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for Books and Writers
by Bamber Gascoigne

Frank G(ill) Slaughter (1908-2001) - pseudonym "C.V. Terry"


American bestseller novelist and physician, whose books sold more than 60 million copies. Frank G. Slaughter's novels drew on his own experience as a physician and reflected his interest in history and the Biblical world. He often introduced readers to exciting findings in medical research and new inventions in medical technology.

"It was the moment of truth every surgeon faced, a time when rigid control on his part was the patient's sole chance of survival. Knowing he had only seconds to free the pressure on the trachea, Ben continued the relentless lifting motion. For an instant of panic, he was sure the tumor would not emerge. Then, when he was on the edge of surrender, it popped into view, like an orange squeezed from a child's Christmas stocking. At the same moment the patient took a long, gasping swallow of air, then began to breathe evenly again." (from Tomorrow's Miracle, 1962)

Frank G. Slaughter was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Stephen Lucious Slaughter and Sallie Nicholson Gill, a schoolteacher. When he was about five years old, his family moved to Berea, North Carolina, onto a 225-acre farm. His father worked as a farmer, rural mail carrier, and sawmill operator. On the farm the family grew tobacco and corn, too.

After graduating from the Oxford High School, Slaughter studied at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, being a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Slaughter received his medical degree from John Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, in 1930. He spent four years in surgical training at the Jefferson Hospital, Roanoke, Virginia. Decades later Slaughter said in an interview, that "Stored away deep in my mind even after forty years are still more seeds medical lore, gained during those student days in Baltimore, and from these seeds will come other novels of medicine's heritage from history and the arts." In 1933, he married Jane Mundy, a former operating room nurse; they had two sons. Slaughter moved in 1934 with his wife to Florida, where he worked as a staff surgeon at Herman Kiefer Hospital, Jacksonville, from 1934 to 1943. Later Florida became the scene of many of his novels.

"You've done this – this operation before, Doctor?"
"Once, in the clinic at Edinburgh. The patient lived to thank me."

(from Sangaree, 1948)

Slaughter became in 1938 a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Two years later he was certified as a Specialist in Surgery by the American Board of Surgery. During World War II, Slaughter served as Chief of the Surgical Service in the United States Medical Corps at the station hospital at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. In 1944, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. When Slaughter sailed for Manila as chief surgeon aboard the hospital ship Emily H. M. Weder, he shipped two bookbags of reference works to write his sixth book, the Civil War novel In a Dark Garden (1946).

Slaughter had been an omnivorous reader already at an early age. From 1935, he started to try his own hand at writing. He purchased a $60 typewriter and produced a number of short stories, but sold only one during a five-year period. From this sale to the Chicago Daily News he received $12.00. Moreover, the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, whom he met while she was a hospital patient, gave him the advice: "Stick to operating."

That None Should Die (1941), Slaughter's first book, was a semi-autobiographical tale of a young idealistic doctor. He begins his practice in a small southern community, where his new ideas come in conflict with the medical care system. Before Doubleday accepted the manuscript, Slaughter rewrote it five times. The final version was made with the help of Thomas B. Costain, a novelist, who worked for Doubleday Books as an editor. In Denmark, occupied by Nazi Germany, the book was a huge bestseller. Its Danish translation, Ingen må dø, published by Povl Branners forlag, sold 120,000 copies during the war through underground markets.

By the 1970s, That None Should Die had been translated into 15 languages. "It is a story no layman could have told – that no layman, for that matter, would have been justified in trying to tell," said one reviewer. Although the novel was an moderate success in the United States, it was a bestseller in the Scandinavian countries, beginning from Denmark, where the it went into print just before the Nazis occupied the country. During the war, Slaughter's royalty statements were scrupulously kept by the underground. In France, Slaughter's bestsellers were published in the "Livre de poche" series, founded in 1953. 

