Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (of My Favorite Year, Welcome Back, Kotter, and more), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest — excerpted here — Head Wounds) all feature Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.
From the publisher: “Psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi consults with the Pittsburgh Police. His specialty is treating victims of violent crime – those who’ve survived an armed robbery, kidnapping, or sexual assault, but whose traumatic experience still haunts them. Head Wounds picks up where Rinaldi’s investigation in Phantom Limb left off, turning the tables on him as he, himself, becomes the target of a vicious killer.”
Praise for Dennis Palumbo’s Daniel Rinaldi Series:
“Accomplished writer Dennis Palumbo calls his latest novel Head Wounds and the grim title should
serve as a warning. This psychological thriller has some fine language and a strong narrative pull that keeps the pages turning, but the series of crimes that occur are unnerving…People in the story wear Pitt Panthers and Steelers sweatshirts, drive on the parkway, and get their news from KDKA. Mr. Palumbo often does more than just mention Pittsburgh landmarks; he characterizes the city in both positive and negative ways…As Head Wounds rolls to its clever, crazy gothic conclusion, no one could accuse Mr. Palumbo of being flat. This is the fifth book in his Daniel Rinaldi series and most readers will hope Dan lives to see a sixth.”
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Head Wounds delivers relentless action toward a climax as vivid and harrowing as anything I’ve ever read.”
— Joseph Finder, New York Times best-selling author of The Switch
“The character of psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi gives great heart to this story and elevates it to novelistic heights.”
— John Lescroart, New York Times best-selling author of Damage
“Lovers of noir will enjoy Dan Rinaldi’s fast-paced adventures. Rinaldi, an empathic therapist, is on call to the Pittsburgh police. He needs every ounce of his Golden Glove skills to survive the violent world of Pennsylvania politics.”
— Sara Paretsky, Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, author, V.I. Warshawski novels
“A gripping thriller, chock full of the desired twists and cliffhangers, with the added layer and intriguing access of a therapist narrator/detective. A page turner!”
— Aimee Bender, New York Times best-selling author of An Invisible Sign of My Own
Miles Davis saved my life.
I was sitting on the couch in my front room, re-reading the three-inch-thick dossier, listening to Davis’ seminal album with his New Quintet. I’d slid the CD into the squat disc player minutes before, right after I’d poured myself a second Jack Daniels. Neat.
It was sometime after nine PM. My broad picture window looking out on Grandview Avenue reflected an opaque darkness chilled by an earlier spring rain. As usual lately, I’d forgotten to draw the heavy drapes when I came home from work. Sometimes I even forgot to eat.
My only task, these past few nights, was to put the dossier on my lap and slowly peruse its many pages. To read yet again the police detectives’ statements, peer at the crime scene photos, review the Medical Examiner’s report. The hard-backed binder had become an important but cryptic artifact, the potential key to a mystery that I’d long accepted as buried in the past.
“Okay,” I said aloud, to an empty room. An empty house. “Tonight I find it. Whatever the hell it is.”
The key to a mystery. At least that’s what he’d claimed it was, the man who told me about it. Who believed that hidden in the dossier’s pages was an overlooked or ignored piece of evidence proving that my wife’s death almost a dozen years ago hadn’t been what it seemed. That the gunfire that ended Barbara’s life was not the lethal result of a mugging gone wrong.
It was murder.
And the proof was in this extensive dossier that same man had once prepared at a wealthy new patient’s request. Before she’d consider entering therapy. A dossier on me.
He told me all this over a week ago, as I crouched by his blood-soaked body, staring in disbelief at the man’s stricken face. Moments before, he’d saved that patient’s life by stepping in front of a killer’s gun, taking the bullet meant for her. Although the shooter had been quickly subdued, it was too late for the wounded man.
Gasping in pain from the slug lodged in his gut, he urged me to go to his office and find his copy of the dossier. Though within moments his voice had fallen to a croaked, desperate whisper as he struggled to speak, to find words. Which he somehow managed to do, right before he died in my arms.
