by Harris Gray
Release date: November 5, 2013
What do you do when a nightmare threatens your dream? In the disturbingly funny new novel from the authors of Vampire Vic, Brian Lawson receives a dread diagnosis: cancer. But he won’t spare a moment from saving his struggling coffeeshop, even if success comes with his dying breath. Divorced and ostracized in the rural community, Andrea Goldine sets her sights on the charismatic java man. Brian’s doctors ravage him with chemo and radiation, yet the tumor on his shin grows. Brian drafts Andrea into his battle with a competing coffeeshop, desperate to tap the college campus’s retail gold mine. But Andrea yearns for a different partnership… Passions simmer below the surface of the tight-lipped community. Fresh from prison, North Dakota’s legendary basketball goddess dangles a ticket to Brian’s campus coffee dreams, and a disgraced scientist’s toxin treatment tantalizes. Two miracles for two maladies—with one cure more deadly than the next.
Discovering Java Man
The mad scientist cure for bone cancer discovered by Dr. William Coley at the end of the 19th century inspired our novel Java Man. The brilliant Stephen Hall described Coley’s miracle work in A Commotion in the Blood, incredible and riveting enough to be historical fiction.
We did intend to fictionalize Hall’s account. How Coley stumbled across the 6-year-old file notes of a German immigrant who had his tumor removed repeatedly—chemo and radiation treatments still years in the future—only to have the malignancy return, again and again, four times, the surgeon’s final vain attempt leaving a gaping wound on the patient’s neck that would not close, would not heal.
While in the hospital (a terrible place to be sick, then and now) for the last hopeless excision, the poor man further suffered from a vicious infection, once, then again, a weeks-long battle that he barely survived.
In the meantime something amazing happened. His tumor shrank, and his wound healed. The doc chalked it up to…well, he didn’t chalk it up, actually, because doctors don’t credit miracles, at least not in the file notes.
Enter William Coley, the man who connected the dots, and invented the cure, “Coley’s toxins”. His treatment was simple: inject the afflicted with neutered bacteria, eliciting a massive immune response that wipes out the tumors (and very nearly the patients). But peers couldn’t replicate his results, and critics attacked his medieval method—and as radiation and then chemotherapy took center stage, foe and friend alike ignored his spectacular results.
Ignored, all the way to the present day. Coley’s story must be known to today’s researchers, but also must be ignored, because medical science is far too sophisticated (if you can be convinced that chemo’s scorched earth policy is advanced medicine). And so it became more compelling to make this a contemporary tale, with Dr. Khaled Bhani the modern-day Coley, and coffeeshop owner Brian Lawson our version of the luckless German immigrant.
There is another reason we wanted to tell this story: Coley might have been wrong. In the research community there is a bothersome rule that says other scientists must be able to obtain the same result. This is because so many variables could be playing a role, acting on the patient beyond the researcher’s awareness. And because the researcher so very badly wants the cure to be true. If your results can’t be replicated, if it’s you against the world, if you’re Dr. Bhani and everyone else including your highly-qualified peers think you’re crazy…. Doubt plays a heavy role in Java Man.
Relatively recent German immigrants do exist in North Dakota. Brian Lawson is not one of them. He is a California transplant, looking to revive his dreams of coffee empire. North Dakota is just Brian’s warm-up act, where he will regain his touch and prepare for a triumphant return to the Coast. But North Dakotans don’t see themselves that way. The people, the competition, the cancer—no one’s playing along, and nothing’s going as planned. Just like Dr. Coley’s patients a century ago, Brian never dreamed he’d be in the market for a medieval medical miracle.
The Story of Harris Gray
In the nook seat of Jason Gray’s coffee shop, Allan Harris wrote. And eavesdropped, as Jason told stories. One day Allan found waiting for him a little yellow notepad, crammed to the margins with Jason’s tales. Allan typed them, touched them up, and called it good. Jason had other ideas. A collaboration began. The writer and the storyteller. As their tales converged and became inseparable, as they were fused by the stories they told… all the king’s horses and men can’t un-make Harris Gray again.
In celebration of JAVA MAN's release, Harris Gray created a video, and invite you to violate therapist-patient confidentiality and sit in on their recent therapy session. You can learn more about how this writing duo began writing together and how JAVA MAN came to be on their website.
JAVA MAN Tour Schedule & Giveaway
Follow the tour for a chance to win! One grand prize winner will receive a KindleFire HD with $50 Amazon Gift Card, a signed copy of JAVA MAN, and 1 pound of Crowfoot Coffee. Five second prize winners will receive an ebook copy of JAVA MAN. Contest is open INTERNATIONALLY! Click image for the schedule.