by Gary Braver


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312873080
Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date: 04/01/2000
Edition description: REV
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.45(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.32(d)

About the Author

Gary Braver is the award-winning author of six critically acclaimed thrillers including Elixir, Gray Matter, and Flashback, which was recipient of the 2006 Massachusetts Honor Book Award for Fiction--a first for a thriller--and which in a starred review Publishers Weekly called “an exceptional medical thriller.” His novels have been translated into five languages, and three have been optioned for movies.

Under his own name, Gary Goshgarian, he is an award-winning professor of English at Northeastern University where he teaches courses in Modern Bestsellers, Science Fiction, Horror Fiction, and Fiction Writing. He has taught fiction-writing workshops through out the United States and Europe for over twenty years. He is the author of five college writing textbooks.

Read an Excerpt


Quentin took a sip of his champagne. “My best offer is three million dollars, take it or leave it.”

“Leave it,” said Antoine Ducharme, not missing a beat.

You son-of-a-bitch! Quentin thought. “Then we have a problem.”

“No, my friend, you have a problem. The fee is five million per ton.”

Quentin Cross, Chief Financial Officer at thirty-seven and future CEO of Darby Pharmaceuticals, sat in uneasy silence on the rear deck of Reef Madness, a long sleek cruiser that Antoine's girlfriend, Lisa, maneuvered around the coral heads. Working the mooring line from the bow was Marcel, one of Antoine's security guards, who wore a snub-nosed revolver and pair of handcuffs on his belt.

They were inside the barrier reef on the northern coast of Apricot Cay, a palm-fringed island fifteen miles southeast of Jamaica and owned by Antoine Ducharme, an elegant and highly educated yachtsman, entrepreneur, and drug trafficker. Antoine, who looked to be in his mid-forties, was a tall, solidly built man with short salt-and-pepper hair, and an open face that appeared scholarly behind his rimless eyeglasses. It was a face that was used to making substantial decisions and one that could turn to stone in an instant.

Dressed in a green lounging suit, Antoine had arranged for his ten associates a sunset dinner of lobster tail, sautéed breadfruit, and French cheeses topped off with a dessert of fresh apricots, of course.

Quentin knew very little about the other men except that they were all part of an international group ofvery wealthy power brokers given to secret capital ventures and extravagances. But their association with Antoine Ducharme suggested that they had no ethical qualms about getting dirty. There were no introductions. The men ate separately, speaking French and German, then moved into the inner cabin to watch a soccer game beamed from a satellite dish. To Quentin they were simply “the Consortium.”

Sitting with Quentin and Antoine was an American of about thirty-five named Vince Lucas, Antoine's “financial security officer.” He was lean and attractive in a feral kind of way. He had smooth fleshy lips, a tanned, V-shaped face, and shiny black hair combed straight back to expose a deep widow's peak. His eyebrows were perfect black slashes, and his eyes were so dark that they appeared to be all pupil. On his forearm was a tattoo of a bird of prey with a death-head skull. He looked like no financial officer Quentin had ever met.

“If you ask me, five million is a bargain,” Vince Lucas said.

“Five million dollars is out of the question,” Quentin repeated. But he knew that they had him by the proverbial throat.

Lisa cleared the dishes. She was clad in a scant black bikini, a yellow headband, and a rose tattoo on her shoulder. She was a stunningly exotic woman in her early twenties with cocoa skin and deep, uninhibited eyes—eyes which when they fell on Quentin made him self-conscious of his large pink face, thinning hair, and pot belly swelling over his shorts. When she was finished, she gave Antoine, who was twice her age, a long passionate kiss and went below, Marcel tailing her to leave the men to their business.

“Listen to me, my friend,” Antoine said, “We have over two thousand acres of mountain rainforest, another thousand acres of orchards with mountain streams for irrigation, protected harbors, your own airstrip, storage buildings—‘the works,' as you Americans say. And most important: total privacy.”

