McDowell: A Novel

McDowell: A Novel

by William H. Coles

Paperback(2nd ed.)

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An admired but cold and ruthless surgeon lies and cheats to rise to the top of his profession as a member of the President’s cabinet. He founds a hospital in Nepal where he conquers 8000-meters peaks. Fame and self-esteem rise but he fails at attempts to parent his three children. A disastrous personal tragedy results in conviction for 2nd degree murder and he escapes prison surviving alone as a homeless fugitive relentlessly pursued by authorities, the media, and those he wronged. On his travels, he befriends characters who reflect on him a new self-awareness and he discovers humane caring that brings new satisfaction to life and living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998437644
Publication date: 08/30/2019
Edition description: 2nd ed.
Pages: 354
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

William H. Coles is the award-winning author of short stories, essays on writing, interviews, and novels in contests such as The Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition, among others. He is the creator of, a site dedicated to educational material, a workshop, and examples for writers seeking to create lasting character-based fiction with strong dramatic plots that stimulates thought about the human condition. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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McDowell 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
WriterJohn1960 More than 1 year ago
First understand this. Dr. Hiram McDowell was once a despicable individual. As Charles Dicken’s wrote in the holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol,” this must be understood or no good can come from this story. William H. Coles has written this tale of a shabby protagonist to show how free will and hubris can ruin a person’s life. From the very first page of the novel we see this talented doctor failing to come to the aid of others in need in his quest to reach the top. Over and over, McDowell makes choices in his life that compromise his integrity and lead him to the height of this medical profession. He is an admired and lauded surgeon, but his heart and soul are black as ink and his immorality ultimately inspires colleagues and friends to try and destroy him. It is his own failings and fate that topples Dr. Hiram McDowell. His fall from grace, after a family tragedy, is epic, spiraling and surprising. Coles has written a tale of how a once wealthy and successful doctor can eventually lose everything, including his freedom. Written in a spare, concise and highly readable style, you will come to hate Hiram McDowell and then root for his personal redemption. But will he be able to save himself after doing such damage to the world around him? Will he come to recognize that his tragic fall from grace to the depths of despair were of his own making? And will his full story ever be truly told? These are among the essential questions posed by William H. Coles, an acclaimed and award-winning author of short stories, as well as essays on writing, interviews and novels. “McDowell” is a perfect example of great writing; a deeply human story that all readers can relate to and learn from. It’s a cautionary tale that directs us to take stock in our own personal choices and decisions. It’s the ultimate human story, told on a grand stage with simplicity and grace.
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
“The motives and means of McDowell’s death will always be front page interest,” Utah author William H. Coles, MD is a retired Ophthalmologist whose medical career was internationally lauded for his expertise as an ophthalmic surgeon specializing in ocular injury repair and reconstruction, a professor and chairman at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine, a Regent for The American College of Surgeons, president of the Association of University Professors in Ophthalmology, and lecturer on mechanistic biologic ophthalmic research and ophthalmic surgery internationally. Preparing for his career as a literary fiction writer Coles studied in more than 100 courses and workshops with more than seventy-five authors, editors, and teachers and created, a website with resources for fiction writers, illustrators, and avid fiction readers. He has published ten books - five novels, collections of short fiction and three books on the writing of fiction stories. He has also garnered honors for his participation in the arts – jazz piano, antique art, museums, and historic preservation. After reading MCDOWELL and absorbing this consummate novel of the rise and fall of one man’s existence, read the book again – this time to bask in the brilliant prose and, yes, poetry, written by an author whose name should be on every list of significant contemporary writers. William H. Coles blends his depth of knowledge about medicine with his extraordinary sensitivity to philosophy and the true meaning of life as it can be lived, abused, fractured, and redeemed – all in the story of one Hiram McDowell. Cole’s election to open his story on the snowy mountains in Nepal in 1981 does more than capture the reader’s attention with a scene and deed that overshadows the theme of the book: it gives immediate evidence of the polished prose that fills every page of this book. ‘The sky cleared briefly before daybreak. The sharp, bitter winds eased somewhat, but the negative forty-degree