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Monthly Archives: January 2010

An Interview with Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer has led a remarkable life as a well-respected board-certified physician of Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Addiction Medicine.   He has also become a writing phenomenon as each of his 14 published medical thrillers have made their way onto the New York Times Best Sellers list.

His latest book, “THE SECOND OPINION”, hit the stands in February, 2009, and revolves around the Sperelakis family, a well-to-do Greek-American clan with firm roots within the medical community.

tribe4mian:  Michael, I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to sit with us for a little bit. 

You have quite an impressive resume as a physician and novelist.  With such a stunning and established career as a physician, what made you try your hand at writing?

MICHAEL PALMER:  Thanks… glad to be here.  First, let me say that I will be writing here the way I speak with friends – loose and without much punctuation.
 
I have always had an interest in creative things outside of medicine, and have tried my hand at acting and music, but with little sustained success.  Then, in 1977, I read Coma by Robin Cook, who was a classmate of mine at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and also trained at Mass. General Hospital with me.  I was fascinated with the book and with the idea of trying my hand at it…

“If Robin can do it and we have the same education,” I asked my younger sister one day, “why can’t I?”

“Because you’re dull!” was her reply.

The glove was hurled and I took up the challenge… that was 15 books ago…

tribe4mian:  I understand your first novel, “THE COREY PRESCRIPTION”, never made it onto American shelves, but was published in several foreign languages.  Why is that?

MICHAEL PALMER:  The truth is, the book wasn’t very good.  My medical thrillers all deal with a medical ethical issue such as autism and euthanasia… “The Corey Prescription” was a straight adventure story.  Several of my foreign publishers got impatient because my early books were coming out so slowly, so they asked to see anything I had written.  A few of them went ahead and published it (the price was right)… I could never talk my American publisher into making such a move.

The Sisterhood (1982) - by Michael Palmertribe4mian:  Your first English-language published novel, “THE SISTERHOOD”, was about a secret society of nurses dedicated to euthanasia and was a runaway sensation. 

Originally published in 1982, you are now on the 36th printing, with translations made into 35 or so foreign languages.   How did you come up with such a brilliant and timeless masterpiece, and to what do you attribute its long-running success?

MICHAEL PALMER:   Thanks for your kind words regarding “The Sisterhood”.   For obvious reasons, it holds a dear place in my heart.

I think the universal theme of euthanasia, and the engaging characters of David and Christine have helped keep the book in print even after 27 years.  In the end, it’s always character… the real challenge since it’s publication in 1982 has been to write a better book about what may be a less strong idea.  This I hope I have done many times over…

Extreme Measures (1991) - by Michael Palmertribe4mian:  While attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut, you took a seminar on Edgar Allen Poe

How did this great author influence you in the writing of “EXTREME MEASURES”?

MICHAEL PALMER:  Poe went to the bank on the theme of people looking like they were dead when they weren’t. 

I have read his entire body of work and consider Beatrice one of my favorites.  Many think the phrase “saved by the bell” has something to do with boxing — and it may… however…

Extreme Measures (1996) - movie based on the book by Michael Palmertribe4mian:  What was your first reaction upon hearing that “EXTREME MEASURES” would be made into a movie, ultimately starring Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Morse, and produced by Elizabeth Hurley.  Did the movie vary considerably from the novel, as is often the case when literary works are converted into screenplays?

MICHAEL PALMER:  Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got the word about the film.  I had had a number of my books optioned and two (“The Sisterhood” and “Silent Treatment”) even written for films, but this was the first one that was going to be made… and with Michael Apted directing, as well as Hurley, Grant, Parker, and Hackman….very heady stuff.

People need to remember that the credits say “based on the book by”, not “a movie of the book by”… that’s what it was – based on my book.  There are many plot similarities… few character similarities… still, I loved it.