After completing four other books, Slaughter devoted himself entirely to writing, usually producing one novel a year. Slaughter wrote at the speed of 1000 words a day and roughly 100,000 words a year. He continued to publish in fast tempo to the late 1980s. Slaughter died at his home on May 17, 2001, in Jacksonville, where he had lived for nearly five decades, mostly in the Riverside area and then in Ortega area. He had been bedridden in later years, but dictated passages for a new novel into a tape recorder. William DuBois (d. 1997), a playwright, novelist and editor, worked with the author on 27 of his books.

Slaughter's highly adulatory Immortal Magyar (1950) was about Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865). He was one of the heroes in solving the mystery of the terrible childbed fever, which killed young mothers. The last half of the book tells of the bitterness of Semmelweis, who eventually suffered a mental breakdown, after his new ideas were rejected. Slaughter did not only publish medical novels but biblical and historical as well. The Road to Bithynia (1951) was about Saint Luke, who is thought to have been a physician, and The Crown and the Cross (1959) told the story of Christ.

The Thorn of Arimathea (1959) was about Joseph of Arimathea and Veronica (of the Veil) and the founding of the first Christian church in Britain. Also other writer doctors, such as Lloyd C. Douglas and A. J. Cronin, have showed an interest in religious themes. L.C. Douglas depicted the Crucifixion and its aftermath in The Robe (1942), which was filmed in 1953. Slaughter's portrayal of Jesus is conventional, but he manages to bring color and life into the most famous biblical tale. However, Slaughter never visited biblical lands.

In historical novels, such as Storm Haven (1953), set in Florida in the 1860s, Slaughter focused on adventure. The protagonist of the story is a young doctor, Christopher Clark. He is torn between two women, Valerie, the proud owner of a large estate, and the dark and passionate Elena. This pattern, a hero and two different women, Slaughter often repeated. Marion Hanscom has criticized Slaughter's portrayal of women: "His empathy with people, however, fails to keep pace, especially his women who do not even begin to reflect the very real changes that women have undergone in the last half of the 20th century." (Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, ed. by Aruna Vasudevan, 1994)

Between 1941 and 1987, Slaughter published 65 books. Some of Slaughter's later novels feature strong female characters. Women in White (1974) introduced Helga Sundberg, a beautiful nurse, who is highly skillful in her profession and who knows what she wants from a man. The book was filmed in 1979 and inspired a TV series.

Another independent and strong-willed character is Dr. Elizabeth MacGowan in No Greater Love (1985), who keeps alive a pregnant, brain-dead woman to save the fetus. For the sake of storytelling, some of Slaughter's characters express opinions that the author don't necessary share. Thus one doctor says: "When I see a child with Down's Syndrome plus ... spina bifida and hydrocephalus I can't help feeling that both patient and family would have been a lot better off if someone had done [an] amniocentesis ... A syringe full of concentrated saline injected into the uterus can make it empty itself in a harmless abortion with no more danger than having a wisdom tooth pulled." (The Doctor in Literature. Volume 3. Career Choices by Solomon Posen, 2010, p. 240) Slaughter's final novel, The Transplant, came out in 1987.

Doctor heroes in Slaughter's novels have strenghts and weaknesses, they do not suffer different problems than people around them. One of the most interesting examples is Dr Mark Harrison in Doctors at Risk (1983) who becomes addicted to alcohol, amphetamines, and finally to 'Demreol.' Slaughter's sympathies are on his side.

Some of Slaughter's books have been made into films. Gene Hackman played a psychiatrist named David Randolph in Doctor's Wives (1971), directed by George Schaefer. When his wife (Rachel Roberts) confessess to him her lesbian affair, Dave  suddenly hits her on the face with a newspaper and says: "You can't hit people with newpapers. I'll have to see someone about it. It's bad habit." (Gene Hackman: The Life and Work by Peter Shelley, 2019, p. 34) This film was unsuccessful at the box office. Sangaree (1953), a 3-D color drama directed by Edward Ludwig, has been dismissed as "1950s kitch . . . overheated period soaper". (Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide, edited by Leonard Maltin, 2005, p. 481) The Warner Brothers "Florida Western" Distant Drums (1951), directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Gary Cooper, contained some 20 scenes drawn from Slaughter's historical novel Fort Everglades (1951), but the movie rights were purchased after the filming was completed.

