Fatal Complications by John Benedict – Review + Interview

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Fatal Complications by John Benedict

When a colleague’s patient suffers a bizarre reaction in the operating room, Luke Daulton, a newly minted anesthesiologist, volunteers to help. Despite the surgical team’s best efforts, the patient succumbs to a rare anesthetic complication. Luke becomes perplexed, even suspicious, over their inability to save the woman. Is it possible that the diagnosis was wrong? Or, worse yet, was the diagnosis faked? Luke even wonders if his boss Dr. Katz is involved.

Too busy with the rigors of a new job and his pending fatherhood, Luke is forced to put his suspicions on hold. When his wife, Kim, faces a C-section, his fears are reignited. Could there be a murderer—or murderers—operating in his hospital? Could his wife’s obstetrician be involved? When the C-section goes horribly wrong, Luke must launch into action to save his wife and baby and expose the conspiracy he’s uncovered.

About the Author:

368630I work as an anesthesiologist and spend a good part of my life putting other people to sleep for all kinds of surgery. It’s very interesting and exciting–I get to interact with and help a lot of people in many different situations. However, the hours are tough (24 hour call shifts) and it can be a bit stressful!

One day it struck me– people place an extraordinary amount of trust in their anesthesiologist (someone they have often just met minutes beforehand) as they are being wheeled in the OR for surgery. Since I read a lot of thrillers, I couldn’t help but wonder–what if that trust is misplaced and their doctor is evil? I decided to write a book exploring this chilling concept. 12 years later, Adrenaline was published. The writing/publishing process was a real eye-opener! I learned the value of perseverance and belief in oneself to overcome obstacles.

I am also a husband and father of 3 sons.

Remember–any fool can put you to sleep–it’s the one who wakes you up that’s important!

