Cook, Robin: Fatal Cure
(researched by Ranjit Goudar)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Robin Cook. Fatal Cure. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1993. Robin Cook holds the 1993 copyright to this work. Simultaneous editions: Robin Cook. Fatal Cure. London: Macmillan, 1993. (British National Bibliography version, 447 pages)
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first American edition is published in trade cloth binding with a dust jacket.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
224 leaves, pp. [1-10], 11-447, [1] The first numbered page is page 11. The page numbers are located at the top outside corners of each page (except for the first page of each chapter, where the page number is centered at the bottom of the page).
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition is not introduced. A list of the author's previous works is listed on unnumbered page 2: ALSO BY ROBIN COOK|Terminal|Blindsight|Vital Signs|Harmful Intent|Mutation|Mortal Fear|Outbreak|Mindbend|Godplayer|Fever|Brain|Sphinx|Coma|The Year of the Intern On unnumbered page 5, a disclaimer reads: This is a work of fiction. The events described|here are imaginary. The settings and characters|are fictitious, even when a real name may be|used. They are not intended to represent specific|places or persons, or, even when a real name is|used, to suggest that the events described actu-|ally occurred. On unnumbered page 7, an italicized note reads: This book is dedicated to the spirit of health-care reform|and the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.|It is my fervent hope that they need not|be mutually exclusive.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The first edition does not contain any illustrations.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The book is well printed and easily legible. Each page measures 21.5 cm x 13 cm, and the text itself covers 16.8 cm x 11.2 cm. The top and bottom margins are generous, and the left and right margins are slightly narrower. The type is clear and dark black. The boldfaced page number and author's name in bold capital letters appear at the top of each left-hand page. The title of the book in bold capital letters and the boldfaced page number appear at the top of each right-hand page. The serif typeface used in the text is 89R. A different serif typeface is used for the page numbers, sections of the title page, chapter titles, and the author's name and book title that run across the top of each page. The type used was not specified on the title page, and the book does not contain a colophon.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
There are no chainlines or watermarks on the paper used in this book. The light yellowish wove paper feels smooth but has a grainy texture upon visual inspection. The edges of each page are smooth and well cut. The book is only six years old; there appears to be a trace of yellowing that forms a border approximately 1 cm wide around all four edges of each page. A note on unnumbered page four (the verso of the title page) states that the book is printed on acid-free paper.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding consists of medium blue board papers with a black embossed calico grain binding over the spine. Near the top of the book's spine, the words: "ROBIN|COOK" run parallel to the spine, stamped in gilt. In the middle of the spine, the words "FATAL CURE" are stamped in gilt. At the bottom of the spine, the word "PUTNAM" runs perpendicular to the spine. An apparent replica of the author's signature is stamped in gilt on the front cover of the book. The back cover is blank. The side of the endpaper facing the cover has a rough texture with a wide grain pattern running left to right. The side of the endpaper facing the text is smooth.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: ROBIN|COOK|[double horizontal line above 1.8 cm of blank space, and another double horizontal line]|FATAL|CURE|G. P. Putnam's Sons|New York Verso: G.P. Putnam's Sons|Publishers since 1838|200 Madison Avenue|New York, NY 10016|Book design by H. Roberts|Copyright 1993 by Robin Cook|All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form|without permission. Published simultaneously in Canada|Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data|Cook, Robin, date.|Fatal Cure / Robin Cook.|p. cm.ISBN 0-399-13879-X|I. Title.|PS3553.O5545F38 1994|813'.54-dc20 93-38171 CIP|Printed in the United States of America|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|This book is printed on acid-free paper
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
The location of the manuscript was not determined. The author and publisher were contacted in early 2000, but no reply has been received by February 7, 2000.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The front of the dust jacket features an illustration by Don Brautigam, showing a woman's face in a petri dish, illuminated by light from a microscope. There are several short sequences of computer-font numbers and letters superimposed on the image. The back of the dust jacket has a black-and-white photograph of the author (taken by John Earle) with a stethoscope draped around his neck. The inside front flap of the dust jacket contains the following text: ISBN 0-399-13879-X|>$22.95|[single line]|(>$28.50 CAN)|FATAL|CURE|ROBIN|COOK|From the master of the medical thriller|comes a heart-stopping tale of intrigue and|mystery set at the uncertain juncture of|medical care and financial pragmatism; a|story that reads like today's headlines.| Fatal Cure is a hair-raising, timely foray|into the dark side of medical reform, prov-|ing that with "managed care" the unthink-|able can be as close as the local hospital.