Frank G(ill) Slaughter Essay - Critical Essays

Slaughter, Frank G(ill)


Frank G(ill) Slaughter 1908–

(Has also written under pseudonym of C. V. Terry) American novelist, short story writer, nonfiction writer, and scriptwriter.

Slaughter has long reigned as one of America's best-selling and most prolific authors. More than sixty million copies of his novels are in print in twenty countries. Though Slaughter began his literary career while in the medical profession, which inspired much of his work, he eventually devoted himself exclusively to writing.

Slaughter's novels typically feature medical, biblical, and historical themes. His first work, That None Should Die (1941), reflects his early experiences as a doctor, and all his subsequent books are based on actual people and events. Some critics consider his religious novels his least effective books and prefer his historical works. Most concur with Riley Hughes, who dubbed the novels "supreme escapist stuff."

Slaughter continues to produce novels yearly and shows no sign of abandoning his successful formula. To Slaughter, an effective plot is one in which "exciting [things] happen to interesting people under colorful circumstances."

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed. and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5.)

Margaret Wallace

["That None Should Die"] is an unusual novel about medicine in the United States. It is a story no layman could have told—that no layman, for that matter, would have been justified in trying to tell. It is a story that no doctor of all those who have written books in recent years has had the courage and bluntness to attempt. Dr. Frank G. Slaughter, a young Florida physician, is sharply critical of medicine as it is now practiced. He believes that the present policies of organized medicine are heading the profession, and the public which depends upon it, for trouble. Exactly what kind of trouble, his novel will explain in convincing detail.

Dr. Slaughter can afford to be critical. It is clear in every line of his book that he knows what he is talking about…. Dr. Slaughter manifestly loves his profession. He believes it, whatever its faults, to be the highest of callings, and one which is practiced in the main with more courage and cheerfulness and generosity than the layman ever dreams.

One has done Dr. Slaughter a wrong, however, if this suggests that his book is overladen with discussion. "That None Should Die" is first of all a cracking good story, one which holds the reader's attention from beginning to end. Told without any great stylistic grace, but in a serviceable, utilitarian prose that does about everything asked of it, "That None Should Die" is the story of a medical idealist….

As a polemic novel "That None Should Die" is pretty close to tops. No book in recent seasons has offered anything like so much straight and informative writing about medicine. If it fails to arouse exciting and vigorous controversy, then the average reader cares much less than we have been led to suppose about what may happen to him when he goes to the hospital.

Margaret Wallace, "Doctors and the State," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1941 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 23, 1941, p. 26.

New York Herald Tribune Books

"That None Should Die" is a novel about doctors and hospitals, ethics and operations and how men meet the testing of their integrity in an exacting profession. The author is a young Florida physician with something to say about the present short-comings of medicine and also about the possible evils of the future in the unhappy event that control of the profession is taken over by politicans. Dr. Slaughter has observed the rules of fiction by introducing wives and mistresses, but his interest in these distractions is minor. They do not interfere with his real objective—to warn of the danger of an unholy alliance between unscrupulous and incompetent forces, should medicine be taken away from its trained, vigilant practitioners. If you intend to follow the story closely a medical dictionary will come in handy.

A review of "That None Should Die," in New York Herald Tribune Books (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), March 30, 1941, p. 12.

Margaret Wallace

["Air Surgeon"] is hardly a book to give to a friend in the hospital. Dr. Frank G. Slaughter is not only one of the best of the medical novelists now at work, he is incomparably the most graphic and detailed. When you have watched an operation over Dr. Slaughter's shoulder you have seen more of its essential technique and grasped more of its significance than you would be likely to get from the first row in the amphitheatre.

Accordingly "Air Surgeon" is not for the excessively tender-minded. The reader who likes to know what goes on behind the scenes in medicine—and judging by the popularity of books by the about doctors he must exist in thousands—should be urged not to miss it….

"Air Surgeon" has plenty of plot. Most of it is rather melodramatic in hue and could be translated to the screen with a minimum of effort on the part of the scenarists….

