Frank G(ill) Slaughter Charles Lee - Essay

Charles Lee

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 living death.

Jim's road to happiness, no turnpike of efficiency, is a perilous jungle path along which he must hack his way forward….

"Daybreak" is … several related dramas in one, the drama of sensational, new drugs in the ceaseless struggle against mental illness, the drama of a dedicated doctor embattled on behalf of a patient with whom he has fallen in love, and the drama of an institution in the grip of anti-social elements….

Dr. Slaughter's sub-title, "a novel of medicine's newest miracle," is justified. There are plot-twists the reader must accept to get into "Daybreak" (or does a neuro-surgeon simply attract abnormal women?). Once involved he will be carried along by the author's practiced hand. Medical details may seem repetitious. But there is no escaping their clinical accuracy or their impact.

Charles Lee, "A Miracle-Drug Called Reserpine," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1958 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 18, 1958, p. 32.