Jus When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Surgery by Valerie Laws

'A terrific book. Laws has crafted a very creepy, very haunting mystery tale. THE OPERATOR does for going to the doctor, what JAWS did for going to the beach. Trust me, you’ll never feel the same way about disrobing and lying on an examination table. You’re warned!' Phoef Sutton

 My new crime novel and twelfth book, THE OPERATOR, the second Erica Bruce and DI Will Bennett thriller, is launching in paperback this month, (LAUNCH DETAILS below) having been available on Kindle since Autumn 2013, and this is the front cover, with one addition. I’m thrilled to have been able to add to the fab comment from Ann Cleeves (new 'Vera' novel HARBOUR STREET), an extract from the above quote by
Where everybody knows your 'Norm!'
Phoef Sutton - not only did he write/produce the brilliant TV comedy CHEERS (and Boston Legal et al) but he's a great thriller writer too (check out FIFTEEN MINUTES TO LIVE). He’s just signed a major publishing deal to co-write a new series of crime novels with Janet Evanovich, so is set to become even more well-known. His full comment will be on the back, together with much-valued praise from crime writers Alex (THE KILLER NEXT DOOR) Marwood and Chris (MISSING BELIEVED DEAD) Longmuir. In his comment, Phoef has focused on an aspect of my book -  a sadistic orthopaedic surgeon who revels in inflicting pain on helpless patients. His activities form a shudder-inducing start to the book, and readers are just longing for him to be murdered by ‘The Operator’ who mutilates surgeons in a parody of the operations they perform! I might add that while the book has some gruesome aspects  it’s also witty, and sometimes erotic, so it’s not unrelieved grue.

'This might hurt - A LOT!'
My own prolonged stays in hospital after my disabling car accident and for other reasons have given me plenty of experience of the good, the bad and the ugly in medical care. Several of the stories or events featured in the book either happened to me or I witnessed, or heard about. We’ve all heard horror stories in the media or at the bus-stop of how even a cold indifferent empathy-free medical manner can be hugely traumatic for a patient whose life has just turned upside down. You feel so helpless and vulnerable when you are in hospital so far from your comfort zone, dealing with pain, fear, insomnia and lack of privacy and  autonomy to say nothing of the bottomless gowns and bedpans!  Recently some official reports have exposed hospitals with appalling records of patient care, when patients are left hungry and thirsty, dirty, and ignored. I hasten to add that I encountered some very kind and wonderful staff and they too are reflected in the book, which is partly dedicated to them and their kind.  The ‘god complex’ surgeons are sometimes accused of having no doubt can result in them thinking of patients as somehow not ‘people’, certainly not ‘people like us’, ironically, a similar mindset to many a fictional murderer!

When I was in hospital for months after the accident back in the mid-80s, older people in particular didn’t question ‘the Doctor’ but tended to passively accept decisions and take medication without asking what it was and why they were given it. Doctors, Surgeons and other professional medics were gate-keepers of medical knowledge. Nowadays, most of us go to a doctor already armed with all the knowledge we can glean from the internet, probably already knowing what we’ve got, with the information to help us judge the opinion we get and the treatments we are offered - we can make an actual
This Doctor really does know best
informed choice. Professionals used to moan about this, they didn’t like people turning up using medical terms and asking awkward questions, and felt patients somehow had a nerve wanting to make informed decisions instead of humbly accepting that ‘doctor knows best’. Now it’s pretty much accepted by the medical profession, especially those who’ve trained post-internet, who are also encouraged to retain empathy towards patients, as I've witnessed in my sessions in human dissections as part of one of my Residencies. An informed public is a Good Thing.

Gatekeeper worth preserving
This parallels what's happened in publishing, with the rise of the ebook and self-publishing, followed by mutterings from traditional publishers and some published authors about the need for ‘gate-keepers’, the danger of poor quality books flooding the market, etc etc, while gradually it’s become more and more accepted. But some still fight against it, and I can’t understand why - anyone can choose not to self-publish, or not to buy self-published books, but why should it bother them that
others do? None of the arguments hold water: yes there are badly edited, badly written self-pub books, but there are some awful books put out by big publishers, quotations from which some of us have great fun mocking on Facebook. Plenty of self-pub books are top quality, and if even badly written books sell enough they may well be snapped up by publishers.

Authors like Linda Gillard (whose new novel CAULDSTANE is just out on Kindle, to a rush of buying from her myriads of eager fans) sell well because readers love them, though publishers may feel they don’t fit particular arbitrarily and narrowly defined genres tightly enough. Genres which are happily crossed and mixed in commercial movies: the public seem to cope with that.

