Deadly CareA book review by Robert B. Boardman
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
Richard W. Fulmer's novel, "Deadly Care," (paper, 170 pp., $9.95) is a frightening look at the bullet we dodged when the Clinton Health Care Plan failed to pass Congress. But it is also a good read, combining the best of drama and social philosophy. The author makes you care about what happens to the characters. The book entertains, it raises the spirit, and it provides hope for the rest of us. It also contains a warning, because you never see the bullet that takes you out: Bad ideas like socialized medicine are a dime a dozen.
"Deadly Care" was published by Vantage Press and can be ordered through bookstores, or directly from Vantage at 800-882-3273.
In 1998, Tom Davidson and his wife set out to save the life of their four-month-old daughter, who needs surgery for a congenital heart defect. And they run afoul of the law, because the waiting list for this type of surgery -- in the nationalized health care cooperative to which they are assigned -- is longer than daughter Becky can be expected to live without surgery. Tom attempts to bribe a doctor, a new health care crime, and is arrested.
A good novel concentrates on one problem, because the main difference between a good novel and real life is that real life doesn't have to make sense. And Fulmer does an excellent job of concentrating on the evils of socialized medicine, American style. He does it within the confines of an exciting story, with remarkably few intrusions of moralizing. His philosophy is easy to discern, but he handles it mostly through action and dialogue.
At the same time, Fulmer occasionally comments on the broader social environment that would allow this legal horror to exist. For example, at one point the FBI agent who arrested Davidson says, "How many kids have we seen arrested for murder, rape, even torture because their parents didn't give a flip whether or not they grew up like animals? And now we're going to throw a decent man into prison because he does care. The world's turned upside down. We reward people for irresponsible behavior and penalize them for constructive behavior. It's... it's like we rewired some guy's nervous system so he'd feel pleasure when he beats his head against a wall, and pain when he eats. Then we sit back and wonder why he self destructs."
As the story unfolds, Becky's life is saved by a surgeon in a foreign land. Which land, is one of the pleasant surprises in the story (there are many), and the way Becky and her mother get to that country treats the reader to some gripping adventure. But her father is still on trial. When his attorney tells him he can plead guilty and perhaps get off easy, Tom says, "Becky fought for her life on that operating table, but does the life she won belong to her or to the government? That's what this trial's about, and I'm going to see it through." Which paints the issue clearly enough for any reader. And yet, the author's development of Tom's character is so skillful that this speech is believable, as is the feeling that Tom is basically no more heroic than any number of people I have met. Heroism was forced upon him by the choices he had to make. And the publicity that the Davidson family's ordeal generates (This was the only part of the book that seemed unreal to me: The press got something right.) elevated several of this book's characters, major and minor, to a little bit of unexpected greatness.
Another bonus: The bad guy is really bad, and it's an intense pleasure to hate him. (He's a Harvard-educated assistant Attorney General!) Yet even here, the story is entirely believable.
I enjoyed this book when I first read it, while Hillary's plan was still fresh in my mind. I read it again for this review, and enjoyed it even more. Writing this review, I had to hold back in order not to give away too much of the plot. I recommend it to all libertarians, many of whom will be delighted to read Mr. Fulmer for the first time. And I am happy to report that Fulmer is doing research for another book.
Robert B. Boardman is the author of sf novels Savior of Fire, published by Blue Note Books, and The Trashers, as yet unpublished. He is currently managing director of the Nepenthe Project, a startup center in Houston for making liberty-oriented movies and videos. He is also Treasurer of the Committee to Elect Rob Thorn, who is running for US Congress. email: RBBoardman@aol.com
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