This real-life plague seems lifted from Hollywood

I have to admit, I’ve gotten a little obsessed by the Ebola news this week.

Ever since I read THE HOT ZONE (I’m currently rereading it), I’ve been dreading the day when this scary virus would go airborne and wipe out a good chunk of the human race.

This disease has got everything going for it to play a starring role in the demise of mankind. It lurks in the jungle, but no one can find it! It putrefies skin and melts human flesh! It turns its victims into zombies! 

I’m awestruck by the story of the brave health workers and missionaries who continue to risk their lives to save lives in West Africa. Then, when two of them fell victim to the disease, guess what? An experimental, secret serum suddenly becomes available, one that has never been tested on people before. It’s flown to Africa, defrosted, and injected. And guess what–the antiviral serum appears to be working! Next thing you know, a special air ambulance is whisking the stricken Americans to an isolation unit in Atlanta, where a dedicated team has been training for years to perform this type of care.

And what Hollywood script would be complete without a cameo appearance by Donald Trump, bleating a goat cry about how those heroic missionaries should not be allowed into the United States for treatment?

It’s spooling out like a real-life thriller. And it has put me in the mood to load up on some more of the same, only fictional ones. (One real-life plague is enough for 2014, thank you very much.)

So please help me start my list. What are your favorite medical thrillers of all time?

26 thoughts on “This real-life plague seems lifted from Hollywood

    • I think that film annoyed me, because I seem to recall that they made a woman having an extramarital affair be an original spreader of the contagion. A dated old, sexist Hollywood trope.

    • Yeah~ it’s a little odd, if not “creepy” having it just across town (I live southwest of Atlanta, and Emory University Hospital is just east of downtown- and I’m not down wind… if that matters…)

  1. I’m not a huge fan of medical novels. Ditto for legal thrillers. Not sure why…perhaps because we get so much TV dramas set in hospitals and courtrooms that nothing feels fresh. But I do remember reading “The Andromeda Strain” and loving it. It was a pretty decent movie too.

  2. I loved THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, but I’m now going to reveal my crazy side…

    What if the Ebola strain in Africa is a US invention, i.e., a manufactured virus, and the reason why the US was so anxious to return the two people affected is that the government is trying to cover up its role in this particular virus?

    I must be a writer, because this is the first thing I thought of when I heard they were bringing the patients into the US. Conspiracies abound!

    It’s interesting that many agents say, “Not another virus thriller/vampire novel/whatever, please,” and yet new ones still get published.

    I’m not planning on writing the Ebola Conspiracy, so if anyone wants the idea, it’s yours.

    • Especially since the secret serum wasn’t made known until the Americans got sick, right? Definitely fodder for a conspiracy theory! Thanks for sharing that!

    • ANF the CDC and the Yerkes Primate Center are both in Atlanta… within blocks of the hospital (Emory), where the Americans are being treated…
      Hmmmmm…. hmmm?

  3. Film wise I loved Contagion and it’s predecessor (from 205?) Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman as The All-Consumed Scientist and a perfectly cast Donald Sutherland as The Mad and Evil General.Book wise, while a differ from PJ on legal thrillers (I consume them the same way I consume peanut butter M&Ms, one after another with no end forever) I agree with him on medical novels. They’ve never caught my fancy.

  4. Yay, get me started on my favorite topic: thrillers with medicine or science in them. I have a whole website devoted to this sub-genre ( and I write and publish such novels through

    Robin Cook’s COMA is one of the best hospital-based medical thrillers ever written. Michael Palmer’s medical thrillers are all rock-solid, and the later ones such as A HEARTBEAT AWAY combine medicine with politics. Read Tess Gerritsen if you favor a bit of horror with your medical thrills. LIFELINES by CJ Lyons for best medical romantic suspense. THE GENESIS CODE by John Case for medical-action-religious thrills. THE TERMINAL MAN by Michael Crichton is more medical than ANDROMEDA STRAIN. THE JUDAS STRAIN by James Rollins if you want more sci-fi than strictly medical stuff, and lots of action. ISOLATION WARD by Joshua Spanogle for smart and creepy.

    • I’m happy to discover your site! ISOLATION WARD and THE JUDAS STRAIN are two I haven’t read–putting ’em on my list. Thanks for chipping in!

  5. I try to avoid reading most medical thrillers just to save my sanity – some are too close what could really happen. I am watching The Last Ship though – which has a worldwide pandemic/apocalypse. Pretty predictable but it’s good while I’m doing the ironing:)

  6. I had the privilege of recently editing a riveting debut medical thriller by TKZ regular, Tom Combs, called NERVE DAMAGE. Check it out – you’ll love it!

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