The novel offers some lively scenes of life in an Army camp and in the mushroom trailers and taverns of Boomtown, the unsavory community grown up on its fringes. But the real meat of "Air Surgeon" is the story of up-to-the-minute flight surgery. Frank G. Slaughter is the old master of this kind of description with none of his rivals even close.

Margaret Wallace, "Doctor's Dilemma," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1943 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 11, 1943, p. 8.

Margaret Wallace

Dr. Frank Slaughter is now Major Slaughter of the Army Medical Corps, and the wonder is that he finds time to write novels at all. So it is probably ungrateful to wish that he had spent more time on "Battle Surgeon." It is, as it stands, a fast-moving, romantic, none-too-credible adventure story about a field hospital unit….

In the popular magazines the accepted formula for a love story hero is "men as women wish they were." Capt. Rick Winter, one supposes, fits this formula to the last angle of his lean profile. He can do a smooth splenectomy and a mean rumba….

There is plenty of room for good yarns of this sort, and "Battle Surgeon" is a good one. There would be little for any reviewer to object to if Dr. Slaughter had not given us reason to look for something more ponderable. He gave promise—and still does—of leading the field of medical novelists. He can make an account of a surgical operation every bit as exciting as a tank battle, and a good deal clearer. Even when it is draped on a skeleton of plot as machine-made as that of "Battle Surgeon" his technical writing commands the fascinated attention of the lay reader.

Margaret Wallace, "Doctor in Tunisia," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1944 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 27, 1944, p. 21.


["In a Dark Garden"] turns back into nineteenth-century history, to deal with a young Confederate field surgeon: an elaborately romantic tale, it details a smashing series of victories he wins with his scalpel for both sides during the Civil War. First and last a doctor, Julian Chisholm (of the Cape Fear Chisholms) serves the Confederacy out of quixotic chivalry. He defies high brass, rides hell-for-leather with the cavalry, performs prodigies of delicate surgery in a mine crater at Vicksburg, aboard a Nassau-bound clipper in a roaring gale, under snipers' rifles at Chickamauga….

The theme of the doctor's dilemma in wartime is one which [Frank G. Slaughter] (who served in the Medical Corps during the recent global conflict) is eminently fitted to handle. This is his sixth novel, and his first in the field of historical romance: this time, his crusading young doctor is trapped by both his milieu and his century—and the dragon he must slay is, so to speak, a personal one….

It is apparent that the author has delved in the military annals of the Brothers' War—when medical departments were flyblown annexes to the braided pomp of staff, and the amputation knife was only a slash ahead of the dreaded "hospital gangrene."…

To this reader, Dr. Chisholm's supporting cast seemed rigidly typed—although their almost period-piece quaintness is jarred more than once by the conscientious reporting of the sex scenes. Perhaps no novelist can make a harmonious blend of ether and wistaria. In any event, reading about operations is still the next most satisfactory thing to talking about one's own.

Mary McGrory, "Dr. Chisholm, Confederate Surgeon," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1946 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 29, 1946, p. 4.

New York Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review

To be properly prepared, the reader should come to a Frank G. Slaughter book with clean hands—not merely washed but scrubbed in an antiseptic solution and germ-free, for this novelist insists that you spend much of your time watching operations, treating fevers and infections, reducing factures and taking notes at post-mortems. He is an excellent story-teller, interested in many phases of life and all the facets of love, but apparently he writes with a pen which is also a combination scalpel, forceps and clinical thermometer. That he is justified in this procedure would seem to be proved by his continuance in it. His stories have been about surgeons in modern war, about doctors mixed up in scandal, in hospital...

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Lisle Bell

["The Golden Isle"] is a skilled and effective ligature of these dramatic elements, a mingling of valor, virtue and villainy that should more than satisfy the normal appetite for swift and violent action. (It may shock the squeamish reader, if any is still extant.) We guarantee that it will widen your knowledge of fractures, fevers, witchcraft, cuckoldry and the inhuman traffic in slaves known as blackbirding. The hero is a young English physician kidnaped by agents of a Florida slave smuggler and given a choice between death and serving on human cargo ships running the feeble coastal blockade off the Florida coast. The novel is vivid, colorful stuff, and Dr. Slaughter has a sardonic touch in laying bare the motives...