Quentin had heard all this before. He had toured the island including the rainforest. But biological diversity was not what interested him. Nor the acres of cannabis hidden in the orchards. Nor the camouflaged sheds where imported cocoa leaves were processed into cocaine for easy shipment northward—an operation which made Apricot Cay the Delmonte of dope in the Western Hemisphere.

What Quentin Cross wanted was apricots-and a particular species, Prunus caribaeus, unique to Apricot Cay. And he was willing to pay $3 million a ton for them.

No, Darby Pharms was not diversifying into the produce market. What made the species unique was the pits: They contained cyanogentic compounds highly toxic to cancer cells. In fact, the apricot toxogen had an astounding 80 percent success rate in the treatment of Mexican patients with malignant tumors. The FDA had not yet approved clinical testing in the U.S., but for Quentin the compound—with the potential trade name Veratox—promised to become the world's first cancer wonder drug.

Darby Pharms had kept the toxogen secret for two key reasons. First, they had not yet secured FDA approval; but that was no problem since Ross Darby was an old college buddy of Ronald Reagan. The second reason was Antoine Ducharme. Nobody at Darby but Quentin knew that he was an international drug baron, including Ross Darby, Quentin's father-in-law and current CEO—a man of impeccable scruples. If word got out, Darby Pharmaceuticals would not only lose its license to manufacture drugs, but it could end up in a criminal investigation that could put Quentin Cross and Ross Darby behind bars for years.

Antoine knew that and, thus, was asking for blood. What gnawed at Quentin's mind was the entrepreneur's unpredictability. Should Veratox turn out to be the world's hottest pharmaceutical, Antoine might double the price of subsequent shipments. Or he might set up an auction for bidders with limitless resources, such as Eli Lilly or Merck. The only solution was a commercially viable synthesis. But in spite of months of all-out efforts by Christopher Bacon, Darby's chief medical chemist, the toxogen was proving difficult to reproduce. The process required so many steps that the yield was infinitesimal. So far, Prunus caribaeus was an apricot that only nature could build.

“Let me remind you that it grows only on Apricot Cay. And do you know why?” Antoine flashed another toothy smile. “Because a particular fungus that blights only Prunus caribaeus mysteriously wiped out all the apricot crops on the other islands.”

Quentin was about to ask where the blight came from, but something in Antoine's eyes said he could guess the answer. The son-of-a bitch was even more cunning than he had guessed.

“What prevents the blight from being introduced here?”

“The fact that nobody is allowed to disembark here without my permission.”
That was true. He had ringed its beaches with elaborate electronic security systems—cameras, motion detectors, barbed-wire fences—not to mention armed guards on constant surveillance in towers and jeeps. He had even pushed old cars into the shallows of the bay for coral to build upon, making boat passage perilous. Apricot Cay was a tropical fortress.

“You're asking too much.”

“Not according to the Wall Street Journal,” Vince Lucas said. From his briefcase he pulled out a copy of the paper. “Darby Pharms' profitability increased 30 percent over the last year—some 50 million dollars. Barron's cites you as a growth company of choice. Besides, your Mr. Darby is an old friend of Ronald Reagan. Once you get FDA approval, Darby will be on the Fortune 500, n'est-ce pas?”

Quentin wished he had never mentioned the White House connection. In a moment of bravado he once boasted how Ross Darby and Reagan played football together at Eureka College and that Darby had contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Reagan's campaigns and raised millions more hosting Republican fund raisers. Ironically, Ross had even generously supported Nancy Reagan's “Just Say No” anti-drug initiative. That boast had probably doubled the cost of the apricots.

