Marc Hirsch is a retired doctor who is the author of the mystery novel The Case: here is a link to his Goodreads page:
Q: What is The Case about?
A: The Case follows Alice White, a divorced legal assistant in 1955 New York City, who travels upstate to investigate the death of a country doctor. What at first appears to have been an accident, turns into a deadly power play of greed and marital discord and threatens to end her life just as she has begun to thaw.
Q: What makes Alice a character worth reading about?
A: Alice White is a woman in her thirties, out of her time. She loses her job at the end of WWII to the men returning from military service and refuses to conform to the mold of housewife and mother society seems to expect her to fit into. She is beautiful and athletic, she runs for exercise, inspired by Fanny Blankers-Koen who won four gold medals in the 1948 Olympics, and she goes to law school at night while assisting two Manhattan lawyers with investigation on their cases.
Q: Why did you chose to write about a female protagonist?
A: I wrote a chapter to get into a writing workshop. The woman in the scene which composes the whole chapter, sitting alone on a fire escape in the heat of a summer evening in the Bronx of the 1950’s, became Alice White and, only in retrospect, I realized she was modeled after my older sister who underwent similar struggles in 1950’s New York City, as did our mother. Both were working women, my sister a divorcee like Alice. I have had many women friends who have educated me throughout my life about the struggles of women with societal expectations. I am prejudiced in Alice’s favor.
Q: How did your experience as a doctor help you in writing a murder mystery?
A: The Case practically opens with a doctor struggling to have a life outside of medicine. That is as much my own story as his. My whole career I have attempted to balance work and many other interests. I did not want to bury myself in clinical practice, yet I took care of critically ill people and wanted them to have the very best I could deliver, so I had to devote much of my “free” time to continuing my medical education. I squeezed in my other interests, though, and started The Case while I was still engaged in high pressure hospital practice. Of course I finished the book in retirement.
Q: You worked as a doctor on Alcatraz during the 1969 Native American occupation of the island. What compelled you to take that job?
A: I was a new doctor, interning in San Francisco, and a staff attending physician at my hospital asked me if I’d go, despite the risk of jail time because the Indians had occupied federal land without permission and they were armed. It made me confront what being a doctor meant to me, so I went. Forty five years later, even though I’m retired, I still try to live up to that standard. I volunteer at a local free clinic and, when they try to thank me, I tell them I need to do it more than they need me to do it.
Q: Who are some of your literary influences?
A: I really didn’t do much reading for pleasure until I finished my initial postgraduate medical training. In the early1970’s I spent a year living on an island off the coast of British Columbia and read boxes full of used detective fiction by kerosene lamp. I discovered Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Earl der Biggers, creator of Charlie Chan, on that island. More recently, James Lee Burke, Lee Child and Michael Connelly have entertained me with their detective fiction.
Q: How did you get a publisher?
A: I meditate as a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda. Every six months I attend a retreat here in Kentucky. One of the regular attendees read and loved my book, The Case, and introduced me to his son, a publisher in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a fan of my writing as are his editors and they have encouraged me to finish my next book and move on to others. They have named this first group of books the Alice White, Investigator series.
Q: Many great writers from Ernest Hemingway to Charles Bukowski have been heavy drinkers who have suggested that alcohol helped their creativity. (Hemingway said, “write drunk, edit sober.”)You are in recovery; what are some creative techniques you use that do not involve alcohol or drugs?
A: I am definitely an alcoholic in recovery and can no longer drink. When I did drink I did not find alcohol particularly stimulating to my creative expression, so I don’t miss that aspect of it. Recovery has improved so much of my life I would have thought had nothing to do with my drinking. In regard to being an author, it has increased my enjoyment of the process of writing and going out to research people and places to write about. I also now read far more than I did when I drank. So I think the daily process of recovery has far surpassed my use of alcohol as a creative stimulant.
Q: What was your greatest triumph as a doctor?
A: I feel fortunate to have been able to deliver so many babies at various times in my career and that, I would normally say, has been a repeated incredibly positive experience in both my life and my medical career. But the single triumph of my experience as a doctor has to have been very early in my career, one particular teen ager who was involved in a high impact automobile accident, struck in the chest by a steering wheel, with no pulse and not breathing. The nurse present encouraged me to move on to another of the victims of this multiple vehicle catastrophe, but I had a feeling this youngster was still salvageable and I sprayed his chest with antiseptic and plunged the biggest bladed scalpel I ever saw between his ribs and into his chest, and the hole sprayed out a mist of blood under pressure with a sound like a coffee can opening and he came back to life. I never got over that.
Q: If you could take a road trip with Dr. Watson or Dr. Victor Frankenstein who would you pick and where would you go?
A: I would travel with Dr. Watson to London. There are so many reasons besides the obvious, that, when I read Sherlock Holmes, I identify with Watson. I loved London when I was there in the 1960’s. I stayed with fellow medical students in the East End. I would want Dr. Watson to show me his version of London and regale me with his peak experiences, fears and methods of both medical practice and investigation as a student and friend of the famous detective.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)