Mammoth Surgeon Writes Medical Thriller; Raises Money for Charity

Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

Mammoth Hospital hand surgeon Dr. Richard Alan Brown has written a medical thriller that is not only a riveting read, but is also a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders.
Blending romance, medical intrigue, all-too-human characters and sometimes shocking insights into the medical world, the book is set against the background of the overweening and malicious presence of a shadowy corporation engaged in some truly hair-raising practices.
It is hard to put the book down, as readers follow Dr. Erick “VJ” Brio on a wild and chaotic trip to save those he loves – and himself – from the malign Cooperative.
All proceeds from the sale of the book, Scalpel's Cut, go directly to Doctors Without Borders. Brown said he has already raised $30,000 for the non-profit, which is on the front lines fighting ebola in the Congo as well as helping provide medical aid during natural disasters and medical emergencies across the world.
“There is a $15,000 check coming on behalf of the book to Doctors Without Borders,” he said. “That will put sales and donations over $30,000. I am very happy with that.”
The book takes place in Boston, where Dr. Brio finds himself in the fight of his life trying to track down the culprit, or culprits, in a series of mysterious mutilations.
The book also takes place partly in ‘Sierra Lakes,’ a mountain town.
Given Brown’s background, it is perhaps not surprising that Sierra Lakes looks a bit like Mammoth Lakes and the insights and intimate medical details that Dr. Brio fights, and lives, will look familiar to locals – and to medical professionals everywhere.
That said, most readers are going to hope that much of the resemblance between Brio’s world and the ‘real world’ ends there.
Here’s why, as Brio explains the situation to a character in the book, a medical student named Tess:

Just after Nick disclosed his plan to move to Maine, he looked at me sheepishly.
“By the way, I was going to tell you about that slight transition.”
He held up his mutilated hand.
“Then, the cooperative did this. I mentioned that I wanted to leave. It’s not like I was going to tell anyone about what I had been up to. The message came from high command that I was to stay, doing exactly what I had been doing. Clearly, they were not to happy when I told them I was going, no matter what. One I argued about it, they obviously thought I became too much of a risk. Now, I sit here, completely screwed. …This is only a warning. … If I just disappeared like Gina and Cheryl did, it wouldn’t have the same dramatic effect.”
I interrupted him. “How many others?”
“Probably at least a hundred, maybe two hundred.”
“Jesus Christ,” I said. “What planet have I been on?”

The book keeps a similar pace throughout, moving as fast as a train headed downhill, spinning sparks and electric light as it careens around each corner.
What holds the wild plot together in Brio’s search to stop the inhumane Cooperative is the sheer humanity of the main characters; Brio himself, a sometimes cranky, eccentric but deeply compassionate doctor; Tess, a medical student with a brilliant mind and a bulldog’s determination to find the truth; the mysterious Cyrus, who feels like something out of horror novel, the one-handed surgeon Nick – there is a reason for the book’s title – and so many more.
Human, flawed, but in the end, ultimately capable of transcending those flaws and even capable of showing flashes of heroism – it is the characters that hold Brown’s book together and make it worth buying and worth reading – not to mention, again, that every penny raised from the sale of the book goes directly toward Doctors Without Borders.
Scalpel’s Cut highlights the kind of doctors every patient hopes they have, gives them a place to shine, and illuminates the challenges they face; challenges that are usually almost literally white-washed from view.
The inside look is both inspiring and discouraging.
Brown, a hand surgeon based both in Mammoth and La Jolla, is a first time-author with decades of experience in the medical world and with a deep connection to Mammoth, where he has a second home which he uses as a base to hike and ski.
He said he has always wanted to be a writer, and in fact, he was a writer back in college, working for college newspapers and other publications.
He actually started Scalpel’s Cut in 1992, back in those college days, but then medicine came calling, three children arrived and finally, this year, he finished and published the book.
“I always wanted to write,” he said, noting he always though he would write non-fiction, and indeed, he intends to still write non-fiction related to the medical field.
But he started with Scalpel’s Cut, with the idea that all proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders.
He has a personal reason for that, too.
“I was watching what was happening in Darfur ten to fifteen years ago,” he said. “As a Jewish person, I felt I had to do something, I had to show I was doing something. So, I started to make donations to DWB. This book is another way to both give back, and hopefully entertain people at the same time.”
“All purchases on Amazon/Kindle will go directly to Doctors without Borders,” he said.

To order the book and thus make your donation to Doctors Without Borders, go to
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Email Dr. Brown with questions, comments or criticisms at