To set realistic scenes, novelists often research their settings. For his latest work, Paul Backalenick did not have to. The 1968 Staples High School graduate has spent much of his career in and around psychiatric hospitals. He’s got a master’s degree in counseling, and worked on the administrative and technology sides too.
But some of his most memorable early years were right here in Westport, at Hall-Brooke Hospital. He has not used any of those occasionally odd, always instructive experiences in “Carrie’s Secret,” a whodunit about a teenage psychiatric patient with a terrible secret, and the struggles of a 1980s suburban couple as they attempt to help and understand their daughter — at least, not specifically. Yet they opened Backalenick’s eyes to the world of mental illness, and the many models of care for the vast number of patients afflicted by it.