God, Sex & Psychosis
When criminal psychologist Mira Skyles is assigned by a court order to evaluate Egon Norwood, a person of interest in a serial murder investigation, she recognizes both a man with a dissociative identity disorder and the boy who once saved her life, with whom she shares a secret history.
Egon Norwood is a master of illusion, a brilliant street artist who is mentally unraveling. He has perfected the art of dying on stage, transforming into statues that come to life, before perishing. Egon’s off-stage life is just as dramatic, punctuated by disturbing and unexplained blackouts. His estranged twin sister, Faye, is a performer too, whose twisted concept of fun and her uninhibited behavior has made enemies – people who want her dead.
Mira Skyles works with neurotics, pathological liars, and psychopaths. On the surface, she performs admirably and is a highly-respected criminal psychologist. But, because of her past, she struggles with her inner demons. The suspected serial killer assigned to her by court order is mysterious and charming. Against her better judgment, Mira finds herself falling in love.
The theme: How do children cope with horror? What is the mental and spiritual path to recovery, to revenge, to love, to redemption?
The novel is divided into three sections. Part One is the thematic overture and highlights the formative years of Egon and his twin sister, Faye, both traumatized by an abusive father. Part Two illustrates the fragmented points of view of both siblings, now adults, being analyzed by Mira, a court-appointed psychotherapist struggling with her own mental illness. In her effort to help Egon and Faye, she becomes enthralled by their personalities and is gradually charmed and seduced by their artistry. Against her better judgment, she falls in love. Part Three is Mira’s story, told as a confessional. How she was gang-raped at age twelve and scarred by her attackers; how her rage manifested into a quest for revenge which caused two deaths at the college she had attended; and how these incidents are connected to murders taking place in San Francisco. The story is infused with seemingly independent and irredeemable elements that combine to form an unexpected and haunting denouement.
With dissociative identity disorder (DID), a person’s identity is fragmented into two or more independent personalities. In essence, a psychological puzzle. So too is God, Sex & Psychosis. The protagonists have experienced sexual trauma at an early age, which is a root cause of DID. Their experiences have affected them in distinctively different ways. One becomes a criminal psychologist, the other, a performing artist. In their careers, both are intelligent and functional, yet they are dysfunctional in other areas. At its core, GSP is a strange and beautiful love story. The novel’s final sequence explains Egon’s and Mira’s attraction and improbable bond. And, no, they are not the same person. The conclusion is more complex.
The idea for God, Sex & Psychosis developed while I was at the University of Oregon, where I graduated with a bachelor of science degree in psychology. A course on abnormal psychology had spawned the idea for a murder mystery and a character with dissociative identity disorder. My research and interviews with psychiatrists and psychologists who’ve treated patients with DID has enriched the story. The manuscript has also been read for accuracy by a deputy defender attorney in the California Office of the State Public Defender, who represented death row inmates, including serial killers, in their post-conviction appeals.
The poem In a Dark Time, by Theodore Roethke, says, “What is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?” This epigraph sums up the epic struggle these central characters face. To varying degrees, I believe, we are all a bit crazy and comprised of multiple personalities. God, Sex & Psychosis aims to demonstrate this premise by telling a thought-provoking story that entertains, educates, and inspires.