temperatures penetrated to the bone. Hiram McDowell lifted the flap of a one-man tent to look in on Erick Woolf, who turned his head, his beard tinged in frost-white from his labored breathing; Woolf lifted his goggles, his pale blue eyes opaque with fatigue. “You ready?” Hiram asked. Woolf shook his head “no,” trying to smile but his face remained motionless. Hiram took off his outer gloves, freed up an oxygen tank from Woolf’s backpack, and placed the mask on Woolf’s face. Woolf rallied after a few minutes of oxygen. Within half an hour, with four other climbers, Hiram and Woolf started for the summit. Woolf’s fatigue slowed progress and after an hour they soon fell behind the others. The wind gusts increased. Woolf sank into a sitting position a few yards from a slope of snow and ice. Hiram steadied himself on a steep vertical. For a few seconds, the visibility improved, but he saw no one. “Go,” Woolf called to him, his voice husky dry. “I can’t do it.” With only slight hesitation, Hiram waved his agreement. He had only two hours or less to summit before their oxygen supply ran low. And Woolf was too weak to go on; the rest would strengthen him. ..etc' Coles is most assuredly one of our finest American authors, an artist in line with Ian McEwan, Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, et al. Highly Recommended! Grady Harp
ReadersFavorite4 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Sefina Hawke for Readers' Favorite McDowell by William H. Coles is a literary fiction novel that would appeal most to a diverse audience of young adults and adults who enjoy mystery thrillers. McDowell is an arrogant surgeon and father of three who has a distinguished career. That all changed when his grandson goes on a massive killing spree that only ends with his failed suicide. When the young man dies under suspicious circumstances, McDowell becomes a suspect. McDowell quickly finds himself convicted of second-degree murder and becomes a fugitive. While on the run, McDowell works to set up a new identity and finds himself having to begin his new life at the lowest level of society. Will McDowell's experiences as a lower class member of society help him to grow as a person or will he remain set in his selfish ways? McDowell by William H. Coles was a book that reminded me of the Marvel movie Doctor Strange with how both main characters were arrogant surgeons who seemed to not give much thought or care for those that did not directly affect them. However, this book sets itself apart from Doctor Strange with how McDowell not only lost his career, but also his freedom due to being convicted for his own grandson’s murder. I enjoyed the way that McDowell developed and grew as a character during the course of the book; his journey away from arrogance truly allowed him to undergo massive amounts of character development and introspection. I personally found the way the author ended the book to be both surprising and realistic.
ReadersFavorite3 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite McDowell by William H. Coles is a family saga that follows the life of a selfish and arrogant surgeon, who suffers an epic fall from grace, and the path he travels to redemption. McDowell cares for no one but his children. But then he loses everything when his grandson commits multiple murders and fails in his suicide attempt, which leaves him paralyzed mentally. But the boy dies in very unusual circumstances and McDowell gets a conviction for second-degree murder. He is jailed. Now watch as he escapes and lives as a fugitive, pursued by the authorities and a reporter who is just too eager to interview him before the police catch up with him. Watch as he learns the virtues of humanity the hard way, by taking a path trodden by those he despised when he was powerful and rich. It’s a story that follows a man’s transformation, and his somewhat spiritual odyssey to a life that has meaning. William H. Coles has created a compelling character in McDowell, a character forced to embrace the essence of humanity by harsh circumstances. Can he really find redemption? It is fascinating how the character evoked powerful emotions in me and how those emotions evolved as I read on. At the beginning of the story, I detested this character, but his inner journey brought me around and, instead of a sense of revulsion for the man he was, I learned to look at him with sympathy. Here is a story that is character-driven and that explores what is essential in human nature. It is a story that is filled with powerful lessons while entertaining readers hugely. I was completely drawn into the dynamics of the story and read through it non stop. Great story, awesome characters, impeccable plot lines.
ReadersFavorite2 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite McDowell by William H. Coles is a literary fiction read that features crime, family, and one man’s epic fall from grace to grass and his pursuit of meaning, inner freedom, and redemption. Meet surgeon McDowell, an arrogant and selfish man who only thinks about himself and his children. But as life always has a way of putting people where they belong, he soon loses his wealth and reputation and his career falls apart, thanks to a grandson who commits a series of murders and yet fails to take his own life. This leaves the family with a vegetable. But then the grandson dies in a mysterious way, and all hands are pointing at McDowell. Read on to experience the family drama, the intense suffering, and how he will make one last attempt to redeem his life after his conviction. William H. Coles has written a story that has a lot of entertainment for readers. It is also one that comes with powerful lessons on love and giving. I enjoyed following the journey of the protagonist, watching him descend to the lowest level of society to learn meaning and the real purpose of life in unlikely places. The story is beautifully told, in elegant and crisp prose that will entice readers to keep reading on. The writing features beautiful passages that unveil strong emotions. The story is both emotionally and psychologically charged and readers will love the way the conflict develops and how it drives the plot forward. McDowell is a great story from a master entertainer, a story with powerful lessons for life.
