Happy Publishing Day to….
Jan and I were totally moved and involved in this tragic yet beautifully written story of a young man who seemed to have it all! Strong recommendations from the both of us to read this one!
Tommy, with his movie-star good looks, lived a privileged life as a “Golden Boy” from a wealthy prominent family. He was afforded every possible opportunity for success, but inside his head, something went terribly awry. Crippling anxiety and paranoia took hold, along with irrational fears of his father and some of his classmates. He suffered from social anxiety and contamination fears consumed him. He believed friends were trying to steal his soul, and he had developed a set of rituals to protect himself. He had increasing difficulty in maintaining relationships and was known to be irrational and emotionally volatile.
Mental illness ran in the family, and Tommy’s parents were very concerned about his mental deterioration. They scheduled evaluations and treatments by multiple psychiatrists, none of whom agreed on a firm diagnosis, yet prescribed a laundry list of medications. At one time or another he was diagnosed as having OCD, anxiety disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, and bipolar disease, among others. In response to abuses of the past, it is very difficult to commit an adult to a mental institution, even when the person clearly is very disturbed. As an adult, his parents had no legal sway over him.
“It’s bad enough having a mentally ill child on your hands,” explained Shelley. “It is worse to have an angry mentally ill child.” The parents found themselves trying their best to support him in his endeavors, while attempting to keep his mental illness at bay. Was he a privileged, entitled spoiled young man? Or was he severely mentally ill? Sometimes I’m sure it was difficult for others to see the difference.
Despite multiple psychiatric evaluations and bizarre behavior in the courtroom he was deemed fit for trial, and much of the latter part of the book covers the courtroom trial. His mother, Shelley, stood by his side, never wavering that Tommy was mentally ill and needed help.
“Had our family had access to the kind of care for Tommy that he needed, this horror story would never have happened. (Shelly Gilbert, Tommy’s mother).
As an aside, I have personally seen the horrors of a family destroyed by an adult child with mental illness who was failed by the system and have enormous empathy for families who are suffering.
If a family such as the Gilbert’s, who had the money and access to the best medical care in the world, was unable to help their son, then what hope do any of us have? More than a simple true crime drama, this is an indictment on the current state of mental health care, as well as a thought-provoking story that highlights the cracks in our justice system.
The author writes compellingly and with clarity, never inserting himself or his opinion into the story. I closed the cover of the book with a feeling of sadness for all involved. There are no winners here.
It was so clear that he needed help and the system failed him. To me, it’s inhumane and unconscionable, and it led to a tragic result that didn’t help anybody. We never gave him a chance.”~ Alex Spiro, attorney for Tommy Gilbert, Jr
*I received a copy of the book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
*This was an unintentional buddy read with my friend and reading buddy Marialyce. On her recommendation, I started it as she was finishing it, and we had many thought-provoking and fascinating discussions. This would make an excellent book club selection.
Life is good for many, but it was especially good for Tommy Gilbert. Born into a family of wealth and prestige, he was educated in the best of schools, was able to enjoy his parents’ multiple residences in affluent areas, and seemed to have the world at his command. Added to all of that was the fact that Tommy was intensely handsome, a blond blue eyed Adonis. Yet something was wrong with Tommy.
His various oddities included thinking things and some people were contaminated, having the intense feeling that others were out to get him, and seeming to lack social graces. All of these personalities started to appear in his later teenage years. Tommy started a downward spiral into mental illness what some of his doctors described as psychosis and probably schizophrenia.
Seeing over the years a plethora of doctors, Tommy floundered refusing to take medication, being enabled by his parents for his lack of finding a job after graduating from Princeton and developing an overwhelmingly hatred of his father, Thomas Gilbert, Sr. The last of these traits led Tommy eventually to murdering his father, shooting him at point blank range in his parents’ apartment in Manhattan.
Because of the social strata his family traveled within, the case became one of noteworthy proportions. Tommy’s mother stayed a staunch supporter of her son, yet years of what seemed like turning a somewhat cloudy eye to her child’s failings, made for an interesting piece of what entitlement can do.
Tommy exhibited many very troubling incidents before his final act of murder, and the author documents them all plus Tommy’s interactions with family, friends, and women.
This book encourages lots of thoughts about the state of mental health in this country, including the laws that can’t force anyone into mental facilities unless they agree to it. It also focuses well on the question of what constitutes mental competency in a courtroom trial.
It’s a sad story where there are no winners, where by the end we are not quite sure that justice has been served, and what we wonder if anything could have saved Tommy.
Definitely a strong recommendation for well done, clear, intriguing, and and concise story.
Thanks to John Glatt, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this fascinating true crime story due out July 20, 2021
and here’s the author:
English-born John Glatt is the author of Golden Boy Lost and Found, Secrets in the Cellar, Playing with Fire, and many other bestselling books of true crime. He has more than 30 years of experience as an investigative journalist in England and America. Glatt left school at 16 and worked a variety of jobs—including tea boy and messenger—before joining a small weekly newspaper. He freelanced at several English newspapers, then in 1981 moved to New York, where he joined the staff for News Limited and freelanced for publications including Newsweek and the New York Post. His first book, a biography of Bill Graham, was published in 1981, and he published For I Have Sinned, his first book of true crime, in 1998. He has appeared on television and radio programs all over the world, including ABC- 20/20Dateline NBC, Fox News, Current Affair, BBC World, and A&E Biography. He and his wife Gail divide their time between New York City, the Catskill Mountains and London.