|Born||Robert Brian Cook|
May 4, 1940
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States
|Education||Wesleyan University (BS)|
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (MD)
|Relatives||Edgar Lee Cook (father)|
Audrey Cook (mother)
Robert Brian "Robin" Cook (born May 4, 1940) is an American physician and novelist who writes about medicine and topics affecting public health.
He is best known for combining medical writing with the thriller genre. Many of his books have been bestsellers on The New York Times Best Seller List. Several of his books have also been featured in Reader's Digest. His books have sold nearly 400 million copies worldwide.
Cook was born in Brooklyn, New York City, and grew up in Woodside, Queens. He moved to Leonia, New Jersey when he was eight, where he could first have the "luxury" of having his own room. He graduated from Wesleyan University and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and finished his postgraduate medical training at Harvard.
Cook ran the Cousteau Society's blood-gas lab in the south of France. He later became an aquanaut (a submarine doc) with the U.S. Navy's SEALAB program when he was drafted in 1969. Cook served in the Navy from 1969 to 1971, reaching the rank of lieutenant commander. He wrote his first novel, Year of the Intern, while serving on the Polaris submarine USS Kamehameha.
The Year of the Intern was a failure, but Cook began to study bestsellers. He said, "I studied how the reader was manipulated by the writer. I came up with a list of techniques that I wrote down on index cards. And I used every one of them in Coma." He conceived the idea for Coma, about illegally creating a supply of transplant organs, in 1975. In March 1977, that novel's paperback rights sold for $800,000. It was followed by the Egyptology thriller Sphinx in 1979 and another medical thriller, Brain, in 1981. Cook then decided he preferred writing over a career in medicine.
Cook's novels combine medical fact with fantasy. His medical thrillers are designed, in part, to keep the public aware of both the technological possibilities of modern medicine and the ensuing socio-ethical problems that come along with it.: 73 Cook says he chose to write thrillers because the forum gives him "an opportunity to get the public interested in things about medicine that they didn't seem to know about. I believe my books are actually teaching people."
The author admits he never thought that he would have such compelling material to work with when he began writing fiction in 1970. "If I tried to be the writer I am today a number of years ago, I wouldn't have very much to write about. But today, with the pace of change in biomedical research, there are any number of different issues, and new ones to come," he says.
Cook's novels have anticipated national controversy. In an interview with Stephen McDonald about the novel Shock, Cook admitted the book's timing was fortuitous:
I suppose that you could say that it's the most like Coma in fact that it deals with an issue that everybody seems to be concerned about. I wrote this book to address the stem cell issue, which the public really doesn't know anything about. Besides entertaining readers, my main goal is to get people interested in some of these issues, because it's the public that ultimately should be able to decide which way we ought to go in something as ethically questioning as stem cell research.
To date, Cook has explored issues such as organ donation, fertility treatment, genetic engineering, in vitro fertilization, research funding, managed care, medical malpractice, medical tourism, drug research, and organ transplantation.
"I joke that if my books stop selling, I can always fall back on brain surgery," he says. "But I am still very interested in it. If I had to do it over again, I would still study medicine. I think of myself more as a doctor who writes, rather than a writer who happens to be a doctor." He explained the popularity of his works thus: "The main reason is, we all realize we are at risk. We're all going to be patients sometime," he says. "You can write about great white sharks or haunted houses, and you can say I'm not going into the ocean or I'm not going in haunted houses, but you can't say you're not going to go into a hospital."
Many of his novels revolve around hospitals (both fictional and non-fictional) in Boston, which may have to do with the fact that he underwent his post-graduate training at Harvard and lives in Boston, and/ or in New York.
He is on leave from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Cook is a private member of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees, led by chairman Joseph B. Gildenhorn, are appointed to six-year terms by the President of the United States.