Showing posts with label Stockholm syndrome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stockholm syndrome. Show all posts

30 May 2017

My Favourite Shape: the Love Triangle


I’m going to break away from mysteries and death for a moment, because no book is 100 percent blood, and talk about the negative space between them. For me, that’s love and relationships, Dr. Hope Sze has a relationship with two different men.
Love triangles fascinate me.
Once Sting said something like, “‘I love you and you love me’ is boring. But if I love you and you love someone else … ” As a kid, I was riveted by that talk show interview.
As an adult, I married my high school sweetheart. So it’s only on the page that I create worlds where women have choices, shall we say. Not in all my books, but one major engine of the Hope Sze series is that two men vie for her affections.
“When are you writing a new Hope book?” asked Kat, one of the nurses.
“I’m working on it,” I said.
“Well, write faster! I need to know what’s happening to the guys.”
I didn’t start by conscious design, but it so happens that Hope solves quite complex mysteries in each book, yet her personal life remains even more complicated.
The first serious man in her life is her ex-boyfriend, Ryan Wu.
As Hope explains in Code Blues, Ryan and I had basically been set up by our grandmothers. He was a smart, hard-working, good-looking Chinese boy. In other words, Grandma’s idea of manna from heaven, and not far from mine, either.
The problem was, his engineering job tied him to Ottawa, while Hope was studying on the other end of the province. They broke up before she made it back to McGill for family medicine, until a chance encounter throws him back in her life.

In the meantime, she meets a mouthy resident (doctor in post-graduate training) who doesn't make much of an impression at first.
John Tucker was a white guy with a shock of wheat-coloured hair. I wondered if he dyed it, while he said in a baritone voice, "Call me Tucker. Everyone does. You can call me Tucker, Tuck, Turkey. I'll answer to anything." He winked at me.
I wrinkled my nose. He was trying too hard. Not my type.

Tucker doesn't know how to flirt or tease the way other guys do, but he ends up proving himself, especially during the hostage-taking in Stockholm Syndrome.

Was it a stupid idea to have more than one love interest? Jennifer Crusie points out in her excellent blog, “Readers/viewers pick a side, and then if their side is the one that isn’t chosen, the story fails for them.”
Another commenter, also named Jennifer, summed it up like this:
“Love triangles usually are a case of:
1. Twilight–the “triangle” is a joke because clearly the game is rigged
2. Stephanie Plum–this … will just drag on forever.
3. Lost–gee, two jerks, which of the jerks will Kate choose? Who cares?”

What do you think? Should it be all monogamy, all the time? More romance? No romance, just plot-plot-plot?

While I solicit feedback, please let me know what you think of my new quiz at http://melissayuaninnes.com/doctor-nasty/ ! You don't have to opt in to get your results, but I'm setting up a free gift for new subscribers by the end of the month. Cheers!



14 February 2017

Do You Do Artist Dates?

by Melissa Yi

“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore
something that interests you.” Julia Cameron

An artist date is permission to play. Every week, you are supposed to explore something that makes you smile.

When I first heard about them, I was excited, but I circled around the idea cautiously, like an animal scenting something new. What is this thing called play? Am I allowed to indulge in it, or do I have to spend every waking moment working as a doctor, a writer, and a mother?

For me, because I live in the country, one of the barriers is physically getting to something that interests me. It takes me an hour to drive to Montreal, 1.5 hours to drive to Ottawa, and more if there’s snow or traffic.

And yet, it’s almost always worth it.

I think this is why writers love conferences. You go from isolation to a collective army of smart, funny people who love the same things you do (reading, writing, and Riesling). You can get some of the same vibe online, but it’s not as fun as in person.

Steve Steinbock & Melissa Yi at Bloody Words 2014
“It’s Brigadoon!” said Steve Steinbock, of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, who suggested I come to Bloody Words, the former Canadian crime conference.

“Huh? What’s Brigadoon?”

He explained that it’s a town that materializes out of nowhere, and then it’s gone. “Brigadoon!”


“Brigadoon,” I repeated, still a bit confused, but enjoying his enthusiasm.

Another barrier for me is that I hate spending money. I went to Left Coast Crime last year, felt guilty about spending money, and quizzed other authors in attendance if they felt guilty, too. The answer: no, with the unspoken corollary of "Why are you wasting your time here worrying about it?" Stacy Allen was kind enough to answer in detail. She said something to the effect of, “You have a gift. Everyone here has a gift. It’s a crime not to use it.”
With thanks to Lisa de Nikolits for the photo!