“… Good doctors do the correct thing.  Great doctors have the guts to do the right thing.  If you could cure cancer by killing one patient, wouldn’t you have to do that?…”

tribe4mian:  You recently completed your three book / three year deal and have renewed with a four book / four year obligatory deadline with St. Martin’s Press

A book a year has pretty much become standard practice within the literary world.  With all these time-invoked demands being placed upon you, how do you discipline yourself to meet these obligations, as well as being a father to three sons?  Have you ever hit a brick wall while in the creative process and just how do you come up with storylines which continue in your suspense-driven medical thrillers?

MICHAEL PALMER:  The key is don’t panic!! … I must remember that I’ve done this before… and before that… and most important, just as I did with my first book, I must write a page at a time—a word at a time if necessary. 

My youngest kid is off to college in the fall, so all he requires is nagging about getting away from his computer (while I’m spending all day at mine)… I won’t allow myself to hit any brick walls… bad-but-fixable writing is better than no writing.  When in doubt about plot lines, I let my imagination be my guide…..

The Second Opinion (2009) - by Michael Palmertribe4mian:  Your most recent release, “THE SECOND OPINION”, deals with the Sperelakis family, a first-generation Greek-American medical clan with tightly-knit ties to their heritage. 

You did an amazing job in touching upon many customs and traditions the Greeks of the diaspora refuse to let go.  Was it difficult for you to find the right frame of mind to intertwine, with such accuracy, a way of life you yourself have not experienced first-hand?

MICHAEL PALMER:  The secret to much of my writing is painstaking, meticulous research—even for subjects within medicine that I already know well.  I blend conversations with friends who are Greek with my own imagination, and try to come up with how my Greek characters will react to situations such as hospitalization and humiliation.  Then I go back to my sources and ask them to check what I have done…

tribe4mian:  In “THE SECOND OPINION”, there are two members of the Sperelakis family, Thea and Dimitris, with varying traits associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.   Can you tell us why this same disease can have such a variance of adjusted social levels within the same family?

MICHAEL PALMER:  There are many answers to this question… most importantly, Thea had treatment for her condition while Dimitri never did… but also, all mental illness and neurologic conditions are manifest by the personalities of the ill person… therefore, while a diagnosis may have traits common to all who have it, there are many differences as well. 

Finally we must remember that AS is a spectrum varying from one end to another…

tribe4mian:  I’d also like to extend our congratulations to you and your youngest son, Luke, who just completed his high school education and is on his way to his first choice for college.  You must be very proud of all his accomplishments. 

There is a parallel universe which runs alongside your latest release, “THE SECOND OPINION”, and your own personal life.  Can you please tell us more about Asperger’s Syndrome, and how your family broke down those imposed barriers to help Luke’s social dynamic abilities?

MICHAEL PALMER:  Rather than try and write about the complex communication disorder that is Asperger Syndrome, I recommend reading about it in my book, many non-fiction books, or on Wikipedia.  When we recognized Luke’s AS, my wife and I became determined that above all we would raise him with the strongest self-esteem possible, starting with having him hear “I love you” from his parents as many times a day as possible… in the end, strong self esteem and self-worth conquers all.

Michael and Luke Palmer

Michael and Luke Palmer

tribe4mian:  What resources are out there which could enable parents to become involved in therapeutic assistance for a child with Asperger’s Syndrome?

MICHAEL PALMER:  We have the wonderful Asperger Association of New England… they are all anyone needs to know.  Contact them for referrals more geographically practical.  Also, get to know the Development Delay Registry and founder Patricia Lemer, subscribe to their newspaper and support them.

tribe4mian:  In “THE SECOND OPINION”, Dr. Petros Sperelakis, has been hit by a car and is presumed to be in a coma, however, he is actually in a state called “Locked-In Syndrome”, whereby he cannot move any part of his body but is fully aware of all that is going on around him.  Have you ever had a patient experience this terrifying condition, and how would one know if this is the true ailment of a seemingly comatose patient or not.

