Brandman adjunct turns to fiction to raise awareness of PTSD
Between 1976 and 1986, a horrific series of rapes and murders were committed in California by one man known to law enforcement by three nicknames: East Area Rapist, Golden State Killer, Original Night Stalker.
Brandman adjunct faculty member Duane Wilson was living and teaching in the Sacramento area. A former game warden turned police officer turned teacher, Wilson soon developed his own theories about the crimes, which have never been solved.
“He was not a typical rapist. He did reconnaissance. He planned. He made adjustments,” said Wilson, who even thought he had a likely suspect whose name he passed on to the police. Wilson thinks his prime suspect, a Vietnam veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acted out his anger at society in the most extreme way.
Wilson said he could have written an academic paper linking PTSD at its worst to crime, but then it occurred to him that the best way to bring attention to the need to treat the disorder and take it seriously was to try and reach a larger audience.
And that’s how “Terror at 3 a.m.: When PSTD Turns Deadly,” became the first of the Duane Wilson Crime Series, sold via Amazon Digital Services in both paperback and Kindle formats. Although fictionalized, the novel draws on many of the details of the East Area Rapist cases in Northern California. Wilson is midway through a second book in the series, which centers on the related cases in Southern California.
To write his first novel, he drew on his own experience in policing and what he learned as a teacher.
“I had students, ex-soldiers, in classes, even online classes, who were having serious adjustment problems. What if these trained soldiers used their skills and turned to crime? It might cause people to be more concerned about PTSD. We haven’t addressed that well. And we haven’t helped our people much,” said Wilson.
“I had never read much in terms of suspense novels, so I head to learn,” he said. Most, he decided, were not very realistic. “I wanted to make it realistic but also use their approach that attracted readers. I’ve always enjoyed writing but had never tried to publish a novel. This story really motivated me. I thought there was a need for something that would show how disturbed people can be and how difficult it would be to find someone like him.”
“I hope that people get an understanding that this is a serious situation, this PTSD. There have been some incidents lately (linked to it) and there are tens of thousands who are suffering,” he said. Those serving in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan are facing a different kind of war without uniformed enemies on a defined battleground. “They’re put under a tremendous amount of pressure and they’re not very well prepared,” he said.
Wilson brings the same kind of dedication to teaching that it took to learning a new way of writing to get his point across. He began teaching at the community college level while still working on the Berkeley, California, police force and after earning a master’s from U.C. Berkeley that focused on police administration and etiology of deviant behavior.
He started teaching at Brandman when it was still known as Chapman University College, focusing on criminal justice, research and social science courses. When the option to teach online came along, he volunteered immediately.
Wilson developed an early interest in what is now called community policing. While working as a game warden in Oregon, he learned that connecting with the local community was the only way to keep track of a territory too large for one person to cover every day. “What it taught me is you have to work with people. They know the area and if they have a concern and they know you, they will talk to you.”
That still works in large cities and when teaching. “What I like about online teaching is you can interact with students as individuals. They have to put their values and feelings and experiences down in writing. I can read every discussion post and respond individually. When I comment and ask for a response, they have to deal with what they wrote,” said Wilson.
“I think what every online teacher needs to do is personalize, personalize, personalize.”
The career path of Duane Wilson, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Arts and Sciences, includes:
• Temporary work doing commercial fishing enforcement in Alaska while a 19-year-old wildlife management student at Oregon State University.
• Game warden
• Berkeley police officer
• Community college and university instructor
• High school biology teacher
• Continuation school teacher
• Suspense novelist
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