| Doctors Angela and David Wilson be-|lieve they have found personal and profes-|sional bliss when they opt to leave the|university medical center for Bartlet|Community Hospital, a modern, state-of-|the-art medical facility in scenic Bartlet,|Vermont. For Angela, a pathologist, and|David, an internist/primary-care physi|cian, Bartlet seems to be a dream come|true: a town with green lawns and crystal|lakes that is an idyllic haven from urban|(Continued on back flap) The inside back flap of the dust jacket contains the following text: (Continued from front flap)|crime and pollution; a chance for a home of|their own and a resurgence of romance in|their relationship; a perfect environment|for their eight-year-old daughter, Nikki,|who suffers from cystic fibrosis; and the|opportunity to work within an enlightened|system of "managed care."| But all is not what it seems. After a|resplendent fall, a stark landscape looms in|Bartlet that reveals more than the skele-|tons of the trees. Gradually at first and then|at a quickening pace, the Wilsons' earthly|Nirvana disintegrates as mysterious, unex-|plained deaths become more than coinci-|dences. The deadly nightmare of their life|threatens them all, even Nikki, the most|vulnerable. Fighting for their careers as|well as for the very survival of their family,|Angela and David must conquer the evil|that confronts each of them before they|are consumed by the horror.| Mystery thriller and romance, a story|rich in medical lore, Fatal Cure is Robin|Cook at his probing, timely, page-turning|best.|Dr. Robin Cook, a graduate of Columbia|University medical school, finished his|postgraduate training at Harvard. He is|currently on leave from the Massachusetts|Eye and Ear Infirmary. He lives and works|in Florida.|Jacket design c. 1994 by One Plus Studio|Jacket illustration c. 1994 by Don Brautigam|Photograph of the author by John Earle|G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS|a member of|The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc. Copy-specific information: This copy is in excellent condition, without tears or stains. There are no other significant copy-specific features.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
The original publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, published the first edition of Fatal Cure at the end of 1993 and the beginning of 1994. Fatal Cure hit the bestseller lists in early 1994. Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993. Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1994. (both of these editions were 447 pages) Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993. (large-print book club edition, 372 pages) Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. Location unknown: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 1994. (432 pages, in a trade cloth binding, published by another subdivision of Penguin Putnam)
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
At least six printings of the first edition were produced. The author and publisher were contacted about printings/impressions, but no reply has been received as of February 21, 2000.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Reader's Digest condensed books : volume 4, 1994. Location unknown: Reader's Digest Association, 1993. (Includes Robin Cook's Fatal Cure, Carol McD. Wallace's The wrong house, Greg Dinallo's Red ink, and Having our say, the Delany sisters' first 100 years by Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth) Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. London: Macmillan, 1993. Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. Location unknown: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers: January 1994. Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. Location unknown: Macmillan Library Reference: April 1994. (large print) Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. Thorndike, ME: G.K. Hall, 1994. (large-print) Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. Location unknown: Berkley Publishing Group: February 1995. (paperback. The inside front cover of this edition shows pictures of the front covers of other Cook novels. The first three pages contain excerpts from reviews of each of Cook's previous novels, including Fatal Cure itself. The last two pages are forms allowing the reader to purchase other Cook novels directly from the publisher.) Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. Location unknown: Macmillan Library Reference: March 1995. (large print) Cook, Robin. Robin Cook - Three Complete Novels (Acceptable Risk-Fatal Cure- Terminal). Location unknown: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers: November 1997. Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. Location unknown: Berkley Publishing Group: September 1999. (reissue of 1995 paperback)
6 Last date in print?
Currently in print as of February 21, 2000. The most recent version is a "reissue edition" mass-market paperback printed by the Berkley Publishing Group in September 1999.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Not determined. The author and publisher were contacted about total sales, but no reply has been received as of February 21, 2000.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
