Dooling, Richard (Patrick) 1954-

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DOOLING, Richard (Patrick) 1954-

PERSONAL: Born March 20, 1954, in Omaha, NE. Education: St. Louis University, B.A., 1976; studied respiratory therapy at University of Nebraska Medical Center, 1982-83; University of Chicago, R.R.T., 1983; St. Louis University, J.D., 1987.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Jean V. Naggar, 216 East 75th St., New York, NY 10021.

CAREER: Attorney, writer. Bryan, Cave, McPheeters & McRoberts, St. Louis, MO, law associate, 1987-91. Worked as a respiratory technician and respiratory therapist, 1980s.

MEMBER: Authors Guild.

AWARDS, HONORS: First prize in short fiction contest, St. Louis University, 1975; White Man's Grave was nominated for the National Book Award, 1994.


Critical Care (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.

White Man's Grave (novel), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1995.

Blue Streak: Swearing, Free Speech, and Sexual Harassment, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.

Brain Storm (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Bet Your Life: A Novel, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including the New Yorker, Story, and Smoke; editor-in-chief of Saint Louis University Law Journal; writer, producer, and medical consultant for Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, Sony Pictures Television, American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 2004.

ADAPTATIONS: Critical Care was adapted for film, screenplay written by Steven B. Schwartz, directed by Sidney Lumet, and starring James Spader, Helen Mirren, and Kyra Sedgwick, Live Entertainment, 1997; Critical Care was adapted for audio (unabridged), read by Richard Ferrone, Recorded Books, 1995; White Man's Grave was adapted for audio (unabridged), read by George Guidaff, Recorded Books, 1995.

SIDELIGHTS: Richard Dooling, an author with both a legal and medical background, is the author of Critical Care, a novel set in a hospital's intensive care unit. The novel's hero is Peter Werner Ernst, a young doctor working the unit's night shift. It is Peter's responsibility, as Colette Bachand-Wood noted in her Boston Herald review, to provide "critical care to bodies with little or no hope of recovery." While performing his sobering tasks, Peter becomes romantically involved with Felicia Potter, a manipulative fashion model who is determined to remove her comatose father from life support. Peter finds himself involved in the model's maneuverings to halt the hospital's efforts to keep her father alive. But as Beryl Lieff Benderly wrote in the Washington Post, the novel's hero discovers his lover's intentions "only after it's too late to salvage both his career and his scruples." Benderly described Critical Care as "a wild tour through everyone's worst nightmare" and concluded that the novel exposes "a system built around incentives that militate against humane values." Bachand-Wood wrote that "Richard Dooling's first novel is a masterpiece of fiction," and that the author "demonstrates a fresh talent for storytelling and clean, clever writing."

Booklist's Thomas Gaughan stated that White Man's Grave "reads like two different books—both worthwhile and engaging." One story is about white Boone Westfall's search for his black best friend, Michael Killigan, who has gone missing in Sierra Leone while serving with the Peace Corps. The second is about Michael's father, Randall Killigan, a powerful Indianapolis attorney who practices bankruptcy law. Randall discovers his son cannot be found after receiving African "bad medicine" that may also be the cause of his nightmares. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Dooling's language "expands to accommodate the bizarre and mind-bending mysteries upon which the plot turns." Time contributor John Skow felt that "Dooling's story has no detectable purpose, except to marvel at the rich variety of human wickedness. . . . Dooling's satire is wild."

Blue Streak: Swearing, Free Speech, and Sexual Harassment is a study that falls within the realm of Dooling's legal specialty, employment discrimination law. Dooling believes that swearing and vulgar and other negative speech should not be made illegal through legislation. He writes that "this mania for politeness and for legislation directed against hate, hate speech, and hate crimes is attempted thought control, an effort to eradicate character traits, human impulses found in our personality and in society at large." His main target is laws that enable women to sue over speech that they find offensive, a protection, he notes, that is not afforded to other segments of the population.

Dooling says that feminists "believe in the Orwellian idea that . . . if you draft statutes banning ridicule and insults and compel the use of 'correct' language, pretty soon people will be unable to conceive of harassment and hatred because they will have no words to formulate or express the ideas." Insight on the News contributor Stephen Goode wrote that "for Dooling, this is a naïve expectation—and worse, because it so glibly defines evil as something that lives only 'in the hearts of biased people who use bad words [words feminists find disagreeable, for example] and discriminate against others.'" However, Donna Seaman wrote in Booklist that Dooling is "abrasively dismissive of women" and oversimplifies gender differences to the extent that readers may bristle "at his bluster even as they recognize the validity of his main point." Richard Bernstein reviewed Blue Streak in the New York Times, noting that Dooling "is at his most lawyerly when he confronts the expansion of the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace. . . . His chapters on swearing as a healthy, normal, entertaining, creative, cathartic, and even ultimately peacemaking gesture, more practiced by men than women, are deep and funny at the same time. 'Swearing,' he writes, 'is the close cousin of magic, ritual, laughter, dreams, neurosis, and reflex—all indispensable expressions of instincts and impulses.'"

