“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

First Effective Polio Vaccine Developed in 1952 by Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh

Salk in 1955 at the University of Pittsburgh

On March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announces on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio. In 1952--an epidemic year for polio--there were 58,000 new cases reported in the United States, and more than 3,000 died from the disease. For promising eventually to eradicate the disease, which is known as "infant paralysis" because it mainly affects children, Dr. Salk was celebrated as the great doctor-benefactor of his time.

My Favorite Quotes to Inspire Creativity

During my many years spent as a Hollywood screenwriter, and now during my even longer tenure as a psychotherapist who treats people in the entertainment industry, I’ve come across a number of inspirational quotes concerning the creative act. Though usually short, often humorous or frankly rueful, the wisdom underlying these quotes derives from the long years of sweat, blood and tears that obviously gave rise to them.

Whether you're a writer, actor, director, composer or designer—and whether you're a veteran or just starting your career—I believe there's much to value in the sayings below. Proving once again that truth, like so many other things, often comes in small packages.

 “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

“All serious daring starts from within.” Eudora Welty

“Faith and doubt, both are needed, not as antagonists but working side by side, to take us around the unknown curve.”  Lillian Smith

“How do I work? I grope.”  Albert Einstein

“To believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for everyone—that is genius.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I work when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

Peter De Vries

“There is only one type of story in the world—your story.”  Ray Bradbury

“I have known happiness, for I have done good work.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

“Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.”  Antonio Machado

“Only the disciplined are free.”  James C. Penney

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”  James Joyce

“Plainly speaking, there is no such thing as certainty. There are only people who are certain.”

Charles Levourier

“It is not your obligation to complete your work, but you are not at liberty to quit.”

The Talmud

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit out on the curb with a pencil and a ten-cent notebook, and start the whole thing all over again.”  Preston Sturges

“I yam what I yam.”  Popeye

Top 10 Movies Made in Pittsburgh: Lorenzo's Oil (1991)

This gripping, Academy Award-winning drama stars Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon as parents working together to find a cure for a rare disease afficting their son after the medical establishment forsakes them. While set in Washington DC, most of the movie's scenes were actually filmed in Pittsburgh.

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The Theft of Time

Stolen Time by HeDyna on Flickr
A particularly arrogant film producer once said to me, "I could be a writer, too, if I only had the time."

Which implied, I guess, that if he didn't have to attend meetings, deal with studios, manage production budgets--in other words, if he didn't have a real job--he too could just sit around, effortlessly knocking out compelling narratives and crafting pithy dialogue.

Yet for most writers, time is exactly that thing they can't seem to get enough of. Certainly not without carving it out for themselves, strenuously hewing a private space for their writing from a dense forest of financial and familial duties. Most writers understand that they must somehow demand the time to write; that, in many ways, writing is a "job" like any other, requiring diligence, constancy and commitment. But getting others to understand this is not always so easy.

Robert Frost said that the one thing all nations on earth share is a fear that a member of the family will want to be a writer. There are a lot of reasons for this, from parental concern about a child's ability to earn a living, to legitimate desires to spare the would-be writer the heartbreak of rejection and disappointment, to irrational fears about the aberrant life-style that writers are stereotypically known to indulge. Next to announcing that you want to be an actor, proclaiming your ambition to write is guaranteed to strike terror in the hearts of parents, siblings, and spouses. Especially spouses with whom you've had children.

The pressure to provide for a family is acute for most people, but even more so for writers, often struggling with both the difficulties of their craft and the insecurity and fickleness of the marketplace. Finding time to write is hard enough when you have a writing job--on staff at a TV series, say, or developing a screenplay for a studio. At least then you can justify the time spent away from the family, lost in your thoughts, scribbling notes on coffee shop menus, banging away at the keyboard at all hours.

But if you have a non-writing job, some 9-to-5 gig to pay the bills, any time you might need for writing, for pursuing a writing career, seems a selfish luxury. It's time seemingly owed to personal obligations, to the tasks of running a home and raising a family. In such cases, "demanding" time for your writing carries with it the possibility of frequent relationship strife, as well as a significant burden of guilt.

In my private practice, many of my writer clients deal with this guilt constantly. They feel an obligation both to the demands of their creative ambitions and to those of their families. Even when their spouse or partner goes along with their need for time and solitude, many of them still feel guilty. Often it increases the pressure to achieve quick financial success. It affects their decisions about what kinds of things they should write. It makes them feel that every second spent writing must "count."

More than one writer has said to me, "What if my script doesn't sell? I've spent all this time doing it, obsessing over it. I've been distracted and impatient with my kids. Totally unavailable to my wife. What if it all turns out to be for nothing?"

