--Kevin O’Brien, NYTimes Bestselling Author of The Last Victim and Killing Spree
World renowned neurosurgeon Jon Ritter is on the verge of a medical breakthrough that will change the world. His groundbreaking surgical treatment, using transplanted non-human stem cells, is set to eradicate the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease and give hope to millions. But when the procedure is slated for testing, it all comes to an abrupt and terrifying halt. Ritter’s colleague is gunned down and Ritter himself is threatened by a radical anti-abortion group that not only claims responsibility, but promises more of the same.
Faced with a dangerous reality but determined to succeed, Ritter turns to his long-time colleague, corporate biotech CEO Richard Stillman, for help. Together, they conspire to conduct a clandestine clinical trial in Seoul, Korea. But the danger is more determined, and more lethal, than Ritter could have imagined.
After successful surgical trials, Ritter and his allies are thrown into a horrifying nightmare scenario: The trial patients have been murdered and Ritter is the number one suspect. Aided by his beautiful lab assistant, Yeonhee, Ritter flees the country, now the target of an international manhunt involving Interpol, the FBI, zealous fanatics and a coldly efficient assassin named Fiest.
Dead End Deal is a fast paced, heart-pounding, and sophisticated thriller. Penned by master neurosurgeon, Allen Wyler—who often draws from experience, actual events and hotbutton issues when writing—Dead End Deal is unmatched as a technical procedural. Its medical and scientific details can impress even the most seasoned medical practitioners. And yet, the technical expertise is seamlessly woven into a riveting plot, with enough action and surprises to engross even the most well-read thriller enthusiast.
A smart, unique, page-turner, Dead End Deal delivers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Allen Wyler is a renowned neurosurgeon who earned an international reputation for pioneering surgical techniques to record brain activity. He has served on the faculties of both the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee, and in 1992 was recruited by the prestigious Swedish Medical Center to develop a neuroscience institute.
In 2002, he left active practice to become Medical Director for a startup med-tech company (that went public in 2006) and he now chairs the Institutional Review Board of a major medical center in the Pacific Northwest.
Leveraging a love for thrillers since the early 70’s, Wyler devoted himself to fiction writing in earnest, eventually serving as Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization for several years. After publishing his first two medical thrillers Deadly Errors (2005) and Dead Head (2007), he officially retired from medicine to devote himself to writing full time.
He and his wife, Lily, divide their time between Seattle and the San Juan Islands.
A Bookish Libraria is pleased to have Dr.Wyler join us for a guest post:
HOW DOES ALZHEIMERS RANK AS ONE OF THE MOST PRESSING DISEASES IN THE 21ST CENTURY? WHY AND IF IT GOES UNCHECKED HOW WILL IT IMPACT OUR SOCIETY? (IS THERE ANY PROGRESS ON FINDING A CURE?)
Chances are you know someone among who either has Alzheimer’s Disease or is directly connected—by relation or care—to someone who has it. As of this year an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with AD. That translates to roughly one in eight older Americans. That’s a staggering number, but yet in the public consciousness, AD isn’t as widely considered (“top of mind”) as the dangerous killer that it is; not like say, cancer or heart failure. (AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the US).
The fact is, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are becoming more prevalent as the average life span of individuals increase and the more common health care problems ARE better treated. It’s predicted that by 2020, thanks to drugs like Lipitor, mortality from heart disease and stroke will be way down, making Alzheimer’s the leading cause of death in our time. The personal consequences to individuals or families is devastating, but the general consequence to society as a whole is great as well. That’s because AD patients often live a long time, their care is very expensive and will become a major health issue (both in cost and quality of life) that our society will have to bear.
There is hope in some novel drugs to treat AD. Because the disease results from the build up of Amyloid in nerve cells, a promising approach is to block the production of this protein. In addition, there is intriguing research into the concept of surgically implanting stem cells into especially damaged brain areas. This possible cure is a central element that I used in the plot for my new novel, Dead End Deal.
