Bad Medicine

BY CARI HUNTER

There are quite a few perils involved in my day job as a paramedic: driving fast on blue lights, drunkards with lively fists, an abundance of spilled bodily fluids, and patients who decide—for whatever reason—to answer the door naked. If I’m honest, I can cope with pretty much all of the above, but one side effect of the job is more disconcerting: my wife will no longer watch medical dramas on the telly with me.

The onset of the problem was early in my career and quite subtle. I began to notice that IV drips didn’t drip, those little reservoir bags on the oxygen masks remained deflated (“turn it on, mate, she might feel better!”), CPR revived people within minutes, and everyone shocked the hell out of a flat line even though you absolutely don’t. I think it’s safe to say that bad medicine will throw me out of a story—be it on the screen or on the page—more quickly than I can drive my ambulance back to station after a late finish, and, believe me, we don’t hang around. I assume the same sort of thing applies for legal professionals taking issue with courtroom dramas, crime scene types scowling at CSI’s super speedy lab analysis, or vampire slayers watching Buffy.

Bearing this in mind, I have such a mortal fear of buggering something up that I have become a compulsive researcher. My latest novel, Tumbledown,Tumbledown 300 DPI turned me into a temporary quasi-expert on legal proceedings in the state of Maine, the geography of the Eastern Seaboard, crime scene forensics, the structure of small town police forces, Pride and Prejudice, and the canal district in Holyoke, Massachusetts, amongst myriad other subjects. Despite hours of Googling, poring over maps, teaching myself how to analyse tyre treads, studying photos of rundown warehouses, and amassing a bizarre Internet “favourites list”, I might still have made a mess of something, but it won’t have been for lack of effort.

Somewhat ironically, I still find medical scenes amongst the most difficult to write. The balance between getting it right and not sounding like a pompous arse is always tricky; I hope Tumbledown manages to walk that fine line. Emergency medicine is often an unpleasant, gory, distressing business, and there are a few scenes in the novel that still make me wince when I reread them. Subconsciously, I might be trying to correct a few wrongs, reversing the trend whereby trauma victims survive unscathed after a couple of rounds of CPR (and the prerequisite shouts of encouragement), vomit doesn’t exist, a punch doesn’t really hurt, and no one involved so much as musses up their hair. Dispelling those myths might be a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

30 Responses to “Bad Medicine”


  1. 1 Erin Saluta February 18, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    That was really funny! Thank you for sharing. I think you are right on in regards to the balance the average person picking up a book and getting too much information and getting too little or too wrong information. That research I am sure will pay off!

    Like

    • 2 Cari Hunter February 19, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      You are most welcome :-) There’s definitely a risk in smacking someone over the head with too much detail, but I also have a mortal fear of medical-types reading my stuff and shaking their heads in despair because I’ve GOT SOMETHING WRONG. Thanks to the Internet and endless medical documentaries on TV, even lay-people are pretty up to speed with the terminology these days, which makes my job a lot easier. Not entirely sure I’d recommend stitching someone up in a mucky hut without anaesthetic though!

      Like

  2. 3 Brooke Carr February 18, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Cari, even if you do mess something up I’m probably going to forgive you because your books are so awesome. That being said however, I appreciate all of the work you put in to getting it right, so some day if I ever have to speak on the structure of small town police forces, I get some of it right because of your hard work. :) Now, I must back to my work so I can start Tumbledown tonight after binge re-reading Desolation Point late last night. :)

    Like

    • 4 Cari Hunter February 19, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      You’re very sweet and I hope you enjoy TD after your DP binge! I actually enjoy the research, especially the tech details (the forensics in TD were really interesting to look into) and then there’s the things I never thought I’d find myself Googling like “typical meal in a county jail.” Believe it or not, I didn’t make that menu up!

      Like

  3. 5 jo February 18, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    Just love your books :)

    Like

  4. 7 S.A. February 18, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    I enjoyed reading this blog; made me laugh! (I’m sure it made the vampire slayers out there chuckle and nod in agreement, too.) I’m glad you dig into your subject matter so thoroughly, and I’m sure your effort will be evident from the book. As I’m not an expert in various subjects you listed, I’m sure to overlook any potential shortcomings and just enjoy the book for itself. Thanks!

    Like

    • 8 Cari Hunter February 19, 2014 at 9:46 AM

      I’m sure Buffy had some flaws in her methodology, S.A ;-) And as long as Tumbledown doesn’t read like I’ve pulled all the details out of my backside, I’ll be happy. Thanks for reading and replying.

      Like

  5. 9 Sue February 18, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    One thing that I picked up on that was a little disappointing at the time but I have had time to process it properly is Flossy didn’t get as much “air” time as Bandit :)

    Like

    • 10 Cari Hunter February 19, 2014 at 9:51 AM

      Yeah, poor little Floss and the chooks only really got a cameo – but then they didn’t actually advance the plot and the other critters did. No prizes for guessing who inspired Bandit (clue, he’s sitting right here on the table washing his paws as I type.)

