Frequently Asked Questions

"Do you watch ER?"
The short answer is no. The series started when I was halfway through my first book, and I made a decision then to not look at the program. I knew we would obviously be covering the same terrain, and I wanted to free of having to consciously not copy or avoid what they did. I'd tell my stories, and let them tell theirs.

I've relented occasionally since, catching a segment or two while channel hopping. While I got a chuckle from some material that obviously had come from an ER doc,(I particularly liked a bit on ER overcrowding where one of the doctors on duty gets a 911 call from the waiting room), I have to tell you, no one gets the diagnosis as fast as these guys, and they see more rare diseases in a morning than I did in a lifetime.

"How much that you write is based on personal experience?"
The science and medicine are based on fact, and the cases I use are developed in the same way we created teaching scenarios for the residents -- writing realistic presentations of problems that never violated patient confidentiality, but based on a compilation of cases I'd treated.

Writing a medical thriller involves teaching readers enough medicine to enjoy and understand the story. My job is to make this fun, vivid, and graphic, and definitely not dumb it down for the lay reader. One of my biggest thrills is when both people in the business and those who aren't equally enjoy the medical parts.

As for the politics of a big teaching hospital, I couldn't make that stuff up.

"What makes your novels different from other medical thrillers?"
I try to put the reader inside the head of an ER physician, let them actually experience how touch and go a so called exact science can be in the hurly-burly of a cardiac arrest. I also have a very strong visual memory, and my books, as a result, tend to be graphically vivid. And while the genre as a whole tends to be plot driven, and a good story is essential, the family doctor in me likes to develop the minutia of people's lives, and allow the characters to become full blown and real. And my heroes tend to be ordinary, sometimes flawed people in extraordinary circumstances who rise to meet overwhelming odds as best they can, in other words, the kind of people I spent a lifetime working with.

"Which do you like better, writing or Medicine?"
That's like asking which child I love more. I adore both careers, and consider myself privileged to have them both. But I don't miss the hospital politics.

"Your books seem to predict events in the scientific and medical world that later come true. How do you do that?"
I know the field and connect the dots. But sometimes I'm as surprised as any one. I certainly never anticipated 9/11 while writing Mutant, nor the outbreak of SARS. That book unintentionally came close to both events.

I invite your questions and promise to read them all. However, I can't answer them all, as much as I would like to, but I have these books to write. I will, from time to time, post and answer the best ones. Just a caution. While I love talking about the medicine and forensics in my books, like any doctor worth his or her stethoscope, I won't pronounce on matters I haven't examined first hand. So I leave your personal medical questions to you and your doctor, and breaking forensic cases to the coroner on the job.

All other inquiries are welcome.

NOTE: For TV/Movie and other rights information contact Jay Mandel of William Morris Agency at [email protected].