Best-selling author also known as head of hospital’s emergency
May 4, 2012 | Arthur Wolak - Vancouver CorrespondentcloseAuthor: Arthur Wolak - Vancouver Correspondent
Name: Arthur Wolak
About: See Authors Posts (5)
VANCOUVER – Known to readers around the world as a popular author of contemporary medical thrillers – with such titles as Pandemic, Resistance, Blood Lies, Cold Plague, and Rage Therapy – this author is also known to locals as Dr. Daniel Kalla, head of the emergency department at Vancouver’s large downtown hospital, St. Paul’s.
Alongside his successful medical career, Kalla’s first claim to literary fame came on the heels of the SARS epidemic, the deadly virus that sprung onto the world stage in 2003, which led to his first published novel, Pandemic, that launched his professional writing career. Since then, he has combined his interests in medicine and writing which he describes as “two very different but often complementary careers.”
At the invitation of the Temple Sholom Sisterhood, he recently spoke at a meet-the-author event.
Following his last book, Of Flesh and Blood, which took him away from medical thrillers into the arena of contemporary fiction – but always with a medical twist – Dr. Kalla’s latest book, The Far Side of the Sky (HarperCollins), is his first venture into the literary genre of historical fiction, but with a very significant Jewish twist.
As Dr. Kalla shared with the enthusiastic audience, his book focuses on Shanghai during the war through the eyes of a widowed Viennese Jewish surgeon, Dr. Franz Adler, who flees to Shanghai with his daughter following Kristallnacht. What Dr. Adler finds in cosmopolitan Shanghai – China’s ‘Paris of The East’ – was a haven for thousands of German Jews who similarly fled from the Nazis just before the war.
Part medical drama and part romance, The Far Side of the Sky has Dr. Adler meeting a local nurse who captures his eye in the midst of Asia’s wartime city, under siege by the Japanese Army, while also infiltrated by Nazis. A dangerous place, Shanghai was also a very real place where many Jews survived the war.
As for why he chose such an exotic setting for his latest novel, Dr. Kalla explained that it came about by coincidence while doing interviews many years ago for Pandemic¸ when an interviewer happened to mention her parents were among the “Shanghai Jews,” a subject that intrigued him because, as he said, “My own parents’ families both escaped from the Holocaust in Europe,” his mother’s family in Prague and his father’s family in Budapest.
But Shanghai was foreign territory for Dr. Kalla.
“As soon as I read the first article on [wartime Shanghai] I was absolutely hooked,” he said. “I thought this was an amazing place of history.”
He later found that few Jews and non-Jews knew about Shanghai during WWII.
“I thought what an amazing setting it would be for a novel.”
After visiting Shanghai, he was convinced.
His publisher agreed, and Dr. Kalla has since gone on to write a yet-untitled and unpublished sequel to this historical novel, which will no doubt please those who will find The Far Side of the Sky such a compelling page-turner.
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