Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Behind the Gates of Gomorrah - Stephen Seager

My review of Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: a Year with the Criminally Insane first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. While this isn't a fiction work, I'm certain that any crime fiction fan would find this book fascinating. . . and disturbing. So I hope you enjoy the review.

First line: "Raymond Boudreaux and I sat at opposite ends of a rickety wooden table--with him nearest to the door."

“Regardless of a person’s crimes…if you live with them long enough, a relationship forms.” This is the first lesson psychiatrist Stephen Seager learns when he starts working in Unit C of the Napa State Hospital. Nicknamed Gomorrah, the forensic mental institution houses the criminally psychotic, and Unit C has the worst of the worst.

Seager details his initial year learning the procedures for dealing with violent outbreaks, receiving ten stitches in his head, being threatened with a shank and hearing about the death of his predecessor due to injuries sustained from a patient. He says, “These guys are like human IEDs, and you don’t want to be around when they explode.”

Yet Seager is around when they explode, and despite the terrifying anxiety each day creates for both the doctor and his family, he continues working with a determined outlook. For many of the patients he believes something can be done, they just need to discover what that something is.

In this non-fiction work that reads like a suspense novel, audiences will experience the doctor’s anxiety vicariously, but they will experience a seemingly comedic side to Gomorrah as well, like a visit from Santa Claus, played by one of the patients.

Seager provides background to help readers accurately comprehend the various workings--and limitations--of Napa State. To truly fathom how the staff continues working in such an environment, one may need to experience it personally, but Behind the Gates of Gomorrah gives the reader an insider’s peek that may very well be the next best thing.

Behind the Gates of Gomorrah is available in hardcover (ISBN:  9781476774497) from Gallery Books.


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