Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Guest Post by Allen Wyler, Author of Dead Ringer

Allen Wyler, author of Dead Ringer contributes a guest post about how his medical expertise influences his writing and how much of his actual experiences are in Dead Ringer and his other books.

I pretty much meld my own experiences into each of the various stories. For example, I was on the committee charged with choosing which electronic medical record system the hospital where I worked. As I sat through another butt-numbing committee meeting my mind began to wander and I thought: what would happen if a software bug intermittently mixed up information between patient charts, causing critical errors in treatment. The idea caught on and became the seed from which the story DEADLY ERRORS germinated.

The idea behind DEAD END DEAL came when I was a guest lecturer at a medical school in Seoul, South Korea. I ended up getting lost in the downtown area and wondered what it would be like to be trapped in a foreign city without a passport. I spiced up the story line by also making the main character sought by police for a murder he didn’t commit. As you can see, I let my imagination get carried away at times.

DEAD RINGER came from another trip to Asia. As an invited guest to the Hong Kong Neurosurgical Society, one of my jobs was to demonstrate a tricky surgery on a cadaver head. I was presented with a stainless steel surgical tray with a surgical towel covering a cantaloupe sized mass (the head). As I removed the towel and looked at the face, I wondered what it would be like to come face to face in this type situation with someone you knew.

In DEAD WRONG (to be released shortly) I was sitting in my office the Friday afternoon before the Labor Day weekend. The office was empty because the staff had wanted to jump-start the three day weekend. Sitting back in the chair, staring at the pile of work still on my desk I wondered… what would it be like for a person to appear in the doorway holding a gun and threaten my life? What would I do? Would I escape? This is exactly the way this story begins.

DEAD HEAD is a story about keeping a detached head alive for the information contained in the brain. The concept for the story was given to me by my editor at Tor/Forge. This is probably the only one of my books in which I have no personal experience. I mean… go figure.

Many people find the field of neurosurgery and brain function interesting, so I try to incorporate some technical information to the reader without it becoming a boring lecture with the technical details given to the reader in an easily understandable dialog that doesn’t detract from the fast pace so necessary for a good thriller. And pace is one of the factors that distinguishes a thriller from a mystery.

Thanks for the chance to guest blog. Readers should feel free to contact me through my website at www.allenwyler.com

About the Author:

A Seattle native, Wyler’s parents died early, leaving him on his own by the time he entered college. He supported himself with various jobs including being a fry cook at a drive-in and a professional musician playing drums for various local blues and jazz groups. In his first year of medical school, he knew he wanted to specialize in neurosurgery. Upon graduating from residency he started on the faculty of the University of Washington and then the University of Tennessee where he developed an international reputation for pioneering surgical techniques to record brain activity. In 1992 the prestigious Swedish Medical Center recruited him back to Seattle to develop a neuroscience institute.

Wyler’s love of thrillers began in 1974 on his way to Cincinnati to take the oral boards in neurosurgery. At SeaTac airport he picked up a copy of William Goldman’s Marathon Man to read on the flight. He became so engrossed he stayed up all night to finish it before stoking up on coffee and meeting with the examiners. He aced the exam.

Wyler develops plots from actual events in his practice. While serving on a committee charged with selecting the medical center’s new computerized medical record system he wondered what might happen if the software had a random bug. From this came the story line for Deadly Errors, his 2005 thriller that has been subsequently translated into several foreign languages, including Russian. Crime Spree Magazine wrote:
“There is a grand tradition of medical thrillers in the suspense field - hardly surprising since medicine is one place where life's rubber really meets the road. A new entry, Deadly Errors, by a new author, Allen Wyler, is right up there with the best.”

Much of the background for Dead Head, a story about keeping a detached head alive for the information in the brain, was derived from Wyler’s own research on recording the brain’s electrical activity. As Adam Woog (Seattle Times) wrote:
“Wyler's premise is deliriously over-the-top… (You'll notice I'm avoiding any cracks about how fiction writing ain't brain surgery.) But the story barrels right along, and, as Wyler points out in an afterword, the science of maintaining a disembodied head is already chillingly close to reality.”

Wyler’s third thriller, DEAD END DEAL, originated a few years ago, he was a guest lecturer at a medical center in Seoul, South Korea. He wondered what it would be like to be trapped in a foreign country hunted by police because of being framed for a murder.

In 2002 he left active practice to become Medical Director for a start-up medical technology company, Northstar Neuroscience, which went public (NSTR) in 2006. At the end of 2007 he retired to devote full time to writing.

He and his wife divide their time between their downtown Seattle condo and home in the San Juan Islands.

You can buy Allen's books through his blog.

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