Sometimes the fissures in the relationship at home become wide enough to cause panic. "I've made a deal with my husband," another writer once told me. "If this spec doesn't sell, I'll give it up. I mean, how long can I keep doing this, banging my head against the wall? I'm not getting any younger. And I don't want to lose my marriage."

Even successful writers, those who make a living at their craft, find it difficult to continually justify to loved ones their need for private time. "Unless my kids hear the keyboard clicking," one noted screenwriter confided in me, "they feel okay interrupting me. You ever try to explain to a four-year-old that you're working, when all you're doing is staring at the ceiling? Hell, sometimes I have a hard time convincing myself."

Regardless of the degree of success, or the amount of material a writer churns out, at some level most writers feel ambivalent about the time they need for writing. I think some of this is cultural, in that society validates us in terms of our contribution to the maintenance of its institutions, or to the welfare of others. After all, we know what doctors and lawyers and teachers and firefighters do. We value and honor parenting, working for social justice, volunteering for Greenpeace.

On the other hand, how writers (and other artists) contribute to society is often misunderstood, if considered at all. Their function as story-tellers, explicators of the human condition, champions of our hopes and yearnings, is routinely under-appreciated. At this macro level, it's hard for the individual struggling writer, just trying to turn out a decent "According to Jim" spec, to justify his or her need for large amounts of private time.

More oppressive than this cultural bias against our feeling entitled to take time for writing are the lessons we learned as children about our intrinsic lovability and sense of worth. In many families, children are reared to be suspicious of their creative instincts, to concentrate instead on interests that will pay known dividends in the "real world." When I was a kid, spurred by my middle-class parents to achieve, the career options laid out for me were pretty specific: doctor, lawyer, engineer, or--the usual fallback position for a Catholic--priest. Predictably, my subsequent decision to pursue writing as a profession caused huge familial strife.

These kinds of messages leave a lasting impression, as I see every day with the writers in my practice. Taking time for yourself to write, to pursue seemingly nebulous artistic ambitions--especially in the face of real family obligations--feels selfish, unwarranted, and impractical.

And for a very good reason: writing is selfish, unwarranted and impractical. As a career option, it's highly dubious. The risks are high. Success is uncertain. And this is all true even if you happen to be talented and hard-working. (If you're not, magnify the difficulties accordingly.)

Therefore, the last thing a writer should try to do is "sell" the wisdom and virtue of his or her ambition to mates, children or parents. In my experience, it's far more important that you accept your desire to write, and to own this desire as your birthright. Or, if you prefer, as your particular blessing or curse. The point is, for whatever reason, you want to write. Need to write.

Which means, I believe, that you have a responsibility to your writing talent. A responsibility that co-exists with that which you have to your loved ones. In other words, sometimes your need for time to write will clash with the needs of your family.

Is there a one-size-fits-all solution to this dilemma?

No. Every writer has to negotiate the context of his or her life. Every writer has to balance the requirements of writing with the needs of others. This means conflict, heartfelt discussion, and, hopefully, compromise. This also means that sometimes the writer feels guilty--which, like envy or desperation, is just another of the psychological burdens borne by every writer I've ever known.

The good news in all this is that when you do take the time to write, when you make this a consistent and unwavering part of your daily life, you're honoring the gift of your creativity. Standing up for the legitimacy and integrity of your ambitions.

It's more than just taking your writing seriously.

It's owning who you really are.

Bingo Was Born in Pittsburgh!

It was originally called Beano and dried beans were used as the markers.

Hugh J. Ward standardized the modern game at carnivals in and around the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania areas in the early 1920s. He went on to copyright "Bingo" and author the rule book on it in 1933. 
The game was further popularized when at a traveling carnival near Atlanta in December 1929, toy merchandiser Edwin Lowe noticed how engaged the players were of a Beano game using Ward's rules and dried beans, a rubber stamp, and cardboard sheets. Lowe took the idea with him to 1930's New York where he introduced the game to his friends. He conducted bingo games similar to the ones he had witnessed and Ward had standardized, using dried beans, a rubber numbering stamp and card board. His friends loved the game. One theory on the origin of the name is that one of his players made bingo history when he was so excited to have won that he yelled out “Bingo” instead of “Beano." However the word was used in Great Britain since the 1770s and had migrated to the Pittsburgh region at least a generation before Lowe's 1930's claim.

Here's a great article about the history of Beano to Bingo to Lotto

Three Hard Truths About Writing

The First Hard Truth

Writing is a craft, as well as an art, and that craft takes time to develop. Forget genius, forget inspiration. It takes time measured not in weeks or months, but years. Hemingway said, "Write a million words." He wasn't kidding.

The Second Hard Truth

Every time a writer sits down to write, it's new.

A wise writer knows this, and revels in it. So that, ultimately, regardless of your years of experience as a writer, or your level of success, you come to the blank page (or screen) with anticipation for what you'll discover, in effect, as a beginner.