What I thought:
I connected with John through Goodreads and read his first book Adrenaline, then his second The Edge of Death. I am honored to say that I have known about FC since its early days, and beta read it! So while I think all of John’s books so far are great, this one holds a special place in my heart. I also believe that John’s writing has gotten better with each book he has written.
Fatal Complications centers around new anesthesiologist Luke Daulton. When a surgical procedure goes horribly wrong, Luke begins to suspect foul play and even the possibility that his boss, Dr. Katz may be orchestrating it. Luke doesn’t think too much into it though, until his pregnant wife goes into labor and she becomes part of the equation.
This is a top notch medical thriller. There are suspicions, twists and turns and even puzzles that help solve the mystery. And, man it is INTENSE. Of course, I like the main character Luke Daulton, but I REALLY liked his wife Kim and the part she played in the story.
If you like medical thrillers, you should definitely check this one out.
And please keep reading for my interview with John!
(1) How would you describe your writing process?
I like to write in the morning in a quiet place in the Hershey Medical Center library with a large coffee and treat.  I spent eight years in the library during my medical education days—so the place always puts me in a studious frame of mind—good for writing. I only work for about three hours before I start to lose focus and must tend to work/ family matters. 
(2) Do you have any strange writing habits?
When I’m seriously into the plotting of a novel, I like to spread out chapter folders on a big table so I can visualize the time sequences and connections of many different chapters at once.  It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re just viewing one page on your computer screen.
Also, I am always open to creative moments, like while riding my bike or hiking or in the shower.  Sometimes, these moments strike at inopportune times like in church or at work or in the middle of the night.  I do my best to remember things and quickly try to get to my notebook (or phone) that I carry around to jot things down.
(3) What authors inspired you to write (if any)?
Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Crichton.  Finally Robin Cook—but this is kind of a left-handed compliment.  Cook basically founded the medical thriller genre with his book, Coma. I always liked his story ideas, but never felt his actual writing was all that good—in fact, it encouraged me to try my hand at it. 
(4) How do you choose character names?  
I name some characters after my children’s names (they get a charge out of this) or friends/ acquaintances. Other times, I’ll look at the operating room schedule for the day and pick out some names I like the sound of, oft times mixing up first and last names. 
(5) Favorite Book(s):
The Gap Series by Stephen Donaldson, Tolkien’s LOTR, Stephen King’s The Stand, The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.
(6) Favorite Author(s):
Stephen Donaldson, Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, Khaled Hosseini, Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, Nelson DeMille, Issac Asimov, Roger Zelazny 
(7) What book do you wish that you had written?
The Gap Series (Stephen Donaldson)
(8) What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? (This can be anything, doesn’t necessarily have to be writing related)
Having a wonderful, successful marriage (33 years and counting) and taking part in the raising of 3 awesome sons (Rob, Chip and Luke, whose names appear as main characters in my books).
(9) Have you always wanted to write?
Yes.  A long time ago when I was a boy, we would take family camping vacations. (This was way before the days of video games or smart phones. Also, we had no electricity at the campsite for TV.)  As a family activity, my parents had us all write short stories and then read them aloud by the campfire at night.  At first, I remember viewing the assignment as a chore—seemed like my parent’s version of homework.  But I quickly discovered that I loved the exercise.  Later on in high school, I would write short stories on my own.  In fact, one of my early characters was named Doug Landry, who I still write about today.
(10) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Nothing worthwhile in life is quick or easy.  Writing is no different.  Expect to spend a long time learning the craft and improving upon it.  Don’t expect to become famous overnight or make a lot of money easily.  The best advice I can give a would-be novelist is this: You shouldn’t write because you want to make millions or become a household name—you’ll likely be disappointed.  Rather, you should write because you enjoy the process and feel the need to tell a story.  Let the results take care of themselves.
Other things I’ve learned along the way:  I’ve learned to believe in myself even when no one else seemed to.  I’ve also learned the power of perseverance and patience. The path to successful book publication is notoriously long and arduous for most. Developing a thick skin is also helpful to protect oneself against the many rejection letters and obligatory nasty reviews that will come your way.  Finally, I’ve learned that writing a good book is probably only half the battle.  Getting it published and successfully marketing it may be the most difficult part.  Good luck and keep writing!
(11) If you could pick one other job, besides writing books and what you currently do besides writing books, what would that be?
         I’d like to be an astronaut and go to the moon or be the first person to Mars!
(12) Is there one subject that you would never write about?
         Sure.  I won’t write anything to do with child abuse (of any form).  I also refuse to write pornography.
(13) What do you have going on right now? What can we expect next from you?
         I’m working on my 4th medical thriller, although it’s still in its early stages.  I have a good idea for the plot, but haven’t exactly figured out which characters will be in it.  In other words, will it be a continuation of the Doug Landry series or a sequel to Fatal Complications (with Luke and Kim Daulton), or possibly a stand-alone novel with brand new characters? (How about all of the above?!?)
(14) Do you listen to music when you write? If so, tell me 3-5 songs on your playlist.
No, never. I prefer as much silence as I can find.
(15) Do you or have you incorporate(d) real life experiences into your books?
