Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Locked Ward: Memoirs Of A Psychiatric Orderly by Dennis O'Donnell

Paperback:  Dennis O'Donnell started work as an orderly in the Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit of a large hospital in Scotland in 2000.

For seven years, he cared for patients with serious mental health disorders.  In his daily life, he encountered fear, violence and despair but also a considerable amount of care and compassion.

Recounting the stories of the patients he worked with, and those of his colleagues on the ward, what emerges is a document of humanity and humour, a remarkable memoir that sheds light on a world that still remains largely unknown and hugely feared.

O'Donnell examines the different major mental disorders specifically their symptoms and manifestations, the various methods of treatment such as medication, therapy and conversation, how religion, sex, wealth, health and drugs can bear influence on mental health, and last but not least, the prevailing attitudes to psychiatric illness among relevant authorities, the professionals and society.

"The Locked Ward (2012) should contribute to a more open discussion of mental illness and suicide." - Irish Times

About the author:  Dennis O'Donnell was born in Scotland and attended Edinburgh University where he read English.  He was an English teacher for many years before leaving to become a psychiatric orderly.  He lives in West Lothian.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Cop Without A Badge: The Extraordinary Undercover Life Of Kevin Maher (True Story) by Charles Kipps

Paperback:  Kevin Maher was thirty-nine years old and living in New Jersey in 1996 when Cop Without A Badge was first published.  It tracks confidential informant Kevin Maher as he helps the NYPD, the FBI, and many other law enforcement agencies solve cases that range from robbery to extortion to homicide.

What's the difference between a cop and Kevin Maher?  Well, he doesn't have a badge and he doesn't play by the rules.  In the process, Kevin becomes the highest paid CI the DEA ever had.

But Kevin's motives are more complicated than simply money.  Having been arrested for Grand Theft Auto at the age of sixteen, his felony conviction prevents him from being what he always wanted to be:  a police officer.  So now he's out to prove to himself he truly is what he could've been.

A cop but one without a badge.

Maher now works as a private investigator in the state of California.

About the author:  Charles Kipps is an award-winning screenwriter, producer, and author.  He began writing as a journalist, serving as Features Editor of Variety and contributing to a number of publications including The New York Times.  His television credits include Columbo (ABC), Fatherhood (Nickelodean) and Law and Order:  Criminal Intent (NBC).  He is the author of two nonfiction books and the novels Hell's Kitchen Homicide (2009) and Crystal Death (2010).  The recipient of an Emmy, a Peabody, and an Edgar Award, Kipps lives in New York City.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Newtown: An American Tragedy (True Crime) by Matthew Lysiak

Hardback:  Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut.  

The morning of 14 December 2012 changed America.  

One year later, we remember the numbers:  20 children and 6 adults, murdered in a place of nurture and trust.  We remember the names:  teachers like Victoria Soto, who lost her life protecting her students.  

A shooter named Adam Lanza.  

And we remember the questions.  Much of the debate centered around our access to high-powered weaponry, flaws in our mental health system, school safety protocols, and the violent images that have become increasingly pervasive in today's culture.  Outraged conjecture instantly monopolized the worldwide response to the tragedy - while the truth went missing.

One year later, here is the definitive journalistic account of Newton, an essential examination of the facts - not only of that horrific day but the perfect storm of mental instability and obsession that preceded it and, in the aftermath of unspeakable heartbreak, the controversy that continues to play out on the national stage.  

Who was Adam Lanza?  Why did he do this?  Could he have been stopped?  Why do all these people need to have such powerful weapons?  

Drawn from previously undisclosed emails, police reports, and in-depth interviews, Newtown:  An American Tragedy (2013) breaks through a miasma of misinformation with its comprehensive and astonishing portrayal.  It also hopes to inform the debate and provide a broader context and as a result better informs us on how to best move forward.

One year later, Newtown:  An American Tragedy is the vital story that needs to be told if we are to prevent another American tragedy in the days to come.  

"There was no single victim as a result of that day;  we all became victims," wrote Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of the Saint Rose of Lima parish in Newtown, Connecticut, in the Foreword.  

"We have become a culture of death.  There is less and less respect for life and the dignity that every person has because we are created by God.  There are all these calls for change and new laws but that is not enough."

"Change happens within each one of us and we need to change this attitude that is driving us away from everything that is right and good, everything God intended us to be in this world.  We've become too busy for family, too busy for friends, even too busy for God.  It's about time that we remember what's really important in life."

About the author:  Matthew Lysiak is a nationally recognized journalist who was on the ground at Newtown for two weeks, exlcusively reporting for the New York Daily News, where he is a staff writer.  He lives in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, with his family.  

