The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
The Death Whisperer Series available at

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I am not a native Nebraskan. But there is a phenomenon in this state that centers on the University of Nebraska football team--Huskermania. Unless you see it, it's hard to describe. On Friday before a game, everyone is in red, the school color. On Saturday, if you're not wearing red, you will catch some seriously disdainful looks. The football stadium becomes the third largest city in the state on a football weekend.

I am frequently invited to give scientific talks at international meetings and I refer to Huskermania as the state religion, with the stadium as the cathedral. This year Nebraska has a new archbishop, Bo Pelini, who everyone hopes will return Nebraska to the top ten after the four horrible years under the heretic, Bill Callahan. In all fairness, he was a jerk and a lousy coach.

My wife and I usually do our grocery shopping on Saturday mornings. This morning, countless shoppers left with carts filled with cases of beer, ice, and chips. Hmmm. Wonder what they're going to be doing tonight.

Not being a big beer drinker, I plan on turning on the Missouri-Illinois game, grabbing the latest Jack Higgins novel, and relaxing with the bottle of Snoqualmie riesling I have chilling as I write this. With a case of Cartlidge and Brown Pinot Noir, two bottles each of Kim Crawford Pinot Noir and Savingnon Blanc, a bottle of Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, and one of Blue Moon riesling, I'm all set for the long weekend. I might even spend some time working on my third novel, "Angels Twice Fallen." Have a good one and try some wine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Back from Philadelphia

Just returned from Philadelphia where I spoke at the American Chemical Society meeting. Philly has one of my favorite places to browse & eat: The Reading Terminal. It's filled with produce, meat, and cheese shops, restaurant stalls serving everything from crabcakes to cheesesteaks, and my favorite, all kinds of wares from the Pennsylvania Dutch. If you want a good breakfast, get there early to get a seat at the counter. Everything from the bread to the sausage & bacon is homemade. And the bakery! I love their sticky buns. The Dutch are only there Wednesday through Saturday. Don't miss them.

Had dinner at McCormick and Schmicks. They have one of my all time favorite seafood dishes: grilled atlantic salmon stuffed with crabmeat and brie cheese! I had a New Zealand Marlborough Whitehaven Savignon blanc with it. Really nice citrus bouquet that explodes in your mouth with overtones of grapefruit. Really nice. I liked it as much as my favorite Kim Crawford.

Thank goodness it's Friday. I'm always wiped out after a trip. Time to retire with a glass of Kim Crawford Pinot Noir, a dish of Haagen Daz rum raisin ice cream, and the final edits of my latest book, Rise of the Fallen. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The FBI and bioterror

Yesterday, I read an article online that said the FBI had changed it's opinion of whether or not an individual could create a bioweapon. Previously they apparently were under the misconception that it would take sophistocated equipment and a team of people to create an agent. As a microbiologist, I could have told them that's very naive. The materials to grow and store bacterial organisms are easily available from commercial sources with no need for any clearances or licensures. Source organisms are available in the dirt in your garden. Things like Clostridium species which contain some very nasty toxins, i.e. botulism, can be found there. In the Great Plains states, the wild rabbits are endemically infected with Francisella tularemia, a select class organism. So getting the starting materials isn't hard.

I think the authorities tend to visualize bioterrorism in terms of massive attacks as in the case of the Soviet ICBM's loaded with weaponized bugs. But terrorism doesn't have to be perpetrated on a large scale to create panic. Only a handful of people actually contracted anthrax in the incidents following 911. Yet it created concern across the entire country and fed a new industry aimed at detecting minute quantities of potential bio-threats, particularly in aerosols such as those created by mail sorting machines. It seems industry is a bit more on the ball than the Homeland Security people, although, to be fair, a commercial opportunity will always cause entrepreneurs to flock to the money.

Personally, I worry about nutcakes fashioning bioweapons. Over the decades, it's happened before. I recall a couple of medical students years ago who were growing Corynybacterium diphtheria which they planned to put into the water supply. Thankfully, they were apprehended before anything could happen. ATCC, a repository for biological organisms, now has better control over whom they ship samples to, but it's not foolproof. And as I said, nature provides ample opportunity to find the starting material. What to do about it? Can't really say. But let's at least not be naive and think one needs a sophistocated lab set up and personnel.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Two summer whites and a red

Three new wines tonight. I'll start with kind of a experiment. I'd never heard of Cashmere before but read below. One of the whites is found in every liquor store I've been in, even grocery stores. It was a surprise because I didn't expect it to be a good as it turned out, especially for the price. Cheers!

Cline 2006 Cashmere; $14.00: A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. Dark ruby color, almost purple. Very forward fruity nose. Black raspberry jam bouquet with peppery blackberry fruit in the mouth. Finishes with mild tannins. Had to check the label because it tasted like it was higher in alcohol content. It wasn't. Very nice.

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio; $10.00: Pale, clear straw yellow color. Bouquet has lots of lime and grapefruit. Reminds me of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Tastes like one too. Crisp and clean, not sharp at all. Pleasantly surprising for such a common wine. Good wine for quaffing on a hot summer evening (it's 101F here as I write!).

