Monday, February 25, 2013

Frank Slaughter wrote medical novels

Frank Slaughter
It is the birthday of Florida physician and writer Frank G. Slaughter (1908), whose immensely popular medical adventures and historical tales were bestsellers for decades beginning in the 1950s. For nine years, he was a surgeon at Riverside Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, in the 1930s and early 1940s but he eventually left the profession to devote full time to writing. He lived in Florida for 50 years and set many of his books in the region. His novels always combined some medical aspect and romance. They weren't considered literary masterpieces but they were widely read.

His historical novel Fort Everglades (1951) was set during the Second Seminole War at a fort on the Miami River. U.S. Army troops were planning to invade the Everglades. Warner Brothers was so intrigued with the story that the studio began making a feature film that liberally borrowed scenes from Slaughter's book. The film was the 1951 feature Distant Drums starring Gary Cooper and directed by Raoul Walsh. Only later, after it was challenged, did the studio buy the movie rights to the novel. Oddly, the film was shot in and around Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, a Spanish fort of an entirely different era.

Fernando Lamas starred in the 1953 film version of Slaughter's novel Sangaree (1952), which was set during the American Revolution. It tells the story of an indentured servant who rises in stature and power in the state of Georgia. Gene Hackman and Dyan Cannon starred in a 1971 movie based on Slaughter's Doctors' Wives (1967), in which high powered doctors neglect their wives in pursuit of their careers.

Slaughter wrote 56 books and they sold about 60 million copies. They were translated into all major languages. In addition to the then-modern medical dramas and historical fiction, Slaughter wrote novels based on biblical stories set in the Holy Land and also in Europe during the Renaissance. Curiously, Slaughter rarely traveled. He visited Europe once when he was in his 60s but never went to the Middle East. His first novel, That None Should Die (1941) offered a young doctor's view of socialized medicine. His last novel, No Greater Love (1984) was also a medical story. Slaughter died in 2001 at the age of 93.

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