I just spent a long, long weekend in Toronto. The main goal was speaking at OLA, the Ontario Library Association superconference, through Crime Writers of Canada, on the Friday. I spent my two minutes explaining the genesis of Stockholm Syndrome (chasing after an escaped prisoner, as I explained in my interview with CBC Radio's Robyn Bresnahan here), connected with new readers, learned of literary conferences in Renfrew and Kingston, met James Wigmore, an author who’s a retired forensic toxicologist, and Judy Penz Sheluk invited me to post on her blog.

I stayed extra-long so that I could sing in a mass choir with MILCK, my favourite new singer--a brave, talented, risk-taker whom I'd like to emulate in many ways.

How about you? Do you do artist dates? Do you spend money on your art, and on your writing career?

10 May 2016

Lessons Learned in Hostage Taking

by Melissa Yi


April 2013: 22:20

During my first night shift at a new hospital, a prisoner escapes while awaiting medical attention. I chase after him through an empty hallway, open the door to a stairwell, push open a second door, and discover his footsteps in the snow.
Only afterward, when the police have rounded up the prisoner and I'm safely home, do I realize that I could have been taken hostage if the prisoner had been lurking inside the stairwell.
I begin researching hostage takings in hospitals. 

September 20th, 1991: 00:00

Richard Worthington storms into a suburban Salt Lake City hospital with a shotgun, a .347 magnum revolver, and a bomb. He screams, “My life was perfect! Dr. Curtis ruined everything! He butchered my wife!”
He wants to kill the doctor who performed a tubal ligation on his wife, which she'd requested after eight difficult deliveries. Worthington takes two nurses hostage, shoots the one who tries to wrestle the shotgun from him, and breaks into a room where 22-year-old Christan Downey, surrounded by her family and her labour nurse, is about to deliver her first baby.
Worthington orders the nurses to bring two other newborns into the room with them. Then he forces Christan's partner, Adam Cisneros, to retrieve the homemade bomb Worthington had planted at the front entrance.
Worthington tells one nurse, Margie Wyler, to call his wife. After the call, he shoots the telephone, yelling, "I'm going to die tonight, and so are all of you!"
Worthington decides to move them up to the third floor, where Dr. Curtis's office lies, even though Christan can't walk because of her epidural. She lies in bed, pushed by Adam and Margie; the two infants are carried by Christan's sister, Carre, and the second nurse, Susan Woolley. 
Christan's epidural begins to wear off. Susan whispers, "Margie, Christan must have that baby."
Christian, coached by Margie and Susan, delivers a healthy baby girl, Caitlin, at 3:23 a.m.
Police negotiations break down. Sometimes Worthington answers the functional phone lines, sometimes not. He demands to speak to his wife or to Dr. Glade Curtis. But he warms to Margie, calling her "a beautiful woman" when he discovers that she has 11 children.
By late morning, Worthington is screaming less and begins to weep. The adult hostages pray.
Eventually, Worthington allows Adam and the nurses to walk to the door, but becomes enraged when he sees the SWAT team. He pulls the nurses back in and demands to see his wife.
The police refuse, but Worthington allows Susan to come into the hall to repeat the request.
They refuse again.
"But you'll let seven of us die?" cries Susan, although she returns to the room.
Meanwhile, police negotiator Don Bell, knowing that a hostage taker is less likely to kill someone he cares about, asks Margie to hug Worthington.
"I don't know if I can," she says to him over the phone.
"You must," Bell replies.
She does.
"The next thing I knew, Susan and I were running down the hall--free!" says Margie. Susan is carrying one of the babies, Erich. Carre follows, holding a second baby, Bryan. Last to leave are the newest mother and child, Christan and Caitlin.
At 18:00, eighteen hours after the ordeal began, Richard Worthington begins to walk out of the office before dashing back in. The officers tackle him.
Worthington pleads guilty to criminal homicide, aggravated burglary, and eight counts of aggravated kidnapping. He receives 35 years to life. He claims that his now ex-wife, Karen, was responsible for his actions. In 1993, he hangs himself in his cell.
Alta View Women's Centre increases security at the hospital
Margie returns to nursing after only three weeks.
It takes 2.5 years of therapy before Susan finally comes to grip with her post-traumatic stress. She, too, returns to nursing.
Christan enters Alta View on November 1st, 1994, to give birth to her second daughter, Alexa. She asks for a different room.

