‘Escaping Psychiatry’ has it all: intriguing characters, noir style, thrilling pursuits, dangerous situations, crime, serial killers, religion, family secrets, murder, psychological insights, mental illness, trauma, debates about prejudice and morality, heated trials, police investigations, corruption, and mystery. If you enjoy ‘Wire in the Blood’, ‘Cracker’ and ‘Lie to Me’ and you are not scared of going deeper and darker, dare to read on.
‘Escaping Psychiatry’ is a collection of three stories with the same protagonist, Mary, a psychiatrist and writer. She is trying to develop her literary career but circumstances and friends conspire to keep dragging her back to psychiatry.
In ‘Cannon Fodder’, Phil, a lawyer who and Mary’s friend asks her to provide a report on one of his clients, a young African-American man called Cain White. Cain is a very religious man and has been accused of inciting a riot at a religious meeting. He says he can hear God’s voice. He insists that God is black and his appears to be a Black Nationalist message. Is Cain insane, deluded, misguided, looking for media-attention, or a Saint? To find an answer to these questions Mary talks to his family and friends. Although she concludes he is sane,Mary’s investigation uncovers some very damaging revelations about his family life, beliefs and local attitudes. Who is a saint and who is a sinner is a matter for debate. The more Mary gets involved in the lives of Cain and those close to him the more she realises how dangerous secrets are. Like time-bombs ready to set off any minute.
‘Teamwork’: Captain Tom McLeod, from the San Francisco Police Department, invites Mary for a meal at home with his wife. When she meets their other guest, a young detective called Justin, she quickly realises there is an agenda well beyond a friendly meal. Justin’s partner, mentor and father figure, Sgt David Leaman, was killed a couple of months earlier during a routine investigation. Justin witnessed the event but he insists in going back to work and refusing any therapy or counselling. Tom and others at the department are concerned about his mental state but have failed to convince him to accept professional help. Both Mary and Justin are reluctant to engage in the ambush/informal consultation organised, but eventually decide to give it a try. At first sight it appears to be a straight forward case of unresolved grief, but things aren’t as clear-cut as they appear and Mary ends up getting too personally involved with the case, to the detriment of her professional objectivity.
In ‘Memory’, Mary runs out of her apartment after a difficult encounter with her friend Phil, and goes missing. When she is found it seems that she was hit in the head, abducted, raped and she is suffering from amnesia. She never recovers memory for the assault and finds it difficult to come to terms with something she cannot recall. The clues point towards a serial killer who could not finish his job in her case. But some things do not fit in. Who disturbed the killer? Why was she left there? The crime and the investigation surrounding it have a profound impact on Mary who decides that she needs to reconsider her life and start anew.
The epilogue revisits Mary at the point of the trial of her abductor and sees what changes have taken place in her life. Will she finally manage to Escape Psychiatry?
Although these stories are fictional, the author, a forensic psychiatrist, brings her expertise and insight to the material, lifting it above a standard crime caper.
Targeted Age Group:: Adults
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’m a psychiatrist ( worked in forensic psychiatry for nearly 10 years until very recently) and I wrote the first story in the book ‘Cannon Fodder’ inspired by my studies in American Literature and the issue of race. I wondered what would happen if a young African-American man started saying that God was talking to him and He was black. Of course a psychiatrist would be called to assess his mental state and I had my protagonist, Mary. I shared the story with some of my professors who liked it but commented it was a difficult length to market and suggested I could write a couple of stories more with the same protagonist. I didn’t at the time but years later I re-read the story and thought the character of Mary was interesting and I wrote two more stories ‘Teamwork’ (more noir in style) and ‘Memory’ where Mary herself is the victim of a crime. I enjoyed writing the stories and decided there might be scope for further adventures and added an epilogue that opens the way for more stories.
Who are your favorite authors?
