“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

Cullen Gallagher on Night Terrors : A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery

The Criminal Kind: Dennis Palumbo’s "Night Terrors"

purchase on Amazon.com

NIGHT TERRORS, the third in Dennis Palumbo’s series featuring clinical psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, proves that there is more to a procedural mystery than mere procedure. A cunning reworking of genre conventions, it is consistently surprising and occasionally even subversive, undermining our expectations and challenging the fundamentals of procedural mysteries.

In his latest literary outing, Rinaldi is abducted in the night by the FBI and thrown into a case against his will. He’s been assigned to Lyle Barnes, a recently retired FBI agent who is suffering from a severe case of night terrors that has him on the brink of collapse. Barnes’s condition isn’t helped by the fact that he, too, is in the custody of the Feds. Barnes’s final job was helping to apprehend a serial killer of prostitutes, John Jessup, who recently died during a prison riot. Now, one of Jessup’s admirers — an anonymous letter writer known only by his signature tag, “Your Biggest Fan” — has been avenging Jessup’s death by murdering those responsible for his imprisonment. Barnes is high on the list. But before Rinaldi can begin the therapy, Barnes escapes, and it’s a race against time to find him before the “Fan” does. Concurrently, Rinaldi is pushed into yet another investigation when he agrees to meet the mother of Wesley Currim, a young man who has confessed to the brutal murder of a local businessman. Besides pleading guilty and leading the police and Rinaldi to the body, however, Currim has revealed no details as to how, or why, the crime was committed, or why he denies his mother’s alibi. Initially called in for his psychological expertise,

Rinaldi soon finds himself acting as detective more than therapist — a role far more dangerous than he anticipated.

Smartly structured with well-timed twists and revelations, Palumbo and his surprises are always one step ahead of the reader. Though at times dense on procedural exposition, Palumbo deserves high praise for playing so fairly with readers. His style is low on red herrings, out-of-the-blue clues, and last-minute rescues — the puzzle pieces are all there from page one, and while the way they fit together isn’t obvious, the conclusion is achieved naturally.

Whereas conventional mysteries can be seen as reasserting stability on an unstable world — uncovering the truth, righting wrongs, and asserting justice — Palumbo in Night Terrors repeatedly disrupts any notion of security. Fiendishly clever villains and feeble authorities are nothing new to the mystery field, but Palumbo approaches these stale tropes with a fresh perspective. So much of Night Terrors’s exposition is dedicated not to how the investigative process pieces things together, but rather how it frequently fails to. “They still don’t have squat, do they?” asks Barnes. “That’s ’cause they rely too much on procedure and modern forensics.” In this sense, Night Terrors is an anti-procedural. And whereas one would expect a professional specialist like Daniel Rinaldi to use his vocation like “magic” at key points throughout the narrative, Palumbo repeatedly denies any such narrative convenience. (Barnes, too, is apathetic toward Rinaldi’s attempts at psychology: “That’s just therapeutic bullshit.”) Palumbo challenges his character to move beyond the niche he has created for himself — a provocation that many series creators (and their protagonists) don’t often place themselves in.

Among the most distinguishing facets of noir is the way in which it responds to social conditions. Even in literature, crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. Economic desperation fuels the nihilism of James M. Cain and Horace McCoy’s 1930s novels, just as post– World War II discontent and malaise runs deep through the 1950s paperbacks of Day Keene and Harry Whittington. In Night Terrors, Palumbo reacts to a distinctly post-economic-collapse American geography:

Unlike Pittsburgh, whose seventeen miles of steel works had been torn down, victims of the economic cataclysm that ultimately revitalized the city, towns like Braddock had no reason to dismantle their dying mills and factories. Nothing was going to take their place.

And in retired FBI agent Lyle Barnes — at one point the grand protector of the country — Palumbo sees a fractured, shaken consciousness that hasn’t been pieced together again.

Clinicians are blaming the unusual rise in adult symptoms to the uncertainty of contemporary life. The economy, terrorism. Even the recent natural disasters. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. The daily anxiety suppressed by adults during waking life, later invading their sleep.

Palumbo may state his theme obviously, but he’s not trite about it, nor does he pretend that Rinaldi could solve these paramount issues. Once more, Palumbo contests the notion of the fix-it-all detective in favor of one whose wisdom lies not in his power, but in his powerlessness.
 Reposted from The Los Angeles Review of Books

Mystery Writers on Elements of Surprise "PEN ON FIRE" SPEAKER SERIES June 5th, 7 PM

 Elements of Surprise

Please join noted mystery authors JENNY MILCHMAN, NAOMI HIRAHARA and DENNIS PALUMBO for a discussion titled "Elements of Surprise." Hosted by Barbara DeMarco Barrett, the event will focus on ways to enhance suspense and weave in the unexpected in your fiction.