In 1994, 320,557 hardcover copies of G.P Putnam's Sons hardcover edition of Fatal Cure were sold, earning the #24 spot on the 1994 hardcover fiction sales list as calculated by The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac (40th edition, 1995, page 589). The author and publisher were contacted about sales figures by year, but no reply has been received as of February 21, 2000.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Putnam placed an ad for its Fall-Winter '93/'94 books on the front cover and the first two pages of the June 7, 1993 edition of Publishers Weekly: ROBIN COOK|Fatal Cure|Here is Robin Cook at his blockbusting best - a heart-stopping tale that|explores the dark potential of those sworn to do no harm. "Cook|knows how to make the pages fly," cheers Kirkus Reviews. Fans will|agree when this big bestseller ushers in the New Year|A LITERARY GUILD MAIN SELECTION|A MYSTERY GUILD ALTERNATE SELECTION|January/0-399-13879-X/$21.95 ($27.50 CAN) The Putnam Publishing Group placed a two-page advertisement in the Fall-Winter 1993 preview edition of Publishers Weekly. Under the section for books from G.P. Putnam's Sons, a small entry for Fatal Cure reads: FATAL CURE by Robin Cook. 13879-X.|21.95. 12-copy floor display with riser, 19216-6.|$263.40 (F) Fatal Cure was absent from the ten books listed in an advertisement for G.P. Putnam's Sons' Spring and Summer 1994 releases that appeared on the cover, page 1, and page 2 of Publishers Weekly on January 10, 1994. On January 14, 1994, Fatal Cure debuted at #6 on the Publishers Weekly Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers list, but it was absent from an advertisement in that issue that listed G.P. Putnam's Sons current and Spring-Summer 1994 books. The author and publisher were contacted about advertising copy, but no reply has been received as of February 21, 2000.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
None found. The author and publisher were contacted about other promotion, but no reply has been received as of February 21, 2000.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
In January 1994, Audio Renaissance Tapes of Los Angeles, CA published an audio version of Fatal Cure read by Barry Bostwick. In March 1994, Audio Renaissance Tapes of Los Angeles, CA published a six-hour abridged audio version of Fatal Cure.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
European Spanish Cook, Robin. Tratamiento letal. Trans. Jose Aguirre. Barcelona: Plaza & Janes, 1996. Cook, Robin. Tratamiento letal. Trans. Jose Aguirre. Barcelona: Plaza & Janes, 1997. South American Spanish Cook, Robin. Curaciaon Fatal. Trans. unknown. Buenos Aires: Emece, 1994. Cook, Robin. Curaciaon Fatal. Trans. Ceti. Buenos Aires: Emece, 1997. French Cook, Robin. Cure fatale. Trans. Oristelle Bonis. Paris: Brodard et Taupin, 1997. Italian Cook, Robin. Vite in pericolo. Trans. unknown. Milan: Sperling paperback, 1998. Korean Cook, Robin. Ch'imyongjok ch'iryo. Trans. Won-jung Kim. Seoul: Yeollimwaeon, 1995.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
No evidence of serialization was found. The author and publisher were contacted about serialization, but no reply has been received as of February 21, 2000.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
No evidence of sequels or prequels was found. The author and publisher were contacted about sequels/prequels, but no reply has been received as of February 21, 2000.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
First entry on Robin Cook The American author Robert Brian Cook was born on May 4, 1940 (Stookey, 3) in New York City (Contemporary Popular Writers). His name was later shortened from Robert Brian to Robin (Stookey, 3). He is the son of Edgar Lee Cook, an artist, and Audrey Cook, nee Koons (Contemporary Authors Online); he has an older brother, Lee, and a younger sister, Laurie (Stookey, 3). Cook's first profession was not author, but physician; after viewing an injury during a high school football game, Cook decided to pursue a career in medicine (Stookey, 4). He received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1962, received an M.D. from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1966, and received postgraduate training at Harvard University (Contemporary Authors Online). Dr. Cook was a general surgery resident at Queen's Hospital in Honolulu from 1966 to 1968, and he was an ophthalmology resident at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston from 1971 to 1975 (Contemporary Authors Online). Cook served in the United States Navy from 1969 to 1971, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander (The Complete Marquis Who's Who). He became a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School in 1972 (Contemporary Popular Writers). Dr. Cook began to serve on the staff at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston in 1975 (Contemporary Popular Writers); he is currently on leave from the Infirmary (Fatal Cure dust jacket) and from Harvard (Stookey, 7). Cook was married to a Scandinavian woman (name unknown) for eight months in 1968 (Stookey, 9). Cook wed Barbara Ellen Mougin, an actress, on July 18, 1979 (Contemporary Authors Online). The couple did not have any children, and were divorced in 1987 (Sales, 19). Cook received custody of the couple's bichon frise dog, Fluffy (Sales, 19). In keeping with the adage, "write what you know," Dr. Cook writes medical thrillers (Contemporary Authors Online), with the exception of his first novel, The Year of the Intern, and his third novel, Sphinx (Stookey, 4). Dr. Cook writes about such topics as managed care gone bad, medical research gone bad, doctors gone bad, and hospital administrators gone bad (Contemporary Authors Online). His novels "keep the public aware of both the technological possibilities of modern medicine and the ensuing ethical problems" (Stookey, 1). Cook's first novel, The Year of the Intern, was published by Harcourt in 1972 (Contemporary Popular Writers). His second work, Coma, was published by Little, Brown in 1977 (Contemporary Popular Writers). All of his subsequent books have been published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, including Sphinx in 1979 Brain in 1981 Fever in 1982 Godplayer in 1983 Mindbend in 1985 Outbreak in 1987 Mortal Fear in 1988 Mutation in 1989 Harmful Intent in 1990 Vital Signs in 1990 Blindsight in 1991 Terminal in 1992 Fatal Cure in 1994 Acceptable Risk in 1995 Contagion in 1995 Chromosome 6 in 1997 Invasion in 1997 Toxin in 1998 and Vector in 1999 (Contemporary Popular Writers). Cook is represented by the William Morris Agency (1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019) and his books are published by G. P. Putnam's Sons (51 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010-1603) (Contemporary Authors Online). Cook currently resides at 6001 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples, FL 33963-8166 (Contemporary Authors Online). Sources: Contemporary Authors Online database, The Gale Group, 1999. Go to the Biography Resource Center (Web) database (http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC), search for Robin Cook, and click on "Narrative Biographies." Contemporary Popular Writers database Go to the Biography Resource Center (Web) database (http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC), search for Robin Cook, and click on "Narrative Biographies." Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993. Marquis Who's Who database Go to the Biography Resource Center (Web) database (http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC), search for Robin Cook, and click on "Thumbnail Biographies." Sales, Nancy Jo. "The doctor is on." People Weekly 12 February 1996: 45, p19. Go to the Biography Resource Center (Web) database (http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC), search for Robin Cook, and click on "Magazine and Newspaper Articles." Stookey, Lorena Laura. Robin Cook: a critical companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Contemporary reviews of Robin Cook's Fatal Cure are uniformly critical of Cook's writing ability. Reviewers appear dismayed that a work of poor literary quality has become a bestseller. Sybil Steinberg of the trade publication Publishers Weekly points out Cook's "stock characters, stilted dialogue and improbable heroes and villains" (Steinberg 64). Patricia Holt of The San Francisco Chronicle goes further, saying "Robin Cook . . . proves again that he is spectacularly inept at dialogue" (Holt). More than one reviewer describes Cook's use of language as "wooden" (Olson and Eddy). Reviewers do not note the fact that Cook is an ophthalmic surgeon, not a trained writer. The last twelve Robin Cook novels have been medical thrillers, making it harder for the author to dream up novel settings, characters and themes. Several reviewers, noting this lack of innovation, highlight striking similarities between Fatal Cure and previous Cook novels. For example, Lorena Stookey points out that Cook's 1988 novel Mortal Fear, (like Fatal Cure,) describes an evil HMO that murders patients who require expensive treatment (Stookey 127-128). The Denver Post's Mark Eddy dismisses Fatal Cure as another cookie-cutter Cook novel: "same story, different medical horror" (Eddy). Why does Robin Cook write, if not to produce innovative works of significant literary merit? Cook, a medical doctor, has stated that his novels are designed to "keep the public aware of both the technological possibilities of modern medicine and the ensuing ethical problems" (Stookey 1). Fatal Cure addresses the financial conflicts doctors and hospitals face due to the recent rise of managed health care plans. Reviewers comment that Cook does manage to educate readers on these very timely topics. One health care professional compares Fatal Cure to 1984, fearing that Cook's frightening portrayal of HMOs is quickly becoming reality(Amazon.com reader reviews, January 15, 1997). In early 1994, Utah senator Orrin Hatch was so struck by Fatal Cure's anti-HMO message that he distributed copies of to each member of Congress as they considered President Clinton's health care plan (Lee & Raposa). Bruce Dexter is one of the only reviewers that examines the reasons hordes of American readers have made Robin Cook a best-selling author. In The San Diego Union-Tribune Dexter writes that "readers read Robin Cook for entertainment . . . a riveting plot . . . sheer velocity of events" (Dexter). Sources: Amazon.com reader reviews for Fatal Cure dated January 15, 1997, July 7, 1997 and October 12, 1997. Dexter, Bruce. "'Fatal Cure' riveting, filled with action." The San Diego Union-Tribune January 2, 1994. Eddy, Mark. "Sermons, vapid characters prove fatal to hospital tale." The Denver Post February 6, 1994. Fee, Gayle and Laura Raposa. "Inside Track Author dogs Beacon Hill defilers." The Boston Herald January 18, 1994. Holt, Patricia. "Overcooked 'Cure' Needs Radical Surgery." The San Francisco Chronicle January 19, 1994. Olson, Ray. Booklist, January 1, 1994, listed in "Editorial Reviews" section of Fatal Cure sales entry at Amazon.com. Steinberg, Sybil S. et al. "Forecasts." Publishers Weekly, December 13, 1993: 240 (50), pp. 52-71. Stookey, Lorena Laura. Robin Cook: a critical companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Contemporary reviews of Robin Cook's Fatal Cure are uniformly critical of Cook's writing ability. Reviewers appear dismayed that a work of poor literary quality has become a bestseller. Sybil Steinberg of the trade publication Publishers Weekly points out Cook's "stock characters, stilted dialogue and improbable heroes and villains" (Steinberg 64). Patricia Holt of The San Francisco Chronicle goes further, saying "Robin Cook . . . proves again that he is spectacularly inept at dialogue" (Holt). More than one reviewer describes Cook's use of language as "wooden" (Olson and Eddy). Reviewers do not note the fact that Cook is an ophthalmic surgeon, not a trained writer. The last twelve Robin Cook novels have been medical thrillers, making it harder for the author to dream up novel settings, characters and themes. Several reviewers, noting this lack of innovation, highlight striking similarities between Fatal Cure and previous Cook novels. For example, Lorena Stookey points out that Cook's 1988 novel Mortal Fear, (like Fatal Cure,) describes an evil HMO that murders patients who require expensive treatment (Stookey 127-128). The Denver Post's Mark Eddy dismisses Fatal Cure as another cookie-cutter Cook novel: "same story, different medical horror" (Eddy). Why does Robin Cook write, if not to produce innovative works of significant literary