The author is donating 2 percent of his advance and 5 percent of any subsequent royalties from this book to The Avielle Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building safer communities through brain health initiatives.  Please visit the page to learn more about the nonprofit organization.  Thank you.

"Be kind.  It's really all that matters." - Principal Dawn Hochsprung

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Reasonable Doubt: The Fashion Writer, Cape Cod And The Trial Of Chris McCowen (True Crime) by Peter Manso

Hardback:  On 6 January 2002, forty-six-year-old Christa Worthington was found stabbed to death in the kitchen of her Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, cottage, her curly-haired toddler clutching her body.

A former Vassar girl and scion of a prominent local family, Christa had abandoned a glamorous career as a fashion writer for a simpler life on the Cape, where she had an affair with a married fisherman and had his child.

After her murder, evidence pointed toward several local men who had known her.

Yet in 2005, investigators arrested Christopher McCowen, a thirty-four-year-old African-American garbage collector with an IQ of 76.  The local headlines screamed, "Black Trash Hauler Ruins Beautiful White Family" and "Black Murderer Apprehended in Fashion Writer Slaying," while the sole evidence against McCowen was a DNA match showing that he'd had sex with Worthington prior to her murder.

There were no fingerprints, no witnesses, and although the state medical examiner acknowledged there was no evidence of rape, the defendant was convicted after a five-week trial replete with conflicting testimony, accusations of crime scene contamination, and police misconduct - and was condemned to three lifetime sentences in prison with no parole.

Rarely has a homicide trial been refracted so clearly through the prism of those who engineered it, and in Reasonable Doubt (2011), bestselling author and biographer Peter Manso is determined to rectify what has become one of the most grossly unjust verdicts in modern trial history.

In his riveting new book, he bares the anatomy of a horrific murder as well as the political corruption and racism that appear to be endemic in one of America's most privileged playgrounds, Cape Cod.

Exhaustively researched and vividly accessible, Reasonable Doubt is a no-holds-barred account of not only Christa Worthington's murder but also of a botched investigation and a trial that was rife with bias.

Manso dug deep into the case, and the results were explosive.  The Cape District Attorney indicted the author, threatening him with fifty years in prison.

The Center for Public Integrity , an independent, nonadvocacy group dedicated to producing responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern, reports that prosecutors in the nation's 2341 jurisdictions have stretched, bent, or broken the rules in order to convict defendants in at least 2013 cases since 1970.  A plethora of literature, from a wide variety of organizations, makes the same point:  cops lie more than we would like to admit.

The trial and conviction of Christopher McCowen for rape and murder should worry American citizens, and should prompt us to truly examine the lip service we pay to the presumption of innocence and to reasonable doubt.

Manso does just that in this explosive and challenging book and as Barry Scheck - co-founder of the Innocence Project and President of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - reviewed of this book, "...what it reveals should be read by defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges and concerned citizens alike."

About the author:  Peter Manso is the author of the definitive biographies of Marlon Brando and Norman Mailer, as well as Ptown:  Art, Sex, and Money on the Outer Cape (2002), which was a Number 1 Boston Globe bestseller.  His work has also appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Vanity Fair, the Sunday Times of London, Paris Match, and many other publications here and abroad.

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Injustice System: A Murder In Miami And A Trial Gone Wrong (True Crime) by Clive Stafford Smith

Excerpts from Chapter 5, The Prosecutor:  According to the US Supreme Court, the prosecution is "the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all;  and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done".

Few people are very good at admitting their mistakes;  fewer still, when those mistakes are more serious.  Meanwhile, the more entrenched one's position becomes, the less chance one has of beating an honest retreat.  If the average American prosecutor enters the fray with prejudices firmly intact, what legal framework is in place to steer him or her in the direction of doing justice?

In this sense...this mind-set is far more dangerous than that of a venal man.  The problem posed by corruption is recognized and everyone agrees that it should be rooted out;  but the profound imbalance created by the hiring patterns and work environment of virtually every district attorney's office in America is not even acknowledged.  So nobody is on the lookout for a cure.

A sensible legal system would be structured to identify prosecutorial misconduct, should it put an innocent person on death row.  It would then provide a strong disincentive against this ever happening again. Sadly, that is not the system we have in place.

Again, this speaks to the justice system's priorities:  our interest in securing convictions far outweighs our desire to ensure that we prosecute the correct person.

Paperback:  This book traces the life and death sentence of Krishna Maharaj, a British businessman, born and raised in Trinidad, who was arrested, tried and convicted for committing a double murder that took place at the DuPont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami very close to the noon hour on 16 October 1986.  The victims were a Jamaican businessman, Krishna's ex-business partner, Derrick Moo Young, and his twenty-three-year-old son, Duane Moo Young.

