Edison McDaniels

I live in the American South and consider myself both a writer and a novelist. I take great pride in my writing, enjoying the craft involved and the time spent in the journey. It's all about the word. My writing tends to involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and is often informed by medicine, though I rarely write about medicine directly (and I have zero interest in writing about medical bureaucracy). I write stories that take readers on an adventure—one they might not otherwise take on their own, one they  ...See more >


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"McDaniels has a remarkable talent for understated depictions of horror..."

Kirkus Reviews


AWARDS, PRESS & INTERESTS

Hometown San Bernardino, Ca.

Favorite author Cormac McCarthy

Favorite book Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Day job Neurosurgeon

Favorite line from a book The first paragraph of COLD MOUNTAIN captured me such that I have never been the same. Poetry, pure poetry. I have been trying and failing to write such an affecting & effective paragraph ever since.

Passion in life Writing, scuba diving, traveling


BOOKS REVIEWED BY KIRKUS:

HISTORICAL FICTION
Pub Date:
Page count: 242pp

A Civil War novel that follows the struggles of a family as their world crumbles around them.

Purdy Gamble’s husband is a soldier in the Union Army, and she hasn’t heard a word from him in about two years. She discovers that he’s been wounded and sets off to find him in a town named Falmouth. There, she encounters the collateral damage of war: a town besieged by poverty and with a populace hobbled by fear and spiritual dissipation. She finds her husband, Enoch, in a makeshift hospital where the dead and the dying commingle in alarming proximity. He’s badly wounded, with one eye completely maimed. Soon after Purdy transports him to a place where he can get better medical attention, he dies. She returns home to care for her family—a disabled son and two daughters—on her own. Her oldest, a 19-year-old daughter, is still reeling from the loss of her infant son and the absence of her husband, who’s away at war. A Confederate troop commandeers Purdy’s house against her will and transforms it into an improvised hospital; as a result, she has no choice but to bitterly cooperate with the people responsible for her husband’s death. Later, both her daughters must fend for themselves in a land grimly transformed into killing fields. This is the second installment in the Gettysburg Trilogy, and while there is some narrative continuity with the first, it can be read on its own. Author McDaniels (Not One Among Them Whole, 2013) has a remarkable talent for understated depictions of horror, letting the chilling facts speak for themselves: “On the Gamble farm, morning announced itself as the harsh screech of the surgeon’s saw against bone. It was an awful thing to hear, impossible to tune out.” Like its predecessor, the book explores the bottomless acrimony of the two warring sides and also mines rare opportunities for mutual respect and even affection. McDaniels also artfully captures the terrible juxtaposition of the battlefield and the homestead.

A dark, artistically rendered, and historically edifying tale.





Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1-4825-0516-0
Page count: 330pp

A Civil War–era novel that documents the grim wages of battle.

The story begins by establishing a ghastly tenor of barbarity. The family of Cuuda, a black child, hides him in a box to keep him from harm as they travel. From inside the box, he hears the murder of his family members, but he later frees himself in order to find food. A traveling mortician named Jupiter Jones eventually rescues him; he’s a “showman and purveyor of the extraordinaire,” traveling from town to town, tricking the afflicted into buying his curative oil. He stole its essential ingredient from a tribe in Africa and although it does genuinely have medicinal powers, it also causes madness. Still, the war brings him plenty of business as the dead litter the countryside of the North and South. Meanwhile, three Union doctors—Solomon Hardy, Josiah Boyd, and Tobias Ellis—struggle to keep pace with all the wounded men sent their way. Debut author McDaniels affectingly describes scenes of battle, but his most achingly poignant depictions are of war’s aftermath: “The church-turned-hospital had become a horrid place…where four men died every hour day and night and the rain and blood ran as red mud across the ground.” The surgeons work indefatigably to save whomever they can, comfort the rest, and try to preserve their own sanity. In another storyline, a Union soldier, Ezra Coffin, is badly wounded in battle in southern Pennsylvania and finds himself beside Maj. Tom Jersey, a Confederate soldier who’s just as badly hurt. Despite being enemies, they forge a kind of friendship due to their shared anguish and looming mortality. McDaniels skillfully braids these multiple plotlines into a coherent whole, but his quick leapfrogging from one subplot to another can be wearying. Also, the story’s impressive historical authenticity comes at a price of unrelenting gloominess, so readers should prepare for a dexterous but austere experience.

