Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: Novel Takes Readers Into Dramatic Life of Psychiatric Hospital Patients!

Don’t Look Down
By David Laing Dawson
Bridgeross Communications
ISBN: 9780981003757
174 Pages

Don’t Look Down by David Laing Dawson is different...I don’t think it is a true story, but it is certainly fiction based upon the reality faced by the author as a clinical psychiatrist. At a minimum, I found it to be an indictment of the prison system and, perhaps, even the hospitals, as individuals who commit violent crimes are shuffled back and forth between the two institutions. Whether or not this was intended, it came through for me!

Consider Frank who has just served a ten-year sentence in prison for manslaughter. When his prison term is up, instead of being free, he is sent to a psychiatric hospital and placed in a room where there are three other men. As one of the men questions, why should these men feel safe living in such small quarters with someone who has murdered someone.

Henry was my favorite character. Most of the time he was clear in his head and probably would have been more often if he was not housed in the facility where his lawyer and doctors were trying to determine if he was able to stand trial. He had murdered his long-time companion. At her request. Oh, she didn’t specifically say that he should buy a gun and shoot her in the temple, but she had begged him to not have her lie and suffer until her death, like his first wife had done. Henry did the best he could to honor his wife’s dying request.

Joseph was delusional about his wife—claiming that she was always having affairs and becoming severely depressed because of those delusions. David was schizophrenic and had been accused of killing Sally, a street woman with whom he had started to live, but David’s response was only that he had killed the thing that Sally had become...

“ occurred to Henry that perhaps he was already dead. This could be it, he thought, a Spartan waiting room in Limbo, his keepers trading messages about him, deciding to pass him on or not.” (p. 109)

Daily life, the hours spent sitting in silence, waiting for medication or a meal, watching others, watching you continued. Until Frank attacked Joseph one night...

Don’t Look Down is not an easy book to read. Perhaps it will seem too real to you, but, then, perhaps you need to read it for one reason or another. Certainly professionals and students of psychiatry would find it a must-read. Certainly anybody who has friends or family in psychiatric hospitals should...

What any reader will find in the book, though, is that these men are just people, just like us, if our circumstances had been different, or were changed in the future... Excellent writing style for describing the personalities of these characters; you will come to care for each of them, even Frank. David Laing Dawson lays the truth on the line; will you be one that picks it up?

G. A. Bixler


  1. Sounds fascinating! I will definitely have to read this. I worked as a therapist and clinical supervisor in the prison psychiatric hospital for the state of New Mexico, and it will be interesting to see how this story compares with the day-to-day situations there.
    Jim Finley, MA

  2. Jim, I think you would enjoy it, especially the lead character who, in my opinion, was quite sane, even though he committed what is called a "mercy murder."

    Thanks for your comment!