He’s thrilled readers with fictional tales of murder and mayhem, but James Patterson says he hopes his latest book helps “wake people up” by telling the gripping stories of real-life emergency room nurses.
“It’s such a powerful book,” the prolific author says of “E.R. Nurses: True Stories from America’s Greatest Unsung Heroes.” The nonfiction tome with Matt Eversmann, poised to be released Oct. 11, features a compilation of interviews with hospital workers from across the country — everywhere from Wisconsin to Hawaii — telling their experiences in their own words.
“If you read this book, you will understand nurses and hospitals in a way you didn’t before,” Patterson told ITK in a Tuesday interview.
The pair of authors, Patterson said, didn’t want the project to be the kind of book someone would “keep in the bathroom and every 10 [minutes] you read another” few pages.
“We wanted this to be a book that you would just keep reading the damn thing,” Patterson said, “because the stories are just so fascinating.”
Some of those stories include inspiring, sometimes-heart-breaking, bizarre — like the time a dead bird was found in a patient’s jacket — and infuriating true-life moments. One nurse recalls the joy of learning a 2-year-old unexpectedly recovered from a pit bull attack, while another says she’s been “called the B-word and the C-word” and has experienced “having shit thrown at me, people punching me and people bringing in guns.”
“If Matt and I wanted to write a book about the underbelly of this country, like what’s really going on and what’s the worst of the worst, I wouldn’t know where to start before this book. Now I do know: You go to emergency rooms. They see it all,” said Patterson.
Eversmann recounted an interview with a Virginia nurse, Katie Quick, who comforted an older man’s family as he lay dying in the intensive care unit. After the man’s wife said all her husband would want with him was his dog, Quick instructed her to run home and bring back the pet.
“Katie sneaks him up through the back door and lets this man’s dog sleep in his bed,” said Eversmann.
“Just trying to make his last moments on this Earth somewhat pleasant,” he said. “The impact it had on that family’s life was incalculable, and the humanity of that.”
While the idea for the book was conceived pre-COVID-19, work on it was done amid the pandemic and as hospitals have faced potential nursing shortages nationwide. Patterson said he and Eversmann were careful in their approach to interviews, never addressing the coronavirus at the top of their conversations.
“We did not start with COVID stories ever, since we wanted this to be about this person and their life as a nurse — not about COVID.”
Many of the nurses though detail the horrors of COVID-19 in their hospitals, with one saying she’s “constantly riding a rollercoaster of sad cases.” Another nurse, who served in the Navy in Afghanistan and other countries, said of the horrors of COVID-19: “I didn’t have nightmares from my time in the service. Now I have nightmares every single night.”
The book, Patterson said, makes him “hopeful that people are this strong, and this brave, and this wonderful.”
Patterson also said the effort isn’t “cornball” or gimmicky, like some popular TV shows depicting hospital life.
He quipped the plot line for some of those series could be, “The bus full of nuns was crashed into by all these Hell’s Angels motorcyclists and now they’re all at the emergency room. And one of the nuns is going to fall in love with one of the Hell’s Angels.
“This is the real deal.”
Patterson, the world’s best-selling author who has penned thrillers with former President Clinton, collaborated with Eversmann on another nonfiction title released earlier this year, “Walk in my Combat Boots: True Stories From America’s Bravest Warriors.”
Patterson, 74, likened the current fractured state of the country to a “monster rowboat,” saying, “Everybody is sort of paddling in a different direction. And we wonder why the boat is spinning around.”
“If we can all just sort of row in the same direction — and certainly the nurses and the military I think for the most part rowing in the right direction — and if more of us could do that, then it would stop this boat from spinning.”