Ahwatukee Foothills resident Jan Johnson has never been trapped in a storm with a killer, but working the night shift in a psychiatric hospital in Denver was just enough inspiration for her murder mystery novel, "Still Dead."
"It was the middle of the night and it was cold in Denver and I thought, ‘I wonder what it would be like to be stuck in a place like this and not be able to get out,'" Johnson said. "It just sort of built on that."
"Still Dead" is the second book Johnson has written. In 1976 she wrote a book called "August Heat," a plot she imagined while living in the Bahamas.
"I've always enjoyed writing, even when I was in high school," Johnson said. "I have a friend ... she has published over 60 novels. She was always writing and publishing all these novels and I thought maybe if she can do it, I can do it. When I was in the Bahamas I dreamed up a plot and started in. I didn't do a lot of writing because I am a retired psychotherapist. I worked at the VA hospital with combat vets. I am an RN, so for 30 years of my career I did psychiatry. That's why this book takes place in a hospital. I think it's pretty authentic."
Johnson said she took many of the situations and patients she has run into during her career to create the book. Of course, throwing in a few murders makes it a little more exciting.
The book takes place in 1985. The main character, Dr. Dana Warner, attends a psychiatric conference in Denver and her planned roommate calls at the last minute with a vague reason for cancelling. They set up an overnight visit for after the conference to catch up.
When Dana shows up at her friend's hospital, she is nowhere to be found. Dana tries to find lodging nearby for the night, but an unseasonable storm and icy conditions make the roads dangerous and her rental car ends up off the road in a ditch. She is forced to go back to the hospital, where phones are dead, and wait until the night shift arrives while an unknown murderer is inside the building.
In all, Johnson says she hopes people just enjoy the book.
"I think a lot of people don't really know what goes on in a psychiatric unit," Johnson said. "It's not a horrible place to be. But, mainly, I want people to just enjoy it like a beach book. Just sit and be entertained."
The book is only available as an ebook from Amazon.com for $3.99. To find it, search the books for "Still Dead by Jan Johnson."
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