By John Raab
Allen Wyler, neurosurgeon and writer, returns with his latest page-turning thriller, DEADLY ODDS. Wyler’s writing career started in 2005 with his medical thriller, Deadly Errors. Since then, his work has transcended the medical thriller. And in DEADLY ODDS, he introduces readers to an intriguing new character, Arnold Gold, an awkward computer genius who uses his talent for gambling, and soon finds himself in over his head.
Wyler graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Please tell us about DEADLY ODDS.
As the jacket cover says, Twenty-three year old Arnold Gold is a Seattle-based odds-maker and local computer genius (hence the title). Described as a “part-time hacker and full-time virgin” by his friends, the awkward young man flies to Vegas to try and get lucky—in more ways than one. But his high stakes gambling inadvertently thrusts him into a vortex of international terrorism.
Part of my research for the story dealt with the Darknet—a huge portion of the Internet (bigger than what most people commonly associate with the Internet). It was initially developed by the military for transferring classified information. Not only did the military want a bullet-proof, non-hackable, portal for transferring huge amounts of data, but they wanted to do so anonymously. However, this ability to conduct business anonymously also makes a perfect conduit to support serious criminal activity. Want to buy heroine? Go to the Darknet. Want to hire a hit man? Same thing. And if you are terrorists… Think of the possibilities. I initially discovered it in a Wired article and it immediately snagged my interest. After reading more about it, it was just too interesting to pass up, and I to incorporate it in a plot.
You say your main character Arnold Gold is a “part-time hacker / full-time virgin.” Who is Arnold Gold?
Arnold Gold worships Nate Silver. Silver, if you remember, is the now-renown statistician who began making uncannily accurate predictions. He called, for example, 99% of the district outcomes during the past few national elections. His predictions are based on pure statistical data and analysis. Being able to predict the future was another interesting nugget I couldn’t pass up, so used it in the present plot. Then I upped the ante. What if a kid like Arnold came up with an even better system, one that could predict, say, the score of the Super Bowl in early December? Arnold become so successful at this he’s able to make a living through on-line gambling. As you might imagine, a person who wins more than he loses, might generate a fair amount of unwanted attention. The goose that lays his golden eggs soon becomes a liability.
Far as Arnold’s personal life goes, he’s never ever scored. Although, he’d sure love to. But he’s so awkward around women, he’s incapable of getting off home plate, much less making it to first base. To remedy this, he flies to Las Vegas after lining up an escort. Soon this very canny gambler is in over his head. Think: Powerball meets The Firm.
As a neurosurgeon, you understandably started by writing medical-based thrillers, but you seemed to have changed direction along the way. What prompted the change?
Good question. Several factors weighed into this very deliberate departure. First, I don’t really want to be pigeon holed into the narrow genre of medical thrillers. Except for my first novel, Deadly Errors, the medical aspects of my tales take second place to the plot. Doctors make interesting characters and hospitals is one place they work, but in my stories, I take doctors out of the hospital and throw them into non-medical conflicts. In Dead End Deal, my protagonist becomes trapped in Korea without a passport or money while being hunted by police.
My 2013 novel, Changes, deals with the universal fantasy of being able to live one’s life again, but having your present fund of knowledge. It was neither a thriller nor a mystery and the protagonist isn’t a physician. Cutter’s Trial, due out next Spring, is also a non-thriller that deals with a person’s right to terminate their own life when in the final stages of an terminal disease.
On your site you have a picture of you at a book signing with sweatshirt saying “Careful or you’ll end up in my novel.” How many times has that happened?
A good deal of the time. I base characters on people I run into in my daily life because, for me, it makes creating them easier. In my practice, I’ve come across some incredible personalities and personality traits, some good, some, well, interesting. They make for good fiction.
What can readers expect to see from Allen Wyler in the future?
My next book, Cutter’s Trial, which I mentioned earlier, also deals with the cultural shock when a West Coast liberal moves his neurosurgical practice to a deeply conservative town in the deep South. The story is loosely based on experience in my own career as a neurosurgeon. It is neither a thriller nor mystery.
Finally, my publisher, Astor+Blue, liked Arnold Gold’s character so much that they encouraged me to write a DEADLY ODDS sequel. At the moment I’m working on DEADLY ODDS 2.0. I hope it turns out as well as I think DEADLY ODDS has.
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, publishing his first two thrillers Deadly Errors (2005) and Dead Head (2007), then retiring from medicine to devote himself to writing full time. Since then, he’s published three more thrillers with Astor + Blue Editions–Dead End Deal (2012), Dead Ringer (2013) and Dead Wrong (2013) Wyler has also served as Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization.
He and his wife, Lily, divide their time between Seattle and the San Juan Islands. To learn more about Allen, please visit his website.