committed.

In terms of schedule, I have a full-time private therapy practice, seeing patients every day from 8 AM till 6 PM. But I also write every day, usually at lunch, and, very occasionally, in the evenings and on weekends. Which is why, unlike most other series novelists who churn out a book (or two!) a year, each new Daniel Rinaldi book takes at least a couple years. Somehow, I also manage to sneak in the occasional blog for THE HUFFINGTON POST and the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY website.

And while I do book signings and whatever media I can get when I have a new book coming out, I only attend a few writing conferences a year. I’d like to attend more, but my life doesn’t make much room for them. My personal life includes a wife, a teenage son, a neurotic though loving Doberman, three cats, and an addiction to watching depressing

documentaries on PBS.

Finally, as to what I’d give up for the sake of my personal life, I’d probably just try to cut back a bit on everything. I love being a therapist, so I guess I’d see fewer patients. I love writing, so I guess I’d just do less of it. I suppose I’d also be willing to skip a depressing documentary or two, but only as a last-ditch measure

What writing projects do you have in the works now?

At the moment, in addition to providing some blogs for mystery sites and doing Q&A sessions like this one—all in support of NIGHT TERRORS—I’m also noodling ideas for the fourth Rinaldi book. As I mentioned, I don’t start until I get a sense of some of the characters, and how they might intersect with Rinaldi’s world.

Plus I always like to explore certain issues in the psychology field. Schizophrenia, suicide, sleep disorders, the current state of mental health treatment. These issues, and what I think about them, provide the background for whatever story I want to tell. Who kills who, and why, all comes later.

“Psycho” Killers Are People Too ... For Criminal Element.com

 CriminalElement.com |

Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley: Who wouldn't trust him?

From Edward Hyde to Hannibal Lecter, to the serial killer in practically every James Patterson novel, what would the world of mystery thrillers be without the psychopathic, criminally disturbed villain?  It’s practically a sub-genre in itself.

Yet, as a therapist as well as a mystery writer, I can’t tell you how often I’ve read thrillers in which the author’s depiction of a “psycho” killer is pure boilerplate: unconvincing, unmotivated, without psychological depth or realism. But why is this? Especially when the writer’s other characters seem much more rounded, realistic, subject to the usual panoply of feelings and motives? 

I think it’s because some crime writers see their monstrous, unstoppable killer as being “out there” somewhere, beyond the realm of normal human behavior. A caricature of evil out of a child’s nightmare. Or, even worse, they often conjure a conveniently “crazy” killer who commits the crime merely because he’s crazy. Merely to horrify the reader. Merely as an excuse for gratuitous and graphic depictions of unspeakable acts. Merely as a bad guy heinous enough to have us rooting for the hero to finally stop him. In other words, the boogie-man.

Not that this is always the case. In Michael Connelly’s The Poet, serial child molester and murderer William Gladden is terrifyingly real because, in many ways, he seems so ordinary, so matter-of-fact. In Patricia Highsmith’s novels about Ripley, her antihero is so chillingly clear-headed that his atavism seems purely natural. And in Robert Bloch’s Psycho, Norman Bates is the veritable Poster Child for the dangers inherent in severe mother-son enmeshment. Though, on the surface, he seems like such a nice, thoughtful young man… 

Here’s my point: In my twenty-five years in private practice, I’ve come to realize that people—common, everyday people—have operatic passions. That stoic guy bagging groceries at your local supermarket, that helpful lady at the pharmacy, the janitor at your kid’s school—all of them, if given the opportunity to relate their life stories, would stun you with the personal dramas each has endured. The heartbreaks and triumphs, the yearnings and dashed hopes. The hurts and shame and missed opportunities they’ve obsessed about since high school. The deaths and financial losses and mental illnesses with which their families have struggled.

As I say, operatic passions. Great loves and hates. Maybe buried now beneath years of quiet, conventional living. Beneath years of daily toil, paying the bills, driving the kids to school. But those passions are undeniably there. Otherwise soap operas wouldn’t be a staple of broadcasting in every corner of the world, in every culture. Otherwise viewers wouldn’t be transfixed (often as a guilty secret) with reality TV, with true crime series on cable networks, with gossip in all its forms.

Which is why I believe that deep inside each mystery writer lies the seeds of every kind of human. From a nun to a serial killer, a corporate tycoon to a migrant worker, a life-giver to a life-taker. All the writer has to do is look within.

And the best of them do. Here’s an example, crude but illustrative. Let’s say your favorite mystery writer (call him Bob) has always had a secret yearning to be respected, admired. Perhaps this yearning began in childhood, when his siblings or classmates got all the glory in school or on the athletic field, and he felt ignored. Discounted. Invisible.

Now, as an adult and seasoned crime writer, Bob creates a villain—a terrifying serial killer, a sociopath who murders without remorse—who’s felt similarly discounted and invisible all his life. Rejected. Ignored. And who intends to do something about it.

Well, if you’re this particular bad guy, one thing that definitely gets you some attention is leaving a swath of mutilated bodies in your wake. And if you’re clever enough to continually elude the police, you probably feel a sense of pride. Of gratification. Of vindication. Now the world’s respecting you, even if it’s a respect based on fear. You’re certainly not invisible any more. At long last, you’re getting the attention you deserve!

Upstanding citizen on the outside; psycho within.
 (And, if Bob is any good at his craft, so is he…)

Luckily, regardless of how we were treated in childhood, most of us still grow up to be sane, rational citizens. Maybe our feelings are easily hurt, or we succumb too easily to envy or jealousy, but we’re probably not going to do much about it. Certainly nothing violent or criminal.

But in the fiction we read, we get to see these feelings acted out. We get to follow villainous characters who do all sorts of bad things—and, I submit, the more relatable their motives, the more terrifying we’re apt to find them. Because the cold fact is, in real life, even a psychopath has his or her reasons. David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, believed his neighbor was a demon, ordering him to kill through communicating via his pet dog. Mary Martin Speck, a nurse who killed twenty-three patients, claimed to be doing the Lord’s work. Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, felt a need to prove his superiority over those lesser beings trying to catch him.

As I say, the reasons may be irrational, based on delusional beliefs or unfounded grandiosity, but they’re reasons nonetheless. At least in the killer’s mind.

Which means the brave writer has to visit that mind occasionally. Has to figure out some way to relate to that mind’s desires, fears, beliefs, pain, ego. So that we, his readers, can, too.

I recall a group therapy session years ago, when I was an intern in clinical training, in which one of the members got furious at another. Over some real or imagined slight.

Regardless, she got to her feet and verbally attacked this second person.

After ten minutes of vituperative rage and name-calling, the woman finally calmed herself. Then, turning to the therapist leading the group, she said, sheepishly, “Wow, all that anger and rage...all that ugly hate...I’m so sorry. That wasn’t me.”

To which the therapist responded, “Yes it was. It isn’t the whole truth of who you are, of course, but those dark feelings are in there. They’re in everybody. They’re as real in you as are your other feelings—your compassion, your generosity, your joy.”

And he was right. As John Fowles once wrote, in his novel, Daniel Martin, “Whole sight...or all the rest is desolation.”

By which he meant that the totality of the human condition, the entire truth of our experience as people, has to be acknowledged if we’re to live authentically. Just as, I believe, the totality of the human condition has to be explored and utilized by any crime writer seeking to create vivid, compelling, seriously terrifying villains.

At least if he or she wants us to believe in them…