SHORT ANSWER:  Yes, without a doubt.  A lot of my main characters are anesthesiologists, as I am.  Also I write medical thrillers for a reason—I live the material every day—so the characters and the storylines are definitely connected to me.
LONG ANSWER: (your choice)
               THE STORY BEHIND ADRENALINE
One day it struck me—at 2:00 in the morning in the midst of another grueling 24-hour shift. I had just finished interviewing a nice lady with an appendix about to burst—we’ll call her Linda. I had done my best not to yawn as I went through the routine questions that an anesthesiologist is obliged to ask. She appeared nervous, which soon gave way to tears. I did my best to comfort her, took her hand, told her I would take good care of her. That I would watch over her carefully in the operating room and see her through surgery. And be there when she woke up in the recovery room. She appeared to calm down a bit. I wrapped up my pre-op assessment and asked her to sign the anesthesia consent form, while assuring her the risks would be minimal. She raised her eyebrows at this and the fearful look returned. I wondered: What the hell does minimal mean when you’re talking about life and death? More tears. She told me of her two young daughters at home that desperately needed a mommy. I felt my own throat tighten. I quickly buried my emotions, tried not to think about my wife and three sons, and focused on the task at hand as we wheeled her litter back down the hall to the OR.
After Linda, sans rotten appendix, was safely tucked in the recovery room, operation a success, anesthetic uncomplicated, I lay down in the call room to try to catch a couple of z’s. My mind wandered as I lay there. Rarely, I thought, does a person willingly surrender control of their mind and body to a virtual stranger. Yet, this is exactly what happens when the person is a patient being wheeled in for surgery and the stranger is their anesthesiologist, whom they have just met minutes beforehand. Talk about an extraordinary amount of trust. This degree of trust made a distinct impression on me that night, some twenty years ago.
Other thoughts followed soon thereafter. What if the trust Linda had exhibited earlier was ill-conceived and her doctor was actually bad? Not just incompetent or sleepy, but downright evil. Being an avid reader of thrillers, I thought this chilling concept would make for a good story. Too bad I wasn’t a writer. (Disclaimer time: I don’t want to scare people here. All the docs I have known in my 30 years of medical practice are highly competent professional people, who would never purposely hurt anyone.) But I still couldn’t shake the evil concept; it kept gnawing at me until eventually I had to put it down on paper—lack of writing experience be damned. So Adrenaline was birthed, my first medical thriller novel that explores this issue of absolute trust implicit in the anesthesiologist-patient relationship—specifically, what happens when that trust is abused and replaced by fear.  Adrenaline was finally published twelve years after my encounter with Linda.
Crazy Questions:
(1) Have you ever been in a bar fight?
         None that I can recall (although I guess that’s the essence of a really good bar fight).
(2) A lot of times, characters in books find themselves in hard to get out of situations. When was the last time you found yourself in one of those and what did you do?
         I find myself in difficult situations at work frequently.  I try not to overthink it or let emotions get in the way, but instead, rely upon my training and just do what needs to be done.  Analysis can come later.
(3) What is your biggest fear?
         My biggest fear is that I will kill or injure one of my patients while anesthetizing them through some fault of my own.  A close second is that I’ll be in a bar fight that I can’t remember.
(4) What do you want written on your tombstone?
         I haven’t decided yet because I feel I still have a lot of things left to accomplish and I’m not sure how it’s all gonna turn out yet. 
(5) Do you have any secret talents?
         I can juggle most anything.
(6) What is one place you have never been, but would love to go?
I’m still trying to get to Norway and Sweden.  The pictures always look gorgeous and I like the midnight sun thing.
(7) If you were a superhero, what would your name be? And your power?
         I grew up liking Spiderman before they made movies about him and he became so popular.  Being the Human Torch was always a close second.
(8) If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
         I’d be a dog.  Dogs are really cool, loyal, lovable, adorable creatures.  I’ve always been around dogs growing up and as an adult, we’ve owned a steady stream of black labs, golden retrievers and lately, my favorite, a labradoodle.  All my stories have dogs in them.
(9) What is one thing you would like to accomplish before you die?
         I’d like to write a book that makes it to the NY Times bestseller list.
(10) If you could have an accent from anywhere in the world, what accent would you choose?
         I’d like to have an Australian accent because I think they sound way cool.
(11) Do you have any tattoos? How many?
         None.
(12) Do you have any scars? From what? 
         Yes.  I have several scars—one in my head from a car accident that almost killed me when I was 17, and another on my left arm from climbing a barbed wire fence as a boy. I also have a scar on my chin from playing ice hockey in college, I think.  Or was it from a bar fight? Hmmm.
(13) What was your favorite toy as a child?
         I loved my Daisy Air rifle.  My brother and I would play endlessly with these ‘guns’—I’m sure they’re outlawed by now.  We’d first stick the muzzle end in the dirt to “load” the thing.  Then when we fired the rifle, the dirt would come flying out, imitating smoke.  How cool!
(14) What is your favorite food and drink?
         My favorite food is homemade apple pie (does that count as a food?).  My favorite drink these days is a good quality bourbon.
(15) If you could be the opposite sex for a day, would you?
         Sure.  I always wanted to know if women really think differently (are they really from Venus?) or is it just an elaborate hoax to trick the feeble minded males?  Besides, it could only help me portray women characters in my stories.
Thanks again to John for answering these questions. And his birthday was earlier this week…..Happy birthday John!!!!
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