Quentin walked to the gunwale. The sun had set on the unbroken horizon, enameling the sea in burnt orange. Even with Reagan pressing the FDA Commissioner, it could take two years to win approval. Then another two before Veratox was on the market. Meanwhile, Darby would be another $25 million in debt to a Caribbean crook. Worse still, their ace microbiologist, Dexter Quinn, had retired two months ago, leaving only Chris Bacon and a couple of assistants on their premier project. They worked around the clock but had made no progress synthesizing the compound. But something bothered Quentin about Bacon. He seemed distracted all the time—as if he had another agenda just below the surface.

“Of course,” said Antoine, joining him at the railing, “it's always possible that another firm would become interested in our fine harvest, no?” Antoine smiled broadly.

The bastard had him by the balls. On the table sat the leather-bound business plans containing all the lease conditions, the numbers, and paragraphs of legalese about the dummy corporation Quentin had established to export tropical fruit. It was all very sophisticated and legitimate, neatly spelled out in French and English and as negotiable as a firing squad.

Quentin felt himself cave in. Veratox was a billion-dollar molecule, and he was next in line to run the company. Once Chris Bacon's group could synthesize the extract, they would have no need of Antoine Ducharme and his island. “You drive a hard bargain.”

“No such thing, my friend. Bargains are never hard.”

Quentin shuffled back to the table and signed the contract. By November first, he would have to wire two and a half million dollars to a bank in Grand Bahamas as advance. A second payment of the same amount was due next June. And nobody would know because Quentin kept double books, siphoning funds from foreign sales of other products.

Antoine poured more champagne and they sat and watched the sky turn black while inside the others hooted over the game. After several minutes, Antoine stood up. “Trust, my friends. It is very important, no?”

The question threw Quentin. Vince Lucas just shrugged.

“More important than love.” A strange intensity lit Antoine's eyes.

Quentin's first thought was that Antoine was drunk. But he moved purposefully to a wall unit by the boat's instruments and slid back a panel to reveal a small television screen. He hit a couple buttons and a color picture emerged. For a moment Quentin thought it was some kind of adult video. Two people were having sex. Antoine muttered something in French in a tone of harsh resignation, then turned a knob. The camera zoomed in on Lisa in the throes of an orgasm, Marcel, his red shirt still on, driving her from above.

Antoine's expression was a strange neutrality. He flicked off the set then picked up the phone and said something in French. Within a minute, Marcel climbed up from below. He was fully dressed, the holstered gun still belted around his waist.

Quentin could feel his heartbeat kick up.

“Everything okay below?” Antoine asked.

“Yes, of course,” Marcel said, looking nervous.

“Good.” Then he turned to Quentin. “Because my American associate here is joining us. He will be investing very heavily in our enterprise here, and we must assure him of flawless security, n'est-ce-pas?”

“But of course.”

Antoine approached Marcel and raised a finger like a teacher making a key point. “Trust,” he said, then reached around and unclipped the pistol from his holster. Marcel did not move. “See? Perfect trust.” Marcel made an uncertain grin. Antoine raised a second finger. “Perfect security,” he continued. “Essential ingredients for success, yes?”

Vince Lucas smiled and made a toasting gesture, encouraging Marcel to go along with the classroom charade.

Then Antoine motioned for Marcel to hold out his hands. The man looked perplexed, but Antoine was his boss making a point to impress his guest. So Marcel complied as Antoine removed the handcuffs from his belt and snapped one on his wrist. “Perfect trust, yes?”

Marcel nodded, then Antoine indicated for Marcel to turn around, which he did, half-proudly presenting his other hand behind him in perfect obedience. Antoine snapped on the second cuff, still keeping up his patter, while Quentin watched in anxious fascination. “Without trust, friendship fails, families dissolve, empires crumble.”

He led Marcel to the portside edge. Across the water, Antoine's villa glowed like a jeweler's display. Above them spread an endless black vault fretted with a million stars and a crescent moon rocking just above the horizon. “And it is for all this,” Antoine continued. “A paradise island in a paradise sea under a paradise sky—the stars, the moon, the air. All the moments we steal from the gods. We are as close to immortality as one can get.”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Yes, monsieur,” Antoine echoed. He directed Marcel to look straight down into the water. “But not the face of deceit.”