I winced now at the memory and swallowed half the whiskey, barely aware of the artful harmonics flowing from the CD player atop the nearby bureau. Denied even the meager solace I usually derived most nights from the soulful, insistent music.
Truth is, I was still pretty scarred, both physically and psychologically, from the events of the past few weeks. The kidnapping of that troubled new patient. The shocking violence and sudden, unexpected deaths that followed. The final showdown with her captors. And, throughout, my own head-strong, perhaps foolish involvement.
God knows, I still had the bruises to prove it.
I sighed heavily. My eyes, tired after a long day seeing patients, squinted down at the blurred, Xeroxed documents arranged chronologically in the ringed binder. Trying to make sense of what I was seeing. Especially the handwritten notes of the investigating detectives. As though, in the soft amber light of the table lamp, the hurriedly-scrawled words had become meaningless cyphers.
Not that the police reports made up the bulk of the binder’s contents. This painstakingly-prepared dossier was literally the paper trail of my entire life. From birth certificate to University of Pittsburgh psychology degree, from my clinical experience to favorite bar, hospital affiliations to tax returns. My family and its many sorrows. My marriage to the former Barbara Camden, also a Ph.D, including our brief stint in couples counseling. My friends and colleagues, my private practice, my work as a consultant to the Pittsburgh Police. All my forty-plus years condensed into a stack of documents, copied records, data printed off the Internet. The gains and losses, both professionally and personally, that made up my life.
But it was the material pertaining to Barbara’s death that drew my repeated, almost obsessive interest. Including the personal details that were compiled by the police at the start of their investigation. Her own family’s history, her noted career as a linguistics professor at Pitt, her marriage to me not long after we’d first met as graduate students. Then came the forensics from the crime scene, the futile canvas of the surrounding area. Leads that went nowhere, anonymous tips that never panned out. And finally their interview with me a month after the mugging, as I lay in the hospital bed, recovering from my own gunshot wound.
Though there hadn’t been much I could tell them. Barbara and I had been approached coming out of a restaurant at the Point by an armed thug in a hoodie. He was about my size, I vaguely recalled, though his face was almost totally obscured by the peaked hood and the black of night. A chilled darkness barely broken by the restaurant’s soft-hued exterior lamps and a single light canopied over the valet parking kiosk.
It had all happened in what seemed like moments. The guy grabbed for Barbara’s purse, she resisted, and I tried to intervene. In the struggle, three shots went off, two finding my wife. I took the third to my head, putting me on the ground. Then the mugger ran off, his echoing footsteps the last thing I remembered before passing out…
He was never found.
Someone inside the restaurant called 911. But by the time the police and an ambulance arrived, Barbara had died at the scene. While I, for some reason, didn’t.
Though I still bear the scar from the bullet that had pierced my skull, evidence of my unlikely survival. My inexplicable, unearned luck.
I guess I’ve been trying to earn it ever since.
* * *
Despite the knot tightening in my stomach, I threw back the rest of the whiskey. It tasted as sour as I felt. Whatever clue I was supposed to discover in this dossier still eluded me, after a half-dozen careful readings on as many nights. Unless the dying man had been wrong, and there was nothing to find.
I was just about to close the binder for the night when an old favorite track, “Just Squeeze Me,” came from the CD player’s speakers. Miles on trumpet, Coltrane on sax. Heart-stopping, elegant and perfect.
Except the volume wasn’t loud enough. So, favoring my still-bruised ribs, I levered myself up from the couch and went over to where the player sat on the bureau.
I never made it.
I’d just bent to turn up the volume–
Suddenly, the front window shattered behind me. A booming explosion of glass, jagged shards cascading into the room.
Frozen with shock, I felt the rush of the bullet as it whistled past me, just over my shoulder. Missing me by inches. Embedding itself in the wall.
I threw myself to the floor. Sprawled there, unmoving. Conscious only of a dull roaring in my skull. The insistent reverberation of the gunshot.