To quote Suzuki's famous advice; "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind, there are few."

The Third Hard Truth

Writing carries no guarantees. 

You can never know how a piece of writing will turn out --
whether it'll be any good, whether anyone will like it, whether it will ever be sold. Writing, to put it flatly, is all about risk.


Historic Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Glass

Before steel making filled the sky with the dark clouds of early 20th century industry, Pittsburgh was creating glass.

As early as the 1820s Pittsburgh was a major distributor of glass products.  Pittsburgh glass was used for globes that lit the nation's streets, windows for homes, and jars for food.  Being located along three rivers, Pittsburgh made good use of the waterways.  It all started with three immigrants: Albert Gallatin, James O'Hara, and Benjamin Bakewell.  By the Civil War, Pittsburgh's glass trade was a $7 million business with 20 bottle and vial factories, 23 window glass factories, 22 flint glass factories, and a number of glass producers devoted exclusively to the production of chimneys.  Invention was the key to Pittsburgh's success in glass manufacturing.  Over 100 patents were secured by Pittsburgh's glassmakers.  

Dog & Hunter
Gillinder & Sons...ca. 1881

Sometime around 1881, the Gillinder & Sons factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania introduced Deer and Dog AKA Frosted Dog or Deer, Dog and Hunter. The mold pattern is credited to John Putnam, who was the mold shop foreman. Large acid etched dogs are the finials for the covered pieces. 

Top 10 Movies Made in Pittsburgh: Wonder Boys (1999)

Based on a novel by Michael Chabon, a University of Pittsburgh graduate, this movie stars Michael Douglas and Frances McDormand. Many of the film's scenes were shot at Carnegie-Mellon University. Additional scenes were shot in Oakland, Downtown, Shadyside, Sewickley and Beaver. Many of the key scenes feature one of Pittsburgh's many bridges!

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Pittsburg Gave Birth to the Movie Theater Idea

From The Dispatch, 16 November 1919, by E. W. Lightner.

First Exclusive Motion Picture House in All the World Stood on Smithfield Street;
Was a New Thing in Thrills Then, and 7,000 Attended the "Nickelodeon" Every Day

"Epur si muove!" exclaimed Galileo Galilei insistently in the days of the Inquisition, proclaiming his theory of the revolution of earth and other planets around the sun and also their axial diurnal revolution, in contravention of the long-entertained and absurd conviction that the sun revolved around the earth and that the earth was flat. Galileo perfected the theory of Copernicus.

That was the scientific discovery and establishment of a mighty moving picture show, but in this day, when it is known to every school child, it doesn't possess an approach to the inspiration evoked among all school children by the moving picture shows of film and camera and theater which are far more fascinating to them than the movements of the solar system, things of beauty and joys forever. It may not be doubted that if these wonderful spectacles had been suddenly sprung upon the church and the public 300 years ago, when the immortal Italian was under detention and his writing listed in the index expurgatorius, they would have been suppressed as diabolical inventions and their operators declared disciples of the Black Art.

First Moving Picture Theater

If Pittsburg did not have the honor of the invention of the moving picture, it has the undisputed distinction of the first theater devoted exclusively to exhibition of moving picture spectacles. They had a fragmentary presentation for a few years previously; a brief, isolated, lonely existence; halting, trembling, flickering as little stunts sandwiched in variety or vaudeville entertainments; fragments which were hardly prophetic of the great future which was then in the making for the wondrous exhibitions of this day. To such a marvelous height of perfection have they reached that it may seem impossible to attain any striking advance; yet it is the assertion of scientists of the camera and the film, of mysteries of light and kinetic forces, that we are only beginning to see down a long vista of vastly more amazing accomplishments.

The first exclusive moving pictures theater in Pittsburg and the world was opened in 1905 by Harry Davis and John P. Harris in the Howard Block, west side of Smithfield street, between Diamond and Fifth avenue. Curious to say, the second exclusive picture theater of the world was opened in Warsaw, capital of Poland, by a Pittsburg Polander, who saw the Davis-Harris adventure and recognized the possibilities of presenting so wonderful and profitable a development in his native country.

The Primitive Exclusive

With a ready cunning for adaptation, the proprietors of the Smithfield street "movie" named it the "Nickelodeon," combining the price of admission with "odeon," the ancient name of Grecian theaters, where under a roof plays were rehearsed and presented. The front of the theater was covered with burlap, on which with greater or lesser art was depicted all sorts of fetching symbols, possibly more conservative in motif than some of the brilliant pictorial masterpieces of this day displayed in front of myriads of such houses, and telling thrillingly of frequent changes of motion plays within and the famous "stars" which had part in their making.