For further reading: Popular Culture by David Manning White (1975); 'Slaughter, Frank G(ill)' by Marion Hanscom, in Twentieth-Century Romance and Gothic Writers, edited by James Vinson (1982); 'Frank G. Slaughter,' in The Book Lover's Guide to Florida, edited by Kevin M. McCarthy (1992); 'Slaughter, Frank  (Gill)', in Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, edited by Aruna Vasudevan (1994); 'Slaughter, Frank  (Gill),' in World Authors 1900-1950, Volume Four, edited by Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996); The Doctor in Literature, Volume 2: Private Life by Solomon Posen (2006); 'Frank G. Slaughter, M.D., FACS: Medical Novelist and Surgeon Writer' by Michael Trotter, The American Surgeon 84(12) (December 2018)

Selected works:

  • That None Should Die, 1941 - Elämä on pelastettava (suom. Oiva Talvitie, 1950)
  • Spencer Brade, MD, 1942 - Me palvelemme elämää (suom. Oiva Talvitie, 1949)
  • Air Surgeon, 1943 - Lentolääkäri (suom. Terttu Järvilehto, 1961)
  • Battle Surgeon, 1944 - Rintamalääkäri (suom. Maija Taka, Osmo Taka, 1953)
  • A Touch of Glory, 1945 - Kiitän sinua elämästäni (suom. Helvi Erjakka, 1951)
  • In a Dark Garden, 1946 - Velvollisuus ja rakkaus (suom. Maija Taka, Osmo Taka, 1952)
  • The Science of Surgery, 1946 (rev. ed. Science and Surgery, 1956)
  • The Golden Isle, 1947 - Kultainen saari (suom. Liisa Koskinen, 1962)
  • Medicine for Moderns, 1947
  • Sangaree, 1948 - film 1953, dir. by Edward Ludwig, starring Fernando Lamas, Arlene Dahl, Patricia Medina, Francis L. Sullivan - Elämän malja (suom. Inkeri Hämäläinen, 1956)
  • Divine Mistress, 1949
  • The Stubborn Heart, 1950 - Hellät kädet (suom. Inkeri Hämäläinen, 1954)
  • Immortal Magyar: Semmelweis, Conqueror of Childbed Fever, 1950
  • Fort Everglades, 1951 - Vedenneito (suom. Juhani Pietiläinen, 1964)
  • The Road to Bithynia. A Novel of Luke, The Beloved Physician, 1951
  • East Side General, 1952 - Suuri sairaala (suom. Inkeri Hämäläinen, 1955)
  • Storm Haven, 1953 - Floridan valtiatar (suom. Juhani Pietiläinen, 1963)
  • The Galileans: A Novel of Mary Magdalene, 1953
  • The Song of Ruth, 1954 - film "The Story of Ruth", 1960
  • Buccaneer Surgeon, 1954 (as C.V. Terry, as Buccaneer Doctor, 1955)
  • Darien Venture, 1955 (as C.V. Terry) - Vaarojen rannikko (suom. Terttu Järvilehto, 1964)
  • The Healer, 1955 - Suurkaupungin lääkäri (suom. Inkeri Hämäläinen, 1955)
  • The Golden Ones, 1955 (as C.V. Terry)
  • Flight from Natchez, 1955 - Pako (suom. Inkeri Hämäläinen, 1957)
  • The Scarlet Cord: A Novel of the Woman of Jericho, 1956
  • The Warrior, 1956 (as The Flaming Frontier in 1957) - Liekehtivä maa (suom. Terttu Järvilehto, 1958)
  • The Mapmaker: A Novel of the Days of Prince Henry, The Navigator, 1957
  • Sword and Scalpel, 1957 - Miekka ja veitsi (suom. Anna-Liisa Laine, 1960)