Before Marcel could respond, Antoine nodded to Vince Lucas who in one smooth move heaved Marcel over the side.

Marcel bobbed to the surface, coughing and choking.

“You guarded the wrong body, my friend.” Antoine said.

Marcel shouted pleas to Antoine to drop a rope or ladder, aware that they were half a mile out with an offshore wind pushing him toward where the surf pounded the jagged reef to foam.

Vince pulled a pistol from under his shirt and aimed it at Marcel's head to finish him off.

“No, let nature take its course,” Antoine said, “and prolong the pleasure.”

From below, Lisa climbed onto the deck. She had heard Marcel's cries. “What happened? What did you do to him?”

Antoine turned to her with fierce intensity. “He wanted to get his dick wet.”

She looked at him in horror, then at the two other men standing with champagne glasses, the Consortium inside celebrating a goal. She started away when Antoine pushed her to the side. He was about to hurl her overboard when Quentin cried out. “No, please, Antoine. Don't do this. Please!”

Antoine's face snapped at him, furious at the intrusion. But he caught himself and released the woman. “You can go,” he hissed. “But you won't make the same mistake twice, will you?”

She stood gasping in hideous disbelief as Marcel choked for his last few breaths of air.

“Will you?” Antoine repeated.

“No,” she whined, then backed down the stairs to her cabin.

Frozen in horror, Quentin looked for help to Vince who just winked and pointed out a shooting star, while Antoine poured himself more champagne then returned to the gunwale to watch Marcel die.

For two wicked minutes he choked and begged for his life—his words gurgling through the night waves, his legs kicking with all he had to keep his head above night surf—until totally exhausted he sank into the black.

Quentin was too stricken with horror to say anything else. He hid in his glass, wondering at the cruel justice of Antoine Ducharme, at the casualness of Vince Lucas as if he'd witnessed murders all the time, at what miseries Antoine had in store for Lisa—but knowing with brilliant clarity that he was dealing with a species of people who lived in a dark and gaudy world—a world whose principles were alien to the rest of civilized society.

But what bothered Quentin Cross almost as much as watching the young man drown was knowing that he was now part of that world—an accomplice and partner who had signed his name in blood.

And that the only way out was Christopher Bacon.

Or his own death.

Copyright © 2000 by Gary Goshgarian

Gary Braver is the award-winning author of six critically acclaimed thrillers including Elixir, Gray Matter, and Flashback, which was recipient of the 2006 Massachusetts Honor Book Award for Fiction--a first for a thriller--and which in a starred review Publishers Weekly called "an exceptional medical thriller." His novels have been translated into five languages, and three have been optioned for movies.

Under his own name, Gary Goshgarian, he is an award-winning professor of English at Northeastern University where he teaches courses in Modern Bestsellers, Science Fiction, Horror Fiction, and Fiction Writing.  He has taught fiction-writing workshops through out the United States and Europe for over twenty years. He is the author of five college writing textbooks.

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Elixer 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gary Braver's book, Elixir, grabs you fast and creates and early page turner that is hard to put down. Through logical scientific description he makes a reasonable case for an exotic compound that extends life forever. Of course there are the usual suspects trying to get the 'elixir' for greed, prersonal power, and, of course eternal youth. As the story continues there are gaps and inconsistencies which make it hard to swallow. The reader wants things to work because the basic story is exciting and tense. But we have real presidents (Reagan) followed by fictional presidents (why not just have all fiction here. It doesn't add to the story and it is distracting to change horses). Contrived 'lucky' events which prevent Chris/Roger from getting caught. Chance meetings with college roomates in different towns. A return visit to the FBI by Wally to 'call them off' which is totally unnecessary and which leads to the 'awful-awful'. As the story lines multiply geometrically, one becomes a little confused and lost. When we finally reach our denoument we are relieved there are no new plot twists to deal with. In general, the story is gripping and hard to put down. There could have been better solutions to some of the dilemmas but it was an enjoyable read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gary Braver's book Elixir is worth the price for such a compelling, thought provoking piece of reading material. The idea of eternal life is at the center of the story, and what unfolds is a tale so interesting you will not be able to put the book down. I purchased it while on vacation, and spent the first three days pouring over each page with unbridled anticipation. The imagery that one experiences from the written words by Braver is nearly lifelike in itself. You can't go wrong. When is the next book due out!!! FIVE STARS.
Guest More than 1 year ago
ELIXIR is a biomedical thriller that can't be put down. It offers readers everything from great storylines, interesting characters of every moral persuasion, biology lessons that are actually enjoyable, points to ponder about the 'joys' of eternal youth, decisions to make about good guys and bad guys and how perhaps we are all a little of each. ELIXIR left me with a thirst for Gary Braver's next book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book takes a interesting look into the the subject of eternal life. I sincerly enjoyed reading it. (So much infact, that I think I stayed up too late at night to read it.) I couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you could prolong your life indefinitely would you? The idea of a fountain of youth has intrigued human beings for centuries. Being able to live longer, better lives is an enticing idea that we've all considered. Hell, 90% of the 'health & beauty' market is based on the desire to stay young. So what if there actually was something we could take. What would happen to us and to our world? Elixir is quite the page turning thriller. I loved never knowing what was going to happen next. I'm not going to give anything away but here's the basic idea. Dr. Christopher Bacon (great name!) is a medicinal chemist working for Darby Pharmaceuticals, 'a Boston laboratory pioneering the synthesis of folk medicines'. They send him off to the jungles of New Guinea in search of plant steroids which could be used to create the world's first male birth-control pill - thus sending their stock price through the roof. Deep in the jungle, an old school friend introduces him to Tabukari, a flower with incredible anti-aging properties. Chris then brings the flower back to the lab in the States to attempt to create a synthetic variety. Things unfold from there. The premise brings up a lot of questions. Should we live forever? If there were such a drug - who would get to take it? How much would it cost? What would happen to the population? What if you took the drug but your children didn't? All these questions are explored throughout the book. Another really interesting facet of the story is the drug/pharmaceutical industry. Does our desire (or need) for drugs put us in a dangerous position? Is enough time being given towards ensuring that there are no side effects or is money the true bottom line? As Chris is working on different projects and researching aging there is a lot of scientific jargon used but it never seemed to get in the way. (Braver's past life as a physicist explains his 'vast knowledge of DNA and the mechanisms of aging'.) Everything is explained in a very conversational manner that allows us to have the information we need without completely confusing us. Put it this way, I dropped out of Chemistry in the tenth grade and I understood what he was talking about. Elixir is wonderfully written. Most of the characters are beautifully realized and are intrinsically real. The relationship between Chris and his wife, Wendy, is a wonderful example. They are both complex individuals with deeply rooted needs and desires, all of which Braver allows us to be privy to. As time passes and the story changes, so do their relationship and their needs. My only problem was with the bad guys. I felt like I was expected to hate one of the bad guys just because he was a drug dealer (great irony) and the other baddie was pathetic and I wasn't entirely convinced he was capable of murder. I like my bad guys to be really BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD and these ones were just kinda bad. Even though this book was just released, Ridley Scott Productions (Gladiator, Blade Runner, Alien) has already optioned it! I think it'll make a great film. Lots of drama; lots of suspense. This is a great thriller. I had trouble putting it down and stayed up until the wee hours of the morn in order to finish it. Gary Braver is a great new voice in the thriller market (especially if you're tired of the Grisham legal drama and the Clancy spy novel) and if you're looking for an exciting, fun read try picking up Elixir. I can't wait for Braver's next book - I hope he doesn't wait too long to write it - none of us are getting any younger!!! Review Originally Posted on Http://www.entom.com
