I was surfing the web today (okay, I was reading political stuff. I’m addicted), when I saw a picture of two men reading a book. The cover of the book was familiar, and I zoomed in to see that they were reading one of the best friends a novelist could own: Where There is No Doctor. It’s a great book for anyone, actually.
Around 1990, I was working on my second novel, then titled Canopy. Definitely not a super title, but so much better than the one the publisher forced on me, Lovers and Strangers, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the story. Canopy/Lovers and Strangers was about a group of primatologists and their significant others who get stranded in the Amazon when their guide disappears. I can’t begin to describe all the research I put into this book! I read everything I could find on the Amazon and on the little monkeys in my story. I went way overboard as I learned what research is important and what should simply be discarded (the dung beetles, for example). But as I was doing my research, I stumbled across this gem of a book.
Where There is No Doctor was published in the seventies (revised many times by now) for health workers, teachers, and just plain folk living primarily in Third World Countries. It’s exactly what it says it is–information for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of injuries and illnesses that occur where there is no doctor. I relied on it heavily as I made my characters suffer in the Amazon, and have turned to it with other characters’ maladies throughout the years. I’m not ashamed to admit that I turned to it with my own infirmities as well (before Google made life a lot easier.) I didn’t need to worry much about blood flukes or tapeworm, it’s true, but the information on treating infected wounds or toothaches was invaluable.
It may be that the Internet has, for those of us living and writing in a developed country, made this book obsolete, but I’d like to think not. It’s had a permanent place on my bookshelf for eighteen years, and I think I’m going to keep it there.