Classics: Herman Melville, Louisa May Alcott, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Emily Bronte…
More recent: Mercé Rodoreda, Isabel Allende, Stephen King, John Irving, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Tony Morrison, Carlos Ruiz Zafón…
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
As mentioned above the main character, Mary, is a psychiatrist who’d like to make a living as a writer, but keeps getting dragged (reluctantly) to provide her psychiatric expertise in a variety of cases, mostly through her connection to a friend and lawyer, Phil, and his friends. Phil’s involvement in the cases grows throughout the book, and we get to know more about him, sometimes more than he seems to know himself. For the rest of the characters I usually start with a ‘what if’ approach to the story and a general scheme in my head about the characteristics of the character, but usually at some point they start to grow in their own direction and I follow.
Mary got to the café a few minutes early. Cain was sitting at a table close to the window, as they had agreed, and drinking a milkshake. He looked very young, no older than 19 and he was tall and slim. He was a deep brown colour, like dark chocolate, his hair was very short and he was wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt. His trainers didn’t look new or expensive. He looked up at her, and smiled.
She shook his hand. He stood up.
“A drink? A milkshake? It’s good for you.” He asked.
“I’ll get something. Do you want anything else? Something to eat?”
“Is that part of your assessment? How I eat?”
Mary had found the same guarded reaction in many people. Nothing especial about it.
“No. Do you think it should be? It’s nearly lunch time and you’ve had a long journey. That’s all.”
“My sister made me take some sandwiches. “
“I don’t have a sister. Do you want a piece of cake, or…?”
“Apple pie if they have any, thanks.”
She got his pie, some cheesecake and an orange juice for her.
They ate in silence. Cain went to the toilet.
“I’m a bit nervous.”
“It’s normal. Do you want to go for a walk?”
“Don’t you have to take notes?”
“I have a reasonable memory, and a tape recorder if you don’t mind.”
After some general questions about his job and family, and medical illnesses, she asked him about his sleep, appetite, and mood…
“I’m fine. I sleep like a log, I have a good appetite, and I feel on top of the world.”
“But not ‘the top of the world’.”
“Oh, no, no. I’m only me, Cain White, a fairly normal boy.”
“Do you think fairly normal boys say they can hear God?”
“I don’t know any who say that, but that’s probably because they can’t hear him. But I do.”
“Do you hear his voice as you hear me? Is it a voice outside your head?”
“It’s difficult to explain. It isn’t a voice like anything I’ve ever heard before. It isn’t a man or a woman, it’s God.”
“How do you know?”
“Because the voice says so. And I believe it.”
“Does it talk to you or does it talk about you or others?”
“It talks to me.”
“Does it call your name?”
“Yes…It says something like: “Cain, listen. There’s something I want you to tell the others. Tell them they must love themselves. Tell them they are beautiful.””
“Who are the others?”
“You mean God is talking to the black people through you.”
“I mean God is black.”
Mary had to bite her lip not to smile. Cain wouldn’t stand a chance if the judge were white and conservative.
“You don’t believe me.”
Mary looked at him straight in the eyes.
“I’m not trying to determine if God is black or white or any other colour. “
“You only want to know if I am mad. I guess I must be a raving lunatic to say things like that to a white psychiatrist.”
“Do you think black psychiatrists have different criteria for diagnosing madness?”
“This voice, is it inside you head or outside?”
“Outside. I’m not imagining it.”
“I didn’t say you were. Do you hear it at any particular time of the day or in a particular place?”
“No. It comes to me any time, any place.”
“When was the first time you heard that voice?”
“I heard it once as a child, just after my father died, telling me that I should look after my mother and siblings. And then, a few months ago. First I thought I was tired and I was hallucinating. But I had to accept it. It was God.”
“Are you taking drugs?”
“I don’t touch the stuff. I’m not off my head or anything like that.” he said in a brisk manner.
“I must ask this type of questions.”
They sat on a bench opposite a cubist painting by Picasso.
“I’m sure a few people thought he was mad.” Cain said pointing at the painting.
“Probably. Cain…This voice is never threatening or nasty…”
“No. God couldn’t be threatening or nasty.”
“Can you control the voice? Can you make it shut up?”
“Why should I want it to shut up? At the beginning I tried to make it go away but the only thing that worked…”
“The only thing that worked…”
He blushed. The people (white) who say that blacks don’t blush should have seen Cain.
“…was thinking bad things. “
They walked past a nude painting. He averted his gaze.