A witness swore he saw him pull the trigger and a jury found him guilty, but to this day he swears he didn't do it.

Enter Clive Stafford Smith, a criminal defense attorney with a passion for lost causes.  He calls up old police files, hunts down reluctant witnesses, and travels to the Bahamas in search of the real killer.

A superbly written page-turner, The Injustice System (2012) reveals through this one devastating case how so many innocent men are convicted of crimes they didn't commit and casts a much-needed spotlight on the seismic cracks in our justice system.

"It is an empowering read for anyone who cares about the human implementation of justice," reviewed Colin Firth.

The Injustice System is dedicated to Marita Maharaj, whose dedication to her husband, Krishna, through the quarter century of his incarceration is an inspiration to us all.

About the author:  Clive Stafford Smith is the defense attorney who inspired John Grisham's The Chamber.  More importantly, he is a legendary criminal defense lawyer who has spent twenty-five years representing poor defendants in high-profile cases across the South.  He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1984, worked in Atlanta, and then moved to New Orleans, where he launched the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, a non-profit that offered free legal representation to poor people in death penalty cases.

A recipient of the Gandhi International Peace Award and a Lannan Cultural Freedom Award, his book The Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side (2007) (published in the UK as Bad Men) was a finalist for the George Orwell Prize, as was The Injustice System.  Profiled by the BBC as "The Great Defender", he has appeared on numerous television and radio programs.

Clive Stafford Smith is also the founder and Director of Reprieve, which investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, providing legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Guided by Angels: My Tour of the Spirit World by Paddy McMahon

Paperback:  Life after death?  Absolutely.  There are no goodbyes.

Death is the only certainty in life, for us and our loved ones.  One day, each of us will cease to exist in our physical forms and will pass from life, as we know it, over to the unknown.

But what of the spirit.  Where does all that life, vitality and energy go?  Surely it can't just end?  Some say it does.  Others believe there is something more.

Paddy McMahon believes in something more.  He has been communicating with his guardian angels and spirit guides for over 30 years, conducting international workshops and speaking publicly to thousands of people who search for the comfort in knowing what is on the other side.

In Guided by Angels (2010, 2011), Paddy shares his conversations with his spirit guides and provides comfort that there is no reason to fear death - for after it, life continues as an adventure towards complete freedom of spirit.

(An excerpt from Chapter 5)  "We are here for a purpose.  Here on earth, grief is unavoidable, and its potential causes to plentiful to mention.  Loss of money, freedom, health, relationships, status, friends, sporting contests, prestige and power can all cause us to grieve, and the intensity with which we do so varies between different people."

"Separation is probably one of the most common and distressing causes of grief, and, as the most final separation, death causes the most grief of all.  How death occurs - through illness, violence, accidents or even suicide - most definitely impacts upon our burden of grief, and so too does the confusion we feel about the tragedies we experience.  We can't help but wonder why there are such tragic happenings in the world, and why we are the recipients of such grief."

"If we have an orthodox or traditional concept of God being a supreme being at the heavenly controls, we wonder how He could allow such awful things to happen in the world.  If He is a loving Being, it simply doesn't follow that He could tolerate events that are capable of causing such pain."

"But it isn't really as simple as that.  Ultimately, it is our own free will - and how we use it - that affects the pattern of our lives."

"I remember the case of a couple who were grief-stricken because of the loss of the their young child.  While I couldn't take away their grief, I got information from my guides that the child deliberately chose to be born to them so that their grief would leave them more open to exploring different avenues of how to exist in the world in a more meaningful way.  Their reaction to that information could have been sceptical, or even hostile, but it wasn't.  In fact, they found it comforting which is why I assumed the guides considered it important to pass it on to them."

About the author:  Do visit Paddy McMahon's website for more information.

Minds are like parachutes - they only function when open. - Thomas Dewey

My Journey with Angels by Patricia Buckley

Paperback:  Patricia Buckley is a down-to-earth mystic - gentle, funny and practical.  In the last decade, through her joyous embrace of the angels in her life, she has been able to give hope to countless wounded souls who have come to her seeking guidance.

From as early as she can remember, Patricia took for granted that she could speak to angels and dead people.  And though her childhood was blighted by poverty, neglect and abuse, the spirit world made her feel secure and cherished.  However, after many tough years - during which she was committed to a mental ward, was nearly killed by an abusive boyfriend and eventually became homeless - she gave up on that part of her life.