A gritty, unalloyed treatment of a savage conflict.

ADDITIONAL WORKS AVAILABLE:

THE WEIGHT OF POTTER'S FIELD (Unpublished)
Horror, supernatural, thriller, surgical thriller,

I am actively seeking representation for this and other works. This is a recently finished work of 118,000 words. Written in 3rd person from a single viewpoint (the surgical resident Zach Dozier). When an operation goes horribly wrong, Dr. Zach Dozier is left to sew up the open, despoiled head of his dead friend. The trouble is, as Zach soon discovers, his friend isn't dead. However, knowing his friend's brain has been damaged beyond repair, Zach faces a dilemma. After what proves to be a long and hideous night of chaos and unintended suffering, Zach dispatches Gideon out of mercy. Thus begins this supernatural tale of woe, and of things that go bump in the night. Inspired by elements of Stephen King's Pet Sematary and Bag of Bones, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the 1930's classic horror novel The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck by Alexander Laing, this character driven medical horror novel takes readers into the fictional world of Minneapolis General, a busy county hospital where nothing is what it seems. Unbeknownst to Zach, some part of Gideon has returned, and it's not the best part either. Seeking not revenge, but companionship, this fiend demands that Zach make another like him. When Zach refuses, the fiend dismantles Zach's world and makes his life a living hell, in the process taking from him everything he has held near and dear. DETAILED SYNOPSIS OF THE WEIGHT OF POTTER'S FIELD follows: In this character driven horror novel, ZACH DOZIER is a surgical resident at MINNEAPOLIS GENERAL HOSPITAL, a sprawling county hospital with an extensive and often mysterious history, including the great fire of 1968 and creaky elevators that don’t always stop on the anticipated floor. Early on, Zach befriends GIDEON CATHCART, a sympathetic but hideously grotesque figure, whose life has been one of institutional living and repeated brain surgeries. All but enfeebled by his condition, only his mother, ABIGAIL CATHCART, has any significant interaction with him. But Abigail Cathcart has been dead for years. She continues to influence Gideon from beyond the grave however, with Gideon searching her out continuously in the dark corners of his room. Zach encounters the mysterious Miss Abigail on his second day at Minneapolis General. They meet in the waiting room on Five Neuro. Not aware she is a ghost, they have a lengthy conversation about Gideon, after which Zach is obsessed—infected with a need to know would be the better term—with finding out everything he can about Gideon. Over several years the bond between Gideon and Zach grows. Zach marries a nurse, SOPHIA GRACE, and develops as a surgeon. He evolves in both empathy and competency. He learns of a former resident, DR. DAN SULLIVAN, who quit after a mysterious elevator incident. He also discovers—unbelievably—there is no waiting room on Five Neuro. Eventually, the death of a patient in his charge leaves Zach shaken and questioning his confidence. Zach and Sophia Grace, have a son, ZJ. Gideon is ZJ’s godfather. Gideon becomes like a brother, even meeting Zach’s mother Myra. Gideon is in and out of the hospital several times and Zach eventually realizes only a dangerous and difficult surgery can save his friend’s life. When that operation goes horribly wrong, Zach is left to sew up the body of his dead friend. The trouble is…Gideon’s not dead, as Zach soon discovers. But knowing his friend’s brain has been damaged beyond repair, Zach faces a dilemma. After what proves a long and hideous night of chaos and unintended suffering, Zach dispatches Gideon out of mercy (first smothering him, then strangling him, and finally electrocuting him with a defibrillator unit in an apparent psychotic break). Zach goes on an extended drinking binge, during which the ghost of Abigail Cathcart visits him. She is seemingly a force for good, but her efforts at communication leave him feeling haunted and confused. With difficulty, she imparts her message, “Ask Dan Sullivan,” which becomes yet another obsession with Zach. This sets in motion a chain of events leading to Zach’s discovery of the true facts behind Abigail Cathcart’s death (she stepped into an open elevator shaft at Minneapolis General on the eve of Gideon’s eighth