MICHAEL PALMER:  I have never seen a case that I knew was LIS… however, I recommend the book and the movie: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I also did a huge amount of research on the subject.

tribe4mian:  Have you ever written a sequel to a book, and, will you be writing one so that we may continue to follow the trials and tribulations of Dr. Thea Sperelakis?  I’d love to know how her relationship develops, as well as her adjustments to the surprising twist of events which I can’t speak about so as not to spoil the story for others.

MICHAEL PALMER:  To date, I have never written a sequel or a continuing character, but if I did, it might be Thea.  Most of the protagonists I write about are just “normal” everyday people whose desire in life is simply to be happy.  But because of something they do or know or learn about, they are in for great difficulty if they are to survive.  It is hard to imagine bringing such hardship on a character more than once, ergo my books are all stand-alones…

(The Official Book trailer for the novel, “The Last Surgeon”, pub. February 16, 2010, from St. Martin’s Press. Features “THE LAST SURGEON Official Theme” song, written by Daniel James Palmer and Thaddeus Hogarth, performed by The Thaddeus Hogarth Band and featuring Donna McElroy.)

tribe4mian:  My understanding is that your newest novel, “THE LAST SURGEON” is scheduled for a February 2010 release date.  Is this the same date your son, Daniel, will be releasing his first novel, “DELIRIUM”, through Kensington?  How does it feel having your son follow your footsteps into the literary world, and, are you fearful he will knock you off the New York Times Best Sellers List?

(Ok, that was intended as an interjection of a little humor to break up the serious nature of some of these topics, and we do wish Daniel the greatest of success in his new path.  Now please answer the question, Michael.)  🙂

MICHAEL PALMER:  Daniel’s book is a great one, and no one would be happier when it succeeds than I will.  If there is only one slot available on the Times list, let it be him.  His pub date, however, won’t be until 2/2011…

Michael Palmer and Tess Gerritsen

Michael Palmer and Tess Gerritsen reviewing each other's books.

tribe4mian:  For the past decade you, along with the talented Tess Gerritsen, whose books have kept me enthralled as I turn each page, have conducted a fiction writing seminar for doctors. 

You have also been known to help new writers break into the literary field by offering inspiration and an occasional blurb for their first release.  With all you have been involved in, why have you made this silent oath to assist newcomers into the tantalizing world of the written word?

MICHAEL PALMER:  As a physician and a caring person, helping others makes me feel great—especially when top writers went to the trouble to help me when I was just getting started.  Alas, I get 3-10 advance reader’s copies each month for quotes. I just can’t do them all… I would never “blurb” a book without reading it.

tribe4mian:  Is there anything you’d like to add, Michael?

MICHAEL PALMER:  The paperback of “THE SECOND OPINION” just came out on 1/1/2010 with a great new cover.  Thanks for a terrific interview…

tribe4mian:  Again, I’d like to thank you for your time and have thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with you over the past couple of years, Michael.  You are truly an inspiration, as well as a guiding light for many who feel they wander blindly.  I wish you the greatest of continued success in all your endeavors, and please send along our best wishes and congratulations on their achievements to your children. 

… And remember, no matter where my feet may be, you will always be welcomed with open arms and the warmest of smiles.  I sincerely hope a trip to Greece will be in your future so we can go drink some of that 7-star stuff you’ve heard so much about.  🙂

Be well, Michael, and thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

For more information:

Michael Palmer – Michael Palmer/Books – MySpace – Facebook – Facebook Fan Page – Twitter – YouTube

Pre-Order “THE LAST SURGEON” by Michael Palmer

Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE)

Developmental Delay Resources

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2010 in Books/Literary, Interviews, Medical/Health

 

Haiti

For over a day now I’ve been watching CNN non-stop.  One cannot fathom the amount of destruction which has encompassed the nation of Haiti.  One cannot turn a blind eye and pretend their latest disaster doesn’t exist.  One cannot help but feel the need to reach out and offer assistance.

So as I sit in my little hovel with the heat softly hissing in the background, my comfy chair cushioning my tush, and a cold drink waiting to quench my random spurts of thirst, I decided the time had come to reach my own hand out with a plea for others to do the same.