Patricia found love in a good marriage and joy in the birth of her children.  And yet for twenty years, she remained fragile and dependent on tranquillizers.  That was until a chance encounter woke up her hidden spiritual energies and revived her passion for living.  The time had come to share her gifts with the world.

"Never give up hope; no matter what is going on in your life.  Always remember the angels are by your side, waiting for you to ask for help.  Ask your guardian angel for help, and he or she will happily give it to you.  Help may not come straight away.  But trust and know that your angel will be working hard to help you," wrote Patricia in the Appendix.

Now Patricia shares her story in My Journey with the Angels (2011), a heartbreaking memoir of childhood, a moving account of how she came to accept her extraordinary gifts, and an inspirational guide - full of examples from her life and work - to the wisdom of the angels.

About the author:  Do check out Patricia Buckley's website for more information.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A Criminal Injustice: A True Crime, A False Confession And The Fight To Free Marty Tankleff (True Crime) by Richard Firstman and Jay Salpeter

Kindle:  When he went to bed on the night of 6 September 1988, seventeen-year-old Marty Tankleff was a typical kid in the upscale Long Island community of Belle Terre.  He was looking forward to starting his senior year at Earl L Vandermeulen High School the next day.  But instead, Marty woke in the morning to find his parents brutally bludgeoned, their throats slashed.

His mother, Arlene, was dead.  His father, Seymour, was barely alive and would die a month later.

With remarkable self-possession, Marty called 911 to summon help.  And when homicide detective James McCready arrived on the scene an hour later, Marty told him he believed he knew who was responsible:  Jerry Steuerman, his father's business partner.  Steuerman owed Seymour more than half a million dollars, had recently threatened him, and had been the last to leave a high-stakes poker game at the Tankleffs' home the night before.

However, McCready inexplicably dismissed Steuerman as a suspect.  Instead, he fastened on Marty as the prime suspect - indeed, his only one.

Before the day was out, the police announced that Marty had confessed the crimes.  But Marty insisted the confession was fabricated by the police.  And a week later, Steuerman faked his own death and fled to California under an alias.  Yet police and and prosecutors remained fixated on Marty and two years later, he was convicted on murder charges and sentenced to fifty years in prison.

"Patently, he didn't do it.  I couldn't understand the jury's decision.  This was the walking definition of reasonable doubt, and the sheer magnitude of the injustice was staggering.  Meeting Marty, I was struck by the ordinariness of him.  He could have been any nineteen-year-old kid.  As a lawyer, you rarely see such a stark and profoundly disturbing human drama."  (Mark Pomerantz, appeals attorney, 1991-1994).

But Marty's unbelievable odyssey was just beginning.  With the support of his family, he set out to prove his innocence and gain his freedom.  For ten years, disappointment followed disappointment as appeals to state and federal courts were denied.  Still, Marty never gave up.

He persuaded Jay Salpeter, a retired NYPD detective turned private eye, to look into his case.  At first, it was just another job for Salpeter.  As he dug into the evidence, though, he began to see signs of gross ineptitude or worse:  leads ignored and conflicts of interest swept under the rug.

A shocking betrayal of public trust by Suffolk County law enforcement that went well beyond a simple miscarriage of justice.

After Salpeter's discoveries brought national media attention to the case, Marty's conviction was finally vacated in 2007, and New York's governor appointed a special prosecutor to reopen the twenty-year-old case.  At the same time, the State Investigation Commission announced an inquiry into Suffolk County's handling of what has come to be widely viewed as one of America's most disturbing wrongful conviction cases.

As gripping as a Grisham novel, A Criminal Injustice (2008) is the story of an innocent man's tenacious fight for freedom and an investigator's dogged search for the truth.  It is also a searing indictment of justice in America.

On 7 January 2014, Tankleff was awarded $3.375 million from the state after settling his wrongful conviction lawsuit.

About the authors:  Richard Firstman is an award-winning journalist, author and editor and a former reporter and editor at Newsday.  Firstman has written eight books.  Among his other previous books is The Death of Innocents (1997, co-authored with his wife, Jamie Talan), which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and won a coveted Edgar Award.  He has written for numerous publications and his work as a producer has appeared on 60 Minutes.

Jay Salpeter is a top New York State Licensed Private Investigator and former highly-decorated New York City Police Detective and Hostage Negotiator.  His work has led to frequent appearances on Dateline, 48 Hours, MSNBC, Fox News and Court TV (now truTV).  In 2008, he co-founded the Fortress Innocence Group, the nation's first private investigations firm devoted to overturning wrongful convictions.

A Criminal Injustice is available in both hardback and Kindle forms.