  • screenplay: Naked in the Sun, 1957 (with John Hugh) - film "Seminole" 1957, from the novel The Warrior
  • Daybreak, 1958 - Päivänkoitto (suom. Tauno Tainio, 1958)
  • The Deadly Lady of Madagascar, 1959 (as C.V. Terry, pseud. of Frank G. Slaughter & William Du Bois)
  • Deep is the Shadow, 1959 (as G. Arnold Haygood; as Shadow of Evil, 1975)
  • The Crown and the Cross: The Life of Christ, 1959 - Kruunu ja risti (suom. Juhani Pietiläinen, 1970)
  • The Thorn of Arimathea, 1959 - Kukkiva orjantappura (suom. Anna-Liisa Laine, 1959)
  • Lorena, 1959 - Lorena (suom. Lea Karvonen, 1960)
  • Pilgrims in Paradise, 1960 (as Puritans in Paradise, 1960) - Kiusausten saari (suom. Juhani Pietiläinen, 1969)
  • The Land and the Promise: The Greatest Stories from the Bible, 1960
  • Epidemic!, 1961 - Kulkutauti (suom. Hilkka Lehtonen, 1961)
  • The Curse of Jezebel; A Novel of the Biblical Queen of Evil, 1961 (as Queen of Evil, 1962)
  • Tomorrow's Miracle, 1962 - Huomispäivän ihme (suom. Ritva Wederholm, 1976)
  • David, Warrior and King: A Biblical Biography, 1962
  • Devil's Harvest, 1963
  • Upon This Rock: A Novel of Simon Peter, Prince of the Apostles, 1964
  • A Savage Place, 1964 - Lääkärin tulikoe (suom. Juhani Pietiläinen, 1965)
  • Constantine: The Miracle of the Flaming Cross, 1965
  • The Purple Quest: A Novel of Seafaring Adventure in the Ancient World, 1965
  • Surgeon USA, 1966 (as War Surgeon, 1967) - Lääkärin taistelu (suom. Lea Karvonen, 1967)
  • Doctors' Wives, 1967 - film 1971, dir. by George Schaefer, starring Dyan Cannon, Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman, Carroll O'Connor - Lääkärien vaimot (suom. Marja Heinonen, 1968)
  • God's Warrior, 1967
  • The Sins of Herod: A Novel of Rome and the Early Church, 1968
  • Surgeon's Choice: A Novel of Medicine Tomorrow, 1969 - Lääkärin valinta (suom. Eero Mänttäri, 1970)
  • Countdown, 1970 - Lähtölaskenta (suom. Osmo Mäkeläinen, 1971)
  • Code Five, 1971 - Kirurgin omantunto (suom. Hilkka Pekkanen, 1972)
  • Convention, MD.: A Novel of Medical In-Fighting, 1972 - Lääkärikongressi (suom. Hilkka Pekkanen, 1973)
  • Women in White, 1974 (as Lifeblood, 1974) - television film 1979, dir. by Jerry London, starring, Susan Flannery, Kathryn Harrold, Howard McGillin, Sheree North - Valkeat sisaret (suom. Arvi Tamminen, 1975)
  • Stonewall Brigade, 1975
  • Plague Ship, 1976 - Lääkärin voitto (suom. Väinö J. Tervakari, 1978)
  • Devil's Gamble, 1977
  • The Passionate Rebel, 1979
  • Gospel Fever: A Novel about America's Most Beloved TV Evangelist, 1980
  • Doctor's Daughters, 1981 - Lääkärin tyttäret (suom. Juhani Pietiläinen, 1982)
  • Doctors at Risk, 1983 - Lääkäri vaarallisella tiellä (suom. Inkeri Pitkänen, 1984)
  • No Greater Love, 1985 - Suurin rakkaus (suom. Anna-Liisa Laine, 1986)
  • Transplant, 1987

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