Stockholm Syndrome


Pregnancy and giving birth is a time where you are intensely vulnerable, both physically and emotionally.
I started writing the latest Hope Sze mystery, Stockholm Syndrome.

I knew Dr. Hope wouldn't be pregnant ("I'm on the pill, thanks," she points out), but she is exactly the kind of person who would be sucked into a hostage taking. She would have to take care of a woman in labour. At gunpoint. Trying to outwit and outplay the killer.
This one is a thriller. This one, you can't put down. This one, I almost can't read any excerpt at a reading except the first page or two, because jumping ahead is such a spoiler.

"I was relieved when I finished it. I thought, at least this didn't happen in real life. And then I turned to the last page and I saw it did happen in real life," said Stephen Campbell, when he interviewed me on CrimeFiction.fm.

Sorry, Steve. CBC Radio Ottawa Morning's Robin Bresnahan and Ontario Morning's Wei Chen were also interested in the link between reality and fiction. And I'm ever so grateful that CBC Fresh Air's Mary Ito took the time to ask me about my "snarky" heroine and "very graphic" thriller.

If you want to hear more, I'm appearing at the Brantford Public Library on May 11th for Mystery Month. I originally wrote this post so I could upload videos for the talk, but I'm running out of time and will have to upload them later.

In the meantime, Happy Mother's Day. I say that without irony. In the end, if you look at the real-life hostage taking, who survived? Think of the courage it would take to have a baby, or return to nursing, in the same building where you were held at gunpoint for 18 hours.

I worked this Mother's Day, and it was busy, but much more peaceful than that other hospital in 1991. I'm proud of the book I wrote, and I think it's good practice to consider how we might act in terrifying situations, so that we have some mental preparation, if it should ever come to pass.

Hug your loved ones tight.

05 January 2016

Promote or write?

by Melissa Yi

Dear SleuthSayers,

My medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome, hit the shelves December first. I slammed the promotion hard for three weeks before the holidays and managed to rise to #12 on the Kobo bestseller list. My question for you is, do I stop now?


I burned myself out last month. At least two people reminded me of the metaphor of a candle burning at both ends, and I replied, “Up ’til now, I’ve had enough candle!” But it was a good reminder that no one’s candle is infinite.
However, I have hardly made a dent in Amazon, which is troubling. Amazon gives you a month on its Hot New Releases list and then you drop into obscurity.
What I really want is to cut into the national (for me, Canadian), American, and international market. To do that, I can’t keep bugging my 700 Facebook friends. I need to get more sales outside as well as within my area. And for that, I need more exposure. Because when there are 2 million books on the Kindle, it’s hard to get readers to notice you. Discoverability—everybody wants some, but it’s hard to find.


Some writers go the organic route. Write good books, publish them often, and your readers will find you. Trust the algorithm. Spend your time writing, not shilling yourself on ads and shows that may or may not pan out.
Pro: you write a lot more books this way. I pretty much stopped writing in December, which is unheard-of for me, but it’s hard to promote full-tilt and write full-tilt and work and look after kids at the same time—hence the burn-out.
Con: It’s possible that no significant number of readers will find you and you’ll die with just a handful of fans.

The opposite route: pimp yourself non-stop and never write another book.
Pro: people will hear about you.
Con: they will get sick of you, you don’t have enough product to attract repeat readers, and you can impoverish and humiliate yourself while braying about your one accomplishment.

