Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Dennis Palumbo's "Head Wounds"

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author of Writing From the Inside Out. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime. His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.

Palumbo applied the Page 69 Test to Head Wounds and reported the following:
After writing five books in my Daniel Rinaldi series, I have a pretty good feel for the continuing characters who populate my “mean streets” of Pittsburgh.

My lead character, Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, is an Italian-American psychologist who---like his author---was born and raised in the Steel City. He’s passionate about his work treating crime victims, is stubborn and opinionated, and has a snarky sense of humor. He’s also a former amateur boxer (Golden Gloves, Pan Am Games), so casting him for a film isn’t easy. I could see any one of Hollywood’s “usual suspects” like Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac or Michael Fassbender, though I really like Viggo Mortensen. A few years ago, he played Sigmund Freud in the film A Dangerous Method. I thought then what I think now: if Mortensen was good enough to play the father of psychoanalysis, he’s good enough to play Daniel Rinaldi.

For Noah Frye, a paranoid schizophrenic and Rinaldi’s best friend, I think I’ll stick with the actors I envisioned the last time I did this exercise: either Zach Galifianakis or Jonah Hill. Both are fine comic actors with just the right amount of pathos and lunacy in their eyes. Then there’s Joaquin Phoenix, another solid choice.

For Eleanor Lowrey, the beautiful Pittsburgh PD homicide detective whose relationship with Rinaldi goes from professional to personal, again I like my previous choices: either Kerry Washington (from Django Unchained and the TV series Scandal) or award-winning actress Viola Davis (from the film Doubt and the TV series How to Get Away with Murder). I also think Halle Berry would work in the role.

In Head Wounds, I depart from the usual structure of my novels and reveal the identity of the killer quite early on: a delusional computer genius who engages in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Daniel Rinaldi. I could definitely see Ewan McGregor (American Pastoral, The Ghost Writer, etc.) as the obsessed Sebastian Maddox, though either Michael Shannon, Sam Rockwell or Jude Law would make fine choices, too.

Finally, as the gruff, seen-it-all veteran police sergeant Harry Polk, I’d be happy with either Michael Chiklis or Woody Harrelson. Though, as I’ve written previously, the perfect choice would be one of my all-time favorite character actors, the late, great Jack Warden. In fact, he’s who I envision as I write the character.

Thanks for indulging my cinematic imagination!
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Palumbo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Head Wounds.

--Marshal Zeringue