No "barker" paraded himself to the front of this theater to shout with insinuating voice: "Here you are, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys! Walk right in and see the most wonderful exhibition of any time, ancient or modern, everything life-size and moving exactly as in real life!" But to attract attention a phonograph was placed in the lobby which discoursed attracting music, classic and unclassic. This, however, was a musical invitation of rather short life, as the neighboring storekeepers made vigorous objection. It wooed and won the passing public and drew them into the theater while otherwise they might have found attraction among displays of things mercantile. The phonograph was courteously discontinued, but the little theater continued to be filled daily and refilled and filled again.

Decidedly Continuous

The original and only "Nickelodeon" was opened at 8 o'clock of the morning and the reels were kept continuously revolving until midnight. A human queue was continuously awaiting the ending of a performance and the emptying of chairs. Inside an attendant would announce, "show ended," and spectators would be hustled gently to the street and new spectators welcomed, seated as quickly as possible, and the picture would again respond to the magic reel. If a "barker" was not thought recherche for the street, a refined "lecturer" was employed for the inside who would eloquently describe and explain the mysteries of the picture.

In this little house, an Aladdin-like transition from a storeroom to a theater, no fewer than 7,000 patrons were entertained nearly every day. It was a new thing in thrills. From 8 o'clock of the morning until 12 o'clock at night visitors streamed in and out and nickels streamed into the box office. The fewer than 100 seats had each and all of them occupants who were held "spellbound" with amazement by the moving picture and wonder as to the means of production.

It was in the broadest sense of the phrase a "theater for the people." Not only did it attract the young million, but the million of the grownups as well. It was an absorbing and educational entertainment for a nickel, or just five little bronze pennies.
What a vital consideration for those who could not afford the higher prices for variety or "legitimate," and who could appreciate a moving picture when possibly the spectacle of live and moving actors would be less readily understood and appreciated.

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Therapist By Day, Crime Writer By Night

Doing therapy and writing mystery novels go hand-in-hand.

I must admit, I’ve had an interesting career journey. For many years I was a Hollywood screenwriter, after which I became a licensed psychotherapist specializing in treating creative types in the entertainment community. Now, after 24 years listening to hundreds of people’s most intimate stories, I’ve fulfilled a life-long dream and begun a series of crime novels.

The first, Mirror Image, featuring psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi, appeared in 2010 from Poisoned Pen Press. The sequel, Fever Dream, came out in November, 2011. The next Rinaldi thriller, Night Terrors, will appear in late spring of 2013.

Which begs the question: what, if anything, does a Hollywood psychotherapist and a suspense novelist have in common? Actually, quite a bit.

For both a therapist and a crime novelist, it’s the mystery of character itself that intrigues, puzzles, and continually surprises. As a therapist, I’ve borne witness to the awful suffering, painful revelations and admirable courage of my patients—many of whom have survived unbelievable abuse, neglect and loss. Not to mention those whose lives have been marred by substance use, violence, and severe mental illness.
How people cope with these issues and events, how well or poorly they meet these challenges, goes directly to the heart of the therapeutic experience. My job as their therapist is to help identify self-destructive patterns of behavior, and to empower them by providing tools to address these patterns and, hopefully, alter them.

So much for my day job. Moonlighting as a suspense novelist, I find myself doing pretty much the same thing with my fictional characters. As a mystery writer, I believe that crime stems from strong emotions, and strong emotions stem from conflict. Kind of like life. Which means the secret to crafting satisfying thrillers lies in exploring who your characters are (as opposed to who they say they are), what it is they want (or think they need), and the lengths to which they’ll go to get it.

Moreover, using my experience as a licensed psychotherapist, I’ve woven many of the situations and people I’ve encountered into my crime novels. People like a particularly interesting patient I once met at the psychiatric hospital where I did my clinical internship. Now, many years later, he’s the inspiration for my hero’s best friend, a paranoid schizophrenic named Noah Frye. Much like this patient from long ago, the Noah of my novels is funny, combative, and achingly aware of the reality of his situation.

I’ve used other aspects of my life experience as well. For example, although my practice is in Los Angeles, the novels take place in Pittsburgh, my home town. In addition, the series hero, a psychologist named Daniel Rinaldi who specializes in treating the victims of violent crime, shares a similar background to my own—from his Italian heritage to his love of jazz to his teenage years spent working in the Steel City’s sprawling produce yards.

(Though, as each novel’s narrative hurtles Rinaldi into a vortex of murder and conspiracy, he reveals himself to be a lot braver and more resourceful than I am!)

But there’s another connection between my role as a therapist and my role as a mystery writer. Like the therapist, the crime novelist swims in an ocean of envy, greed, regret, and desire. As a therapist does, the crime novelist must relate to his or her characters. Must be able to understand and empathize with their wants and needs. Must, in fact, go inside their heads and think as they think, feel as they must feel.