2006 King Estate Oregon Domaine Pinot Gris; $14.00: Pale straw color. Bouquet has pear, apple, tropical fruit, lemon, white peach and spice blend. In the mouth, lemon, pineapple, pear, and lime. Crisp acidity, nice mouthfeel with a full bodied texture.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New Novel coming soon

Well, my new supernatural thriller, "Rise of the Fallen" is almost ready to go to the printer. This is my second novel in the Angel of Death Series. Liam Michaels, aka, the Angel of Death pairs up with two new characters, one of whom is his wise-cracking shredder guitarist brother, Uriel. The synopsis and an excerpt are posted below. It will be available some time in October through Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Infinity Press. Amazon too, but I'm not keen on them right now. I recommend going to a local bookstore and ordering it through the bookseller so you don't have to pay shipping. Please buy and read the book and tell me what you think. It goes great with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir from Kim Crawford Vinyards. Both are favorites of Liam Michaels...and me. Cheers!

A leading U.S. bioweapons scientist dies of an unexplainable neurological disease. A mysterious cocaine factory operates out of a Swiss chocolate factory, guarded by highly trained combat troops. Chechnya is destroyed with thermobaric bombs after an outbreak of a bioterrorist virus. And the beautiful but enigmatic CEO of a biotechnology company fights off a take-over attempt by a sinister Boston investment group. Unrelated as these events may seem, Liam Michaels, an artist, photographer—and the immortal Angel of Death—recognizes the insidious moves of fallen angels and he must act quickly to stop the rise of the Fallen.

Sunday, May 4th; Framingham, Massachusetts
Jeffery Blazek was dying. He lay on the kitchen floor of his cozy three-bedroom house that backed up to the Boy Scouts forest preserve in Framingham, Massachusetts, unable to move or call for help. His muscle control gone, the room smelled of urine and feces. Saliva drooled slowly down his cheek and pooled under his face. His mouth snapped open and shut like a fish out of water, and his breath came in strained gasps and whistling rales. His body shook with constant tremors; his left hand beat gently against the floor. He was dying.

Two bizarre-looking figures sat at the kitchen table covered head to toe in pale green hazmat suits made of a cross-linked lyotropic liquid crystal-butyl rubber composite. The suits operated on a principle similar to Gore-Tex, but with pores one hundred times smaller, blocking the entry of bacteria, viruses, and most chemical warfare agents. Blue latex gloves covered their hands, and they wore clear plastic facemasks attached to respirators on their backs. Both took notes on the Tablet PC’s of two Panasonic Toughbook computers.

A man’s baritone voice spoke, “Let’s go over the progression of the disease.”

“Fire away, my young genius.” The voice of the second figure was female with a slight Irish accent.

The man frowned through his mask. “The pneumonia first appeared three weeks ago, correct?”

“Yep, inoculated him twenty-eight days ago on Sunday, April 6th, as he took a leak in the company washroom,” the second figure answered. “There’s a lesson here, sweetums.” She stared at the man, her eyes glittering behind her mask. “Working weekends will kill you. I put the inoculum in the automatic air freshener dispenser.”

“When did his symptoms first appear?” asked the man.

“Let’s see,” the woman said, consulting her computer. “Five days after the initial exposure, he showed signs of pneumonia. Doctor put him on azithromycin. Looks like his pneumonia was better five days after beginning treatment.”

“Excellent. When did the neurological symptoms appear?”

The woman again checked her computer notes. “Twenty-one days after infection he began to complain of tremors and a general weakness in his legs. According to his medical records, he stated he felt unsteady and found himself leaning against the walls of his home in order to walk without falling.” She looked up from her computer. “Sounds like you after a couple of beers.”

“Cut the crap,” the male snarled.

“No sense of humor, little one?” the female purred. “Twenty-five days after infection, his doctor wrote that his speech was slurred, his coordination deteriorating. Boy, this really could be you after tossing back a few.”

The man ignored the comment. “And the doctor’s opinion?”

“Doc suspected Guillain-Barré syndrome.”

Guillain-Barré syndrome resulted from an attack on the peripheral nerves by the body's immune system. It usually followed a few days or weeks after a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection. The symptoms varied and included weakness or tingling sensations in the legs and, in many instances, spread to the arms and upper body. The symptoms could increase in intensity until the muscles were useless, and the victim was almost paralyzed. In most cases, the affected patient recovered completely, but in rare instances, the paralysis remained. Even rarer, death occurred.

“Exactly what we hoped. So, if today is day twenty-eight post-infection, then the symptoms have progressed just as expected,” the man declared, flexing his gloved fingers.

The man on the floor gasped frantically. His body tried to inhale deeper without exhaling, straining for the last bit of precious oxygen. Abruptly, the sounds of his wheezing ended and his chest muscles stopped working. He was dead.

“Ironic, isn’t it? The guy’s an infectious disease expert,” the mysterious man said.

“Correction. Was an infectious disease expert.”

“Whatever,” the man continued. “Here he is, dead from an infection, and there was nothing he could do to prevent or cure it.”

“At least you’re good at some things, kitten,” the female said. “I’d say the Desesperado agent is a success.” She began typing into her computer. “Let’s see, oh-three-thirty-five hours, May 4th, the subject, Jeffery Blazek, was pronounced dead. The presumed cause, Guillain-Barré syndrome.”

“That’s it. We’re out of here,” the man said.