Richard VanDeWeghe taught writing, rhetoric, and literature at three universities. He was Chair of the English Department at the University of Colorado, Denver. He founded the Denver Writing Project and was Field Director for the National Writing Project. He has published numerous articles in academic journals in literacy education and a book, Engaged Learning, which applies eastern philosophy, neurological science, and empirical research to learning and teaching across the curriculum.  

Jimmy Quinn is the first of three historical novels set in the Traverse City State Hospital. The trilogy covers the three critical periods in the decline of the asylum—the 1950's, 1960's, and the 1980's. The asylum was closed in 1989. Each novel situates an imaginative narrative within the historical events of the times.

Richard makes his home in northern Michigan, on the original Traverse City State Hospital grounds, now called the Village Commons—the largest urban residential-commercial redevelopment project in the country. His home is in a renovated building that was once the men's infirmary at the asylum. On a warm summer evening, one can find him playing his ukulele on a side porch, his dog Lucy asleep beside him.




Jimmy Quinn

In the 1950s, in a small town in northern Michigan, a state mental hospital well recognized for its patient care is increasingly threatened by a mysterious collusion of local greed and state politics. What begins as chronic vandalism soon spirals to physical assault. 

Struggling to make sense of the mysterious events, psychology intern Henry Merchartt wrestles with agonizing challenges to his ethical beliefs as he navigates the complex world of the hospital, patients and staff, and the local community and tension builds. In the process, Henry develops a brotherly bond with Jimmy Quinn, a patient whose work at the asylum illuminates for Henry the critical dignity that accompanies humanistic patient care.

Henry's moral indignation mounts as Jimmy falls victim to the effects of the collusion's endangerment of patient participation in work programs. Henry puts his professional and personal life in jeopardy, propelling him from simply being a closet social critic to taking dramatic, covert illegal actions for Jimmy's sake.

An unforgettable story of fraternal love and human compassion, Jimmy Quinn weaves together two narrative arcs. One is the hospital’s tragic loss of its “work is therapy” approach to patient care. The other is the development of Henry’s moral courage, as he chronicles it with the voice of a skilled reporter


Paperback | ISBN 978-1-947309-29-6 | 402 pages
FICTION / Historical / General
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy