This Day In Literary History
On August 9th, 1949, the legendary American mystery writer 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 By the time he was doing his graduate work, he had written eight unpublished novels.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 of Los Angeles, then opened a private practice. He also serves as a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine.
He published his first scientific paper at the age of 22 and did his post graduate work designing and implementing psychotherapy for children with cancer. His program was the first ever to provide comprehensive emotional care to pediatric cancer patients and their families.
In his private practice, Kellerman strongly denounced the use of behavior modifying drugs like Ritalin on schoolchildren back when those medications were considered breakthrough drugs. He also opposed the use of antidepressants and other mood enhancing drugs on kids.
When he married his wife Faye, she was a dental hygienist who had just gotten her DDS from dental school. She bore him four children. Their eldest child, Jesse Kellerman, is also a writer.
Faye Kellerman never did practice dentistry. Instead, she became a bestselling mystery writer like her husband. The Kellermans are the only married couple to hit the New York Times bestseller list at the same time for two separate novels.
Jonathan Kellerman would base his most famous character on himself. This hugely popular character would serve as the main character and narrator of nearly three dozen mystery novels.
Dr. Alex Delaware, a brilliant child psychologist, made his debut in Kellerman's classic first novel, When the Bough Breaks, which was published in 1985.
In his first outing, Dr. Delaware is a man who seemingly has it all; a successful practice, a loving girlfriend, a gorgeous home in Southern California, a luxury car, and a passion for playing and collecting guitars.
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. Only in his thirties, he already has more than enough money to retire comfortably.
So, Delaware retires and takes up the life of a beach bum. His girlfriend Robin tries in vain to help him deal with his depression. Then, eccentric LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis shows up to ask for his help in solving a vicious double murder.
Tough, burly, and slovenly, Sturgis is also highly intelligent, relentlessly 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.
The detective's 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 lies with Melody Quinn, a psychologically troubled little girl who may have witnessed the murders.
Milo asks Alex Delaware to become a police consultant and try to get Melody to talk about what she might have seen. Reluctant at first, Delaware agrees to examine the girl. As he and Sturgis plunge into the case, Delaware is shocked when he discovers a link to the case that nearly destroyed him.
The trail of the bizarre 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 depraved psychopaths whose wealth and position places them above the law.
When the Bough Breaks won Jonathan Kellerman the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. So far, he has written over 30 Alex Delaware novels, with the doctor using his psychological expertise to help his best friend 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.
The intended victim is 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 daughter. The mildly retarded teenage girl 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, a very strong belief in eugenics, and a psychopathic serial killer among their members.
In The Murder Book (2002), Dr. 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 had been tortured, murdered, and dumped near the freeway.
That 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 nonfiction books on subjects such as child psychology and vintage guitars.
His most recent Alex Delaware novel, The Wedding Guest, was published in February. In it, Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis are called to a crime scene in a very unusual location: a run down former strip club where a Saints and Sinners themed wedding was taking place.
One of the bridesmaids discovered the body of a young woman in a grubby staff bathroom. The victim, dressed to the nines, was strangled and left slumped over the toilet. She has no identification on her and nobody knows who she is.
Though she claims not to know the victim, the bride suspects that the dead woman had intended to ruin her wedding. She, the groom, and the wedding guests are more upset that the wedding was ruined than that the victim was murdered.
Alex and Milo suspect they're being lied to and played. Then the forensic examination reveals that the victim's killer injected her with fentanyl before garroting her. When she's finally identified, it seems that she really was a stranger to everyone at the wedding.
What's more, the psychologist and the detective discover that her murder may be related to several other deaths, including a homicide in, of all places, Poland...
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
Today's video features Jonathan Kellerman giving the keynote address at the 2015 American Psychological Association annual convention. Enjoy!