Robin Cook: Fortune’s Industrial Child


The American novelist Robin Cook became one of the greatest literary stars to visits the 24th annual Book World Prague book fair. His current Czech publisher - Euromedia Group - organised a debate between the author and his Prague readers and fans on Friday afternoon.

Robin Cook is a man of numerous professions and interests, which was perhaps a great prerequisite for his later writing career. When asked to describe himself, he used the term child of fortune. He had the good luck of being the very first from his family to receive university education. And what an education it had been - he studied medicine. His profession spanned several disciplines, including surgery and ear surgery. His military service was with the marines and his literary debut dates back to the time he spent as crew member aboard a submarine. The main topic of the book was treated very well, but the book did not lend itself to easy reading, which the public immediately recognised and the book's sales were a disappointment. Robin Cook, however, fought on and this experience may even have encouraged him. He set out on a quest to discover what properties turn books into a captivating read. He bought all sorts of bestselling titles and scrutinised them to reveal the methods and secret recipes that result in a thrilled reader. This heralded the discovery of a brand new world for him, as before he paid little attention to bestselling titles, having focused mostly on the study of chemistry or maths rather than literary theory. After four years of this theoretical training on the literary achievements of others, he wrote his second book in the course of a six-week internship at an ear surgery department. The book was welcomed enthusiastically by the readers. The internship at the clinic had served him well as there were no night shifts there, which enabled Robin Cook to write long into the night.

And what makes a successful book today according to Robin Cook? "A book must be accurate. It must clearly show that the author knows what he's writing about. On the other hand, however, it mustn't be overly technical, so the readers don't choke on incomprehensible terminology." In his own novels Robin Cook initially drew on real people, whose identity he would alter. In the course of time, however, he discovered that it is much more effective to simply make characters up, as this provided him with much greater freedom in making the characters act.

Having mentioned that Robin Cook is a man of many professions and interests, we are bound to note his lifelong interest in archaeology. Some themes from this discipline have also made their way to the pages of his books. He also tried his hand at running a business, having set up a software company, and now he intends to become a film producer. Even though close to ten of his literary works have already been adapted for the screen, Cook believes that there could be more. Being a man who wishes to have things under control, he decided to adopt the role of a producer, i.e. to remain in charge of the script development and casting decisions. Although he describes himself as a child of fortune, his approach to pretty much everything in his life shows that luck is the last thing he would rely on. The path to all his achievements is clearly marked by intense and focused effort.