So what’s a girl to do? I see both sides. I wrote in obscurity for years, so I’ve amped up my stage presence over the past year or so. But I know that in the big scheme of things, I’ve captured only the most minuscule crumb out of the pie. Stockholm Syndrome is a seriously good book. I don’t want it to disappear after a hundred people read it.
On the other hand, I feel stupid talking about one book over and over. I like creating new things, and my brain will stagnate if I dwell on one item.
Here are some potential marketing choices/goals.
  1. Hire a publicist.
  2. Try to get more radio interviews.
  3. Try to get more television coverage.
  4. Try to cut into the Ottawa/Montreal market, which is pretty much untouched right now, for me, let alone national/international markets.
  5. Get some blog reviews--unlocked yesterday! Murder in Common's June Lorraine says, "A page turner....Dr. Hope Sze is a resident at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Montreal. She is on-call when the labour and delivery unit is turned into a danger zone.…An introspective thriller…A shaky, claustrophobic and menacing situation [with] reflective humour as chaos whirls around her."
  6. Get some print reviews.
  7. Get some awards.
Alternatively, here are some writing choices/goals.
Look carefully
and you'll spot my
EQ card at the top right.
  1. Write the next Hope Sze novel.
  2. Write related short stories. On Crimefiction.fm, Stephen Campbell and I talked about how a short story is the perfect ad for your work: the magazine or reader pays *you*, you get pages of exposure to your ideal reader, and Ellery Queen even sends you an annual Christmas card afterward.
  3. I’m also working on a collection of mystery short stories, called Reckless Homicide, at the request of a reader.
  4. Write something completely unrelated. This month, I aim to publish The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back.
  5. Write something that has a high chance of getting published. In my case, the Medical Post has been very, very good to me, and I need to submit more columns.
  6. Write unrelated short stories/novels for fun.
  7. Market stories already written--something that has fallen off my radar with the time crunch, but I should be more aggressive about this.

So what do you think, SleuthSayers? I’m at a crossroads.

What would you do? What have you done, what have you learned, and which way do you lean? Do you write or promote?

Either way, Happy New Year, happy writing, and happy reading,
Melissa Yi

15 December 2015

Being a bestseller is *sick*

by Melissa Yi

The good news: Stockholm Syndrome hit the bestseller list on Kobo less than two weeks after its debut.
NUMBER ONE IN ESPIONAGE!!!!!!!! highlighted & craziness
The bad news: I was willing to grind myself to powder to get there.
Most people hit the brakes before they get to either point. They’re smarter than me.
Me? TL; DR: I got the flu, then pneumonia, then side effects from medications that landed me in the ER as a patient for two nights with palpitations while raving on dexamethasone. My colleagues were worried about me. And I’m still heading back to the hospital for another work-up today.
Meanwhile, I was still trying to do it all. So far this year, I hit Utah, Oregon, New York (twice), Los Angeles, Boston, Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal. Drive to Boston solo with my kids? Sure. Make a two-layer homemade birthday cake for my daughter’s fifth birthday party? Of course. Stay at an acting class in Montreal despite getting assaulted with the flu? No problem.
Yeah, baby!
Us wrapped in Rush Couture
Max in Kingston
Max in Kingston
<–I bought this dress when I was pregnant with Anastasia, and now she can get inside it with me because it has peek-a-book cutouts on the sides. It’s from Rush Couture. This dress is popular on Facebook.
It looked weird on me when I was pregnant. Here it looks normal. 😉
BTW, at one of my Stockholm Syndrome book launches, one woman told me I had love handles. “Or maybe it’s your shirt.” As an author, I tell you, NEVER say mean things to a writer at a book launch.
Natalie Goldberg always brings someone who tells her she’s beautiful. Doesn’t matter if she messed up. Tell her she rocked it hard. As a fashionista and a physician, I present this dress as evidence that I did not detect love handles. If I had love handles, I would not choose to wear a peek-a-boo dress. QED.
I was doing it “all.” Except I ended up so sick, I couldn’t work the ER any more. I had to ask for help. And one of my colleagues started lecturing me how much I was burdening the group, and I’d better not take more than a week off.
I started yelling at that doctor. Which made him worry about my mental health. Which is a whole other worm-can.
In truth, I am not the best doctor right now. Not only on December 7-8th, when I was high on dexamethasone and short of breath with palpitations of up to 200 (my husband was upset that I couldn’t figure out how to dial the phone. In my defence, it was a new phone, and I was more interested in getting my clothes together for my scheduled appearance on Rogers TV the next morning). That night, the doctor kept telling me I shouldn’t go on TV. I was like, “I’m supposed to be on TV! That’s why I took the dex at night, to heal my vocal cords enough to sing! I’ll take the train if you really want, but geez. I also have a recording for CBC’s White Coat Black Art scheduled for the afternoon.” I was all set, even though I couldn’t find the Imovane they’d just given me to sleep, but RN Rebecca stopped me. She said, “You look pale. And sick.”
Suddenly, I was shocked into cancelling. I can’t be ugly on TV. That would be bad. It was like, if you want to get young women to quit smoking, you can try and reason with them about how it’s expensive, and selling out to the man, and giving you lung cancer and emphysema, but the real money is in telling them they’ll get wrinkles. No way!
I knew I needed to sleep. My husband was mad at me for getting up in the middle of the night and working. I knew, logically, I’d never get better that way. And yet I couldn’t stop.
I tried to work with the flu until I was seeing double and forgetting to order chest X-rays, and the other doctor sent me home. Then I made myself pick up my Stockholm Syndrome books and ended up dehydrated and nearly delirious when they detained me at the border for 1.5 hours (hint: if the government sends you the wrong business number, you’re screwed. If the border guards are chasing after illegal cigarettes and the remaining guard has no clue what to do with you, you’re screwed). Even yesterday, when my friends and colleagues are like, “Are you much better now?”, I’d have to say that not only did it seem like my pneumonia came back with a vengeance after we stopped all antibiotics for a few days, but I’m not completely compos mentis–at the children’s Christmas party, I answered a page from the neurologist and forgot my purse on a bench in the hallway. RN Annie was too tactful to say anything, but I knew she’d noticed I wasn’t right.
The good news is, I managed to get to Ottawa to record an interview with Fresh Air’s Mary Ito, and it was pretty cool. You can listen to it herehttps://soundcloud.com/cbc-fresh-air/final-melissa-yuan-innes-6287325-2015-12-12t04-21-11000. They’ll keep it up for two weeks.
CBC Fresh Air main w- soundcloud Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.21.58 AMI was able to put a good game face on for the 3 h drive and the recording, although I did lose my parking pass immediately.
I was taking selfies in the booth. Scared the heck out of the next group coming in to record.
I was taking selfies in the booth. Scared the heck out of the next group coming in to record.










