The Great Thing about Medical Thrillers
© Frank Edwards 2011 all rights reserved
We’re all fascinated with medicine, I think, because it revolves around the basic drama of being sentient, mortal creatures. The people who devote their lives to medicine as doctors, nurses and other health care providers are given special respect. Who are they? Are they really different? What do they know that the rest of society doesn’t? What is it like to yank someone back from the brink of death—and what is it like to watch someone die when there’s nothing more you can do? So, just placing a story in the context of medicine automatically generates a great deal of reader interest.
I didn’t really start writing seriously until I was a medical student at the University of Rochester and fell under the influence of writers like WC Williams, James Dickey and Lawerence Ferlinghetti. I stole every spare moment I could to write poetry and stories, and started getting published, which added fuel to the fire, of course. I’m here to tell you that medical school is not a great place to be when the writing fever grabs you by the throat. It’s a torture to break away from an idea and return to memorizing the insertion of muscles and the pathophysiology of secondary hypoadrenalism when the creative juices are really flowing.
Getting my first medical suspense novel, Final Mercy, from a cluster of ideas to a published work took approximately eight years, and I had to learn through pure trial and error. Then, last summer, my editor, the talented Liz Burton of Zumaya Publications, and I spent about three weeks doing the final edit, and I cannot begin to describe what a fantastic learning experience that was. We did it real-time on Google Documents—me in New York State and Liz in Austin, Texas—and it was wonderful, going over the story line by line, tinkering and polishing. Things I’d wrestled with for years finally fell into place. I learned more about the craft of story telling in that three weeks than I had in the previous half a decade. It mainly had to do, I think, with learning how to see each scene through the reader’s eyes.
Most medical thrillers involve the revelation of a conspiracy of some sort. In Final Mercy, I unmask the villain early in the story. The reader, therefore, knows more than the protagonist, and that adds to the suspense as we watch the hero and heroine struggle through a maze of suspicion and danger, knowning all too well that an evil force is lurking out front, waiting for them to turn the next corner.
About Frank Edwards
Frank J. Edwards was born in Rochester New York. In 1968 he entered the US Army and served a tour in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. He received a BA with honors in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill then attended medical school at the University of Rochester, graduating with an MD in 1979. In 1989 he received an MFA in writing from Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. After practicing for a decade in North Carolina, he returned to the Rochester, area in 1990 where he remains in active practice.
He has published a number of poems and short stories in literary magazines including Carolina Quarterly and The Virginia Quarterly Review, along with numerous medical articles. In 1988, Henry Holt published his first non-fiction book, Medical Malpractice: Solving the Crisis. His second non-fiction book, The M & M Files: Morbidity and Mortality Rounds in Emergency Medicine was published by Hanley & Belfus in 2002 and has become a standard text in emergency medicine.
For the past thirteen years he has taught creative writing seminars to medical students at the U of R. In 2004, the University of Rochester Press published his collection of poems and short stories, It’ll Ease the Pain.
Final Mercy is his first novel. He is married to a former emergency nurse from Canada and lives with his family on Lake Ontario near Rochester.
You can visit his website at www.frankjedwards.com.
About Final Mercy
Dr. Jack Forester, director of the New Canterbury University Hospital emergency department, is about to win an ongoing battle to modernize the ED when he’s stymied by the power-hungry dean, Bryson Witner. Then someone tries to murder Jack’s mentor and the former dean, setting it up to look like suicide.
Bit by bit, Jack uncovers facts that suggest several other recent tragic accidents may not have been in the least accidental. The deeper he digs, the closer danger creeps, and the phrase “life or death” begins to take on a new and very personal meaning.