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Richard Match

The million or so people who read "In a Dark Garden" four years ago will be glad to know that Dr. Julian Chisholm (surgeon, Confederate States Army) got home safely after Appomattox. Home, of course, was Chisholm Hundred, a plantation in the Cape Fear valley of North Carolina. In ["The Stubborn Heart," the] sequel to his 1946 best-seller, Frank Slaughter presents his own novelized formula for peace-with-honor in the territory of the newly shattered Confederacy. It may come eighty-five years late, but it will make mighty exciting reading for Dr. Slaughter's readers, with plenty of action on and off the operating table….

In the course of his hero's struggle, Dr. Slaughter also finds time for a...

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Richard Match

To use the Hollywood verb, a swamp steals [the story of "Fort Everglades"]. If you've ever driven the length of south Florida's Tamiami Trail, you'll agree that the most terrifying actor in Frank Slaughter's new medico-historical romance is an inanimate one—the Everglades. Even when viewed from a modern highway barely thirty miles west of Miami's glittering pleasure domes, the big bog frightens you a little….

[We] have handsome young Dr. Royal Coe, whilom Army surgeon, Everglades scout extraordinary, and personal friend of the Seminole king. There's a girl at Fort Everglades, too—and, since she's the fiancée of Roy's best friend, he hesitates to make love to her. However, the author wears down...

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Edmund Fuller

Luke, "the beloved physician," the New Testament lyricist, author of the lovely Gospel which bears his name, and of The Acts of the Apostles, is the central figure of ["The Road to Bithynia"]. As a Biblical novel and a doctor novel it combines two traditionally popular subjects, and Dr. Slaughter makes of it an absorbing, well-told narrative which is certain to find a wide readership.

Yet the numerous works of this kind force the reviewer of each new one to make at least a broad classification. So be it observed that "The Road to Bithynia" is in the genre of the works of the late Dr. Lloyd C. Douglas, and through this line of descent, is kin to those of Sienkiewicz and Lew Wallace. Like Dr. Douglas's...

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Richard Match

From "In a Dark Garden" to "The Road to Bithynia," Dr. Slaughter has projected many best-selling historical novels against the background of his profession. [In "East Side General,"] he shows signs of writing the serious modern novel he could and should write about surgeons—and then, in his final chapters, returns to the familiar road of melodrama. However, if you read for sheer entertainment, Dr. Slaughter has lost none of his touch. "East Side General" is as ingenious a story as any he has written, the women as beautiful, the surgeon-hero as brilliant. If anything, the switch to modern dress adds drama to Dr. Slaughter's lucid descriptions of surgical procedures. The "blue baby" operation which climaxes this novel...

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Charles Lee

[In "The Galileans," Dr. Slaughter] brings his best-selling talents to the task of imagining the life of Mary Magdalene. The results are melodramatic and ingenious. The flame-haired woman who emerges from these fast-paced pages will doubtless delight the romantics, satisfy the reverent, and startle the skeptics….

There is no denying the narrative pull of "The Galileans." The hectic tempo seldom falters, despite the fact that everybody quotes proverbs at everybody else with the ease of TV quizmasters. Dr. Slaughter may be deficient in genuine dramatic power—but not in invention or goodwill. As always in his popular medical novels, he has fascinating observations to make on the state of science at...

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Richard Match

"Florida has played a strange part in this war," observes a character in ["Storm Haven"]. "Her ports were occupied, or blockaded, almost from the beginning. Yet the Confederacy would have perished long ago without her help. When the history books are written she'll be called the master larder of the South—the stock breeder that kept the armies fighting."

It may be news to some present-day tourists that citrus-hung Florida has long been (and still is) one of our major cattle-raising states as well. To others who have ventured off the Gold Coast beach highways and seen the big beef herds which graze in central Florida it will come as no surprise. Trust Jacksonville's ingenious Dr. Slaughter to turn...

