Robert Greer

Robert Greer
Heat Shock

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
June 3, 2004

Q. Who is Robert Greer?

A. Robert Greer is the national best selling author of the CJ Floyd mystery series, THE DEVIL'S HATBAND, THE DEVIL'S RED NICKEL, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, two medical thrillers, LIMITED TIME and HEAT SHOCK, and a collection of short stories, ISOLATION AND OTHER STORIES. He is also a research scientist and surgical pathologist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.

Q. How did you come about the idea to write about cock fighting birds exposed to uranium?

A. I came to the idea of writing about cock fighting and game birds exposed to uranium because of my recombinant DNA and molecular research interests. For many years I've been interested in the mechanisms that allow normal human cells to transform into cancer cells. One of my previous medical thrillers, LIMITED TIME, dealt with how the enzyme telomerase can alter human cells so that they have the potential to live forever. A kind of fountain-of-youth exposť.

I had friends who were working on heat shock protein, a protein capable of protecting one against catastrophic events including nuclear fall out. So, in the novel HEAT SHOCK an old cockfighter whose game birds have been exposed to uranium turn out to be nearly invincible because they harbor an over-abundance of heat shock protein. The novel's antagonists come after his birds because they want to translate the findings in the birds to human beings in a power and money grab scheme. The premise is not science fiction by the way. It is totally related to cutting edge science and heat shock protein does in fact protect us against catastrophic events and it would have the potential to protect us from radiation fall-out. Not in the first generation of people exposed to it, but subsequent generations.

Q. How did you come about Carmen and Rioís characters?

A. Carmen's character comes from the fact that I have an unbiding interest in the Vietnam war, largely because I was a doctor in the military during that time. Carmen represents an unusual character who is a product of a Vietnamese mother and an African-American GI father. Although she has been successful as a doctor and a scientist since immigrating to the U.S., she still has a difficult time fitting in because of her racial background. Interestingly, in Vietnam individuals who are biracial like Carmen are considered to be on the lowest rung of that society's ladder. They are referred to as my den or half breeds. Carmen has to deal with being an outcast in the Vietnamese society she is truly from and wrestle with being an ethnic minority here in the U.S.

Q. How did you come about Stone and Jackís characters?

A. Luke Redstone (Stone) was developed because of the need to flesh out a sympathic character who was unschooled formally, but is a thoughtful, insightful man who has the ability to discover things for himself. He knows the secret of why his gamecocks are invincible. Something he didnít learn in a research laboratory. He learned the secret through the hard knocks of life and by everyday observation.

Jack Kimbrough's character was developed because I wanted a foil for the protagonist. A successful scientist and an evil man who has been carrying the baggage of an inferiority complex with him all of his life. He is, in fact, an egotistical narcissist. I wanted to try and show that even with all the trappings of what we consider to be success in America, Kimbrough can't overcome his own psychological baggage.

Q. What genre is Heat Shock written in?

A. HEAT SHOCK is written as a medical thriller. It falls into the category of a suspense novel and it is developed to try and keep you on the edge of your seat chapter by chapter, with cliff hanging suspense at each chapters end.

Q. Did you do any research to develop your story?

A. I do considerable research for my stories. Fortunately because of my background in science, I'm able to short cut much of the legwork. Even so, heat shock protein is not something I work on in my research lab, so I had to read hundreds of articles and several books on the subject. I spend at least a month researching locations and facts before I start a story.

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. I have been writing seriously since I was in college where I was a journalism and zoology major. I put off my writing interests until I was in my late 30's and then started to write short stories. I built a reputation as a short story writer in the late 1980s and moved onto novels after that.

Q. How many novels have you written?

A. I've written five novels and one short story collection.

Q. Are you currently working on another novel?

A. My short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies and I am currently editing an anthology of short stories and working on a new novel, RESURRECTING LANGSTON BLUE, that features both Carmen Nguyen and CJ Floyd, the bail bondsman protagonist from my mystery novels.

Q. What message would you like readers to receive from reading Heat Shock?

A. The message that I would like to leave you with related to the novel HEAT SHOCK is that contrary to what many people believe, our human species is unbelievably malleable and it's not likely to disappear soon. We have self-protective armor against catastrophic events like nuclear fall-out and contrary to what doomsayers say, we could probably survive a worldwide tragic nuclear event. We'd certainly be changed dramatically because of it, but we would not be wiped out as a species. As hard as it may be to believe, to paraphrase an old song, We Would Survive. The final thing Iíd like to convey is that evil indeed lurks and persists. We have to be diligent against it and always take the high road when it comes to human interactions. We most often learn life lessons as Luke Redstone did without the need of a formal education. Like Luke, one must be a quintessential observer and use their brain, and open their heart to make it through life.

HEAT SHOCK is intended to also show that being different in America is something that many people face. Through perseverance, correct choices, support, compassion and guile, one, at least becomes equipped to fight the odds.