Suspense and mystery writers have much to teach writers of literary fiction, mainstream fiction, and other genres and subgenres.  These authors will discuss how to use surprising elements in your writing, whether it be fresh characterization, misdirection in plot, restraint and hidden information, and more.  They’ll also talk about how their publishing journeys have surprised them.

No writer, seasoned or new, will want to miss this exciting evening!

Dennis PalumboDennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT, is a writer and licensed psychotherapist in private practice. His acclaimed series of mystery thrillers, called “Riveting” by Publishers Weekly, include Mirror Image, Fever Dream, and the latest, Night Terrors. They all feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a character that Kirkus Reviews calls “Jack Reacher with a psychology degree.” The next book in the series, Phantom Limb, comes out in September. All are from Poisoned Pen Press.  Dennis is also the author of Writing From the Inside Out (John Wiley), and a collection of mystery short stories, From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). A former Hollywood screenwriter, his credits include the feature film My Favorite Year, for which he was nominated for a WGA Award for Best Screenplay. He was also a staff writer for the ABC-TV series Welcome Back, Kotter, and has written numerous series episodes and pilots. His first novel, City Wars (Bantam Books), is now available as an e-book, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand, Written By and elsewhere. He provides articles and reviews for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Lancet, and many others. He’s also done commentary for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Currently, he writes the  “Hollywood on the Couch” column for the Psychology Today website, and blogs regularly for The Huffington Post. More on Dennis here.

Naomi HiraharaAfter 15 years of writing and rewriting, Naomi Hirahara published her first novel, Summer of the Big Bachi, in 2004. The book, which featured a Los Angeles-based gardener and Hiroshima survivor, was among Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2004 and Chicago Tribune‘s Ten Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2004. Her third in this Mas Arai mystery series, Snakeskin Shamisen, won an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original in 2007. Murder on Bamboo Lane, the first in her new series with a 23-year-old female LAPD bicycle cop, was released in April 2014 with Berkley Prime Crime. Her fifth Mas Arai mystery, Strawberry Yellow, was a finalist for the T. Jefferson Parker Award, presented by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. A former journalist, she has also authored and edited several nonfiction books and was a consulting writer for the exhibition at the Manzanar National Historic Site’s Visitor Center. Her middle-grade book, 1001 Cranes, was honorable mention in youth literature from the Asian/Pacific American Libraries Association. Also a short story writer, Naomi is a past chapter president of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.  More on Naomi here.

Jenny MilchmanJenny Milchman‘s journey to publication took 13 years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour.” Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, reviewed in The New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, and nominated for a Mary Higgins Clark award. Jenny is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Jenny’s second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out to starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, and Jenny and her family are back on the road.

The event takes place at the Scape Gallery in Corona Del Mar.

Scape Gallery
2859 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA. 92625
(949) 723-3406

SAVE THE DATE! May 17th, Studio City Public Library, 3-5 PM

"Biblioanalysis: Psychology In Mystery Writing"

Join us for an exciting panel co-sponsored by the Southern California Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and the Studio City Public Library.

Meet mystery authors who use a psychological perspective to motivate their characters and build suspense. 

The event is free, and coffee and snacks will be provided.
Now meet the panel...

Craig Faustus Buck is a journalist, TV writer-producer, screenwriter, short-story writer, nonfiction book author and novelist.  He co-authored two #1 NYT nonfiction bestsellers (one pop-psychology the other pop-gynecology), wrote an Oscar-nominated short film, and co-wrote the original miniseries V: The Final Battle.  His agent is currently shopping his first noir novel, Go Down Hard, which won First Runner Up for the Claymore Award at Killer Nashville.  His indie feature, Smuggling for Gandhi, is slated to go into production in June.  And his first novella, Psycho Logic was published in March by the Stark Raving Group and is available on bookxy.com.


Laurie Stevens is a novelist, screenwriter and playwright. Her debut novel, The Dark Before Dawn, begins a psychological suspense series. The novel earned the Kirkus Star, was named to Krkus Reviews' "Best of 2011," and was honored at the 2012 Hollywood Book Festival. Deep into Dusk, the second in the series, won the Southern California Book Festival, was honored at the London Book Fest, and named Shelf Unbound's 2013 Notable Page-Turner. Her story "Kill Joy" is featured in the anthology, Last Exit to Murder. Laurie lives near Los Angeles with her husband and two children. To learn more, visit http://www.lauriestevensbooks.com.


L.A. Times Bestselling Author Stephen Jay Schwartz spent  a number of years as the  Director of Development for Wolfgang Petersen,
where he worked with writers, producers and studio executives to
develop screenplays for production. Among the film  projects he helped
develop are Air Force One, Outbreak and  Bicentennial  Man.  His  two novels, BOULEVARD and  BEAT, follow the dysfunctional journey of LAPD  Robbery-Homicide detective Hayden Glass as he fights crime while struggling with his own sex-addiction.  Stephen has worked professionally as a  screenwriter and is currently writing an international thriller. 


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 (John Wiley). He also blogs regularly for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand, Written By and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press).  His acclaimed series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, and the latest,  Night Terrors), feature Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.  The next, Phantom Limb, comes out in September. All are from Poisoned Pen Press. For more info, please visit www.dennispalumbo.com

Don't miss this terrific event!

Studio City Public Library
12511 Moorpark Street
Studio City, CA 91604

PHONE: 818-755-7873

Cover Reveal for PHANTOM LIMB

Drumroll Please! Cover Reveal for PHANTOM LIMB by Dennis Palumbo

Psychologist and Pittsburgh Police Department consultant Daniel Rinaldi has a new patient. Lisa Harland, a local girl, once made a splash in Playboy and the dubious side of Hollywood before bottoming out. Back home, down and out again, she married one of the city’s richest and most ruthless tycoons. Lisa’s challenge to Danny is that she intends to commit suicide by 7:00 PM. His therapist skills may buy some time—but, exiting, she’s kidnapped right outside his office.

Summoned to the Harland estate, Danny is forced, through a bizarre sequence of events, to be the bag man on the ransom delivery. This draws him into a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a brilliant, lethal adversary. Complicating things is the unhappy Harland family, whose members have dark secrets of their own along with suspect loyalties, as well as one of Danny’s other patients, a volatile vet whose life may, like Lisa’s, be at risk. What is really at stake here?

Phantom Limb, fourth in the acclaimed series of Daniel Rinaldi thrillers, will keep readers guessing until the very last page.  To be released in September from Poisoned Pen Press

Reposted from The Fiction Files

Helen Davey Reviews Fever Dream

I have just finished reading Dennis Palumbo's book, Fever Dream, the second in a series of action-packed, cleverly constructed tales featuring Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with the Pittsburgh Police Department treating victims of violent crimes. The intricate plot twists and surprises keep the reader turning pages, and the short chapters invite us to read just one more. To my surprise, I finished the book in just one sitting.

However, it wasn't just the intricate story that kept me riveted; it was the writer's in-depth understanding of trauma. As a therapist myself, I appreciate the author's emphasis on the need for his character Rinaldi to be able to put himself into the "world" -- the subjective experience -- of a patient who's in a traumatized state.

Drawing heavily on Dr. Robert Stolorow's groundbreaking work on trauma (See "Counting

My People"), Palumbo -- this Hollywood-screenwriter-turned-psychotherapist -- deepens the mystery story with his own clinical observations of traumatized patients gleaned over his 24 years in the field of psychology.The theme of trauma spills over into Palumbo's poignant, intensely vivid descriptions of his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The author's strong sense of place makes this city I've never seen come alive for me, as if I'm familiar with its essence.

Pittsburgh itself becomes one of the characters, struggling between the old and the new, gentrification versus the old blue-collared immigrant identity, and the anxiety that comes with the loss of an identifiable culture. The story of Pittsburgh is being repeated all over this country, where the uncertainty that comes with modernity weighs heavily on all of us.

The character of Daniel Rinaldi is that of a flawed human being who's learned -- through his own work on himself -- to trust his own impulses and instincts. Using his capacity to empathize with others, Daniel intuitively solves puzzles that others can't -- though despite his herculean efforts for the Police Department, he remains a thorn in their side. I'm sure this theme will be further developed in future books in the series.

I look forward to reading Night Terrors, the third book in the series, and to seeing what mind-bending new mystery Dr. Rinaldi will solve.  

Reposted from Huffington Post

Peter O'Toole and Sid Caesar: Two Fallen Redwoods

But, from a personal perspective, the two iconic performers whose deaths resonated most with me were actor Peter O'Toole and comedy genius Sid Caesar. In differing ways, their lives intersected with mine in a manner that had a profound impact.

Though I've been a licensed psychotherapist for the past 26 years, in my prior career I was a Hollywood screenwriter. One of the scripts I co-wrote was for a film called My Favorite Year, which starred Peter O'Toole and featured a fictional 1950s TV comic named King Kaiser -- who was based on Sid Caesar.