Cures and treatments for diseases like AD are very expensive to develop, (millions upon tens of millions of dollars of R&D) with the resulting payoff even greater (billions of dollars of revenue for the “drug” or the “procedure”) often creating entire new branches of medicine, with thousands upon thousands of new jobs. This high risk / high reward fact of life for medical researchers and practitioners like me is a natural stage for heroes, villains and high-stakes drama. I try to capture that in my Thrillers, but the true high-stakes drama on the medical treatment/development stage is much more exciting than any fiction; the heroes are by far much more worthy of praise (though they often go unnoticed). I like to see my books as homage to them, at least in some small way.
Thank you for this informative post, Allen.
TROPHOZYME CORPORATION, SEATTLE. WA
SEEMED LIKE A DYNAMITE IDEA twelve months ago. Still did, for that matter. But now Marge Schwartz was killing him because of it. Sweat sprouted across Richard Stillman’s forehead making him worry that any second now a drop would slither into an eye and cause him to blink, but he’d be damned if he’d wipe it. Besides, with what? The back of his hand? And if he did that, then what? Wipe his hand on his shirt? How would that look? No, he had to be tough, cool, unflustered. In essence: in charge.
Schwartz leaned forward on her elbows and drilled him with that squinty-eyed no-shit-serious look she’d mastered during her take-no-prisoners ascension through corporate ladders. “The board wants a solid plan to rectify the situation, Richard. Not some grandiose hypothesis.”
Easy for her to say. Especially with the clarity retrospection brings.
He swallowed the gastric reflux burning the back of his throat and willed himself to appear relaxed. Let her harangue. After all, that’s her job, especially given the financial disaster facing Trophozyme. A disaster for which, he freely took responsibility. Yet, he still believed that with enough time their present track would be profitable. But that required more money and, the way things were going, the company would bankrupt in six months. Unless he pulled the proverbial rabbit from the hat.
The board members sat eying him now with various emotions that were easy to read on their faces: empathy from Levy, disdain from Chandler, bored bemusement from Gliner. Warner, well, she was apparently more engrossed in her smartphone than the bloodbath playing out before her.
Schwartz began collecting the various papers in front of her to replace in the manila envelope. The bitch!
He flashed the vacant, non-threatening smile he’d picked up from their VP of marketing. One he practiced in front of a mirror until he could flash it under the most stressful conditions. He scanned the room, making eye contact with each board member—well, except for Warner—certain that every one of those smug egotistical bastards believed they could run the company better than he. Truth be told, their success was due to either dumb luck or magnificent ass-kissing. Or both.
“Well?” Schwartz raised her lids in exaggerated expectation.
Trophozyme needed a new blockbuster therapy. Their pipeline was drying up. With the patent on their only revenue generating product expiring in less than a month, their competitors were already licking their chops, gearing up production of a generic substitute while several major shareholders were dumping stock. Once the short sellers started …
Schwartz said, “Need I remind you, Richard, you were hired to put our company back on track.”
The board had lured him with a fat signing bonus, high salary, and a group of industry-savvy executives who had no idea where to take the company. To Richard Stillman, the future was obvious: by 2020, thanks to drugs like Lipitor, mortality from heart disease and stroke would be way down, making diseases like Alzheimer’s the leading cause of death. Any company to come up with an effective treatment would be sitting on a fortune. That treatment, Stillman believed, was to implant specially manufactured stem cells into patients’ brains to replace dead ones. The problem was the method he picked to grow them didn’t work. Okay, so maybe his first attempt was a bust. But he knew where to get his hands on the right method…
Sweat slithered into his right eye, stinging like hell. He inhaled and said, “As I’ve repeatedly advised, we must be patient. My vision for moving us forward remains unchanged. We’ve had minor setbacks, is all.” He shrugged to emphasize the mere insignificance of his mistake. “As my presentation showed, the results of our retinal implant program are excellent.” Two weeks ago his R&D team successfully implanted tissue-cultured stem cells into the retina of three patients with a specific type of blindness. So far, the results were excellent in spite of being too soon to determine if patients’ eyesight actually improved.
Aronson, CEO of a major pharmaceutical company, waved away his remark. “All well and good, but even if this works, it’s an extremely small market, nothing that will keep this company afloat. We need revenue or we’re out of business.”
