We’ve all experienced adrenaline-pumping moments where time stands still, thought ceases, and instinct kicks in. Some of us live for those moments; others of us pray we can make it to the bathroom when it’s over.
For me, one such moment occurred when I covered the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) overnight by myself as a newly minted, second-year peds resident. A 24-week premature girl delivered precipitously on the mother’s bed. No NICU fellow around. No NICU attending. Just me. After getting the nurse’s stat page, I sprinted down the hall, heart pounding and mind playing games.
What if I can’t resuscitate her? What if I can’t slip in the endotracheal tube to help her breathe? What if I can’t insert the umbilical catheter for blood draws?
What if—dear God—she dies?
But she didn’t. Because with the help of experienced nurses, I slid in the breathing tube, hooked the baby up to a ventilator, and threaded in the umbilical catheter, just as I’d been trained to do as an intern. By the time the NICU fellow raced in from home, shirt untucked and hair a mess, my hand-sized preemie was stable and warm.*
Which was more than I could say for myself.
So Why Do Doctors Write Thrillers Instead of a Different Genre?
Someone recently posed this question to me, and other than Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), I couldn’t think of another contemporary physician author who didn’t write medical thrillers.
Maybe it’s because some physicians love the thrill of moments like the one above and want to convey them in fiction. Maybe it’s because medicine naturally lends itself to thrillers. Maybe it’s because physicians are more comfortable wading into genre fiction than literary fiction.
Or maybe it’s even simpler: we write thrillers because we prefer to read thrillers.
So, I decided the best way to find out was to ask.
Four Physician Authors Tell Me Why They Write Thrillers:
—cardiologist; award-winning author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including the Samantha Cody and Dub Walker thriller series, and the nonfiction Forensics for Dummies; consultant for several TV shows including Law & Order and CSI; and radio co-host.
To learn more about D.P. Lyle, visit his website at dplylemd.com, his Writer’s Forensics Blog, or his Amazon page. You can also learn more about his upcoming release, Deep Six, a comedic thriller available for pre-order.
Roger B. Newman
—nationally known leader in Ob-Gyn specializing in Maternal-Fetal Medicine, author of Occam’s Razor and the upcoming Two Drifters as well as co-author of the nonfiction book Multifetal Pregnancy: A Handbook for Care of the Pregnant Patient.
Richard Van Anderson
—former heart surgeon and chief of cardiac surgery with an MFA degree in creative writing, author of The Final Push and The Organ Takers.
—former pediatric ER doctor, award-winning, critically acclaimed New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-nine novels including the Lucy Guardino thriller series and the Hart & Drake medical suspense series.
It would seem medicine and thrillers are natural companions. Many physicians face adrenaline-pumping moments every day. It only makes sense to blend them with fiction.
Now, excuse me while I get my heart rate back down.
A HUGE thank you to these four authors for responding to my emails and answering my question. Their novels sound exciting, and my TBR list has just grown several inches.
Are you a fan of thrillers? Do you live for heart-pumping moments, or is a cup of tea and a safe sofa more your style?
*Things are different now, but back then residents were often in-house alone at night.
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