Episode 175: Crafting the Medical Thriller — Interview with Robin Cook

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Today I am so excited to have doctor and writer Robin Cook on the show!

Robin started his medical career as a general surgical resident and finished with an ophthalmology residency at Harvard. His literary career, however, began as he wrote his debut novel, The Year of the Intern, underwater inside a nuclear submarine.

He followed this up with his novel Coma, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and created the medical thriller genre. Robin is the author of thirty-four previous international bestselling novels, and is now back with his latest work Charlatans.

Listen in as we dive into Robin’s latest medical thriller, the genre itself, and get an inside look at how to turn firmly held beliefs of the medical profession on their heads.

In this episode Robin and I discuss:

  • What makes a medical thriller.
  • How to balance keeping an issue present without creating an issue-driven book.
  • Why fiction is better at influencing public policy than nonfiction.
  • Using little details to drag readers into the story from page one.
  • Prologues, when you should use them and the reasons why.

Plus, Robin’s #1 tip for writers.

About Robin Cook

Robin Cook’s literary career began with his first novel, The Year of the Intern, which he wrote underwater while on board the nuclear submarine, Kamehameha. It was written to illustrate the less than salubrious psychological impact of graduate medical education on the psyche of young physicians. It was followed 5 years later in 1977 with Coma, which had been written at night while he was a senior ophthalmology resident and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. This novel created the genre of the medical thriller, and changed the public’s perception as well as the media’s portrayal of medicine.

To date Robin Cook is the author of thirty-four previous international bestsellers. Most all of Dr. Cook’s books have been written to elucidate various medical/biotech ethical and public policy issues. From his first novel on, it had been Dr. Cook’s intention to use entertainment as a method of doing this.

There have been almost a dozen theatrical movies, television movies, and mini-series made from Robin Cook’s work. In 2009 Robin Cook created and produced with Michael Eisner the world’s first full-length V-cast movie in 50 three-minute segments as a prequel to his book, Foreign Body. Recently Dr. Cook has teamed up with several successful businessmen to form Cook-Blackwood Productions to make feature movies and TV series from his work.

His most recent bestsellers include Host, Cell, Death Benefit, and Cure. Cook divides his time among Florida, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. His latest medical thriller Charlatans is available now.

To connect with Robin check out his website at www.RobinCook.com.


It all begins with a relatively simple hernia operation. What should be an easy process goes devastatingly wrong, though, and the man dies on the operating table. How could it go so wrong, especially considering how many doctors—at the top of their fields—were in the room when the man expired?

Dr. William Mason, one of the most sought-after surgeons in Boston, forcefully shifts the blame to the anesthesiologist on the case, Dr. Ava London. Dr. London pushes back, pointing out the flaws in Dr. Mason’s technique and how he scheduled multiple surgeries all going on at the same time. The implication hangs in the air: Is this death the result of patients being treated like cattle, herded through a complicated medical system and processed as quickly as possible? Or is something even more sinister, more dangerous, more explosive going on?

For Dr. Noah Rothauser, nothing is clear. As the chief resident at Boston Memorial Hospital—one of the best and most advanced medical institutes in the country—Rothauser is in charge not only of creating surgical schedules but also running the hospital’s M&Ms—the morbidity and mortality conferences held by the hospital to review cases that go wrong. It falls on him to investigate and lead the review for this deadly mishap, and to do his job, he’ll find himself between a rock and a hard place as the egotistical Dr. Mason threatens to ruin Dr. Rothauser’s career over the investigation, and Dr. London becomes a potential love interest.

As Dr. Rothauser proceeds with his analysis of the case, another death happens, and once again Dr. London was the anesthesiologist. Is it an unfortunate coincidence—or, once again, a sign of something more troubling? And while Dr. Rothauser’s heart is telling him to trust Dr. London, why is his gut compelling him to look into her background and find out if she truly is who she seems to be?

One thing is certain: To get to the truth behind what is happening at Boston Memorial Hospital, Dr. Noah Rothauser will have to go to dangerous lengths and put his own career—as well as his very life—on the line. Because something ominous is happening with the staff at BMU, and some dangerous people don’t want anyone getting to the bottom of it.

Charlatans is a top-notch mystery from the inventor—and undisputed master—of the medical thriller, as well as a bold step forward for the entire genre. It will surely become one of the hottest page-turners…and cause every patient to ask his or her doctor: Are you truly who you say you are?

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase DIY MFA makes a small commission at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 175

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