      Like

  6. 11 Devlyn February 18, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    Cari, I am no medic but while reading Tumbledown there were no WTF moments for me. I really enjoyed the continuing story. I was a bit NOOOO when reading about Lyssa (?sp) but I realised it was an essential part of the story. Overall I loved it.

    Like

    • 12 Cari Hunter February 19, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      Excellent, that’s lovely to hear Dev. I’m sort of expecting to cop a little flack for Lyssa, but like you said, it’s essential in terms of the plot. Without going into spoilers, that scene is one of those that’s difficult for me to reread.

      Like

  7. 13 treimoir February 18, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    The Rock Star strikes again! Excellent book!!

    Like

  8. 15 Sheri Campbell February 19, 2014 at 1:43 AM

    Cari Hunter, As a nurse, my hat is off to you and all First Responders. I look forward to reading Tumbledown.

    Like

  9. 17 Kim February 19, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    Really look forward to reading Tumbledown. Thanks for a great blog chuckle!

    Like

  10. 19 jfaraday February 19, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Ohhh now I *must* read this. Hooray for research and Getting It Right! =)

    Like

    • 20 Cari Hunter February 20, 2014 at 5:08 AM

      Hooray indeed! I think some of the loveliest feedback I had for Desolation Point was from people who lived near the Cascades and said I’d done justice to the area. Fingers crossed I’ve not made a total hash of Maine…

      Like

  11. 21 Jaime Maddox February 19, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    I’m a recovering ER doc who spent14 years doing all that fun stuff, trying to save people, sometimes successfully. I thought Tumbledown was great, with no “bad medicine”. Even if there was, though, we have to allow for an element of fiction, don’t we? Keep up the good work. And, by the way, I can read medical drama but can’t watch it on TV. My partner, who wears a suit to her office job and is affraid of blood, watches every medical show ever produced. Thankfully, we don’t live in a one room cabin.

    Like

    • 22 Cari Hunter February 20, 2014 at 5:15 AM

      Ooh coming from a doctor, that’s fab :-) I think there absolutely has to be an element of fiction, but I’d prefer to keep things on the realistic side of that rather than the outlandish, and daft mistakes in books drive me bonkers (I read a novel once where the author thought the tibia was a bone in the arm – chucked me straight off the page and out the other side, and it would have been such a simple thing to check.) Jed Mercurio’s Bodies is one of the best medical fiction books I’ve read – it’s terrifying!

      Like

  12. 23 Owls February 19, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Have you ever actually seen the canals in Holyoke? Yikes, although things are a little better than they used to be. I’m looking forward to reading your take on them.

    The town I live in (40 minutes from Holyoke (which is pronounced whole-yolk not holy-oak, btw)) is so small (“How small is it?”, you ask) that we don’t even have a means of detaining anyone other than a sturdy railing just the right size for handcuffs in the one room in town hall that serves as the police station.

    Since I REALLY enjoyed DP, I can’t wait to read TD. Any chance of a Kindle version in the near future?

    Like

    • 24 Cari Hunter February 20, 2014 at 5:19 AM

      Heh, oh, I did my Googling on Holyoke (thanks for the pronunciation tip btw, I totally thought it was holy-oak) and it was perfect for the purposes of the novel – nothing good happens there, believe me! I hope it’s not smartened itself up since I did the research, I’d be gutted :-)

      And you’re in luck, TD came out on Kindle this week – handy link: http://www.amazon.com/Tumbledown-Cari-Hunter-ebook/dp/B00IHPPP0K/ref=sr_1_2_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392891451&sr=1-2&keywords=tumbledown

      Hope you enjoy it.

      Like

      • 25 Owls February 20, 2014 at 4:42 PM

        I don’t think you need to worry about the flats having been smartened up too much :)

        Have you had a chance to read “Among Schoolchildren” by Tracy Kidder? It’s all about teaching school in this section of Holyoke. http://www.tracykidder.com/books.php

        Note: He also wrote Home Town about Northampton (aka Lesbianville, USA), just up the road from Holyoke. If you couldn’t tell, he’s a local (to me) author of wide renown..

        Just got the Kindle edition of TD. I think I’ll rush home from work and settle in for a good read tonight!

        Like

      • 26 Cari Hunter February 21, 2014 at 10:07 AM

        Hopefully they won’t have touched all those lovely derelict warehouses along the canals either (I think they were in the process of regenerating them when I wrote the novel.) I’d never heard of that book, but it would probably have been a good one for the research!

        Keeping my fingers crossed you enjoy Tumbledown…and thanks for the recs.

        Like

  13. 27 Svetla (Czech fan of English lesfic) February 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    I love medical topic, even having a doc for nearly unknown father.

    Like


  1. 1 Bold Strokes Blogging and Tumbledown Release News… | Cari Hunter Trackback on February 18, 2014 at 9:52 AM
  2. 2 News roundup: Cari Hunter’s Bad Medicine, Blogs & Giveaways from Amy Dunne & Kiki Archer, Nicola Griffith’s Tiptree Honour and More! | UK Lesbian Fiction Trackback on February 20, 2014 at 5:44 AM

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