Good morning and welcome back to the Round Table Chat where I try my best to bring a variety of different authors for you to discover. To day I’m happy to introduce to you Dr. Louis Kirby, a writer and neurologist, specializing in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Hello Louis, I’m so glad you could come to my Round Table Chat. As always I have American coffee, espresso, cappuccino and have baked delicate and crisp blueberry scones and pumpkin bread. What can I offer you?
Louis – Hi Annamaria, what a lovely place you have here! I felt right at home the minute I walked in. I’ll take my coffee with cream only, thank you. I understand your coffee is legendary. The scones look addictive. Did you make them? The blueberries make them a health food, don’t you think? I believe I should have two. I have to have breakfast or I get crabby, or so my wife says.
Annamaria – Yes, I bake most of the treats I serve at the Round Table. Here you go, two scones, we don’t want to chat with a crabby Louis. There are a few things I’m very curious about in the field of neurology, but we’ll leave those questions for a different occasion. Right now I’m really curious to understand what drove you, a medical doctor, to write fiction.
Louis – Ahh, I get that a lot. I’ve done some serious introspection and spent a lot of money on shrinks and still I don’t – hey these scones are really good. (mumbles unintelligibly). Sorry. I got distracted, there. I meant to say that I have several answers but no one quote unquote correct answer. So I’ll take a stab at it.
I’ve been in clinical research for years, testing drugs on people with various diseases including a lot in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Chances are, if you’re taking a med for either, we had a hand in it. But I saw some of the side effects and I can tell stories. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of what we did. We have to push the boundaries back and find valuable, life saving medicines that are also safe. But the only way to know is to test them under controlled circumstances and that’s what I did. I also know how the system works and how it can be subverted, particularly since money is involved. So, with all my battlefield experience, I knew I had the makings of a story. Ergo, I’m telling my story, the story of a Louis Kirby who sees what can go wrong in a drug development program and what profound consequences can manifest. Once I had the idea, it took hold of me like a rabid dog and wouldn’t let go.
Annamaria – I have to admit that stories with a real life experience are the ones that bring bigger thrills for me. ‘Real life experiences’, so do you get into the nuts and bolts of the companies pushing their drugs or do you keep to what happens to the patients, drug reactions, side effects, etc.?
Louis – That is a very intuitive question. It really goes to the heart of why people do bad things. I wonder in some books where all the minions show up to do bad things come from? It all seems too convenient for the author. So, yes, I tell the backstory about how the drug got approved even though their senior executives knew there was a potential problem. Again, it isn’t the story, it is dropped in to bring the reader up to speed. And it all comes down to a slippery slope of ethical decisions. Thank you, Annamaria. Your coffee smells divine. (takes a sip) And it is. Your reputation for hospitality is well deserved.
Anyway, I can’t imagine people going to work rubbing their hands thinking about what evil thing they will subject the world to today. (chuckles). I think that is unrealistic, the reader won’t buy it and you won’t find it in my writing. I have three classes of evil: the chess player who does what he must to protect his empire; the ethically challenged but well meaning who break the rules for a higher cause; and the smart, experienced sociopath. And I write their stories, too. It is important to understand how a drug like Eden actually got on the market in a way that makes sense to the reader. I use my inside experience to lay it out. You also see their motivations, frustrations, and their plotting and their setbacks and victories.
Annamaria – Great! So, we do get to see how a drug gets approved even when it shouldn’t have because it’s not really a safe drug. Afterwards, are we following also the person who is taking this drug? Do we get to see what the side effects do to his life? Sorry, but I find this all so fascinating. Coming from a European background, I have a lot of gripes about our health systems.
Louis – Well, my first impulse is to say, read the book! But I can’t resist… You wouldn’t know this, and it’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone, but as a youth, I used to try and figure out how I could get food and soft drinks free from a machine short of toppling it or breaking in. I’ve always looked at problems as a puzzle to be solved. So in Shadow of Eden, my task was describing, in realistic and engaging ways exactly how a company could get a flawed drug past the FDA. Also, why would pharmaceutical company execs do bad things at all? So I have a subplot emerging at the pharmaceutical company among the three execs, who know the whole story that plays out behind the scenes as the major story line emerges. Some of my favorite characters were these flawed individuals and how they drifted off the straight and narrow and how they suffer with the consequences of their decisions. It is very much real world and credible, a hallmark of my approach.
(pauses while he takes another sip of coffee.) There’s nothing like the first cup of coffee in the morning. OK, the patients. The opening scene is a huge call to action for our hero, neurologist, Steve James. He is brought into the cockpit of a 747 to see after the captain who has just assaulted the copilot and is clearly not all there. Literally within moments, Steve is the only conscious person in the cockpit of the 747 as it plunges headlong towards Washington DC. You can see I love my own opening scene! Case number 2 is a 24 year old woman who’s life is destroyed by the increasing delusions and headaches brought on by the disease. We follow both as they deteriorate. Who else might get afflicted? Valenti, our illustrious Private Eye, comments, “I feel like I’m following the ghost of Christmas Future.” And then we see the President struggling with a pressing crisis with China and wonder what is happening. Dot, dot, dot. (dramatic pause with another sip of coffee and perhaps a sly smile)
Annamaria – You definitely make the story sound very exciting, a book I should be reading. Can I offer you another scone, more coffee?
Louis — I’ll skip the scones. Two are rich enough but I’d love a warm up of the coffee.
Annamaria – Now that you’ve branched out into the world of authors, do you still have the support of your wife? ~clears throat~ Yes, I’m a little nosy.
Louis – My wife Carol is the best. You know she’s Italian-American like you. Her mother was born on Sicily and she still has family over there. We visit Italy nearly every year. In fact I posted some photos I took this past summer at Lago di Como on my web page. Photography’s my little hobby. As far as my writing is concerned, she’s my biggest fan. Frankly, if she likes it, it’s good. In fact, I’m told we all write for a particular audience that we have in our head. I write for her.
Annamaria – ~smiles~ That is sweet. Having the support of your spouse is a wonderful thing. Makes sharing the thing you love doing so much more enjoyable. So, is she one of your beta readers or does she do much more and help critique your drafts?
Louis – She’ll sometimes read chapters and give me a thumb’s up or down. Since thrillers are not her primary genre, I don’t always take her advice, but I ignore it at my peril, (chuckles) not from matrimonial harmony but because her perspective is well reasoned. If I’m not sure about a direction, her input is often a critical factor in deciding.
Annamaria – Good to know she is valuable as a critique, but I also know you have a daughter. Does she enjoy thrillers? What does she think of her doctor dad turned author?
Louis – She’s not actually read it yet. During the school year, she has little time for extracurricular reading but when she has time, I read a bit of it to her before bed. She says she likes it but I don’t think it has really bitten her yet as we are just getting started. But you should know, she has a creative streak a mile wide. You should read some of her school compositions. They’re really imaginative. We love how English is her favorite course this year, she’s a sophomore in high school by the way. As far as me being an author, I gave a noon talk at her school for writers and authors and she showed up and afterwards gave me a hug. Ha! So, I think she’s OK with it.
Annamaria – It’s really great if she sits and listens to you read to her from your manuscript. My girls never want to have anything to do with my writing, as a matter of fact, none of them really like to read.
Louis, I’ve had a great time chatting with you, and hope you’ll come back as soon as your next book is ready for publication.
Louis Kirby, MD has specialized in research and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, chiefly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, during his professional career as a neurologist. Louis served as principal investigator on nearly 400 human clinical trials at Pivotal Research, a company he founded. He has given presentations at national and international conferences on drug development and consulted for the government and the pharmaceutical industry. Throughout his life he has always been drawn to writing. While in medical school he published several stories, one landing him in hot water with the Dean of Medicine.
Eden, the miraculous new weight loss drug, rips through a society intoxicated by the allure of attainable physical perfection. It is at once more ubiquitous than Tylenol and more fabled than Viagra . . . yet it harbors a deadly secret, putting millions at risk. Faced with the puzzle of a crazed airline pilot and a young woman with horrifying delusions, Dr. Steve James discovers Eden’s fatal flaw and suddenly finds himself, and his family, in the crosshairs of a determined assassin.
In Washington, D.C., bewildered White House staffers and Cabinet members scramble to cover up President Dixon’s alarmingly erratic behavior while managing an escalating confrontation with China. Dr. James, running from the relentless contract killer, realizes he alone may know what is wrong with the President—with less than twenty-four hours before war begins with China.
Beginning with a terrifying dive in a 747, through state of the art medical sleuthing, and high stakes political brinksmanship and calculating corporate treachery, Shadow of Eden takes the reader on a non-stop, rollercoaster of intrigue, murder, corruption and sabotage.
“Brilliantly imagined and flawlessly paced, Kirby’s story leaves you thinking long after you’ve closed the book. Smart and exciting like a thriller should be.” William Gartner author of Biotoxin.
Book excerpt from Shadow of Eden by Louis Kirby
The announcement awoke Steve James with a start. Irritated, he opened his eyes and saw an agitated male flight attendant standing at the front of the compartment. Gradually, he processed the words. He staggered to his feet and approached the flight attendant.
“I’m a doctor—a neurologist, if that makes a difference.”
“Perfect. Follow me.”
Steve followed him into the dim cockpit. His eyes swiftly took in the condition of the two men. Jesus. Steve bent over the copilot. He found a strong carotid pulse and saw that the man’s breathing was normal. Steve’s fingers explored the bloody scalp and found two lacerations, but no skull depression.
He glanced at Oliveros. “I think he’ll be okay.” He then turned to the pilot. “Sir, how are you?”
The pilot looked at him through bloodshot eyes. “I thought I killed him. A goddamn flashback. Is he going to be . . . Marvin. Thank God.”
A medium-built man in a pilot’s uniform had joined them.
“What the hell happened?”
“Captain Verness—” Oliveros began.
“Never mind.” Verness snapped. “Ralph, it’s time to get out of here.” He pulled Steve towards the copilot. “Look after him.”
Palmer’s right arm started shaking and his gaze turned glassy. To Steve, he looked like an actively hallucinating schizophrenic.
“I’m hit. Fire! Fire!” Palmer yelled. He reached up and yanked all four fire extinguisher levers.
“No!” Verness grabbed at Palmer’s hands but too late. The engines shut down. Lights flickered and alarms filled the cockpit. The plane’s abrupt slowing flung Verness into the center throttle console, slamming him into switches and knobs, including the overhead intercom button.
“Help me out here!” Verness shouted, as he righted himself and grabbed Palmer from behind. Oliveros sprang to help. Steve hurriedly moved out of the way and leaned over the copilot’s seat.
Palmer thrashed and punched as they pulled him out of his seat. “You can’t take me again, you bastards!” He kicked like a madman, knocking the control yoke forward. The floor of the cockpit plunged like an elevator with a snapped cable. Everyone flew upwards. Palmer, Oliveros, and Verness slammed their heads against the ceiling. Steve, bent over McElroy, smashed his back into the knob-laden ceiling, the metal switches puncturing and lacerating Steve’s back with knife-like agony.
Gasping with the sudden pain, Steve twisted to dislodge the bits of metal from his back but the centrifugal forces of the diving jetliner still held him against the ceiling. And despite his pain, a single thought pierced through Steve’s mind. Who was flying the plane?
Below him, he saw the empty seat where the pilot should be and, right underneath him, the still unconscious co-pilot. His gaze swept out the windshield and down past a break in the clouds. The distant lights were drawing closer with each moment. With horror, he suddenly understood. There was no one flying the plane. He twisted around, remembering the others. The other men floated in a tangle against the ceiling next to him.
“Hey!” He grabbed the arm of the nearest man, the new pilot called Verness, and shook him. The arm was limp. As he looked closer, Steve realized the pilot was out cold. He looked at the others. They were all unconscious—or dead.
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