Episode 1: Introducing the 'Shadow of the Wing' podcast

Welcome to my new podcast which is a serialisation of my novel Shadow of the Wing. The novel is very loosely based upon English High Security Psychiatric Hospitals, Rampton, Ashworth and the infamous Broadmoor. The story will be told in episodes available via this website and through iTunes.

Episode one introduces the protagonist, Jess Isaacs, mental health social worker who unusually, also works with the police as a specialist advisor in relation to serial sex offenders. Jess takes up a new job in the Psychological Treatment Unit of the hospital. A number of shocking deaths occur which the management are keen to explain away whilst Jess believes there is more to the deaths than meets the eye. Her questions bring her into dangerous conflict with both patients and staff.

The setting for Shadow is modeled largely on Rampton which in 1979 was subject to an award-winning TV exposé showing extensive and routine mistreatment of patients by the nursing staff charged with their care.

The ‘special hospitals’ as they are known house people detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 who may be a risk of harm to others. These highly secure locked-door environments ensure that individuals cannot escape into communities. The behavior that took them there will often be of the most horrific nature. The Moors Murderer, Ian Brady is housed in Ashworth, the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliff is housed in Broadmoor whilst one of Britain’s most prolific murderers, Bruce Lee, originally convicted of 26 counts of manslaughter through arson (11 were overturned on appeal), resides in Rampton.

Security is intense but they are not prisons. These are hospitals and patients, are largely housed in relatively comfortable wards. Some are able to use the high-walled grounds and gardens with little supervision. The super-high security wards housing Britain’s most dangerous patients are similarly comfortable and have therapeutic outcomes as a basis. In addition to therapeutic activities, nursing staff will often be found having a cup of tea, watching TV or running an art class alongside patients who have a ‘without limit of time’ tariff.

Prisoners get out of jail on the last day of their sentence, even when there is concern about re-offending. Secure hospital patients do not. They must satisfy a great many psychiatrists, psychologists and tribunal panel members that they are sane enough to be released. The unlikelihood of being released means many do not fear sanction and some continue to be actively, and it might be said – mischievously - dangerous. Staff must always be on their guard against attack upon them or upon other patients. Some staff do not cope well with the myriad of horror stories they routinely hear and the tension of the semi-permanent threat of attack. These environments are dangerous places for both patients and staff.

The story, follows the perspective of the lead character, Jess Isaacs, social worker by profession and police profiler by experience and her interactions with both patients and staff. It tells the story of multiple complex, corrupted and damaged relationships which collide with explosive and deadly results.

Listen to Episode 1:

The podcast is something of an experiment with new ways to share my fiction work. I hope you enjoy it and will subscribe for future episodes. I very much welcome your feedback (via Facebook, Twitter or Email). Please do share if you enjoy the series!