New York Times Book Review contributor Colin Harrison wrote of Dooling's novel Brain Storm that it "can't easily be subcategorized because it is, among other things, a defense of free speech, a whodunit, a speculation about the way the cognitive neuroscience is changing our perception of crime, a satirical portrait of the legal profession, a sex romp, a de facto essay on language, and, by no means least, a comedy. This book is packed." Library Journal reviewer A. J. Anderson called Dooling "a born storyteller."

The protagonist, Joe Watson, is a first-year lawyer at a St. Louis law firm where he searches for, and analyzes, copyright claims for computer game creators. His billable work is interrupted when he takes the pro bono case of a man accused of killing a deaf black poet. James Whitlow is a despicable character, and the firm encourages Joe to dispense with the case as quickly as possible, but in the near-future environment, the accused is being prosecuted under the expanded hate crimes laws, and Joe feels compelled to defend him to the best of his ability. And this he does, while being pressed by his bosses, his materialistic wife, and the federal government. Harrison concluded his review by saying, "Here is a writer who reminds us that the umbrella on the literary beach marked 'thriller' is broad enough to accommodate a story of intrigue in which bodies don't pile up like menus for Chinese takeout, in which no ninja soldiers huff importantly through the darkness. Rather, the narrative in his thriller is driven by rarer stuff—ideas."

A Publishers Weekly contributor called Bet Your Life "a sort of techno-noir thriller set within the confines of the insurance business." Narrator Carver Hartnett investigates insurance fraud for Reliable Allied Trust of Omaha Nebraska, a company that would just as soon raise the rates of their honest customers as prosecute the guilty. Carver and his coworkers, Miranda Pryor and Lenny Stillmach, as a group substance abusers with hearts of gold, sit side-by-side in their cubicles, pursuing the scam artists until Lenny is found dead after recommending that suspicious claims from Nigeria be rejected. The trio also oppose viatical insurance policies that are sold for a fraction of their value by AIDS and cancer patients to investors who are hoping the ill will quickly die.

Reviewers, including Mark Costello for the New York Times Book Review, noted that Dooling's books have all been very different, and that, Dooling "has emerged as a man who won't be pigeonholed." Costello described Dooling's writing as "Vonnegut by Grisham—and it's more. Dooling's books are also novels of ideas."



Dooling, Richard, Blue Streak: Swearing, Free Speech, and Sexual Harassment, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.


American Lawyer, November, 1996, Joel Chineson, review of Blue Streak: Swearing, Free Speech, and Sexual Harassment, p. 42.

Booklist, April 1, 1994, Thomas Gaughan, review of White Man's Grave, p. 1423; August, 1996, Donna Seaman, review of Blue Streak, p. 1861; February 1, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Brain Storm, p. 902.

Boston Herald, March 1, 1992, Colette Bachand-Wood, review of Critical Care, p. 51.

Insight on the News, October 7, 1996, Stephen Goode, review of Blue Streak, p. 33.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of Bet Your Life, pp. 1333-1334.

Library Journal, January, 1998, A. J. Anderson, review of Brain Storm, p. 139; October 15, 2002, Wilda Williams, review of Bet Your Life, p. 93.

New York Times, August 12, 1996, Richard Bernstein, review of Blue Streak, p. C13; December 2, 2002, Janet Maslin, review of Bet Your Life, p. E6.

New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1994, Gary Krist, review of White Man's Grave, p. 13; April 19, 1998, Colin Harrison, review of Brain Storm, p. 16; December 1, 2002, Mark Costello, review of Bet Your Life, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, March 28, 1994, review of White Man's Grave, p. 80; May 20, 1996, review of Blue Streak, p. 244; February 23, 1998, review of Brain Storm, p. 51; November 4, 2002, review of Bet Your Life, p. 63.

Time, July 18, 1994, John Skow, review of White Man's Grave, p. 57.

Washington Post, February 27, 1992, Beryl Lieff Benderly, review of Critical Care.


Richard Dooling Home Page, (April 26, 2004).*