“Though I am a physician by training (an emergency room doctor, a former professor of medicine, and the editor of a medical journal), I have always been driven to write.”
My memoir, La Clinica: A Doctor’s Journey Across Borders, was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2008. It details my time spent in a clinic in rural Mexico, doing everything from delivering babies to suturing wounds to digging latrines, before I began my formal medical training at Stanford. The book was well-received, inspiring me to attempt a novel. I have been working on Atlas of Men for several years, acclimating myself to the rigors of writing fiction and enjoying my imagination and the fascinating (and challenging) directions it has taken me.
A brief background: When I was a student at a prestigious New England prep school many years ago, I (and all the other students) were photographed naked and studied, without permission or the knowledge of our parents, as research subjects. This singular event has plagued me for decades, ultimately motivating this novel. The title refers to a scientific study published in 1954 by William Sheldon that displayed and categorized the physical attributes, known as somatotypes, of young men and associated them with personality characteristics. My novel is in no way autobiographical, but it does spring from my attempt to reconcile myself to the actions of my school. It focuses on five friends who undergo this humiliating experience and the aftermath for each of them. My protagonist, Dr. Robert Thames, has evolved into what I believe is a complex and interesting character, and I have enjoyed watching him handle the intense inner, psychological experiences of this book as well as the dramatic exterior moments of his life.
I find it of interest that, just as I completed the novel, outraged references to this “research” and sexual abuse began to appear in the newsletter from my school. Thousands of pages of records have been demanded by ex-students. It took fifty years to surface.
“My book takes a deep look at what was buried—by the school and by the students who were subjected to this study. I believe the time is right for this book.”