merit? Cook, a medical doctor, has stated that his novels are designed to "keep the public aware of both the technological possibilities of modern medicine and the ensuing ethical problems" (Stookey 1). Fatal Cure addresses the financial conflicts doctors and hospitals face due to the recent rise of managed health care plans. Reviewers comment that Cook does manage to educate readers on these very timely topics. One health care professional compares Fatal Cure to 1984, fearing that Cook's frightening portrayal of HMOs is quickly becoming reality(Amazon.com reader reviews, January 15, 1997). In early 1994, Utah senator Orrin Hatch was so struck by Fatal Cure's anti-HMO message that he distributed copies of to each member of Congress as they considered President Clinton's health care plan (Lee & Raposa). Bruce Dexter is one of the only reviewers that examines the reasons hordes of American readers have made Robin Cook a best-selling author. In The San Diego Union-Tribune Dexter writes that "readers read Robin Cook for entertainment . . . a riveting plot . . . sheer velocity of events" (Dexter). Sources: Amazon.com reader reviews for Fatal Cure dated January 15, 1997, July 7, 1997 and October 12, 1997. Dexter, Bruce. "'Fatal Cure' riveting, filled with action." The San Diego Union-Tribune January 2, 1994. Eddy, Mark. "Sermons, vapid characters prove fatal to hospital tale." The Denver Post February 6, 1994. Fee, Gayle and Laura Raposa. "Inside Track Author dogs Beacon Hill defilers." The Boston Herald January 18, 1994. Holt, Patricia. "Overcooked 'Cure' Needs Radical Surgery." The San Francisco Chronicle January 19, 1994. Olson, Ray. Booklist, January 1, 1994, listed in "Editorial Reviews" section of Fatal Cure sales entry at Amazon.com. Steinberg, Sybil S. et al. "Forecasts." Publishers Weekly, December 13, 1993: 240 (50), pp. 52-71. Stookey, Lorena Laura. Robin Cook: a critical companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Robin Cook's Fatal Cure is a bestseller that sustains a loyal fan base by following a successful formula. This essay discusses three specific categories of bestsellers into which this novel falls: Fatal Cure was written by an author who practices the profession he writes about; it is an example of a David vs. Goliath tale; and it uses stock characters, in particular the "sympathetic doctor" character. Authors who practice the profession they write about Fatal Cure belongs to the category of bestsellers written by authors who are members of another profession and write novels about that second profession. Membership in typical second professions is restricted to a small subset of the population, but these novels allow lay readers to live vicariously through the author and his or her characters. For example, doctors have the power to save lives, something the average American can only dream about. While reading a Robin Cook medical thriller, a reader can imagine himself treating patients (without four years of medical school and a six-year residency). These authors focus on the most glamorous and exciting aspects of their respective occupations. A television show about doctors performing routine physical examinations would hardly match the Nielsen ratings of "ER." Lawyer-authors who write legal novels focus on baffling investigations and nailbiting courtroom drama in the same vein as television's "Law & Order." Robin Cook is an ophthalmic surgeon, and nineteen of his twenty-one novels published before May 1, 2000 are medical murder mysteries. The main characters in Fatal Cure are Dr. David Wilson, who practices internal medicine (Cook 38) and his wife, pathologist Dr. Angela Wilson (Cook 35). In the novel, a series of mysterious deaths of patients at Bartlet Community Hospital arouses the Wilsons' suspicion. Using his experience in the medical field, Dr. Cook provides an insider's view of the financial arrangements between physicians, hospitals and managed care organizations that may affect readers' health care. Scott Turow has written several best-selling courtroom dramas, including 1987's Presumed Innocent (Osborn, Bibliographic Description) and 1993's Pleading Guilty (Russell, Bibliographic Description). Turow attended Harvard Law School, and has worked for the U.S. Attorney's office and as a private criminal lawyer (Russell, Brief Biography). In a striking parallel to Robin Cook, Turow wrote One L: An Inside Account of Life in the First Year at Harvard about his law school experiences (Russell, Brief Biography). Cook wrote The Year of the Intern about his own experiences during his medical training, also at Harvard (Contemporary Authors Online). John Grisham, author of several mega-blockbuster legal thrillers in the 1990s, attended the University of Mississippi Law School (Braintwain, Brief Biography). The fact that Grisham practiced both criminal law and civil law has influenced his writing; some of his books focus on criminal cases while others discuss civil cases. A representative novel from Grisham's opus, The Client, tells the story of a young boy who witnesses a Mafia assassination and retains a tough lawyer to help see that justice is done (Grisham, The Client). This "authentic author" category of bestsellers was not created in the 1990s by doctors and lawyers. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels, reached the American bestseller list in 1964 with You Only Live Twice (Maloney, Bibliographic Description) and again in 1965 with The Man with the Golden Gun (Johnson, Bibliographic Description). Fleming was no stranger to the international espionage he wrote about; Britain's Foreign Office sent him to Russia before World War II to evaluate a potential Russo-British war alliance (Maloney, Brief Biography). During World War II, Fleming worked with the Director of Naval Intelligence and was trained as a spy (Maloney, Brief Biography). Joseph Maloney suggests that Ian Fleming used his image as an intelligence agent to promote sales of his spy novels (Maloney, Critical Essay); Robin Cook and other similar authors also use their professional personas to sell books about their professions. The book jacket on an American edition of You Only Live Twice mentions Fleming's intelligence background and shows Fleming blowing smoke from the barrel of a gun (Maloney, Critical Essay). The Fatal Cure book jacket shows Robin Cook decked out in white coat, with a stethoscope draped around his neck. In reality, an ophthalmic surgeon like Cook is much more likely to wear scrubs than a white coat, and he has very little need for a stethoscope. Cook is clearly trying to conform to the public's mental image of a typical doctor. After picking up a novel with an obviously occupation-specific title and seeing a photograph of the author in full professional garb on the back cover, a consumer's natural reaction is, "He/she knows what he/she is talking about (i.e. he/she knows more about this profession than I do). This could be a good book." In constrast, a non-physician author who was photographed in a white coat would be ridiculed and labeled as an impostor. "David vs. Goliath" tales Fatal Cure also falls into the category of American bestsellers that describe a "David vs. Goliath" conflict (Conaty 150). Americans waged the Revolutionary War because they felt they were being oppressed and unfairly taxed by the British Empire. This spirit of independence and fighting for one's beliefs remains popular among Americans, since they continue to buy books about one good man struggling against an evil organization. In modern examples of this category, the evil organizations usually have an immense amount of money and resources, and have no respect for the law. The organization threatens the lives of the individual and his or her family. By the end of the novel, the idealistic individual has overcome enormous odds to bring down the organization. The protagonist in Fatal Cure, a representative "David vs. Goliath" story, is actually named David. In the novel, the idealistic Dr. David Wilson, fresh out of his residency, discovers the harsh reality of working for Comprehensive Medical of Vermont (CMV), a modern health maintenance organization. CMV and David's hospital, linked by financial agreements, form the novel's Goliath. David Wilson has several run-ins with Charles Kelley, a CMV administrator, and hospital administrators; these moneymen continually berate David for ordering expensive treatments and consults for several terminal patients who are suffering from an unidentified illness. Kelley continually second-guesses David; after the death of a patient with cancer, Kelley uses hindsight to call David's consultations with specialists wasteful because the consults did not save the patient's life (Cook 161). Kelley warns David to reduce his patient care costs or risk being fired. These repeated conflicts culminate in a physical confrontation between David and Kelley: "Just a minute!" David snapped, cutting off Kelley. "I've got a sick patient in the ICU and I don't have time to waste with you. So for now stay out of my way." . . . (David) spun around and started out of the room. "Just a minute, Dr. Wilson," Kelley called. "Not so fast." David whirled around and stormed back. Without warning he reached out and grabbed Kelley by the tie and the front of his shirt and roughly pushed him back. Kelley collapsed into the club chair behind him. David shook a clenched fist in Kelley's face. "I want you to get the hell out of here," David snarled. "If you don't, I don't take responsibility for the consequences. It's as simple as that" (Cook 315-316). By the end of Fatal Cure, both of the Wilsons have been fired from their jobs. The Wilsons' detective efforts have exposed seven hospital administrators who murdered patients by strapping a radioactive cobalt cylinder to the patients' hospital beds. This evil conspiracy was felled when the administrators were killed by their own radioactive source. After getting new jobs, the Wilsons tell their story to Ed Bradley in a 60 Minutes interview. In John Grisham's 1991 novel The Firm, the young lawyer Mitch McDeere, fresh from law school at (where else?) Harvard, is offered the job of a lifetime at the prestigious law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke. Unbeknownst to McDeere, "the firm" is actually owned by the Morolto crime family (Grisham 198). The FBI approaches McDeere, asking him to gather evidence against his associates. The task of mole is not to be taken lightly; the firm has already murdered two associates for speaking to the FBI. The powerful firm has wiretaps and bugs in McDeere's house and men monitoring McDeere's every move. At the end of the novel, McDeere provides the FBI with enough incriminating documents to bring down the firm and the Morolto family. With Goliath slain, McDeere and his wife escape to a yacht in the Caribbean with 8 million dollars. Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan is another odds-against David character. Ryan appears in Patriot Games, the #2 fiction bestseller in 1987, and in Clear and Present Danger, the #1 fiction bestseller in 1989 (Cader Books website). Ryan is a ranking CIA official; he is also an ex-Marine, ex-history professor, and ex-stockbroker (Bosler, Brief Biography). In Patriot Games, Ryan battles a group of Irish Republican Army radicals after he thwarts their attempt to assassinate British royals. The IRA sprays his wife's car with machine-gun fire, nearly killing the pregnant Mrs. Ryan (who is a caring physician character) and her daughter. Ryan works with the CIA to destroy an IRA outpost in Africa, and he eventually wins a battle against his chief tormentor on a flaming boat in the Chesapeake Bay. Ryan returns in Clear and Present Danger to battle double-crossing cabinet officials and a duplicitous president who deployed an American commando unit to attack drug dealers