Let me share with you an e-mail I received from a friend.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve just finished reading the two
books you gave us in Twin Falls a couple of months ago. I must say, I’m
very impressed with your writing. I don’t read a lot of novels, but I
enjoyed yours more than others I can remember.
As a reference point, I recently read (most of) the Michael Chabon
novel, ‘Telegraph Avenue’ which has been getting major promotion in
the Wall St. Journal and other papers. I gave up on ‘Telegraph
Avenue’ without finishing it because there wasn’t much happening. The
book is about these 2 characters who have a used record store on
Telegraph Ave. near the line between Berkeley and Oakland. They’re
upset because a rich outsider is about to open a mega media store near
their location, and the competition is sure to force them out of business.
But, more than half way through the book, there’s no store being built
and not much going on in the old store either. The book
describes a bunch of low-life characters and their lives quite well,
but those lives weren’t very interesting to me. It seemed to me to be
a book about nothing, so I quit it in order to read yours.
I read both of your books in the order of publication, and decided
that I liked the first one best. Its excellence results from the fact
that you wrote about a subject you know well — the work of a hospital
pathologist — but most of us readers don’t know at all. You
excellently conveyed what your kind of work is all about and I for one
now feel like I have a better appreciation for what you and your
mostly unknown colleagues do all day in the hospital lab. Your murder
plot was excellent and well paced too — very easy to follow but not
strung out too long.
I liked ‘Murder under the Microscope’ better than ‘Too Much Blood’
because the latter book, for me, had too much blood, gore & murder.
Also, in book 2 the main character spent too much time doing the
police detectives’ work, or so it seemed to me.
Anyway, I’m pleased at last to be able to say I have a
successful novelist friend. This is a new experience for me. I have a
hunch that it took major work for you to produce these books that flow so
well and are so readable. Seems to me that this skill is sort of like
the knack good musicians have, of making hard pieces sound easy to
perform even when they’re really difficult.
When is your next book coming out?
I wish to point out two things here.
One, the observation that in Too Much Blood, Toni and Hal spent too much time doing the detectives work for them. True, I portray Toni as a wise-ass know-it-all who gets so impatient with law enforcement as they dutifully dot their t’s and cross their i’s while coping with the manpower shortage that is inevitable in a small town, that she goes ahead and investigates on her own.
Nothing wrong with that, unless she compromises evidence, but the problem is that it makes the cops look stupid, and they’re not. I never mean to imply that in my books, but it may be happening anyway. Detectives know way more about murder investigation than Toni does, and she knows that. But where there’s a medical twist, Toni knows more than the cops do. It should be a symbiotic relationship, but too often it’s adversarial. Maybe I should tone Toni down some and let the cops do their jobs once in a while.
Two, the observation that in Murder Under the Microscope, my portrayal of pathologists, med techs, and histotechs going about their daily business is informative to most people, who often haven’t a clue about pathology and the lab. I’ve been told similar things by reviewers, who have suggested that I use it as a platform to help sell my books because my name will become more well-known.
I take that to mean that I should set up a website in which I publish little vignettes on a regular basis about my professional world, always assuming that people will actually read them and ask for more. I could also answer questions people might have about their lab work or their biopsy and what it all means. So what happens if someone asks me a question I can’t answer?
Well, then I’d ask someone else, or look it up, or … hey! Google it! Maybe it’s in Wikipedia. And there’s the rub. Anybody can Google. Anybody can read Wikipedia. There are tons of websites geared to patients that talk about your lab test or your biopsy. With all that, who needs me?
Am I being too shy and retiring here? Is there actually a need for a website such as I describe? Ask a Pathologist? Toni’s Day at the office? All you ever wanted to know about pathology but were afraid to ask? Sex and the Single Pathologist?
Come on, folks, blog with me here. Let me know your thoughts. If you don’t, I’ll inflict my website on you. Buwahahahaha!