I hadn’t checked Kobo recently–too nervous that I sucked, especially since they hadn’t mentioned the free code during the interview–but I nerved up and did it. And guess what I saw?
#8 IN MYSTERY! highlighted
#8 in mystery overall. Not just #4 in thrillers. All of mystery and suspense, people. Maybe you’ve heard of Tom Clancy or Lisa Jackson? Or James Patterson?
But, greedy Gus that I am, I wondered how I was doing overall. I was euphoric when Mark Leslie Lefebvre told me Terminally Ill (Hope Sze #3) had broken Kobos’ Top 50 after my interview with Wei Chen on CBC’s Ontario Morning. Terminally Ill ended up hitting as high as #27 for all of Kobo’s books. Not segmented by genre. Every. Single. Book. On. Kobo.
Could Stockholm Syndrome repeat the magic? Even if Fresh Air hadn’t given out the time-limited magic Kobo code of STOCKHOLM100 during the interview, only on Facebook and Twitter?

#12 overall BIGGER cropped
NUMBER TWELVE, PEOPLE. That’s better than Terminally Ill.
I was freaking out, didn’t sleep (again), high-fiving Max.
OMG. Look at it. Fifteen Dogs just won the Giller Prize. Mary Ito interviewed Andre Alexis, too. NFW.
Should I not tell you about the bad stuff? Probably. But for those of you who already know my protagonist, Dr. Hope Sze, we’re pathologically honest. I could pretend to be perfect, but I’m no good at lying. So here you go.
In other words, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. And I’m my own worst enemy. But mostly the best, because my husband, my friends, and my colleagues are rallying around me. And because I feel like telling near-strangers, I love you.
Because I do. Because we’re alive. Including me, despite myself.
Take care of yourselves. I care about you.
Love,
Melissa
“Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.”
“A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.”
“The loner who looks fabulous is one of the most vulnerable loners of all.”
“The need for change bulldozed a road down the centre of my mind.” —Maya Angelou
“I can paint a barn with someone else’s blood. I just can’t stand to see my own.”―Colonel Henry Blake, a surgeon on M*A*S*H Episode Guide TeamM*A*S*H EPISODE GUIDE: Details All 251 Episodes with Plot Summaries. Searchable. Companion to DVDs Blu Ray and Box Set.
“Some people should not be allowed to see beyond your surface. Seeing your vulnerability is a privilege, not meant for everyone.” ― Yasmin Mogahed
“Being an open and vulnerable doesn’t mean you are weak..” ― Jayesh Varma
“A heart that can break is better than no heart at all.” Marty Rubin
“There is more hope in honest brokenness than in the pretense of false wholeness.”
People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.
People that go through serious illness – you can either go one way or the other. You can either become despondent about it all. Or it kind of rejuvenates you, makes you focus on what’s important.~Jack Layton

24 November 2015

Don't Buy This Book

by Melissa Yi

Birth smells.

That’s the opening line to my upcoming medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome.