There is sometimes an apparent fear of a kind of imagined insane uncontrolled flood of books sweeping over the market which haven’t been through an agent or publisher, or even an editor, as if this will somehow damage books and reading for everyone - even though the big publishers still have the advantage of money and clout to get their publicity out and get reviews in the mainstream media. It reminds me of some of the religious right in the US arguing against gay people being allowed to marry because it will ‘spoil’ marriage for straight people. Straight people who marry for love seem to have been managing so far despite others marrying for money, or a green card, or a big wedding, or family pressure or a shotgun to the goolies. Even in the UK, one of the UKippers recently blamed actual flooding on LBGT rights. It seems logic is washed away when some fear 'flooding' by happy gay couples, immigrants, or self-published books.

Many of us now combine a mixture of self-publishing and being published by either big, or small independent publishers, and are informed enough to make our own decisions, as readers and as writers. THE OPERATOR is published in paperback by Red Squirrel Press, an independent publisher based in Northumberland which operates without funding, and publishes poetry too, some of it mine.

LAUNCH: I will be taking part in crime festivals and readings so look out for me in your area, and the first launch celebration is at The Lit and Phil, Newcastle upon Tyne, Monday 24th February, 7-9pm, FREE. Do come along if you are in the north east of England that night!

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Paperback will be available from Amazon or from me or www.redsquirrelpress.com
Kindle available on all Amazon platforms. UK US


Wot no comments? I've just been thinking that some of the best and most exciting books I've read this year have been either self published or published by small independent presses. There have been a few exceptions - there always are - but so much of the 'same old same old' seems to have come from the Big Six - unable or unwilling to take risks.
madwippitt said…
What a terrific review! And of course you are absolutely right: a traditionally published book is no guarantee of a decent read.
Good luck with the launch - a bit too far north for me, but hope it goes well!
Dennis Hamley said…
Yes, Val, a brilliant and great review. I'm really pleased that The Operator is coming out in paperback. It's an amazing, satisfying, disturbing page-turner which deserves all that's going for it. Might you come to Ox to do a reading at the Albion? I've been lucky with hospitals and the NHS, with a heart bypass and spinal surgery both performed by surgeons (one of them Magdi Yacoub himself) who had real powers of empathy and my gratitude to, respect for and admiration of them is profound. But yes, I know there's an underside: I just haven't encountered it. Yet.
Most of my reading now is of indies. it has to be something exceptional from the commercial world to attract me. Recent reading: Birds Without Wings (de Bernieres), The Luminaries and Brian Aldis's staggering Helliconia trilogy, just deservedly reissued. All books which SAY SOMETHING WORTHWHILE. A rare quality in traditional publishing now.
Lydia Bennet said…
thanks lovely Dennis, Catherine and Madw! I think it was the Saturday effect which got me few comments... boo hoo! love to return to Albion Dennis, might well ask there - my poetry reading went so well and I'm often in Oxford area.
julia jones said…
now tell Valerie TWELVE books ... I've read 4 (Operator, Rotting Spot, Lydia, All that Lives) - which are the others?
Lydia Bennet said…
Julia, two full collections of poetry (Moonbathing, and Quantum Sheep, both by Peterloo Poets), a joint collection (For Crying Out Loud), and an anthology I edited and devised (Star Trek - the poems): the script of my play Hadaway, the Making of a Writer was published by Iron Press as were the last two named:I wrote a book challenging ageism in 2011, a strange hybrid of older people's stories told to me and retold in their 'voices' ranging from PhD students in their 80s, computer buffs in their 90s, and those with advance dementia, and all between ,with some poems and pieces by school students about older people, that's 'Changing Age, Changing Minds', published by Newcastle University's Institute for Ageing and Health, where I had part of my pathology residencies: and I co-wrote two mega best-selling language course books, Au Secours and Hilfe. A very mixed bag!
Chris Longmuir said…
Great review Lydia, and Valerie is such a good writer. It was a pleasant surprise to see my name pop in the middle of it, and I'm ever so sorry I wasn't here on Saturday to comment. I've been away for the weekend. I did manage a tweet though while I was sitting on the coach being whisked off for a Strictly Come Dancing weekend with my granddaughter. I've read The Rotting Spot and the Operator, and both were excellent. I've mentioned both of them in the non-fiction book I'll be publishing shortly.
Lydia Bennet said…
gosh have you Chris, that's so kind! do keep us posted about your new non-fic!
Chris Longmuir said…
As soon as it's in a finished state, I'll be trawling for pre-publication reviewers!
julia jones said…
Brilliantly mixed bag - have put changing age, changing minds on my wish list. Do you personally have any plans for it?
Lydia Bennet said…
bit diffy for kindle as format a nightmare - poetry, prose, photos... it's just in paperback at the mo, and the uni have put it on their 'shop' site. it took a lot of learning new stuff to put my poetry All That Lives up,so other similarly complicated books will have to wait a bit!

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