Like so many thrillers, the idea for the plot of The Cutting came from something I found in the news.
I read an article about so-called “organ tourism.” Americans traveling to foreign countries for transplants they couldn’t qualify for here at home.
As most of us know, there’s of a chronic shortage of organ donors and organs available for transplant in the US and other first world countries. People in desperate need of kidneys, livers, and hearts die each year because there simply aren’t enough. Some of these people are considered too old to qualify for legitimate transplant programs in the US. Others are deemed to be too sick to benefit from a new organ.
This has given rise to a new and thriving international black market in organs.
Desperately poor people in countries like China, India and in South America often sell organs for money. A thousand dollars for a kidney may not seem like much to us but it’s considered a fortune to poor people in third world countries.
And the trade isn’t just limited to kidneys. There are many documented cases where people have been kidnapped and murdered so their organs, the ones they can’t live without like their hearts, could be harvested and sold to an unknowing American in desperate need of one.
There are a lot of problems inherent in becoming a so-called “organ tourist.” You don’t know if the organ you’re buying is healthy. You don’t know if the surgeon is competent by American standards. You don’t know if kidnapping, coercion or even murder was involved in obtaining it.
So I just said “What if?”
What if, instead of happening in some third world country, it was happening right here in the US?
What if there were a number of very rich, very sick old men who couldn’t qualify for legitimate transplant programs because of their age and condition who were willing to pay an immoral but highly qualified surgeon just about anything to get a new heart?
What if they could be assured that the blood type and tissue would be compatible to their needs.
What if the brilliant surgeon also happened to be a sadistic psychopathic killer?
That’s the basic premise behind The Cutting (though the story takes a number of unexpected twists and turns in the telling.)
The Cutting opens as a beautiful young woman is abducted while jogging through the idyllic streets of Portland, Maine’s upscale West End. The very same night the body of a pretty young high school soccer star is found in an abandoned scrap yard, her heart cut from her body with medical precision.
Former NYPD homicide detective and single father, Michael McCabe, left New York and moved to Portland to find a safer and more wholesome place in which to raise his teenage daughter. But he suddenly realizes he found a lot more than he bargained for.
As it says in The Cutting “standing here in a scrap yard in Portland, Maine, McCabe suddenly…knew with an absolute certainty that…no matter how far he ran, no matter how well he hid, he’d never leave the violence or his fascination with it behind.”
The Cutting is the first in a series of thrillers featuring Michael McCabe. The second, called The Chill of Night, is due out from St. Martin’s/Minotaur in late June of 2010. That too was inspired by something I read in the news.
Like McCabe, I’m a native New Yorker. He was born in the Bronx. I was born in Brooklyn. We both grew up in the city. He dropped out of NYU Film School and joined the NYPD, rising through the ranks to become the top homicide cop at the Midtown North Precinct. I graduated from Brown and joined a major New York ad agency, rising through the ranks to become creative director on accounts like the US Army, Procter & Gamble, and Lincoln/Mercury.
We both married beautiful brunettes. McCabe’s wife, Sandy dumped him to marry a rich investment banker who had “no interest in raising other people’s children.” My wife, Jeanne, though often given good reason to leave me in the lurch, has stuck it out through thick and thin and is still my wife. She is also my best friend, my most attentive reader and a perceptive critic.
Both McCabe and I eventually left New York for Portland, Maine. I arrived in August 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, in search of the right place to begin a new career as a fiction writer. He came to town a year later, to escape a dark secret in his past and to find a safe place to raise his teenage daughter, Casey.
There are other similarities between us. We both love good Scotch whiskey, old movie trivia and the New York Giants. And we both live with and love women who are talented artists.
There are also quite a few differences. McCabe’s a lot braver than me. He’s a better shot. He likes boxing. He doesn’t throw up at autopsies. And he’s far more likely to take risks. McCabe’s favorite Portland bar, Tallulah’s, is, sadly, a figment of my imagination. My favorite Portland bars are all very real.
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