in Colombia. The officials gave the unit's position to a drug dealer who promised to let the U.S. make token drug busts in exchange for massacring the unit. At the end of the novel, Ryan rescues the surviving members of the unit and lets the conspirators know that their plot has been discovered. In these bestsellers, the author unambiguously differentiates between people and organizations that are good and those that are evil. Tom Clancy contrasts John Ryan, a sensitive family man, with ruthless terrorists and politicos. John Grisham's Mitch McDeere is no angel: he cheats on his wife, and he dupes both his firm and the FBI. However, McDeere is a choirboy when compared to his associates at the firm, who are involved in murder and organized crime. Robin Cook uses money to help Fatal Cure readers differentiate between sympathetic characters such as the Wilsons and the contemptible characters associated with the CMV HMO. In keeping with the fact that physicians' salaries have declined due to managed care capitation plans and reduced Medicare reimbursements, Cook asks us to sympathize with the Wilsons' financial situation. The Wilsons drive a "blue, eleven-year-old Volvo station wagon" (Cook 30) while Charles Kelley, a CMV administrator, drives a Ferrari (Cook 87). Cook implies that money saved by inconveniencing patients and not providing them with expensive care is used to finance the plush lifestyle of CMV's bureaucrats. Witness the following lines: "With CMV's Learjet in its final stages of fueling, (the CEO of CMV) invited Kelley into the back of his limousine. He offered Kelley a drink from the limo's bar" (Cook 87). Readers are meant to demonize these CMV administrators and envy their opulent lifestyle. Use of the stock character of the sympathetic doctor Fatal Cure is a bestseller that relies on the stock character of the caring male doctor. This stereotypical doctor only has his patients' best interests at heart. He is sensitive and introspective. In addition, these characters may break the rules of "professional etiquette" (Porter 258) for their patients' benefit. Dr. Thomas Chilton in Eleanor Porter's Pollyanna is another stock compassionate doctor character. After the title character loses the use of her legs, Pollyanna's Aunt Polly, still bitter years after an angry lover's quarrel with Chilton, refuses to let Chilton treat the child. Instead of feeling insulted, Chilton tries to follow Pollyanna's case from "a mile from her bedside" (Porter 257). Convinced that he can help Pollyanna walk again, Dr. Chilton begs his friend to help him see the patient. "'Pendleton, I want to see that child. I want to make an examination. I must make an examination . . . Pendleton, I've got to see that child! Think of what it may mean to her - if I do!'" (Porter 255-258). When not caring for patients, the sensitive doctor spends much of the novel contemplating his lonely existence and pining for Aunt Polly. Dr. Matthew Swain is a stock doctor character in Grace Metalious' 1956 novel Peyton Place (Jones, Bibliographic Description). Dr. Swain hates death more than anything else (Metalious 2), but he puts his principles aside to perform an illegal abortion on Selena Cross, a young girl carrying her stepfather's child. Since Selena Cross (not her unborn child) is Swain's patient, he puts the young girl's interests first: "And to hell with you, he told the silent voice. I am protecting life, this life, the one already being lived by Selena Cross" (Metalious 145). After Selena killed her father and is on trial for his murder, Dr. Swain remains loyal to his patient. He takes the stand, testifying that he had performed Selena's abortion, that Selena's father was a monster, and that the murder was justifiable homicide. By testifying, Swain risked losing his medical license and being arrested himself, but he placed the needs of his former patient before his own. Fatal Cure's Dr. David Wilson had "prided himself on always keeping the patient's needs to the fore" (Cook 142). David resists his HMO employers' attempts to force him to pledge allegiance to cost containment instead of patient care. During a performance review, David expects to hear about patient approval rates; instead, a CMV administrator rebukes David for spending too much time talking with each patient. An angry David resists the HMO's orders "'to avoid talking with patients and answering their questions,'" saying "'I don't like it. I wonder if the patients realize they are being shortchanged'" (Cook 232-233). At the end of the novel, David gets a new job in a new city, where "'now I have the freedom to spend more time with a patient when I think it's called for'" (Cook 438). Throughout the novel, David's foremost concern continues to be the welfare of his patients. Cook does not write about selfless, caring doctors to imply that as a doctor he is also selfless and caring; he is hoping to single-handedly prevent American readers from losing faith in their managed-care physicians. Fatal Cure publicizes several of the questionable financial arrangements made "behind the scenes" between doctors, hospitals, and managed care organizations. For example, physicians employed by CMV are paid a bonus for reducing the number of days his patients stay in the hospital. The fewer patients one admits to the hospital, the larger the bonus one receives (Cook 85). Faced with this compelling financial incentive, the CMV "gatekeeper" physicians will think twice before admitting any patient to the hospital. After explaining the backroom deals made by managed care players, Cook realizes that patients/readers will need to blame someone for the divided loyalties and conflicts of interest inherent in modern-day managed care. To prevent readers from becoming suspicious of their doctors and undermining the physician-patient relationship, Cook shows David Wilson making his patients' welfare his only priority. Cook encourages readers to blame