As I waited, heart thudding in my chest, for the sound of another shot. Another implosion of broken glass.
A sound that never came.
Copyright © Dennis Palumbo. This excerpt is published here courtesy of the author and should not be reprinted without permission.
Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, the producer of The Meg, has confirmed plans for a follow-up to the nautical blockbuster, which proved to be a smash-hit.
“It will happen,” Di Bonaventura tells Metro when quizzed about the chances of a sequel to The Meg. But obviously the follow-up is still quite a bit away, as the Bumblebee producer adds, “We’re still trying to figure out what that is.”
Will Jason Statham return for The Meg 2?
It is hardly a surprise that we’re going to see The Meg 2. While it only scored 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Meg went on to gross over $530 million at the box office, as it proved to be especially popular overseas, where it took in just under $385 million internationally.
Back in October, Catherine Xujun Ying, the executive producer behind The Meg, let the cat out of the bag about the sequel, telling Deadline, “It’s still in the very early stages, but we’re working on it. We’re trying to keep it secret at this time.”
Statham had already stated his intent to return for another entry to the franchise, telling Entertainment Weekly ahead of The Meg’s release, "I think it's like anything in this day and age — if it makes money, there's obviously an appetite to make more money."
"And if it doesn't do well, they'll soon sweep it under the carpet. But that's the way Hollywood works.”
Steve Allen, the writer behind the 1997 novel that The Meg is based on, which has 7 follow-ups itself, believes that there's plenty of material for more than one follow-up.
He told Metro around its release,”My feeling has always been that this is a billion dollar franchise if it was done right.”
“But to be done right you had to get the shark right, get the cast right, get the tone right. And Warner Bros. have nailed it completely. The producers have nailed it.”
It’s a tale as old as time, or, at least, the internet: None of us are reading any more, the physical book is dead, Amazon has killed the independent bookstore, and it’s all only going to get worse. But this year, the story looks like just that—a fiction. We are buying books—especially the kind with physical pages—and we’re doing so, increasingly, in well-loved indie bookstores.
In the UK, the Guardian reports, Nielsen BookScan recored year-on-year book sale growth of 22 million pounds ($28 million). It’s likely that 2018 will top 2016’s total sales of 1.59 billion pounds, too, with booksellers on both sides of the Atlantic noting an anecdotal uptick in sales and browsing customers. It’s been good news for British book chains—the country’s largest bookseller, Waterstones, made its first profit since the 2008 financial crisis—and for independent bookshops, too: this year was the first since the advent of Amazon where the number of stores actually went up, rather than down.
In the United States, the news is even rosier for indies: the number of independent bookstores grew by 35 percent between 2009 and 2015, while sales of physical books have increased every year since 2013. (For big booksellers, it’s been trickier: Barnes & Noble’s annual report told harrowing tales of store sales down 5.4% from 2017, with total sales in decline since 2014.)
We’re buying books, and we’re favoring the kind you can borrow, lend, or drop in the bath: In 2017, print book sales were up 10.8% from four years earlier. (Between 2016 and 2017, however, e-book sales actually dropped 10 percent.) In October of this year, book sales were at $699 million, up by $50 million from a year earlier.
Perhaps surprisingly, Vox’s The Goods attributes this growth to our phones. By reading off-line, writes Nisha Chittal, we’re trying to mediate our screen times, driving up demand for paper books. On the other hand, when we are on our phones, we’d like everyone to know how well-read we are, usually via virtue-signaling #100booksin2018 Instagram posts—and that means buying books to show off. “All this bookstagramming has led to a thriving space for book lovers on social media,” Chittal writes, “and that’s been a good thing for independent bookstores too — because it plays to their key strength: creating community.” Booksellers are growing wise to our swipe-happy ways, and making sure their wares and whereabouts have a home and community online, where they’re lodged firmly in our minds and feeds.
