Warning: Do Not Read This Book Before an Operation

A medical team performing an operation

 (DGIwire) — When surgeon Kelly Parsons set out to write a medical thriller, he had no idea that writing his book would be a lot like operating. “Well, except that my surgeries typically take several hours to complete, start to finish, and the literary ‘operation’ took six years,” he says with a smile.

However, as Dr. Parsons also points out, the similarities can be striking. Kelly Parsons, M.D., author of Doing Harm, the book Stephen King recently hailed as “Best damn medical thriller I’ve read in 25 years,” says surgery means coming up with a plan and then meticulously executing it: diagnosing the disease, then carefully cutting it out of the body.

So how is that like writing a book? “Once you have your story written, you begin the process of looking for what’s wrong, what doesn’t belong in the book, and then remove it. Like surgery, it’s a meticulous process. Plus, in surgery you have a team, and in writing my book I had one, too: most notably my literary agent, the iconic Al Zuckerman at Writers House, who has countless bestselling authors in his stable. Al was there in the “operating theater” with me for almost two years, and made me a far better “book doctor” for this next novel I am in the midst of completing. The people at St. Martin’s Press were also remarkably helpful in making sure the ‘patient’ was healthy enough to leave the hospital.”

If the medical scenes ring with the authenticity found in bestsellers by other medically trained authors such as Robin Cook and Michael Crichton, it’s no surprise. Kelly Parsons is a board-certified urologist and faculty member at UC San Diego Medical School. Clearly this entire “operation” was successful, since Library Journal gave Doing Harm a prestigious starred review for “building tension to a breathtaking climax.” Publishers Weekly wrote, “With a deft initial setup reminiscent of Grisham’s The Firm, urologist Parsons’ strong first novel paints a picture of the competitive, ego-driven realm of a world-class teaching hospital and the kind of personalities that thrive there… The attention to detail keeps the action chillingly plausible…”

The fast-paced thriller centers on Steve Mitchell, happily married with a wife and two kids, and in line for a coveted position at Boston’s University Hospital when his world goes awry. His overreaching ambition causes him to botch a major surgery, and another of his patients mysteriously dies. Steve’s nightmare goes from bad to worse when he learns that the mysterious death was no accident, but the act of a sociopath. A sociopath who has information that could destroy Steve’s career and marriage. A sociopath for whom killing is more than a means to an end: it’s a game.

In telling its engrossing story, Doing Harm also details the politics of hospitals, the hierarchy among doctors and the life-and-death decisions that are made by flawed human beings.

Great reading anytime—but maybe not before your next operation!

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