cover image Whispers: The Voices of Paranoia

Whispers: The Voices of Paranoia

Ronald K. Siegel. Crown Publishers, $23 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-517-59239-7

Pharmacologist Siegel brilliantly explores the mind of the paranoid in this chilling, wholly engrossing report. His 12 case studies include a cocaine-addicted ballet dancer who murders a coke dealer after developing an erotic fixation on him, an aerospace inventor who believes his enemies have launched a satellite to transmit messages into his brain, a laid-off insurance salesman-turned-God's-prophet, and a frail octogenarian convinced that her dentist has implanted a spying device in her ``whispering'' teeth. Siegel ( Intoxication ), a UCLA research professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, begins by analyzing Hitler's paranoid hatred of Jews, made more virulent, the author believes, by amphetamine addiction. Next we meet a paranoid neo-Nazi graduate student at UCLA, who created a crude computer program to simulate Hitler's mind. Siegel closes with a look at Ernest Hemingway's paranoid final year, which culminated with his suicide. This startling survey suggests there is a continuum of paranoia and that paranoid episodes can be triggered by drugs, thyroid disorders, pernicious anemia or psychological traumas such as false arrest, social isolation or an intensely humiliating episode. (June)