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A Darkly Humourous Debut Novel: Deadish by Alex Lancer

Writing.ie | Magazine | Tell Your Own Story | Writing & Me
Deadish

Alex Lancer

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Some of the inspiration for Deadish came from many of the apocryphal stories and urban myths that surgeons share when beyond three drinks. It is not a somber book, it’s about the absurd and the amusing vignettes and human connections that comprise the stories that keep us all going with enough truth to tell a tale.

In the book, Ashley and Chris, two junior surgeons in Serenity Hospital, struggle with management and Consultants to save their patients as well as their own lives.

The story begins with a crisis and the main characters’ reactions to that, it proceeds with their personal evolution as essentially decent people against a background of painful, yet comical situations. A career threatening conflict develops against a background of workplace strife and difficult patient interactions.  Two deaths, one comic and one sad are major turning points. The essentially good people then coalesce to try to rid themselves of a demagogue. Their interpersonal exchanges with patients, senior doctors and administrations shape their development and ultimately the epiphany of how a good, yet naïve person adapts to dealing with adversity with colleagues, with people and in life.

Their unintentionally hilarious interactions with the real people they meet overlap with the machinations of blundering managers and senior doctors. They manage the adversity of dealing with people, hostile managers, tetchy surgeons with a sense of humour, a sense of the absurd and by compartmentalising situations. They revel in the seam of dark, gallows humour that exists in the medical professions. Resonating amongst all those who have chosen a career in caring professions, the struggles are not so much good versus evil as naivety and idealism against fatalism and autocracy.

The graphic nature of both operative surgery and interpersonal exchanges with patients and administrators are excruciating yet often laugh- out- loud events.

This darkly humorous novel will entertain as well as giving insights into why managers, doctors and patients often behave in the way that they do.

I work as a Professor of Surgery involved in the planned and emergency care of patients with a variety of conditions. The work is half cancer related and half emergencies of all kinds. I have previously published over a hundred scientific articles in journals including the British Journal of Surgery and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, as well as writing a weekly satirical column in a medical newspaper for a number of years.

Covid abruptly halted planned operations and reduced emergency surgery volumes significantly. This enforced hiatus created a window which facilitated the writing of this book.  Over many years there was a sense of maybe some of this daily experience could be the basis for a book. It began slowly six months pre-Covid, as an attempt to weave stories and experiences into a book. Covid provided the space to actually spend time and space developing, expanding and redrafting the book. Obviously patients’ confidentiality cannot be broken, but experiences clearly sear faces and situations into one’s consciousness. However all content is fictional-ish.

The process of fiction writing is very different from producing technical, scientific papers. ‘Show not tell‘ is an especially difficult concept for surgeons. Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway, Writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg and On Writing by Stephen King (especially good with author narration on audiobook) were the pick of books to assist a novice fiction writer.  Inkwell.ie, with its resources and Reedsy.com provided valuable insights into the technicalities and realities of drafting, producing and marketing. An essential prerequisite for any author has to be external review in terms of advice, editing, proofreading, marketing and overview. It is important to understand that friends and family are poor judges of your written work. They are naturally supportive and helpful, but the dynamic of human relationships is such that they cannot be ruthlessly objective. Hence, it is only from an independent reader that you get an impartial report.

Launching a book independently on Amazon KDP afterwards feels like throwing a note in a bottle into the sea. It is out of control and marketing, advertising, social media and cajoling are all efforts to control the tides. We’ll see how the water ebbs and flows for Deadish.

(c) Alex Lancer

About Deadish:

Ashley and Chris, two junior surgeons in Serenity Hospital, struggle with management and Consultants to save their patients as well as their own lives. Their unintentionally hilarious interactions with the real people they meet overlap with the machinations of blundering managers and senior doctors.

The graphic nature both of operative surgery and interpersonal exchanges with patients and administrators are excruciating yet often laugh- out- loud events.

This darkly humorous novel will entertain as well as giving insights into why managers, doctors and patients often behave in the way that they do.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Alex Lancer is Professor of Surgery dealing with cancer surgery, emergencies including emergency abdominal surgery and trauma related conditions as well as the full range of things that happen to people. He has also worked in Central America in disaster relief after hurricane events operating in jungle environments.
He has published over a hundred scientific articles in journals including the British Journal of Surgery and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, as well as writing a weekly satirical column in a medical newspaper for a number of years. He won an Irish Times Captain Seamus Kelly memorial award for a previously published work.

Outside of this book and surgery, Alex lives on the Atlantic coast with partner, twin teenagers, a dog and two cats. Outside of surgery, the author has run a few marathons and have completed an Ironman triathlon. Apart from surgical training, Ironman is perhaps the ultimate exercise in determination or stubbornness, depending upon your perspective. He also recognises that the hardest day he puts in, isn’t comparable to what patients go through.

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