Professor emeritus releases first fiction novel, ‘The Black Angels’
On a dark, rainy night, psychiatric ward nurses dressed in black raincoats and boots arrive at a murder scene where the daughter of a judge is suspected for her father’s murder.
This scene sets the tone for Cal Clark, professor emeritus in political science and former master’s of public administration director, who recently authored his first fiction novel, “The Black Angels.”
“You know, Carol, maybe the storm is appropriate,” Cal said while reading an excerpt from his book. “It turned us into black angels. We’re giving someone help or at least a chance not to ride ole sparky, but unlike real angels, we’re certainly not taking her to a good place.”
“The Black Angels,” a murder mystery set in the Midwest in a psychiatric hospital during the 1950s, was published by All Things That Matter Press, a small publisher in Maine, according to Cal.
Although this is Cal’s first fiction novel, he said he has edited and written 25 academic works. In Fall 2012, Cal decided to write “The Black Angels” because he thought writing fiction would be more fun.
Evelyn Clark, Cal’s daughter who is a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Oswego, said her father has always been a writer.
“It’s been intimidating my whole life how prolific he’s been his whole life,” Evelyn said.
She also said she really enjoyed “The Black Angels.”
In his fiction novel, Cal said the movers and the shakers of the community decide the daughter should be committed to a psychiatric ward rather than imprisoned, and while in the hospital, the nursing director suspects the daughter may be innocent, so she investigates the case.
Throughout the mystery, Cal said he describes the environment of wards in the ‘50s and psychiatric treatments such as shock therapy, straitjackets, continuous tubs and packing patients with cold, wet sheets.
“The good old days were not so good,” Cal said.
He also said there is ambiguity in the novel, where he explains good and bases cases of restraint.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything that is totally good or totally bad,” Cal said.
The nurses’ role plays a part in his descriptions, and he said unlike in earlier works such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” there isn’t an evil nurse in his novel.
He said most of the nurses are giving good treatments, however the nurses are treated badly by the doctors.
“Here on the one hand, you have people who are really doing skilled, professional job that takes a lot of commitment and care, and on the other hand, they’re being treated like dirt,” Cal said.
Evelyn said she feels her father’s writing is accessible.
“Academically he dealt with different cultures and very complicated economic and political processes, and I have always felt that his non-fiction read very well,” Evelyn said. “It felt like you could understand it. So I guess the jump to fiction wasn’t all that surprising to me, but it was very fun.”
Evelyn completed her dissertation on how globalization and neoliberalism impacts women. Neoliberalism approaches economic and social studies where focus is shifted from the public sector to the private sector.
Evelyn said Cal has been writing academic works in Taiwan for most of his career and her work took her to Chile, since the country has been dealing with neoliberal policies for 40 years.
Together, Cal and Evelyn, wrote the academic book, “Challenging Neoliberalism: Globalization and the Economic Miracles in Chile and Taiwan,” which will be published in February 2016.
Cal said he is in the process of writing a sequel to “The Black Angels,” entitled “A Strait Jacket for Sarah,” which he said he hopes will be published by next summer.
“The Black Angels” can be purchased on Amazon for $16.46 and on Kindle for $5.99.