Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Notes For August 9th, 2011

This Day In Writing History

On August 9th, 1949, the legendary American mystery novelist Jonathan Kellerman was born in New York City. When he was nine years old, he began writing short stories. That same year, his family moved across the country to Los Angeles.

Kellerman had always been an avid reader; his fascination with creative writing led him to write prolifically from grade school through his college years. By the time he was doing his graduate work, he had written eight unpublished novels.

In college, Jonathan Kellerman studied psychology and determined to become a child psychologist. He did his post-graduate work at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, then opened a private practice. He married dentist turned mystery novelist Faye Kellerman, who bore him four children. Their eldest child, Jesse Kellerman, is also a writer.

Jonathan Kellerman would base his most famous character on himself. This hugely popular character, who would serve as the main character and narrator of over two dozen mystery novels, is Dr. Alex Delaware, a brilliant child psychologist turned sleuth. He made his debut in Kellerman's first novel, When the Bough Breaks (1985).

In his first outing, Dr. Alex Delaware is a man who seemingly has it all; a successful practice, a loving girlfriend, a gorgeous home in Southern California, and a luxury car. Then, he took on a tough, troubling case: treating a group of children who had been repeatedly molested at their day care center by the husband of the woman who ran the place.

Delaware's treatment of his young patients proves successful. Then one day, their molester breaks into Delaware's office and commits suicide. Shattered by the case and burned out, Delaware decides to retire. Although he's only in his thirties, he has more than enough money to retire comfortably. So he retires and takes up the life of a beach bum. His girlfriend Robin tries in vain to help him deal with his depression.

Then, Delaware's best friend, homicide detective Milo Sturgis, shows up with a request. Sturgis is tough, burly, and slovenly. He's also highly intelligent, dedicated, and the first openly gay homicide detective to serve in the Los Angeles Police Department - a position complicated by the virulent homophobia that runs rampant in the department. Sturgis' latest case has him stumped. A prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Morton Hander, has been found brutally murdered, along with his lover - a former patient. Sturgis' only lead is in the form of Melody Quinn, a psychologically troubled little girl who may have witnessed the murders.

Milo asks Alex Delaware to become a police consultant and see if he can get Melody to talk about what she might have seen. Hesitant at first, Delaware agrees to examine the girl. As he and Milo Sturgis plunge into the case, Delaware is shocked when he discovers a connection to the case that nearly destroyed him. As he continues his investigation, the double-murder case leads Delaware to some of the richest, most powerful families in America - and a horrific, murderous conspiracy to prostitute mentally and physically handicapped children to the wealthy and perverted elite...

When the Bough Breaks won Jonathan Kellerman the Edgar Award for Best First novel. So far, he has written 26 Alex Delaware novels, with the doctor using his psychological expertise to help Detective Milo Sturgis solve bizarre and brutal crimes. Kellerman's background as a psychologist gives his stories a strong sense of authenticity, despite the bizarre and horrific nature of the crimes Alex Delaware is tasked with helping to solve.

In Time Bomb (1990), a young woman opens fire on the grounds of an elementary school that two rival politicians are visiting because of some recent incidents of racist vandalism that occurred there. She is killed by the bodyguard of one of the politicians. Refusing to believe that his daughter would hurt children, the girl's father asks Alex Delaware to conduct a psychological autopsy. The doctor concludes that the shooter wasn't targeting the children - she wanted to kill one of the politicians, a known right wing extremist. Delaware and Detective Sturgis soon uncover a murderous neo-Nazi conspiracy to acquire political power and use it to create a Fourth Reich in America.

In Survival of the Fittest (1997), Dr. Delaware is asked to help solve the mysterious murder of a diplomat's young daughter. The girl, who was mildly retarded, was murdered in a deliberately gentle way to insure that she wouldn't suffer. Soon, other children with disabilities are murdered in a similar way. Dr. Delaware's investigation leads him to Meta, a group of people with very high IQ's and a very strong belief in the value of eugenics.

And, in The Murder Book (2002), Delaware receives a mysterious package in the mail, sent by an anonymous person. It's a photo album labeled The Murder Book. It contains an elaborately assembled collection of what appear to be gruesome crime scene photos of murder victims. Delaware turns The Murder Book over to Detective Sturgis, who is shocked when he recognizes one of the victims - a young woman who was tortured, murdered, and dumped near the freeway. It was the very first homicide case Sturgis ever worked - a crime he was unable to solve. Soon, Dr. Delaware finds himself confronting evil beyond even his psychologist's understanding of the human mind.

In addition to his Alex Delaware novels, Jonathan Kellerman has written other novels, (including two in collaboration with his wife, Faye Kellerman) children's books, and non-fiction books dealing with psychology. His most recent Alex Delaware novel, Mystery, was published in March of 2011.

Quote Of The Day

"That's what's so great about my job. I get paid to do what got me in trouble in grade school - space out and play with my imaginary friends. In terms of Isaac, when the time's right." - Jonathan Kellerman

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a 2007 interview with Jonathan Kellerman used to promote his then recent Alex Delaware novel, Obsession. Enjoy!

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