As the character named Alan Swann -- a thinly-disguised Errol Flynn -- O'Toole gave what I and many of his fans consider one of his best performances. He perfectly captured Flynn's exuberance, narcissism and insecurity -- as well as the famous swashbuckler's self-deprecating wit.

In the role of King Kaiser -- host of a weekly comedy series based on Your Show of Shows
-- Joseph Bologna replicated Sid Caesar's enormous personal energy, embodying his infamous anger as well as his comedic intensity.

Both O'Toole and Caesar were, in their heyday, larger than life personalities. Famous for their struggles with alcohol, they were willing to live life on their own terms -- even when the consequences of that choice caused them more grief than glory.

Regardless, each, in my opinion, should have been given the opportunity to work much more than they did. Especially when both performers were at the top of their game. That they weren't always afforded that opportunity is our collective loss. In fact, it's unlikely that we'll see many performers of their monumental talent and outsized personalities again.

When each of their deaths were reported in the news, I thought of something a friend of mine had said when film director Stanley Kubrick died. "Well, that's one more fallen redwood in a rapidly dwindling forest."

That forest is now missing two more redwoods.

As a fan, and as a former screenwriter who'd once been professionally connected -- at least tangentially -- with both men, I mourn the passing of Peter O'Toole and Sid Caesar. And offer a posthumous thanks for the richness that each added to my life.

Rest in Peace.

A former Hollywood screenwriter, Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author of Writing From the Inside Out. He also writes the Daniel Rinaldi mystery series.

Reposted From The Huffington Post

Memo to a Successful Writer

Hollywood on the Couch
The inside scoop on Tinseltown, USA.
by Dennis Palumbo

How to keep making it after you've made it
Thumbtack Note Important Clip Art

I’ve heard from a number of my Hollywood writing patients who are new to the business, as well as some successful veterans, ask me to write a column about them. People who are doing well, having their TV scripts and screenplays produced, being offered good deals.

So here goes.

It doesn’t suck. When they option your work, when your film is opening or your pilot is picked up, it can be very sweet indeed.

There are still challenges, of course. Like keeping your focus on the writing, and not getting caught up in just having meetings and developing pitches. Not to mention the effort it takes, in the midst of all the business concerns, to remember why you wanted to write in the first place.

Success in the industry can be as terrifying as it is exciting, as complicated as it is gratifying. But it’s worth it. Seeing your words transformed into feature films and TV episodes, getting to communicate what’s in your mind and heart to countless others, is a profound joy.

That said, here are some things to remember to help keep you grounded...and keep you writing.

YOU ARE ENOUGH. You have everything you need—right now—to be the writer you want to be. As Emerson said, “To know that what is true for you in your private heart is true for everyone—that is genius.” Which means each writer has within him or her the entire range of human experience. If you feel it and think it, pretty much everyone else does, too. So keep mining your own particular thoughts and feelings, what excites or worries or intrigues you, and you’ll have an inexhaustible supply of things to write about.

One of the great gifts that creative people tend to share is a sense of wonder. The best way to keep your writing fresh and your ideas unique is to be open to new experiences, concepts and situations. Moreover, smart writers are always reading new things, discovering new films or innovative TV programs—in other words, keeping their eyes and ears open to what else is going on around them creatively.

I don’t mean you have to watch CNN 24/7, but an understanding of the issues and stresses confronting the people around you is crucial to keeping your writing relevant. Whether you write the broadest of comedies or the most sober of dramas, the best writing is informed by the context in which it is created. Our own culture—political, social, economic—is and has always been the well-spring for the most creative story-telling. It’s what makes a narrative or a collection of characters—and their concerns—relatable to the audience.

DON’T PANIC IF YOU GET STUCK. What does it mean if, in the midst of a script or treatment, you get stuck? It means you’re a writer—and that’s all it means. Writing is hard (and good writing is harder!), so getting stuck, or having doubts about which direction to take the narrative, is just part of the job. Writers only get in trouble when they give their writing problems a personal meaning—when they think it’s evidence of some defect or inadequacy in themselves. It isn’t. In my experience, once I help patients challenge the notion that a writing problem indicates something deficient in them, they tend to be better able to grapple with the actual problem itself—and work through it.

TRUST YOURSELF. Your talent, instincts and hard work have gotten you this far, so it’s unlikely that this skill set will abandon you. No matter how things are going, trust yourself. Every writer, regardless of success, has to navigate the ups and downs of the business. This is a lot easier to do if you can trust yourself—creatively, professionally and personally. You’re the one knows best how to tell a story, craft compelling characters, build to a suspenseful moment or the pay-off to a joke. You know best how to thrill an audience, how to make them laugh and cry and think.

Which means, no matter what, remember who you are and what you can do

Reposted from Psychology Today