Since most of my patients are in the entertainment industry—writers, actors, directors, etc.—they present a broad canvas of creative passions, lofty ambitions, wild yearnings and devastating defeats. They love and hate deeply, with an artist’s fervor, and this extends beyond career considerations into the most intimate aspects of their personal lives.

So too the crime novelist must create and endow his or her characters with out-sized passions, hopes and dreams. How else can things go so awry in their lives? How else can things lead, as if inevitably, to treachery, blackmail, murder?

All the things, in other words, that make reading a crime novel so satisfying!

Notable Authors, both past and present, who have called the Pittsburgh area home: Nellie Bly

“Ten Days in a Mad-House” – Nellie Bly

Born in Pittsburgh in 1864 and later transplanted to New York City, Bly began her writing covering working conditions for women in local mills but was later assigned to style, theater and arts stories for the leading Pittsburgh newspaper of the time, The Pittsburgh Dispatch. Unfulfilled by the superficial stories she was made to write, Bly left Pittsburgh for New York and won acclaim for her investigation into women’s mental-health institutions. Her reporting was later turned into the book “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” and led to numerous reforms and better funding for mental-health institutions. Hard to find and a little bit obscure, getting Bly’s book from an online retailer is your best chance to get your hands on this haunting piece. It is a worthwhile read and was a springboard for other female investigative writers.

Fact Into Fiction

The Crime Writers' Chronicle

all about crime writing and the crime writer's life

Dennis Palumbo ends his stunning book WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT with a quote by screenwriter Frederick Raphael: "Work is... having pages in the evening that weren't there in the morning."

And his own words: "You. And Your writing. That's all there is. That's all there needs to be. So go. Write!"

If I were doing a book on "Writing," I'd want to say everything Dennis says. Both a gifted writer and a well-known psychotherapist, Dennis tackles the weighty issues that confront every serious writer: Rejection, solitude, fear, isolation, struggles, envy, tumult, joy and triumph! This book is not a manual for the neophyte. Or a person who toys with the art. Rather, it is like going to your own personal guru, who is experienced both as a fellow writer and as a wise shrink.

Informed, compassionate and funny, Dennis gives you the confidence that you ARE on the right track, ARE okay and all WILL be well!

That all your agony on this journey IS worth it!

That you have a compassionate friend, a steady guide and a wise companion - that you are NOT alone!

Author of acclaimed crime novels MIRROR IMAGE, FEVER DREAMS and NIGHT TERRORS ( Poisoned Pen Press), a collection of short stories, FROM CRIME TO CRIME ( Tallfellow Press), Dennis has been a Hollywood screen writer for popular series, including "My Favorite Year" and "Welcome Back, Kotter," short fiction in
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, The Strand, articles in the NYT, the LAT, The Lancet, Psychology Today and the Huffington Post. He has been named UCLA "Outstanding Teacher of the Year"!

Today, as a licensed psychotherapist, he works with established screen writers, directors and novelists, often dealing with issues of anxiety, depression and relationship difficulties.

He has stated "The most challenging aspect of crime/mystery writing is the plotting—making sure there are enough twists and turns!" ( Sound familiar, dear friends?)

He makes us feel "If you seek wisdom, sample every tent in the bazaar!"

We are never too smart, gifted, clever, famous, well-published—to think we are above seeking good advice!(From many years in the challenging world of crime writing—as reader, reviewer, writer—I'm always on the lookout for a superior teacher on how to write better or how to navigate the Slippery Slope of Writing Fiction!)

In Dennis Palumbo I've found a writer who is sage, inspired, experienced, exceptional.

I can't wait to begin his new crime novel, NIGHT TERRORS, that sits beside me as I write this page.

Please welcome Dennis Palumbo to our esteemed blog - Crime Writers Chronicle!

Thelma Jacqueline Straw

In my latest Daniel Rinaldi mystery, NIGHT TERRORS (Poisoned Pen Press), 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 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. 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.

And since science hasn’t yet discovered what exactly causes night terrors, treating it can be quite difficult. 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 notorious 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...


As it happens, I got the idea for the fictional narrative of NIGHT TERRORS from reading about the real-life sleep disorder in a clinical journal. In my dual careers as both a therapist and crime writer, the worlds of psychotherapy and mystery fiction are often equally intertwined.

Take, for example, an institutionalized patient I knew called Angie. All the other patients called her Angie the Android. She was a deeply delusional teenage girl who believed she was actually a machine. Like Pinocchio, her biggest and only dream was to become a real person.