An agent’s assistant said it made her want to vomit. She forced herself to read the first chapter and still wanted to puke. So the agent sent his regrets.

Stephen Campbell, who interviewed me for Crimefiction.fm*, had a more measured reaction. “It’s interesting,” he said. “I never thought about how birth would smell, but of course you’re right.”

As a doctor, I should note that birth smells aren’t the worst. Most parents are unaware of them, because they stay at the “office end” (head of the bed) instead of the “business end” (delivering the baby), plus 99 percent of the time, they’re ecstatic about their healthy newborn, not sniffing for overtones of amniotic fluid.

But as a writer, I tell you exactly what I think. That means the average person may not be able to handle Stockholm Syndrome.

Is that a problem? Maybe. As the Indian teacher Chanakya pointed out BCE, “A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first.”


On the other hand, we have to take risks with our work if we want to create lasting excellence, as Edgar-nominated author Kris Rusch/Nelscott pointed out here

My advance medical readers reacted to Stockholm Syndrome like this:

From: Dr. Greg Smith
Subject: Hope Sze's triumphant return
Message: The best yet, I think. Dang thing kept me up til 3:30--been a while since a book did that.

Tracy VanDalen Bradley, Respiratory Therapist: I finished it in three days. You can’t read just one chapter.

Dr. Paul Irwin: God, you write great. Your mind/thought process is at least as peculiar as mine.

But can the non-medical reader handle a book about a hostage-taking on an obstetrics ward?
Maybe.
New York Times bestseller Dave Farland wrote, “I was completely hooked--an intriguing and introspective thriller.”
Author of The Freshman Murders and reknown computer scientist Gerald Weinberg posted an advance review on Kobo:
Here's a book that's easy to read, but hard to review.
It's a page-turner, thrilling while sensitive, super-serious while witty, and gutsy while insightful.
So why so difficult to review?
In the first place, I want to give my reader information about the story, but I don't want to give
anything away. No spoilers.
More than that, however, it makes me feel like an appraiser of fine property confronted with an
item for which there is nothing comparable. It's simply unlike anything else I've ever read.

Stockholm Syndrome. Not for the faint of heart or stomach. It may garner a lot of one-star reviews. Those used to really bother me, but a) I stopped reading them, and b) now I think they’re kind of funny. Like the ones for Susanna Moore's In the Cut, where more than one reader said they threw the book in the garbage because they didn’t want anyone else subjected to it.

If you want to decide for yourself about my book, I’ve posted the first chapters on my website, and you can enter the Goodreads Giveaway here.

I’m having a Facebook party December 1st  at 7-8 p.m. EST, with party favours, but foolishly set it as a private party, so friend me and message me if you want an invite here.

On December 6th, I’ll have a party at our local library in Cornwall. Theme: Swedish, for Stockholm. We’re going to wear blue and yellow and drink glögg.

Will anyone buy Stockholm Syndrome? Or will they just run away screaming?





*That interview will air December 2nd.

07 February 2012

Mind Control

by David Dean

I've just finished the draft of a story (a first draft according to my editors, the Professor and, his sister, Bridgid, that is. They both assure me that it is far from submission-ready.). This unpolished gem is rather loosely based on the infamous Symbionese Liberation Army of the roaring seventies. I'm too young to actually remember them, of course, but I have made something of a study of their antics. As you may know, they hit their high note with the kidnapping of newspaper heiress, Patricia Hearst–a strike directly at the heart of the "fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people"–soaring and repetitive hyberbole was the stardard for radical groups of this era. The kidnapping, in of itself, would not have made the episode so distinctive, rather it was the completely unexpected events that followed that set the nation on its ear: Patty Hearst appeared to morph from helpless victim of a rather terrifyingly single-minded group of self-styled revolutionaries into a full-fledged, gun-toting (and shooting) member! It appeared to be a near incomprehensible evolution. Cries of Stockholm Syndrome rent the highly-charged air!

 The SLA was not much of an army, as it turned out, though they claimed repeatedly to be operating cells nation-wide. In fact, the army that kidnapped Patty consisted of eight people. The only 'cell' they were operating was located in a California prison block where their other two members unhappily resided. These two were serving time for the murder of a school superintendent who had been deemed racist by SLA's revolutionary 'court of justice'. Apparently, actual trials of the accused were not required in their brave new world. They killed his aide, too. The victims were black men that were widely liked and respected in the Oakland, California community. This may you give you some inkling of the SLA's philosophy–possibly too subtle for most of us to comprehend.