ReadersFavorite1 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Raanan Geberer for Readers' Favorite McDowell: A Novel by William H. Coles is about Dr. Hiram McDowell, an “alpha male” if there ever was one. He heads a Department of Surgery, plays rock guitar, climbs mountains in the Himalayas, runs marathons, has established a hospital in Nepal, and has been elected president of the International College of Surgeons. At home, however, it’s a different story. He acts callously toward his wife, doesn’t care if she knows he has another woman in Nepal, and is only involved superficially with his children’s lives. Now, another surgeon, whom McDowell passed up for executive director of the College of Surgeons, and an aging TV reporter, who’s anxious to prove she’s still relevant, are both on McDowell’s trail, independently of each other. They’ve discovered irregularities in his laboratory and financial improprieties in his charity in Nepal, as well as false statements in his autobiography. And that’s only the first step in his problems—problems that eventually will make him a fugitive on the run. McDowell by William H. Coles is an extremely exciting, well-written novel. The medical information, such as it is, is written in a way that laymen can understand. Coles does a good job of taking us into the world of elite upper-class professionals, where ambition and international travel take a front seat, but family unfortunately takes a back seat. We’re not really sure why McDowell is so driven—late in the book, when someone asks him why money and prestige are so important to him, he draws a blank—but he was likely raised that way, since his family was wealthy enough to own a stable of race horses. McDowell has no easy answers; he doesn’t undergo a miraculous transformation into a “good person.” In every way, however, I would recommend McDowell. An excellent book.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite Fans of popular fiction might be inclined to pass over books classified as literary fiction. What a mistake that would be in the case of McDowell by William H. Coles. While a good plot is essential to all fiction, in literary fiction the exploration of character takes precedence over plot. And why not? After all, isn’t it what people do, think and feel…what motivates and demotivates them…that either propels them to climb to the summit of their abilities or plummets them into hell on earth? This, and what Dr. McDowell, a brilliant, but self-centered surgeon discovers about himself, is what stays with readers after they finish this absorbing story. When we first meet Dr. McDowell, there is little to like about him. His achievements in both business, medicine, mountain climbing and empire building are impressive, but his actions, words, and insensitivity to the needs of his family, friends and colleagues are reprehensible. He is a powerful man and it’s his way or the highway at all times. His only saving grace is his love of his children and the work he does for the poor in Nepal. But the latter comes under severe scrutiny once a TV journalist, Paige, is assigned to do a series on the high-profile Dr. McDowell. Bit by bit, McDowell’s world falls apart, coming to a head when he removes his grandson, a mass murderer, from life support. Until the very last page, readers will be debating the real reasons for Dr. McDowell becoming a murderer himself by taking such action, action for which, by the way, he ends up being convicted and imprisoned. But it’s over the years following his escape from prison, that through the people he meets while on the run, McDowell comes face to face with himself. What he learns about himself and others leaves readers thinking about life, art, humanity and our place on this earth in ways we may not yet have pondered. It’s a revelation for both McDowell and readers. There’s an interesting twist to McDowell that will capture the minds of aspiring writers. While McDowell is on the run, and as he talks to more and more people, he begins writing his memoir. What he learns about writing, for example, one has to know what makes people do what they do “to write anything significant,” really hits home. It’s something all writers should know. But do they, in their haste to churn out books with fast-moving plots, always create something “significant” It’s William H. Coles' ability to create something significant, time and again, that has earned him a multitude of writing awards. His bio is impressive; so is his bibliography. Once you read McDowell, you will, like me, be looking for more books by William H. Coles. I can’t wait to get started on the next one in my collection. Not bad for someone who, until McDowell, had forgotten the beauty of literary fiction.