I met Angie the very first week of my internship at a private psychiatric hospital in West L.A. She was one of dozens of schizophrenic patients I worked with at this final stage of my training to be a psychotherapist. It was a thrilling, challenging, enlightening and ultimately humbling period of years. (Even though my former career as a Hollywood screenwriter, working with various film producers and network executives, had already given me valuable experience dealing with psychotics.)

Of course, my internship at the private hospital took place many, many years ago. Now I’m a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, but I’ve woven some of the situations and people I encountered during my clinical training—people like Angie—into my series of crime novels. In fact, it was the opportunity to blend aspects of both my clinical experience and personal biography that prompted me to create the series in the first place.

For starters, my protagonist, Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, is a psychologist. And, although my internship was in Los Angeles, the novel takes place in Pittsburgh, my home town. Moreover, Rinaldi shares a similar background to my own—from his Italian heritage to his love of jazz to his teenage years spent working in the Steel City’s sprawling produce yards. (However, unlike me, he’s a former amateur boxer, and, in general, a lot braver and more resourceful than I am!)

But it’s my clinical experience that most influences my writing, that (hopefully) helps ground my stories and characters in reality. For example, Rinaldi’s best friend, Noah Frye, is a paranoid schizophrenic, his delusions tempered by medication (when he stays on it). Foul-mouthed, funny, and disconcertingly intuitive, this character is based on another real patient with whom I worked.

However, it isn’t just my experience as a therapist that informs some of the material in my crime novels. It’s also the emotions, conflicts and confusions that accompanied my career transition from screenwriter to psychotherapist. To say it was a rocky journey would be an understatement. For one thing, it wasn’t a decision that came easily. Or quickly. After almost 16 years as a Hollywood writer, the idea of changing careers—involving graduate school, years of supervised internships, and the difficulties of setting up a clinical practice—seemed… well… crazy. Frankly, I was so unsure about it that I kept the fact that I’d gone back to school a secret from all but a select group of friends. (It didn’t help that most of them thought I was crazy, too.)

In a similar way, my psychologist hero, Daniel Rinaldi, goes through an emotional upheaval before finding his calling. Though what happens to him is much more painful and life-shattering than merely deciding to change careers. My decision was the result of years of ruminating, of debating the pros and cons. His was in response to a single, overwhelming event—one that leads to his becoming a trauma specialist, treating the victims of violent crime.

No question, what makes the writing of this series so engaging for me is that I’m able to weave together aspects of my clinical training at a psychiatric facility, my current experience in private practice, and the police procedural details of a mystery thriller.

Which is why I knew from the very beginning that the protagonist of my series was going to be a therapist. But not merely because I am one, too.

Let me explain: some years back, I did a Commentary for NPR’s “All Things Considered” in which I lamented the depiction of male therapists in today’s TV shows and film.

In fact, I referenced two iconic images, from two memorable films: In Now, Voyager, kindly therapist Claude Rains walks in the garden with troubled patient Bette Davis. He’s paternal, insightful, and obviously knows what’s good for her.

In The Three Faces of Eve, Lee J. Cobb helps Joanne Woodward parse out the three distinct personalities tormenting her. Like Claude Rains before him, he’s a model of the patriarchal culture, a therapist of unquestionable motives and unimpeachable authority. One of the good guys.

Which raises the question: how did we get from there to Hannibal Lecter?

Because, I testily pointed out, with rare exceptions that’s where we are. And I still think this is true. Whether in print, in film or on TV, male therapists are serving more and more as convenient villains. Instead of being caretakers, they’re portrayed as troubled, predatory, even psychotic. It seems that every other mystery best-seller or Hollywood horror film features a demented shrink. Not to mention TV shows like Law and Order: SVU and the CSI franchises, where a male psychologist or psychiatrist is as liable to be the bad guy as any garden-variety contract killer or spurned lover.

Now I know enough to be skeptical about pop culture’s notion of any profession, but I can’t help wondering what’s going on. How did the image of male therapist go from father figure to the most likely suspect?

Maybe this change simply reflects one that’s occurred in the culture at large. After all, the past forty years has seen a challenge to the whole idea of male authority. In terms of image, professors, doctors and scientists of the male persuation have suddenly gone from being saints to sinners. Same with therapists. No wonder today’s crime novelists, TV and film writers find them irresistable as villains. All that education, respectibility and power, turned to the Dark Side.

But it isn’t just society’s growing mistrust of male authority that turned Lee J. Cobb’s gray suit and pipe into Anthony Hopkins’ face muzzle and leather restraints. After all, the world’s a pretty treacherous, confusing place nowadays. Our most sturdy institutions—government, the church, education—traditionally headed by men, seem to be letting us down. It’s no different with therapy. Whether fairly or not, I believe the way in which male therapists are portrayed in popular fiction reflects a similar disenchantment with both the profession in general, and its male practitioners in particular.

