Jim Dolan had flirted with his family’s secret for about 45 years, since he was in college and started writing notes in a legal pad about what he knew of his father’s criminal activities. His mother forbade all discussion of the matter, which of course just made Jim want to talk about it more. Then, in 2017, after he’d shared some personal details in an online forum dedicated to the JFK assassination, Jim was invited to give a talk at the Allen Public Library.
His mother had died four years earlier, so she couldn’t object. But as he was driving to the library, Jim got a call from his brother, who’d just heard about the event. He was irate and ordered Jim to cease and desist, saying that what Jim planned to do would violate his privacy and traumatize his daughters. In telling the story years later, Jim points out that his brother was a lawyer. “Needless to say, he ruined my presentation,” Jim says. “I was a wreck when I took the stage.”
Jim’s brother died from cancer in 2019. His sister was an addict and died just a few months ago. Jim hadn’t spoken to her in decades. “It was just a dysfunctional family,” Jim says. “I think my brother’s internalized rage and hatred made him sick. I really do. Probably my sister, too. But I’m healthy and well, happily married. Two great kids.”
Jim took a different path than his two siblings did. He faced that family dysfunction head on. Not only did he become a psychotherapist, but he wrote a memoir about his family, exploring the dark places in his father’s FBI file. That story, about 150,000 words of it, won an award in 2018 at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, an annual event produced by UNT’s journalism department. Jim is still looking for an agent for his book. In the meantime, he’s sharing a slightly shorter version of his story. “My Father, the Hitman” is online today.
Jim turned 70 in September. With his parents and siblings gone, his children grown and not much fazed by Dad’s obsession with Granddad’s likely involvement with a Las Vegas car bombing ordered by Benny Binion, Jim doesn’t have to worry these days about upsetting anyone. I asked how he thinks his patients will react when they get this month’s issue of D Magazine.
“When patients discover that their therapist is a real human being, sometimes it’s a letdown,” Jim says. “But I’m too old and too far along in my career to let that stop me.”