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Charles Lee

Dr. Slaughter has the tale-spinner's knack in three productive fields: stories drawn from the reservoir of the American past (mostly south of the Mason-Dixon line), with a doctor-protagonist who sums up the dilemmas of his era; stories drawn from the Bible; and stories based on his own modern medical knowledge. His new work, most of which is played out against a backdrop of Park Avenue, surgeon's maisonette and metropolitan operating room, offers his many readers a full measure of anxiety, complication, tears and relief.

"The Healer" is a love story, a medical suspense story and a story of spiritual ordeal and triumph. It contains a hint of murder and a case of barefaced blackmail. It presents a case...

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Charles Lee

["The Scarlet Cord"] is the best biblical novel that Frank G. Slaughter has written to date. Based on the Book of Joshua, it abounds in action, adventure, romance and intrigue. As Dr. Slaughter's wide public knows, his story-telling strength lies more in movement than in depth. But he is agile in invention; given a climax, he can devise all manner of leaps and twists to produce it. The scarlet cord in the harlot's window and the flattened walls of Jericho provide happy spurs to his imagination. The sun stands still in accordance with Joshua's command, but all else is in motion—migratory, ceremonial, military, conspiratorial and amorous.

Dr. Slaughter might have called his romance the Book of Rahab,...

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Charles Lee

That busy shuttler between biblical and medical novels, Frank Slaughter, dons his operating suit again for "Daybreak." On the surface this is the crisis-ridden story of Dr. Jim Corwin's efforts to save a lovely young schizophrenic named Lynn Thorndyke from destroying herself. But the real hero of "Daybreak" is reserpine, a tranquilizing drug that not only eases tension in the afflicted mind but also splits away the rational intellect from its delusions. Thanks to this quality, remarkable cures have been effected in recent years. It is the pioneer efforts in this field that take Dr. Slaughter into the snakepit of a state mental hospital, as it was day-before-yesterday—when admission, all too often, was a sentence to...

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Chad Walsh

In "The Crown and the Cross," Frank G. Slaughter … has written yet another fictionized life of Christ. Inevitably one asks, Why another? Does the author have a new interpretation of Jesus? A new angle of vision? A fresh vividness of insight and presentation? Dr. Slaughter has none of these….

The Jesus of "The Crown and the Cross" belongs to the meek-and-mild school. His impact is felt at several degrees removed, and the reader is driven to wonder how such a man could inspire so dedicated a loyalty in his followers. And it is a static Jesus, who seemingly never undergoes inner struggle and development. He moves like the stiff figures in a Sunday-school pageant.

Dr. Slaughter...

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Edward Wagenknecht

Frank G. Slaughter's "The Land and the Promise" comprises paraphrases of both Old and New Testament stories for adult readers, recognizing frankly, I suppose that in these days of religious illiteracy, there are a great many people who either cannot or will not read the Bible at first hand.

Nobody can retell a story and exclude all elements of interpretation, but Dr. Slaughter certainly keeps interpretation to a minimum. He gives a good deal of background material, describing the Egyptian method of reaping, for example, in the Joseph story. Occasionally he reminds us he is a popular novelist, as when he begins the story of Paul's experience on the way to Damascus by writing: "The small caravan...

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Rex Lardner

Days after some puzzling human deaths at sea, rats scurry down the gangway of an ancient tramp steamer as it docks in Manhattan. The captain, victim of a disease contracted from deckhands illegally signed on in West Africa, visits his blowsy girl friend in her apartment. The rats over-run a sleeping drunk. The captain kisses his female friend—who happens to come into contact with hundreds as a cafeteria cashier. Thus does Frank G. Slaughter, busiest medical author of the day, chronicler of Biblical, historical, romantic and military-surgical triumphs, set the scene for his latest novel ["Epidemic!"].

The time is 1965. The events take place during a frantic seven days in Manhattan when...

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It is far too early in the new year to be picking the worst novel of 1961, yet ["Epidemic!", a] loco melodrama about Communists exploiting the bubonic plague in New York encourages one to be bold. Probably nothing less calamitous than the plague could put a dent in Frank G. Slaughter's own following….