The truth is, nowadays—much like priests—male therapists suffer from the failed expectations of a disillusioned public. Which is why I wanted my series hero to be a therapist. Flawed, yes. Troubled, stubborn, and with a temper. But someone trying desperately to make a difference. To help others on the path to healing, even if only as a way to come to some kind of peace himself.

I guess what I’m saying is, if Daniel Rinaldi’s mission as a therapist is to treat those crippled by trauma, my mission as a writer is to help resuscitate the image of the mental health professional. Particularly male. Particularly in today’s harsh, cynical world.

Which brings me, by an admittedly circuitous route, back to Angie the Android. Believe it or not, we’re all a bit like Angie. We all want, in both our lives and our work, to be real. Authentic. For most writers I know, myself included, it is—as it was for Angie—our biggest and only dream.

That’s why I’m grateful I got to know her, all those years ago. As I am all the patients with whom I’ve been privileged to work since then. Just as I’m grateful for my lifetime of experiences, both personal and professional. Because everything we’ve ever done informs who we are, how we think, what we write.

The Beat poet Allen Ginsberg once said that our main job in life is to track our consciousness. That’s certainly true for patients in therapy. But I believe it’s also true for those of us who feel the need not only to keep track, but to write it down…

Dennis Palumbo

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Historic Pittsburgh: Ruth had final hurrah at Forbes ...

Sultan of Swat's three home runs still resonate with so many

Babe Ruth hit the final three home runs of his career at Forbes Field.

By Robert Dvorchak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A.T. Marucci, a student at Brownsville High School, sensed something extraordinary in the air as he caught a ride to Forbes Field for a chance to see a legend three-quarters of a century ago.

The driver, teacher George Zoretic, was saying that dusk was fast descending on the career of Babe Ruth. Not only was the Sultan of Swat struggling at the plate, reports had surfaced that his retirement was imminent because he would never be installed, as promised, as manager of the Boston Braves.

"You may be seeing history," Marucci was told. "It may be his last game."

It wasn't the last game. That would come five days later. But it was the last hurrah of a slugger on his last legs who did something that can only be described as Ruthian.

Summoning up the sublime for the last time, Ruth hit the final three home runs of his career on May 25, 1935, with No. 714 clearing the 86-foot high stands in right field for the first time in a game.

Paul Warhola, brother of artist Andy Warhol, was selling newspapers in the stands that day. He said Ruth called the shot before he launched it.

"There were a bunch of guys where the gamblers sat on the first base side, and you could hear a voice from the stands saying, 'Hey Babe, hit one over the roof!' He heard it and pointed his bat out that way. Sure enough, it cleared everything," said Warhola, now 87. "I'll tell you, that is one of my special memories."

It was a day that time stood still.

Ruth, 40, was hitting about 100 points lower than his weight of 250 pounds and was a shell of his former self.

History notes that Ruth wanted to quit as early as May 12. Braves owner Emil Fuchs lured Ruth back to Boston with a promise of making him manager. But Bill McKechnie, the skipper who had led the Pirates to a championship in 1925, wasn't going anywhere. Ruth, who had parted ways with the Yankees, only agreed to hang on so he could play in every National League park.

He wasn't much of a draw that chilly Saturday, however, as the Braves concluded a three-game set with the Pirates. Only 10,000 were in attendance, including a 15-year-old from Brownsville who paid 35 cents for a bleacher seat.

"It was far from a sellout," said Marucci, now 90 and living in Oakland, Md. "For as many people who claimed they were at that game, it would have been the equivalent of three sellouts at Old Forbes."

But all eyes were on Ruth as he took up his familiar batting stance with one out and a runner aboard in the first inning. Having broken his bat during batting practice, Ruth had fresh lumber for a game played five years before Forbes Field had light standards.

Against Red Lucas, who retired only one batter that day, Ruth lofted a towering fly to right that cleared the screen and landed in the seats.

The ball was retrieved by 20-year-old Emmett Cavanagh of McKeesport, whose family sold the ball for $172,500 at auction at the 2008 All-Star Game.

In the third inning, Ruth had the first of his three plate appearances against Guy Bush. A pitcher with the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series, Bush had plunked Ruth with a pitch. He also was one of the bench jockeys who heckled Ruth before, as the legend goes, he pointed to the stands and hit a called-shot homer in the Series.

Facing Bush again must have energized The Babe. He homered to the second tier of the right-field stands, but no one knows what happened to the ball that became No. 713 on Ruth's home run list.

Then in the fifth, Ruth singled to drive in a run.

Writing for the Pittsburgh Press, baseball writer Volney Walsh contradicted the notion that Ruth had lost his ability to run.

"Just to show there's life in the old legs yet, he raced from first to third on a single with a great thundering sprint, slid into the bag and was ruled safe," Walsh wrote in his account.

