Skip to main content


June 17, 2015

Daniel Palmer: I’ll Carry On

Posted by emily

It’s no secret that Daniel Palmer’s father, the late Michael Palmer, has had a tremendous impact on his son’s work. The senior Palmer was a master of the medical thriller, and --- as the story goes --- was overjoyed when Daniel started making his own contributions to the family’s literary canon. After his father’s sudden and untimely passing, Daniel was charged with writing Michael’s latest book --- a task that might have been daunting if his father’s legacy hadn’t been so thorough. TRAUMA ended up being so much more than a son carrying his father’s torch; it ended up being therapeutic, as labors of love tend to be.

Those were great times. Me and my dad traveling to book festivals; at bookstores giving talks to enthusiastic readers (or enthusiastic reader, on one memorable occasion); lecturing to a writers’ group at a nunnery somewhere in the Midwest; and on it went. I knew it would come to an end one day, just didn’t realize that day would come so soon or so suddenly.

The text from my cousin read: Call ASAP it’s your dad 911. I had left the house without my phone, and when I returned, that was the message waiting for me. My heart sank. It was the equivalent of a three a.m. phone call, a uniformed officer knocking at the door. Something terrible had happened to my father.

A lot took place between that text message and my father’s memorial service four days later. I'll spare the details, except for one: the size of the crowd at his service. It was standing room only, people spilling out into the overflow rooms, cars jammed like canned sardines into the parking lot, packed. Over the course of a multifaceted life, my father left behind an indelible legacy. And to honor that legacy came the many people whose lives he touched as a doctor, a writer, a director at the Mass Medical Society, an AA sponsor, a father, a brother and a friend.

For years, my place in my father’s vast milieu had been firmly rooted as his son, as the father of two of his four grandchildren. Recently, however, at the request of his longtime publisher, St. Martin’s, I took on the responsibility of carrying forward a different facet of his legacy.

I had written suspense novels, domestic stories with an occasional cyber twist, for a number of years before I agreed to write a Michael Palmer medical thriller. My interest in writing grew from years of discussions with my father about his books. For him, the process of making a book work was an arduous one, and he benefited greatly from the counsel of a select group of trusted advisors, of whom I was one. It gave me a unique glimpse behind the book-writing curtain before I had a curtain of my own.

So when my father’s editor, Jennifer Enderlin, asked if I could write a Michael Palmer novel, I believed I could do it. I might not have an M.D. to my name, but I have a lot of friends and family members who do. My skill was in understanding what makes a good story and what makes for suspenseful reading. Even better, I had a starting point. My dad, you see, left behind ideas and notes that helped me formulate the plots for TRAUMA and MERCY, my first two novels as part of the Michael Palmer & Son collective.

What I've discovered is that these books mean something completely different to me than the ones I write under my name alone. There’s a legacy here I wish to honor that goes beyond page-turning suspense, cutting-edge medicine, gripping hospital scenes or memorable characters, all hallmarks of my father’s storied career. Behind each page is a history that I don’t want to tarnish. These books are a reflection of my father’s journey, and I'm a trusted caretaker of an important part of his personal history.

As I work, I sometimes find myself drifting back to the stories my father shared during countless book talks I attended over the years. I think about the day he got word THE SISTERHOOD had sold for an impressive sum, and he did a little dance in the street reminiscent of Rocky after running up the Philadelphia Museum of Art stairs. I think about his first hardcover publication, NATURAL CAUSES, and the movie adapted (okay, loosely adapted) from his novel EXTREME MEASUES, which starred Hugh Grant and Gene Hackman. I’ve reread the dedications of all his books, and thought about who they were for, and what that person (or persons) meant to him at that particular time. 

After his death, readers from all over the world sent messages with stories of my father’s kindness and his generous spirit. Those messages inspired me to work my hardest on their behalf because I want that spirit to continue.

On the subject of spirits, I confess to being surprised at how writing Michael Palmer thrillers has helped me mourn his death. I guess it's this: As long as I write these books, there’s a part of my dad that's not really gone. To do these books justice, I’ve become a student of my father’s style, his plots and his technique. I’ve also brought my sensibilities to the project, influenced in part by my father’s mentorship.

Ask any writer: It’s difficult, if not impossible, to emulate another writer’s style. But I do believe it's possible to capture another writer’s spirit, especially if you grew up going to all of their book talks.