Most certainly, we have all felt the ravages of the current economic crisis.  It doesn’t appear to be getting any better.  Day after day we hope that tomorrow will bring a ray of sunshine and a long-awaited check into our hands so that we in turn can pay a bill or two that have hounded us for far too long.

So if I gave up ten bucks … in the grand scheme of things, would it really make a difference?  I mean, ten bucks certainly won’t pay a bill.  Nor will it fill my gas tank.  It’s not nearly enough to give me a night out on the town.  Basically, I guess I could get a cup of coffee and maybe a bagel or something.

Ten bucks.

So easy to plunk down for a drink at a bar.  A pack or two of cigarettes (depending on which side of the border you live on).  A quick sandwich.

Ten bucks.

It really doesn’t impact me at all to give it up.  I can do without that drive-thru cup of coffee.  That shot of whiskey.  That “whatever strikes my fancy”.

So tonight I’ll be taking the advice of Ben Stiller who was one of the guests on tonight’s Larry King Live.

A simple text message to HAITI @ 90999 (American Red Cross) …

They’ve raised over 1.7 million dollars by people giving up that cup of coffee for a day.

And tonight I will also implore upon all of you to make a small sacrifice for an entire nation devasted by unimaginable proportions.

I just watched a young girl get pulled from the rubble.  Her family digging with bare hands through concrete and wires to free her.  And she came out without a whimper.  Not a single tear.  Brave soul.  I could never have been so gallant.  My coffee is so worth giving up so she can maybe have a tent, a pillow, a blanket to shelter her … or a bottle of clean water to quench her thirst.

Maybe I’ll send more than one text message.

Tonight I ask each of you to think of what it would be like to be in their shoes right now.  No medication, no hospitals, loss of everything and possibly everyone near and dear.  In these dire economic times, what’s five or ten bucks in the grand scheme of it all.

CNN:

Anderson Cooper 360 – http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/blog/

Larry King – http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/larry.king.live/

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

RED CROSS – UNICEF

To help with relief efforts, text “HAITI” to “90999” and $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross, charged to your cell phone bill. 

————————————————————————————-

15 January, 2010

UPDATE:  

As of last night (January 14, 2010), the Red Cross announced a record-breaking 7 MILLION USD has been raised thus far through the “Text HAITI to 90999” Ten Dollar Donation program. 

That’s certainly something in the grand scheme of it all!  🙂

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2010 in Reflections

 

New Zero God in Brazil

Foreign blogs dedicated to Greek underground rock bands are something we don’t see happening very often… (for me, this is the first time).  We’d also like to point out that not only is this a foreign blog, but its also one that comes from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

What we have here is a Brazilian blog dedicated to the bands New Zero God, Nexus and The Flowers Of Romance and is located somewhere in Brazil.

They were kind enough to let us know about this new blog which refers many times to postings of Tribe4mian.  As a small gesture of our thanks, we will permanently post their banner on our own blog.

New Zero God / Brazil

Now, to be a little more detailed, the NewZeroGod blogspot is written in Portuguese, a language that I don’t speak, but is the seventh most spoken language in the world.

The blogmaker’s aim is to help New Zero God become known to Latin America and it was made out of pure love and admiration for the music adventures of these three Greek bands, starting from the Flowers Of Romance, continuing with Nexus and translating the news of New Zero God in Portuguese.

So, again we’d like to thank the creators of this Brazilian blog whose links lead people from Latin America directly to our blog and we wish them all the best.

We hope to see even more blogs be made for more Greek underground bands.

FUN IS A FOUR LETTER WORD - New Zero God

With this opportunity, lets note here that Puzzlemusik Records announced the release of the New Zero God CD album, “Fun Is A Four Letter Word”  for the 17th of February in Greece.

The album will also be initially distributed in Italy and Australia.