And for good measure, he added, "Not only at bat did the Great Man shine, but he turned in three catches in right field, one of which was a beauty."

As Ruth came to bat in the seventh, the fans stirred and urged him to clear the roof that had been built in 1925. As Warhola described it, Ruth acknowledged the cheers and pointed his bat out to right field.

The count was three balls and a strike when Rush offered up a breaking ball. After the sharp crack of the bat, followed by a nanosecond of the crowd rising to its feet, bedlam erupted. Disbelieving fans followed the trajectory as the ball soared out of the park.

"The way he smacked it, you knew it was gone," said Warhola. "The crowd just roared."

From his seat behind his typewriter, Walsh noted that "Pirate players stood in their tracks to watch the flight of the ball."

In his book "Babe: The Legend Comes To Life," Robert W. Creamer quoted Bush as saying: "I never saw a ball hit so hard before or since. He was fat and old, but he still had that great swing. Even when he missed, you could hear the bat go swish."

At Forbes Field, the only way to the visiting clubhouse was through the Pirates dugout. Having finished his day's work, Ruth touched home while doffing his cap and headed to the showers. He paused to relish the moment, plopping down at one end of the bench next to Pirates rookie Mace Brown.

"He said, 'Boy, that last one felt good,' " Brown told Tom Foreman of The Associated Press in 1995.

Estimates put the distance that No. 714 traveled at 550 to 600 feet, but there is no way of knowing. Oakland resident Henry "Wiggy" DeOrio donated the ball he retrieved to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

In that one last glorious afternoon, Ruth had belted three of the six home runs he collected that season, and six of the 12 runs he had driven in.

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Portland Book Review


 Night Terrors: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery

Night Terrors- A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery4stars

A Provocative Daniel Rinaldi Crime Adventure
By Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95, 352 pages

A young man confesses to a homicide, but refuses to disclose the location of the victim unless Pittsburgh psychologist Daniel Rinaldi accompanies them. A trauma specialist and police consultant, Rinaldi agreed to assist in finding the victim of the gruesome homicide. At the same time, a series of murders of officials in three states has the local police and the FBI scrambling to protect the people who were responsible for the arrest and conviction of a serial killer who recently died in prison. Someone claiming to be a fan of the serial killer is murdering those responsible for his conviction and death. As Rinaldi is asked to treat a recently retired FBI profiler who is suffering from night terrors, he becomes ensnared in the complex mystery. Brutal winter adds more danger to the situation.

Dennis Palumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter turned psychotherapist, now in private practice, is the author of the mystery collection; From Crime to Crime. This book is the third Daniel Rinaldi mystery. Palumbo has had his short fiction published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery magazine; The Strand and elsewhere.

This fast-paced novel has it all: suspense, mystery, romance, humor, and non-stop action. The characters are wonderfully enjoyable and the unexpected twists and turns just keep coming right up to the end.

Reviewed by Fran Byram

Mysterious Reviews

Review: Pittsburgh psychologist Daniel Rinaldi is all but kidnapped by the FBI so that he can treat one of their best agents — who is suffering from night terrors — so that he can assist them in the case of a serial killer that is targeting anyone involved in the capture and conviction of another serial killer, in the aptly titled Night Terrors, the third mystery in this series by Dennis Palumbo.

Lyle Barnes had actually already retired from the agency, but his skill set is such that the FBI believes he can add value to their investigation. Unfortunately, Barnes has ideas of his own about how to go about capturing the killer so he escapes from the safe house in which he was placed only to have the FBI — and other law enforcement officers — now looking for him, too. Meanwhile, the mother of a young man, who had confessed to the murder and dismemberment of a wealthy corporate executive, asks Rinaldi to interview her son. She says he's innocent because he was helping her clean out the attic the night of the murder. "Why would she lie," Rinaldi asks the young man when he meets with him. "To protect me. I'm her son and she loves me," he says. "So she'd lie to keep you out of prison?" "My mother'd do anything for me. Just like I'd do anything for her. Anything!"

Daniel Rinaldi is far more of an action-oriented private investigator than the thoughtful and methodical psychologist one imagines him to be in Night Terrors. That's not to say the character — or the storyline — suffers for it, just that it's rather unexpected to see him in as many close call situations as he finds himself. The two principal plots are well structured, though what is arguably the primary of the two — the one involving the serial killer — is also the weaker and not nearly as cleverly devised as the other. The inevitable connection between them is also a bit tenuous, more convenient than necessary. Still, this is overall a strong and thoughtfully crafted crime novel, one that has a number of surprising plot twists and, better still for mystery fans, one that is peppered with clues dropped in plain sight, easy to overlook as being innocuous at the time and yet critical to the solution.