Guest More than 1 year ago
Summer affords that precious time to stretch out at the beach or vacation spot and to read for pure pleasure. If your looking for a novel that is gripping, informative (full of carefully researched information about the aging process), and suspenseful Gary Braver's Elixir is a great choice. An engaging and very likable couple, Chris and Wendy Bacon live a comfortable suburban life overshadowed by the cruel early death of an young son. A research scientist, Chris Bacon, discovers a plant extract that can stop the aging process and indefinitely prolong life. The discovery of this drug and its impact on the lives of Chris and his wife Wendy and everyone the drug touches drives the book. This fast paced book takes the reader on a harrowing journey in which the attempt to prolong life indefinitely imperils everything and everyone Chris Bacon cherishes: his family, his profession, his life. The settings of the novel, vividly and richly presented, add to its appeal. Scenes are set on Carribean islands, in flossy Boston suburbs, biotech research laboratories and the remote woods of Western New York. The book is full of suspense. At the same time it has substance. Questions about the nature of time and the value of prolonged life are raised. And best of all, Gary Braver really can write. His prose is carefully crafted, and has an elegance and precision far beyond the average thriller. Take it to the beach or pool. You won't regret it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gary Braver is not ahead of his time and neither is Elixir. Greed associated with immortality is alive and well. Elixir grasps the reader from page one and never lets go, even after the book ends. Braver takes the reader on a journey that is easily understood and makes sense out of genetic jargon without loosing the reader's interest. A thriller that makes you want to think about living forever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gary Braver gives us some really bad guys and some really good guys in a highly readable, fast paced book. But just as you get into the plot you realize that at least one of these good guys isn't really so good after all, but he sure is likable. The different story lines that bump into each other keep you guessing right to the end, and let me assure you that this book ends well. While the main idea of eternal youth is as ancient as mythology, it is timely both for the aging 'boomers' and the advances in research labs. This beautifully written novel should appeal to all audiences except, perhaps, the young, upon whom youth is wasted (you have to read the story!).
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was exciting and interesting from beginning to end. I don't know when I've read a book quite like this before. What I like about it is that, in addition to keeping the suspense going throughout, the author still manages to really build deep, well - thought out characters. I found the characters as interesting and entertaining as the story itself. I read the whole thing in a little over two days, it was that absorbing. I highly recommend this book, even if, like me, you don't normally read 'thrillers'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gary Braver is both a good literary journalist, making modern biotechnology very real to general readers, and a terrific thriller writer. Braver poses a thoughtful question: what if you could live forever- would it be as great as you think ? Around this issue the author spins a tense tale of a family on the run, a clever plot that zags when you expect a zig, and colorful characters that you can root for or hiss. Throw in international organizede crime, the FBI, and some incredible 'laboratory-run-amok' scenes, and the frenetic pace never slows. I can't wait for the movie !
harstan More than 1 year ago
Darby Pharms medicinal research chemist Christopher Bacon returns from a field trip to New Guinea with a flower never seen in the West before. The natives believe the flower is a miniature fountain of youth. In their Boston lab, scientists test the extract on animals with startling results that the aging process was not just stopped but its physical impact reversed.

Darby Pharms CEO Quentin Cross tenders the elixir to reduce mob pressure to pay back a debt. However, the mob demands full control of the sales of the drug, seeing it as a better seller than cocaine and its derivatives. Chris uses the drug on himself. Accompanied by his family he flees for safety as the government, the mob, and Darby Pharms pursues.

Fans of biotech thrillers will find this novel to be the right ELIXIR for their needs. The story line is fats-paced, filled with action, and numerous twists and turns. The characters seem genuine and, in turn, make the plot believable to include the fountain of youth drug. Gary Braver provides a terrifying novel that will grip the audience with its insightful look at the aftermath of discovering the magical ELIXIR that reverses aging.

Harriet Klausner