“Sex?” She suggested.
“Yes. He doesn’t like that.”
“Are you saying that sex is bad?”
“God doesn’t like that type of thoughts.”
He seemed very embarrassed and she decided to let him off for the moment.
“Have you ever thought that you could read other people’s minds, or that other people could control you or could put thoughts into your mind?”
“Sometimes God tells me what other people are thinking.”
“Has he told you about me?”
“He’s very quiet at the moment.”
She couldn’t avoid the smile this time.
“You don’t take me seriously. I’m not a joke.”
“Sorry. It wasn’t what you said, but the way you said it. You’re very honest. It isn’t common to find somebody who says what he thinks.”
Cain didn’t have any other symptoms of mental illness. Apart from God’s voice there were no other indications of psychosis, and his mood was even.
“Have you ever thought of suicide?”
“Suicide is sin…Only once, when my father died. I thought about jumping of a bridge. I went there. Then I heard God’s voice telling me to look after my mother and…”
“Couldn’t it have been you father’s voice?”
“I thought so at the time. But now I know better. It was God.”
“Did you think you would become famous when you first talked about hearing God?”
“I only talked about it because God told me to do so.”
“What does your mum think?”
“She knows I am not a liar. She trusts me.”
“And your brother and sisters?”
“They believe what I say.”
“Do you think you have been elected by God?”
“I only know he’s talking to me. I’m his instrument. I must do as He tells me.”
“Some people are saying that you can cure illnesses by touching someone.”
“I’ve heard that. I don’t know. I only know that if God wants me to heal somebody by touching he will make me able to do so.”
Olga Núñez Miret is from Barcelona but has lived in the UK for over 20 years.
She is a doctor and until very recently her day job was as a Forensic Psychiatrist (not exactly like the profilers in the movies, or anything to do with CSI either). She has now decided to dedicate herself more fully to writing, translating and all things book relate. She has also completed a degree in American Literature at the University of Sussex (including a year abroad at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts) and a a PhD on the Films of David Mamet. She was also teaching assistant whilst completing the PhD, mostly on Film courses.
Always a learner, she has recently finished a Distance Learning MSc on Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Leicester.
Olga has loved reading and writing since she was a child. Her father always says that even before she could read she’d always ask what any signs or writing meant. She has written a variety of things over the years: short stories (some now disappeared), novels, novellas and plays, in English, Spanish and Catalan. Some have been edited into the trash bin, but a few are still available and sitting quietly waiting for their moment in the sun. (Or an e-reader, most likely). Due to the many distractions (studies and jobs) she has never fully dedicated herself to the business of writing, but after a minor health scare she decided that there is no time like now. Carpe diem!
Her main love is fiction; she has written in a variety of genres (crime, family saga, para-normal, science-fiction…) and she is currently working on a series for young adults.
Apart from reading and writing, she loves the cinema, the theater (modern, classic, musicals…), fitness classes (and more recently also yoga), walking, crochet, and owls.
Her main aim is not to be boring and to entertain.
The first of her books to be published as e-book (October 2012) is ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ also available in Spanish version: ‘El hombre que nunca existió’.
In December 2012 she published 3 novellas in the series ‘Escaping Psychiatry’. ‘Cannon Fodder’ (Escaping Psychiatry Part 1), ‘Teamwork’ (Escaping Psychiatry Part 2), and ‘Memory’ (Escaping Psychiatry Part 3). The author has used her experience and insights in these three works of fiction that follow Mary, psychiatrist and writer, and her adventures.
In February 2013 she published a Young Adult novella in English (Twin Evils?) and Spanish(Gemela Maldad). This story talks about sibling rivalry taken to extremes, friendship, romance and has a touch of the paranormal.
In June 2013 she published my first foray in romantic fiction: ‘Click Me Happy!’ a novella where readers can choose between three endings, an unhappy, a neutral and an unhappy one. In October 2013 ‘Click Me Happy!’ became also available in paperback format.
In January she published the three novellas in the series Escaping Psychiatry in a single book with an epilogue that promises more adventures.
She is working on a series of YA novels, another romance, further adventures on the series Escaping Psychiatry and…many other things.
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