Book sales may never recover to their pre-internet highs, but it’s encouraging news for aspiring novelists, anxious booksellers, and voracious readers alike.
|writer/director Nicole Conn|
Cale Ferrin whose extraordinary breakout performance in this film will touch everyone’s heart.
|with and Kayla Radomski|
Cale's portrayal of “Freddie” is not only brave and raw but will really help people to understand what a child with Special Needs goes through on a daily basis. And congrats to Cale who is currently working on a Hulu series in Toronto.
|Cale Ferrin and Zoe Ventoura|
|Kayla Radomski and Cale Ferrin|
The entire cast is stellar – headed up by Zoe Ventoura and Kayla Radomski - both of their journeys’ are relatable on so many levels.
And the supporting cast is pretty darn remarkable for a film this size: Bruce Davidson, French Stewart, Brooke Elliott, Harley Jane Kozak, Gaby Christian, Kay Lenz and my daughter Gabrielle Baba-Conn.
|It's a wrap!!!|
|French Stewart, Cale Ferrin, Bruce Davidson|
|Harley Jane Kozak and Gaby Christian|
|Brooke Elliott, Cale Ferrin and Gaby Christian|
Many writers often mistake writing as a source of personal identity, instead of a job, a business or a product.
The original Greek dramatists celebrated the gods in their work, but they had no issue claiming ownership as authors. They were successfully self-promoting to the extent their work is still performed and still attracting profitable enterprise. If the Greeks are too distant a reference, let’s take a look at the king of all the writing gods: Bill Shakespeare.
He is unmistakably the consummate businessman who founded a repertory company, secured patrons, erected a theatre, and promoted its product while writing some of the world’s greatest plays as a line item alongside all the rest. He is the credited writer of over 1,000 screenplays. At this very moment films based on his work are being prepped, while countless theatrical productions of his work are being performed all over the world.
Nancy Nigrosh spent 23 years as a top Hollywood agent representing world-class directors, writers and authors. Now she’s a writing coach, who offers insider knowledge about the process of how to attract an agent. She is an MFA alum of UCLA’s Theater, Film & Television Program, and serves as a judge for UCLA’s Annual Master Screenwriting Competition. She also holds an MA in Education and two Teaching Credentials from Antioch University. She teaches at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and frequently contributes to Indiewire. She’s on the Board of the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation and an Advisory Board member of BookWorks a worldwide Self-Publishers Association in partnership with Publishers Weekly.
What are the ingredients of a New York Times Best Seller? Ken Atchity has the answers and they are not what you expect. He is a movie producer, author of over 20 nonfiction books and novels. He has spent his lifetime helping writers get started and improve their careers. Writing was in his blood from the beginning. ‘I never understood writers’ block because I never had it,” he says.
What is the right mindset for being successful as a self-published writer?
It’s about what Winston Churchill said: “Never give, never give, never give up!” Don’t doubt yourself, keep working and learning more about your craft.
You wrote over 20 non-fiction books and novels. Are you still learning?
Yes, I am. I am always learning. I love writing because it’s a way of focusing your learning. I write the book first, then I do the research and spend years revising the book.
Some writers confessed that they don’t read books when they work on something new…
While you write your first draft, there is no need for you to read something else.The time to start reading other things is after you’ve finished it and improved it. You can always study yourself to death and never finish the first draft. And that’s the danger of it, or being influenced by other voices. It is much better to get your voice clear in the first draft and then give yourself a limited amount of time to do further research to make sure things are accurate. You would be surprised how often your imagination gets things pretty much right.
What do you appreciate most in a book?
I love books that take you to another world and keep you there the whole time. A storyteller who knows his craft will do this by not making a single mistake. A mistake is something that takes you suddenly out of that world.
You helped several authors to make the New York Times Best Sellers list. What are the ingredients of a bestseller?
That list is a victim of the changing times we are living now. In today’s world, a person needs to be famous or write about someone who is. The most recent three NY Times Best Sellers were about John Kennedy. But this list is not the only judge. Selling books on the Internet is a direct and immediate way to see if you could find an audience for your book.