ABOUT THE STORY
Crazy About You has been described by reviewers as a coming-of-age, Young Adult, thriller/suspense book that relates in first person one week in the life of high school junior Brad Adams. Brad lives on the grounds of Larned State Hospital because his father is the institution’s dentist and the state provides free housing. Brad works after school in the mental hospital’s cafeteria. He has gotten to know the inmates (patients) from an early age and befriended many of them.
The week is set in 1964. It’s prom week. There is a horrific murder in a house between the hospital grounds and Larned, three miles to the east. All suspect a mental patient. Brad becomes involved in the investigation. He also becomes involved in the life of a schizophrenic teen girl he thinks he is in love with. But he dates a normal teen in town who thinks she is in love with him.
Complications lead to dramatic confrontations and discoveries.
READ AN EXCERPT
The hospital was located three miles outside of a small town that was in the middle of a state in the middle of the nation. It was the dumping ground for the retarded, the senile, the schizos and the paranoids, the brain-damaged, adolescent dopers, the suicidal-depressed, the manics, maniacs, and the perpetually confused. And one building, the Pinel Building, the one with barbed wire around it, housed the criminally insane. It even had its own small hospital ward, and Dad had an auxiliary dental office there. Patients were never taken from the Pinel Building unless they were judged to have become mentally competent to stand trial for their crimes, or, if they had been committed because they had been found innocent by reason of insanity for their crimes, released when they became sane, which didn’t happen very often. If ever.
They said it would happen to Michael Fromme, who at the age of fourteen had killed his mother, father, little sister, and brother, and then sat in the house with their dead bodies until a neighbor happened upon the scene and called the sheriff. Since he was a juvenile, he couldn’t be tried as an adult, so he was committed to the Pinel Building for the Criminally Insane until he was 18, at which time, if he was judged to be mentally sane, he would be released. He could even claim the farm of the family he had murdered.
Dad had worked on his teeth and found him to be perfectly normal. “Now that he’s killed his family,” Dad had said.
I kept trying to write a folk song about it, but nothing was coming. It was teaching me just how hard those simple little ditties were to compose.
It wasn’t easy recruiting people to work as attendants in the Pinel Building because most of the patients weren’t perfectly normal at all. They were perfectly dangerous. So the attendants and nurses who worked there were paid more. They were a group apart. A little pitied. A little feared. A little envied.
The whole insane asylum was the principle economic force for the small town nearby. Farming was in decline. But there would always be nuts to take care of. America seemed to produce a bigger crop every year. Nepotism at the hospital was rampant because the town was so small you couldn’t help but hire someone’s brother, sister, uncle, aunt, or cousin.
Although the town needed the mental hospital, it also resented it. After all, it wasn’t much fun to come from a place whose name was synonymous with being crazy. When our high-school basketball team went to other towns for games, there always would be a group of students from the opposing side in the stands waving their finger in circles at the side of their heads and screaming, at the top of their lungs in the shrillest falsetto as we were introduced: “Woo-woo!”
The superintendent of the whole affair was a psychiatrist who lived in the nicest house on the grounds. He wasn’t seen much. He presented the budget before the state legislature and went to a lot of national conferences. Dad himself was away for the week I’m about to relate, making his annual trip to a national dental conference. Being the only dentist for such a large and heterogeneous population as the asylum provided gave him several dentally interesting cases to present each year.
For a while, Mother had tried to convince Father to go into private practice, but he said he liked not having to worry about patients paying their bills. He could decide what the best course of treatment was for them without regard to whether they could afford it or not. Socialized medicine existed. You just had to be nuts to get it.
So eventually, Mother ran away. I thought I might turn that into a simple little folk song, too.
A WORD FROM RANDY
I grew up on the grounds of a Kansas insane asylum where my father was a dentist. During the troubled 1960’s, I attended the University of Kansas getting a degree in art history. After stints writing and teaching in Italy and Japan I had a 16-year career in newspapers as reporter, editor and column writer winning major awards in all categories. I turned to health care public relations serving as director of University Relations at KU Medical Center. I finished my career as media relations officer of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Now retired, I am marketing the fiction I’ve written over all those years. And creating more.
I donate $1 from every purchase of Crazy About You to Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence because those people work the Suicide Prevention Hotline for this part of America and deserve our support.
Check out Randy’s books and read his blog here.