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Posts by Jack El-Hai

Screening police officers before they shoot

chicago police car

When the police shoot unarmed citizens, we can’t help asking about the judgment, communication abilities, and emotional health of the involved law enforcement officers. Would other people in uniform have handled these volatile situations without loss of life? How well are police officers screened to ensure that they are psychologically suitable for their very difficult…

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XYY Men

Geneticists have long argued about the effects of having an extra male chromosome, a condition found in 1 of 1,000 men A battered paperback entitled The XYY Man, by Kenneth Royce, leans in a corner of my bookshelf. It’s a spy novel that chronicles the adventures of “Spider” Scott, an ex-felon who wants to become law-abiding, but…

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America’s first suicide bombing

Few people know that the first suicide bombing in U.S. history — and perhaps only the second such attack in world history — took place in New York City 110 years before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I recently wrote about that first U.S. bombing in an article titled “The Bomb in the Bag” for…

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A Political Warning from the Past

Dr. Douglas M. Kelley before the start of World War II

Decades after a U.S. Army psychiatrist who studied the Nazis predicted a threat to American democracy, we should remember his fears when we vote. Psychiatrist and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Douglas M. Kelley returned home in 1946 after spending six months studying the most loathsome of the captured German leaders after World War II. I…

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Hunting for Hermits

A nineteenth-century Szechuan hermit

How do you track down a bunch of hermits to interview? I recently needed an answer to that question when an editor at The Saturday Evening Post asked me to write an article about the lives of contemporary hermits. I agreed to give it a try if my story could focus on people with spiritual motivations for finding…

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The Nazi and the Psychiatrist wins 2014 Minnesota Book Award

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist book cover

My recent release The Nazi and the Psychiatrist won the Minnesota Book Award in the general nonfiction category at the 26th annual awards ceremony on April 5, 2014. The event, organized by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, brought together 960 lovers of books and literature.   I salute my fellow finalists — James Dawes, author…

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A set of dusty boxes: The arresting origins of The Nazi and the Psychiatrist

The portrait that Göring signed to Kelley

My book The Nazi and the Psychiatrist has just been published. It had strange beginnings. When one dead man passes you a tip about another, you pay attention. Years ago, while researching my book The Lobotomist about Walter Freeman, the psychiatrist and neurologist who pioneered lobotomy for mentally ill patients, I read the late Dr. Freeman’s writings on a…

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My forthcoming book “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist” is optioned to Mythology Entertainment

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist book cover

I’m happy to announce that Mythology Entertainment — the production and writing talent behind such films as Shutter Island, Zodiac, The Amazing Spiderman and the upcoming White House Down — has optioned stage and screen rights to my forthcoming book The Nazi and the Psychiatrist. Psychiatrist Douglas M. Kelley, who spends months examining Nazi leader Hermann Göring in my forthcoming book…

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Titicut Follies: A Notorious Documentary

screen cap of YouTube Titticut Follies video

Several years ago I finally got the chance to watch a documentary that had been in my thoughts for a long time. It was Titicut Follies, which the renowned filmmaker Frederick Wiseman shot in Bridgewater State Hospital in Massachusetts in 1967. I had heard that Titicut Follies included gruesome and horrifying scenes of the abuse of mentally ill…

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