HMO administrators, people who are invariably described as not physicians, for these conflicts of interest. By stating that "everyone knows that doctor-patient relationships are the cornerstone of good medical care" in Fatal Cure, Cook anticipates the concerns of the entire medical community. One year after Fatal Cure was published, the American Medical Association published a position paper entitled "Ethical Issues in Managed Care" that expressed doctors' concern that harsh financial incentives to limit the cost of health care would undermine the physician-patient relationship. The AMA argued that incentives like the one offered by CMV might result in doctors with a dual allegiance to their pocketbooks and their patients, as opposed to a sole goal of improving their patient's welfare (AMA 333). In addition, when patients learned of these incentive agreements, they would begin to suspect that their doctors might be withholding potentially beneficial treatments because of financial concerns (AMA 333). The AMA did not know that Dr. Cook had already taken steps to shape the attitudes of the reading public. Fatal Cure falls into the categories of bestsellers written by an author who practices the profession he writes about, David vs. Goliath tales, and bestsellers featuring a stock sympathetic doctor character. These three categories are elements of the more general category of formulaic bestsellers. Robin Cook follows a proven formula, just like other best-selling authors such as John Grisham (legal thrillers), Tom Clancy (espionage thrillers), and Danielle Steel (romance novels). By repetition of a successful formula, each of these authors builds a loyal fan base of readers who enjoyed the author's previous books and want to read more of the same. Amazon.com reader reviews by readers who have read several books by these authors show that it is this "loyal fan base" that makes the authors' successive books bestsellers. Many American readers seek the predictable and the familiar, and these authors do not disappoint. In addition to sharing aspects of other formulaic bestsellers, Cook also repeats his proven formula within his own body of works (Stookey 127). His 1988 novel Mortal Fear is a previous product of the same formula Cook used to create Fatal Cure six years later (Goudar, Brief Biography). Both novels are medical murder mysteries written by a medical doctor. Both of these novels describe a David vs. Goliath conflict between a sympathetic doctor and evil HMO administrators who are murdering patients with costly illnesses (Stookey 127-128). In the same vein as Fatal Cure's Dr. David Wilson, Mortal Fear's main character Dr. Jason Howard "is a physician who makes extra time for his patients, who worries about them after hours, and who mourns for them after they are gone" (Stookey 128). The U.S. book-buying public is voicing their increasing desire for Cook's formulaic medical thriller novels: 1988's Mortal Fear sold over 150,000 copies in its first eleven months (Simora 549), while 1994's Fatal Cure sold more than twice as many copies during a similar period of time (Barr 589). References: Barr, Catherine, ed. The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, 40th ed. Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker, 1995. Bosler, Meredith. Database entry on Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy. (http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/picked.books.cgi) Braintwain, Jeff. Database entry on The Client by John Grisham. (http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/picked.books.cgi) Cader Books, "1980s Bestsellers," (http://www.caderbooks.com/best80.html) Clancy, Tom. Patriot Games. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1987. Clancy, Tom. Clear and Present Danger. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1989. Conaty, Barbara. Library Journal. V.116. (Jan. 1991). Pg. 150. Contemporary Authors Online database, The Gale Group, 1999. Go to the Biography Resource Center (Web) database (http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC), search for Robin Cook, and click on "Narrative Biographies." Cook, Robin. Fatal Cure. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993. Cook, Robin. Mortal Fear. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1988. Goudar, Ranjit. Database entry on Fatal Cure by Robin Cook. (http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/picked.books.cgi) Grisham, John. The Client. New York: Doubleday, 1993. Grisham, John. The Firm. New York: Doubleday, 1991. Johnson, Jill. Database entry on The Man with the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming. (http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/picked.books.cgi) Jones, Dara. Bestsellers Database entry on Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. (http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/picked.books.cgi) Maloney, Joseph. Database entry on You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming. (http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/picked.books.cgi) Metalious, Grace. Peyton Place. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999. Osborn, Stephanie. Database entry on Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow. (http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/picked.books.cgi) Porter, Eleanor H. Pollyanna. New York: Puffin Books, 1994. Russell, Brandis. Database entry on Pleading Guilty by Scott Turow. (http://www.engl.virginia.edu:8000/courses/bestsellers/picked.books.cgi) Simora, Filomena, ed. The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, 34th ed. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1989. Stookey, Lorena Laura. Robin Cook: a critical companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Thompson, Larry. "Robin Cook's Formula for Death." The Washington Post page C3, January 8, 1988.
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