The doctor is in
Did you happen to catch the PBS NOVA documentary in June that followed seven Harvard Medical School graduates from internships to mid-career? Not unexpected, most of them had no family life; many were divorced; and no time existed, outside work, for hobbies or pleasure reading.
Imagine my surprise to read a novel by Dr. Richard Reinking, who is middle-aged and full-steam-ahead mid-career. When did he find the time to write? When did he learn to write? In between anatomy and chemistry classes? And his 300-page book, “Pox,” is a page-turner. A really good read.
Not only is the doctor capable, but he is also a capable writer.
He is a leader in his field of family medicine. He was named 2011 Oklahoma Family Physician of the Year, has served as president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians and is a medical director at Saint Francis Hospital, with a practice at Warren Clinic.
He teaches, lectures and authors articles for trade publications. Unlike the doctors in the TV documentary, he is still married and has three grown children. He must wear a red cape with a big “U” on his chest. Unbelievable!
It’s true, all absolutely true. His novel stands as a timeless testament to his talents.
Even so, he admits, this was his third stab at writing a novel.
“I wrote a novel in the 1990s, tried again in the early 2000s,” Reinking says.
The third time is the charm. “Pox” is a bio-terrorist thriller that is selling on Amazon and in local bookstores, including Steve’s Sundry Books & Magazines. The protagonist, Dr. Henry Bennett, like the author, is an ordinary family doc, in ordinary De Kalb, Ill. That is, until he gets caught in the whirlwind of a smallpox epidemic demonically introduced by four self-infected Islamic radicals.
“I attended a conference lecture about the possibilities of a smallpox terror attack, and the expert underlined the fact that family physicians and other primary care physicians and/or emergency room physicians would be the first line of defense,” Reinking says. “The lecture and the impact of 9/11 inspired me to write ‘Pox.’”
The 30 chapters alternately describe the progress of the radicals interspersed with the horrible outbreaks across America and the desperate checks to contain the spread of the disease. The reader will quickly find out during the fictional suspense that America is ill-equipped to handle such an onslaught. The ending may surprise you.
A good writer uses all of the senses to unfold the story. Reinking’s descriptions of the stench of death worm their way up your nostrils. The oozing pox blisters appear even when you close your eyes. The screams and moans ring in your ears. Only a doctor who has known the ugly truths of death can make your skin crawl like this.
His research is impeccable but not daunting. The reader is not weighed down with too much “medicalese.”
“It took me two years writing in the evening and weekends to get the first draft,” Reinking says. “I start with an exhaustive outline that I dictate onto a recorder, then transcribe and rewrite simultaneously. It took me as long to find a way to get it published as it (took) to write.”
How can he accomplish so much in a day? He says he is energetic and a good case manager. By the way, he also volunteers in Africa, has coached his son’s baseball team, reads, plays golf and landscapes. My hunch is he doesn’t sleep at night. Instead, he slips on his cape.
Let this man be an inspiration to all writers who procrastinate.
August book events
Mary Joe Bang, “Inferno,” 7 p.m., OU-Tulsa, BookSmart Tulsa
James Oseland, “The New Comfort Food,” 7 p.m., location TBA, BookSmart Tulsa. See p. 87 for more information.
Jacqueline Woodson, children’s book author and winner of the Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ Literature, 7 p.m., Central Library, Tulsa City-County Library
“Southern Discomfort: Loving and Loathing the South,” panel discussion about Pat Conroy’s “The Prince of Tides” with Ken Busby and Teresa Miller,
7 p.m., Central Library, Central Library Readers’ Library Department