Amazon announced the CD and digital release will be available on February 10 (the digital release is already available through iTUNES and CDBABY)

New Zero God will play live on Saturday the 23rd of January at the Club “On Stage” (Kodrigtonos 54-56) and will be supported by the band Chewing Gun.

New Zero God

More information:

NEW ZERO GOD:

Official Site – Brazilian Blogspot – CD Baby – Amazon USAAmazon UKAmazon France – iTunes

NEXUS:

Official Site – CD Baby

FLOWERS OF ROMANCE:

Official Site

CHEWING GUN:

Official Site

 

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Baby steps to a new era vol. XI

Ok, I had this hidden somewhere and yesterday I found it.

Blue Note was a pub in the center of Athens where young people who  listened to new wave and punk rock were hanging around, back in the early 80’s.

It’s funny cause I guess it will make at least a few people smile as the memories that this cheap catalogue will dig up.

There one could meet members of the bands Ex- Humans, AnypoforoiFlowers Of Romance, Alive She Died, Ding An Sich, South of No North, Panx Romana and many others.

The pub changed its name after a couple of years and became Masswell (anyone who has a better memory can correct the spelling…)

And yes, I admit it: I stole the menu.

Sue me.

 

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The Profiles – Brains Escaping

A long time ago I wrote here about George Vanakos.

To be honest, I was never a great fan of his music BUT…

This wonderful channel here, that often links back to tribe4mian  (thank you very much by the way, mates…) posted this video.

Ok, not exactly a video but at least you’ll get an idea of how The Profiles sounded.

Their song “We are Pirates” was featured in their album, titled “Brains Escaping” which was released in 1982.

I believe what makes the song most interesting to me is  the atmosphere and the tribal drums which bring back memories of Dead Or Alive – I am talking about their first two singles and not about their hit “You Spin me Round”- .

Apart from George Vanakos, one can find Nikos Ginis (from the band Syndromo) playing the bass and Antonis Loxas on the drums.

Antonis Loxas fairly recently released a song with the following hilarious chorus: “Lets go for an HIV test / I want sex without a condom…”

For the Greek readers of this blog, I’ve posted the song here.  The foreigners can skip it and read the rest of the post further down below

Now, the mistakes on the back of the album are mindblowing.

This is the track-listing:

Side A

1. Heroe of Tomorrow (missing the “s” in “Heroes”)

2. We are Pirates

3. Don’t you Feel the Atmosphere

4. Devil Insane

 Side B

1. Electric Dreams

2. Destroy Acropolis

3. Brains Escaping

4. If you want go to.. (Missing the “to” … in “…to go to”)

5. Διαφυγη Eγκεφάλων

Another member of Syndromo appears as a guest,, Vasilis Korovesis on guitars (or cuitars as it is misspelled on the back cover) while Giorgos Karagiannidis (probably the bass player of the band Mousikes Taxiarhies) plays the keyboards…

The opening track brings back the pseudo new wave album “No” of the Greek prog band Apocalypsis and in the same spirit follows the third song, “Don’t you feel the Atmosphere”.

The side closes with “Devil Insane”…

Electric Dreams”  sounds like a band on vacation rehearsing a summer pop song sometime in the early 80’s, but the song that follows, titled “Destroy Acropolis” finds the band in a destructive mood, clinging wine glasses or something…

Brains Escaping” has a disco beat, a loop bass line and some keyboards thrown in here and there.

Unfortunately, that’s all..

“If you want go to..” is a reprise of the single “If you Want to go to Amsterdam”.

The closing track, “Διαφυγη Eγκεφάλων” (which mean Brains Escaping) could be a Syndromo track…

Actually the Syndromo influence is very obvious to this album.

I guess we should receive this release as a jamming session of a group of friends that accidentally found a way to be printed on vinyl…

I guess…the only track that can be saved is the”We are Pirates” song…

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2010 in New Wave / Dark Wave

 

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Trypes

A very rare video from the early or mid 80’s.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2010 in Concerts / Performances

 

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