The riddle of how he does it is only deepened by "Epidemic!"—a novel of excruciating dullness. As the malarkey begins, a freighter—boarded by plague-bearing rats in the Cameroons—steams into New York in the midst of a garbagemen's strike instigated by agents of a foreign power ("you-know-who"). The rats are helped out by a Spanish-speaking youth gang—under the same auspices—which goes around...

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Mary Dolan

Most of us know, or think we know, the political conditions in Palestine in Peter's time. They have been described to us often enogh; but here they stalk us. Here, we learn to dread the very word Messiah, which has raised so many bloody and disastrous insurrections. Wherever we follow Jesus, every ear is cocked and waiting for that word. Let it sound, and zealots will rush to arms. Spies will pounce; legions will strike. Simple people will run headlong after the glories of a victory guaranteed by God. Even the Twelve are listening impatiently.

This is the way Dr. Slaughter builds [Upon This Rock,] his story of St. Peter's life. The familiar words and acts are as they always were, but...

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[God's Warrior, a] biographical novel of Paul the Apostle, is the work of a well-known author … who is also an impressively informed Biblical scholar. Slaughter's style is unusually clear and attractive, and he fills many a gap and amplifies and broadens the meaning of many a matter-of-fact New Testament statement…. With convincing plausibility and psychological soundness, Slaughter interprets the "miraculous" in the Apostle's experiences in a far more acceptable and naturalistic manner for today's ways of thinking. Product of painstaking research and of the creative talent of a master of imaginative and terse description, this book merits a place in [collections of] religious fiction.


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Martin Levin

Well, here's another crisis to worry about: a corrupt space program [in "Countdown"]. "Spaceport City," Floridian home base of the Pegasus Project, is such an incubator for human frailty it's a marvel anything ever gets launched.

The boss astrophysicist, late of Harvard, is busy straining his vital organs (and addling his computations) in pursuit of a chick half his age. The head metallurgical technician falls blotto in the darkroom. The president of the outfit charged with manufacturing Pegasus is demented with cupidity. So, when exastronaut Dr. Mike Barnes arrives as troubleshooter for a Congressional committee, he has plenty to do, including an emergency tracheotomy. Before he's done, Dr. Mike...

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Susannah Clapp

Novels featuring real historical characters often fall into a fly-on-the-wall category in which a character innocent of actual existence is sent to saunter among the great. The latter are allowed to exist unbesmirched by the ordinary; the representatives of the ordinary, clutching domestic details and concerns to themselves, find no difficulty in distinguishing what is made to last, and appreciate the lofty with all the benefit of hindsight. Frank G. Slaughter's bluff account of the Stonewall Brigade [The Stonewall Brigade] sends a young doctor to Gettysburg with General Jackson. When he is not being 'struck by the stark planes' of Abraham Lincoln's face, or putting his 'finger on the crux' of a military...

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Martin Levin

A strain of killer microbes 5,000 years old? Well, why not? Before you can think too hard about this question, Dr. Frank G. Slaughter has you aboard the hospital ship Mercy off the coast of Peru in a climate thick with Petri dishes, Bunsen burners, agar cultures, radio-carbon dating and other scientific stuff.

[In "Plague Ship,"] Dr. Grant Reed, ace epidemiologist, is racing against time to cook up a vaccine for a plague that his late brother, an archeologist, has loosed from an ancient tomb in the Andes. The epidemic spreads quickly, people die wherever in the world the Mercy has sent its contaminated mail, and the natives are restless enough to cut the disabled vessel loose from its moorings. At...

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Christine B. Vogel

There's some good news and some bad news about Doctors at Risk. The good news is that Frank Slaughter thoroughly examines the disturbing subject of "impaired" physicians—victims of alcohol and drug abuse whose number the American Medical Association estimates at one out of every seven doctors. The bad news is that Slaughter seems to have lost his writer's touch and has explored this subject within the confines of a novel that has the thinnest of plots, uninteresting stock characters, and a decided lack of drama….

This is, no doubt, a novel with the noblest of intentions. Slaughter, a doctor himself, is obviously concerned about the dangerous epidemic within his profession. He also seems to...

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