The SLA sans Patty
 The group that kidnapped, and subsequently "brain-washed" Patty Hearst was made up of three men, two white, one black, and five women–all white. Patty made six; and she was also white. Their leader was the sole black member who went by the assumed name, Cinque ( pronounced 'Sin-kay'), and wore the impressive title, Field Marshal. All of the group adopted what they purported to be African names; their avowed purpose being the destruction of racist, capitalist, fascist, Amerikkka. Yes, that's how they both spelled it and pronounced it. Whatever you may think of this group and its aims, they were certainly a conflicted knot of humanity. Bank robbing came next.

The heist at the Hibernia was well-planned, if not executed. While liberating money from the corporate oppressor they managed to shoot and kill two unarmed people. Everything was captured on the film of the security cameras–including the newest addition to the guerrillas ranks–Patricia Hearst. Wielding a sawed-off M-1 (the rest carried an assortment of automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns) she announced her identity, purpose, and new-found solidarity with the cause of oppressed peoples as championed by the SLA! A legend was born. Patty Hearst was now Tania. This being the moniker of a female revolutionary who died with Che Guevara in Bolivia. Curiouser and curiouser–Alice had certainly stepped through the looking-glass.

Tania (Patricia Hearst)
Fleeing from the intensifying heat they had generated in the San Francisco area, the gang headed south to hole up in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton. This would turn out to be mistake. After fortifying a small house in this predominantly black, and poor, neighborhood, it appeared some neighbors took note of this sudden influx of heavily armed white people. Took note and grew alarmed despite the SLA's assurances that they were, in fact, there to protect and liberate them. It seems that some did not want the kind of liberation they deduced might be in store for these guerrillas.

Oblivious to these concerns, Tania (Patty), in the company of William and Emily Harris (Now known as Yolanda and Teko… say what?) set out to buy some supplies for their new household. This did not go well. While in the store, Revolutionary Teko decided to liberate some sweat socks that he was in sore need of. Why he did this when they had the requisite cash (Hibernia Bank job, remember?) will never be fully understood by the bourgeois mind. A security officer employed at the store attempted to uphold the reactionary status quo, and a struggle ensued with Teko. Yolanda joined in. Tania, having been left in the van parked out front, became alarmed when she saw that her revolutionary brother and sister were in dire straits. She reacted quickly and decisively by opening fire on the front of the store with a machine gun. This did have the effect of inducing a sense of despair in the security officer, and he chose the better part of valor at this juncture. The dynamic people's soldiers rushed out to freedom and Sister Tania.

In something of a panic now due to the attention they had drawn upon themselves, the rest of the evening and next several days was spent stealing and switching cars. The descriptions of all three were instantly recognized and the L.A.P.D. now knew that the feared SLA was in their town. This was to have repercussions for the folks back at the ranch(er).

As word circulated through the media and the Compton neighbors realized exactly who the new folks on the block were, a few discrete calls were made. So, while Tania and crew tooled around L.A., the FBI and police gathered their forces and laid siege to Cinque's band of not-so-merry pranksters. Though they were repeatedly offered the chance to surrender, this had never been in their plans according to Patricia's 1982 autobiography. A fierce firefight ensued, mostly fought with fully automatic weapons. Tear gas and smoke bombs fired into the house by the police resulted in the building catching fire. This in turn began to set off the crates of ammunition and bomb-making material within. No SLA member offered to surrender and none survived. The house burned down around them.

Tania during Hibernia Heist
 The three remaining, at-large, members (including Tania) made themselves scarce upon hearing the news, and went on to reconstitute the SLA with new members, succeed in robbing another bank (during which Yolanda killed a perfectly innocent wife and mother with a shogun blast), and bomb a police car. In the fullness of time, they were at last apprehended and brought to trial. Tania (now Patricia Hearst once more) became the focal point of public, judicial, and political interest: was she a willing participant, or a helplessly brain-washed victim of terrorists? Theories abounded; talking heads chattered.

As for the jury handed her case– they weren't buying it. In spite of her attorney's attempts (a rambling, and almost incomprehensible F. Lee Baily) at convincing the jury that his client was simply another victim of the SLA, they just weren't having it. They found her guilty of robbery and assault and she was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. President Jimmy Carter foiled all this with an order of Executive Clemency after only two years served.