birthday). When he finally finds Dan Sullivan, Dan kills himself rather than face the terrors of Minneapolis General again, even in conversation. Zach learns the facts from Sullivan’s ghost, who, among other things warns Zach “she conjures things.” Returning to Minneapolis General, Zach soon discovers Gideon has fled his grave. More than haunted, Zach is now a man with an affliction: Gideon has not only returned, but he has demands. Gideon wants what we all want in life: companionship—and he believes only Zach can make that happen. When Zach refuses to create another such monstrosity, Gideon proceeds to destroy Zach’s life and take from him all that he holds dear. Several of Zach’s colleagues drop dead under bizarre circumstances. Investigating these and other strange happenings at Minneapolis General (the hospital becomes a character unto itself in this ghostly tale), Zach gradually discovers Miss Abigail has the power to obsess people’s minds. Zach himself begins to doubt his sanity and can never be sure Miss Abigail isn’t putting thoughts into his head at any given moment. Abigail Cathcart also has the power to manipulate reality and to conjure dead things. It is Miss Abigail who conjures Gideon to return. “Do you know what it’s like to be buried?” Gideon asks Zach. “The weight of earth is killing.” When the desecrated grave is discovered by gravedigger WILLIS DEAKINS, Miss Abigail implores him to go down in the hole and he is buried alive. His father, HOMER DEAKINS, becomes Zach’s ally. Zach, desperate to stop Gideon and unable to confide any of this to Sophia Grace, turns to his eccentric mother MYRA DOZIER and her lesbian partner STEVIE, an occultist. Though there is bad blood between Zach and Stevie, he needs her contacts in the occult world. Through this, Zach comes to learn Gideon is now “one who walks again,” a revenant. The creature, he is told, will prefer the company of the night and thus move mostly in the dark, and the only way to stop him is to cut off his head. But to do that, Zach must first find him. Zach knows time is short. Gideon is growing increasingly impatient. To Zach’s great horror, Myra chokes to death when a horde of black flies fills her car and Zach can’t get to her. Standing over her lifeless body, he spots Gideon in the distance. As the body count and unholy happenings mount, it is left to Zach, Stevie, and Homer Deakins to stop Gideon. The next night, the three descend into the warren of tunnels under Minneapolis General in search of Gideon. As Stevie waits in the morgue for their return (the entry to the tunnels is in the morgue), Zach and Homer encounter rats, roaches, and their own demons in the tunnels. Homer sees his son digging himself out of the ground of potter’s field and goes to his aid. Only then does the significance of Dan Sullivan’s words come back at Zach. She conjures things. Abigail Cathcart is more than Gideon’s dead mother—that ghost is one malevolent bitch, and the power behind Gideon’s rants. Too late to help Homer, who is pulled under the earth by his son’s ghost, Zach realizes it is Miss Abigail and not Gideon they should fear most. Zach understands his friend has not turned against him, that he was being used all along. Reluctantly, he cuts Gideon’s head off as he must, and sprinkles the body with dirt from Gideon’s grave in potter’s field to secure him an eternal rest. Realizing it is not over, Zach begins the long walk back through the tunnels, where he encounters Sophia Grace. She is cold and glassy-eyed however, and only then does Zach suspect she has been conjured by Miss Abigail. But, he knows, she only conjures dead things. Now frantic, Zach races back to the morgue, where he finds Stevie prepared to “send the whole hospital to hell.” In his madness, Zach can’t let that happen and he cuts Stevie in half with a machete. He screams for Sophia Grace, gets in his car, and races home. He finds ZJ smothered in his bed and Sophia Grace floating face up in the bathtub. She is dead cold, having drowned herself. The final scene of the novel finds Zach pushing a morgue cart through the tunnels under Minneapolis General. A defibrillator unit sits on the cart beside the bodies of Sophia Grace and ZJ. Zach, in his mania, is sure he can reanimate them. It doesn’t occur to him that Miss Abigail may have put that thought in his head.

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Not One Among Them Whole