Dr. Dean DeLuke is a graduate of St. Michael’s College, Columbia University (DMD) and Union Graduate College (MBA). He completed residency training at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and also participated in a fellowship in maxillofacial surgery at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, England.
He currently divides his time between the practice of oral and maxillofacial surgery and a variety of business consulting activities with Millennium Business Communications, LLC, a boutique marketing, communications and business consulting firm. An active volunteer, he has served on the Boards of the St. Clare’s Hospital Foundation, the Kidney Foundation of Northeast New York, and the Albany Academy for Girls. He has also performed medical missionary work with Health Volunteers Overseas.
He has a long history of involvement with thoroughbred horses—from farm hand on the Assunta Louis Farm in the 1970s to partner with Dogwood Stable at present.
His latest book is Shedrow, a medical thriller with a unique twist.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Dean. Can you tell us what your latest book, Shedrow, is all about?
Shedrow has been dubbed by one reviewer as a cross between Dick Francis and Robin Cook, because it is a racetrack thriller in the spirit of Dick Francis, but there is a medical mystery at the heart of the story—surrounding the mysterious death of a multimillion dollar stallion on a supposedly secure farm in Lexington KY. And because the principal character happens to be a surgeon, there is a good deal of medical drama throughout the book.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Dr. Anthony Gianni is a Manhattan surgeon who entered into a racing partnership as a diversion from a thriving practice and an ailing marriage. Chester Pawlek is another partner that Gianni is basically stuck with—one with a very unsavory background. Let’s just say those two don’t exactly hit it off, and some bad things begin to happen.
There is a collision of characters from many divergent worlds: high society and the racing elite, medical and veterinary specialists, mob figures, and Kentucky hill folk all become entangled in the story line.
The story also indirectly explores some serious issues affecting the sport of thoroughbred racing: over-breeding for speed at the expense of stamina, overreliance on medications, and the need for a national racing commissioner, just as most other professional sports have.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Like most authors, I rely on personal experience to give my story and my characters realism and authenticity. But no one character is a clone of any particular person I know in real life—there is a lot of mixing and matching, so to speak. For instance, the principal character is in no way my alter-ego, though I am sure we do share certain characteristics. In actuality, that character started as one based on another surgeon I have interacted with over the years. As the story progresses, most of the characters tend to take on a life of their own.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I am not a great outliner. I tend to start with a big “what if,” something that will drive the plot. In Shedrow it was, “what if a multimillion dollar stallion dies under very mysterious conditions in a supposedly secure farm in Kentucky.” For me, the characters and the question at the heart of the story then drive the plot. One of the most fascinating and enjoyable things in writing fiction is how the story can, in fact, take on a life of its own. I am sometimes in the middle of a scene, and suddenly a diversion or twist takes place—and it turns out to be a really interesting one. I may look back a day or so later and wonder where that came from.
Q: Your book is set in various locations. Can you tell us why you chose to structure settings that way?
Shedrow is a fast-paced thriller and the setting does shift back and forth from Saratoga Springs NY to Lexington KY, from darkened alleyways in Newark to Gulfstream Park in Miami, from Manhattan’s tony ‘21’ Club all the way to the tiny island of St. Lucia. I think it is very interesting for the reader to be taken to a variety of different places, and the setting changes are integral to the plot. The sport of thoroughbred racing requires that owners and trainers follow horses to various racing venues. At one point, in the middle of all the action, Dr. Gianni has to travel to a remote island hospital to honor a pledge he had made to perform some missionary work. So the transitions are very real, and it is one of the things that readers really liked about the story.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
I have to be a little vague here, because I don’t want to give away any surprises. So I’ll just say that Dr. Gianni is sitting with his horse trainer at Chianti Il, a restaurant in Saratoga Springs, NY. They are sitting at the bar, toasting to one of their horses who recently had a big win. Gianni looks up at the ceiling, where a rack of assorted glasses hang above the bar. Soft light flickers through the glasses. It’s a generally pleasant scene except that…[sorry, no spoilers].
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
Many readers said, “You had me at the Prologue.” So let me provide an excerpt from that, even though I could select others where I might personally like the actual writing more:
The blindfold was torn off Dr. Gianni’s eyes, and he squinted at the light, trying to focus on the two men who had dragged him from his office at gunpoint, thrown him into the back seat of a car, and transported him to the small room where he now sat. There were no windows, the only light coming from a bare bulb in a ceiling fixture. The walls were all cinder block, except for a metal garage door that had been closed behind them. The room seemed like part of a warehouse, or one of those self-storage units. With the blindfold off, Gianni could see a hint of sunlight where the cinder blocks abutted a tin roof.
Gianni was seated at a metal table, his hands bound behind his back. At one end of the table stood Sal Catroni. Unlike the other man, he wore no disguise. His longish hair was slicked back neatly, white at the sides, darker on top. His brow was furrowed in a scowl, amplifying the deep frown lines between his black-looking eyes.
Catroni spoke first. “You know who I am?” he said.
Gianni shook his head.
“I’m Sal Catroni, of the Catroni family, and this here is Hector. Hector was a medic in the marines. He’s here to help you with some medical treatment.”
Hector stood at least six-two, all of it solid muscle. He wore a tight white dress shirt, its silk sleeves rolled neatly to the middle of his massive forearms. A ski mask, open at the forehead, concealed his face, and his closely cropped black hair stood mostly on end. It reminded Gianni of a 1960s style flat-top cut, only not as stiff.
“Hector has some tools for you, Doc,” Catroni said.
Hector opened a clean white linen cloth, the texture of a dishrag but with a starched white appearance. Inside were surgical instruments. Dr. Gianni instantly recognized them—there was a blade handle and several large #10 blades, the kind a surgeon would use to make a long incision. It was not a delicate blade, but one meant to cut hard and fast through a lot of tissue with a single swipe. Next to the blades was a bone cutting forceps, which Gianni knew to be a Rongeurs forceps. Then there was a large pile of neatly folded gauze pads.
“Recognize those tools?” Catroni asked.
“Well, Hector here is prepared to do a little surgery today.”
Catroni released Gianni’s hands, placing his left hand on the table beside the white cloth, and the other hand behind Gianni’s back, re-binding it tightly to the chair with duct tape.
“Now Dr. Gianni, Hector here is going to start with the tip of your ring finger, on your left hand. You are right-handed, aren’t you?”
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Dean. We wish you much success!
Thank you very much!