I must admit, that during these amazing chain of events (okay, I am old enough to remember–and a lot more besides) I was of the opinion that the jury got it right. Okay, the bad guys kept her in a closet (and not the walk-in kind) for seven weeks while blasting soul music at her day and night; but what's not to like about Otis Redding; James Brown? I'll also grant that being forced to listen to lectures on her political responsibility for the world's ills (largely because her father was what we now call a one per center) would try the patience of a saint. But joining up? To me, it just didn't add up.

Yet, we have the Stockholm Syndrome advocates. The general theory grew out of a bank robbery gone wrong in (you guessed it) Stockholm, Sweden. The robbers, foiled in their attempt to escape the bank with their loot took hostages. The police went to work trying to negotiate their release. The entire episode dragged on for days (or was it weeks? ) when lo, and behold, the hostages began to take up for their captors, complaining of their treatment by the forces of law and order. Some even went further, justifying the robbers' actions and blaming the police for the entire situation… including the robbery.

Still, in my mind, I'm thinking that's a long way from a hostage taking one of the bad guy's guns and opening fire on the home team. But, remember, Patty's ordeal was far longer and more intense than that of the Swedes: she was subjected to sleep, sensory, and food deprivation, constant threats to her life and that of her family, she was raped. A young woman in her very early twenties, brought up in a devoutly Catholic household amidst private schools and a close family network. Still, I'm thinking…

There's certainly a school of thought regarding behavior modification (Pavlov and his drooling dogs, etc… ) that argues a person's mind can be controlled through various methods. Naturally, as a writer, my own mind leaps to "The Manchurian Candidate"; "A Clockwork Orange". But wait, the would-be zombie hit man of the former defies his programmer in the end; foiling her plans rather decisively. As for the latter fictional example, Alex is not really changed at all, is he? Only his responses are; his violent yearnings remain (in the novel, not the film) forever unsatisfied, and he a clockwork organism pining for better; bloodier, days. Could this have been Patty during her Tania days? Was she acting as programmed while wistfully recalling the peaceful days of her 'other', lost life?

Tania/Patty
Her autobiography, "Every Secret Thing" would lead one to think so. I read it with a jaundiced eye, indeed. But, I must admit that she did manage to convey the pervasive sense of terror she endured during the initial weeks of her captivity. I thought of my own daughters in such circumstances… then quit thinking about it fast. What wouldn't you do to stay alive?

Ironically, according to Patty, the SLA crew, after granting her membership status (a propaganda coup dreamed up by the Field Marshal), repeatedly asked if she was doing so out of her own free will. This after seven weeks in a closet, blindfolded, threatened and raped. Well, they were liberators, remember, and had an image to consider. Additionally, they drilled nearly everyday for the final showdown with the "pigs" that they were convinced was going to happen. It was made clear to Patty that surrender was not an option. Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy; talk about ideal conditions for Stockholm Syndrome. Remember Jonestown, anyone?

Okay, so I started moving closer to Patty's version of things. If she was to be believed, then her circumstances appeared pretty compelling. But how do you explain the hardware store incident? Remember Teko's socks? Patty was left alone in the van while her captors were inside the store–she opened fire with a machine gun in order to facilitate their escape.

Why didn't she drive away while she had the best chance she'd been given up till that point? I just couldn't get my mind around it. Had they really, and truly, made her into a convert? Or was she right where she wanted to be? Was it a genuine conversion, or a programmed survival mode she could not cast off? A young woman with no particular political leanings is kidnapped, only to emerge a few monts later as a violent urban guerilla. Things that make you go… hmmmm.

I've got to admit… I'm a little stumped. In the final analysis, the more information I considered, the more I dithered on a definitive answer. The jury was charged with considering Patty's acts while in the company of the SLA and got it right: she did participate in armed and deadly robberies, kidnappings (I skipped over that part as gilding the lily), and the firing of an automatic weapon on the streets of L.A. She did do those things. Why she did them is still up for grabs thirty-seven years later. Her own book never makes the claim that she was successfully "brain-washed"; only that she was very successfully terrified into unquestioning obedience to her captors. What do you think?
JB (Julian Brendan– English teacher, editor)
with JJ (James Joyce– a Big Shot Writer)

The characters you see portrayed here were not members of the dreaded SLA, but the equally feared Professor (see first paragraph) and collegue on an outing in Dublin. I'll let you determine which is which. I've not found a suitable photo of his sister for the line-up, but am working on it.