Stillman squelched a sarcastic reply. “Everyone understands that, Stan.” You dumb shit. “What we can’t lose sight of is,” and chuckled at the pun that no one else seemed to get. “Our retinal implant program success will establish the proof of principle to Wall Street. Do that and we leverage the potential that cell implants may have on reversing Alzheimer’s.” He said this with the infectious enthusiasm that served him well in securing financing for the previous companies he’d taken public.
Schwartz raised her hand to halt further discussion. “We’re getting wrapped around the axle here, Richard. Bottom line is that during our executive session we made a decision. Six months is all you get.” She paused, the room suddenly dead silent. “By then, either this company has a viable therapy or we’ll be forced to close down. Believe me, that happens and there’ll be no other business on the face of this earth, not even a mom and pop 7-11 store in Rwanda, that’ll touch your resume. Do you understand?”
Before he had a chance to answer, she yanked off her glasses. “Meeting adjourned.”
ONE MONTH LATER
THE BUZZ FROM the desk phone startled Jon Ritter. The sky was darkening, he realized, and street lights now dotted the hill across Portage Bay. The phone buzzed again. He picked up, “Ritter here,” and swiveled toward the window to watch traffic shoot by on the 520 interchange.
Hate to bother you, Doctor. Officer Schmidt, campus police. I’m in S-1 and it looks like someone broke into your car. Can you come down and take a look, see if anything’s missing so we can file a report?”
Aw, man… He checked his watch. Already past seven, time to go home anyway. “Yeah, be right there.” After grabbing the sports coat off the door, he checked to make sure his file cabinets were locked. He decided to pick up some Thai take-out on the way home to eat while watching the Mariners.
He was walking past the secretary’s desk when Gabriel Lippmann called, “Good night, Jon,” from the chairman’s office.
He glanced into the office as he passed. Typical Gabe. Parked at his desk with stacks of paperwork. Always the last to leave but never the first to arrive. The only neurosurgeon in the department who no longer gowned up, leaving the younger partners with bigger case loads. In exchange, butt numbing meetings consumed Gabe’s days. Well, Gabe could have it. To Jon, administration held zero appeal. He waved. “Night, Gabe,” and continued out the door.
The elevator rattled and groaned down eight floors to the first basement level, jerked to a stop, hovered a moment before raising a half inch to be level with the hall floor. Third world countries had better elevators than this. The door opened.
The car break-in was beginning to seep in now. There was nothing in the vehicle worth stealing, so the act itself was senseless and frustrating. And although the insurance company would pay to replace the broken window—assuming that’s how they got in—it couldn’t compensate for the inconvenience. More than that was the feeling of personal violation. As a student his apartment had been burglarized twice, giving this an all too familiar feel.
A left turn and a push through the metal security door took him into a tunnel to the parking lot, his footsteps echoing off bare cement. After passing through another fire door he could see his black Audi in the almost empty garage but where was the security officer? Strange, but the car showed no signs of damage either. Puzzled, he circled the vehicle. No damage, no officer.
Just then a man appeared from behind a round concrete pillar and aimed a gun at him, his face distorted by what looked like pantyhose stretched tightly over his head, the sight so out of context that it didn’t register. The man said, “Got a message for you, baby killer. You listening?”
Speechless, Jon stared at him.
“Asked you a question.”
Jon raised both hands in surrender. “Whoa, there must be some mistake–”
“No mistake. You’re the bloke I’m after. And in case you aren’t listening, here’s the written version.” He dropped a folded paper on the Audi windshield. “No more baby killing. You and your little queer friend are done. Understand?”
“Shut up. Simple enough. Stop work. Don’t and we’ll kill you and Dobbs. See?”
A familiar voice called, “Jon? What’s going on?”
Jon glanced over his shoulder. Lippmann was exiting the tunnel, heading toward them. Jon shouted, “Run. Get out of here. Call 911.”
Lippmann stopped, looked at Jon’s face, then at the gunman, then back to Jon before something clicked and he started to turn. Motion slowed. Dumbfounded, Jon watched as another man calmly stepped from behind a car, raised a gun and fired almost point blank into Lippmann’s chest. Lippmann stutter-stepped before going down into a heap.
Jon yelled, “Gabe!” and started toward him when a lightning bolt exploded his head, turning his world into a black void.
Allen Wyler has several books out in this mystery genre which you can preview on his website at: