Have you heard of The Fifth Harmonic? No surprise if you haven’t. It’s the most personal novel I’ve written, the hardest to classify, and one of my best, I think. It’s been called a New Age thriller, and that’s pretty close. A mystical Mayan mystery woman is paired with a hardshell skeptic (like me) with terminal cancer (not like me), involved in exotic settings, strange legends, a romance, and really good sex (or so women readers have told me). It supposes that a few New Age concepts are true. (Don’t let that put you off – I don’t buy them either, but they work for the story.) I drew on the experiences of a trip into MesoAmerica and began fabricating. It virtually wrote itself. Maybe because it was so personal.
The inspiration came from an acquaintance (let’s call him Sal). He found a lump in his neck. Turned out he had a squamous cell carcinoma on his tongue. They cut out the tumor, removed lymph nodes and some muscle from his neck, and radiated him.
The result: Sal can talk fine but the surgery left him with a wry neck and the radiation did a number on his salivary glands, leaving him with a perpetually dry mouth. He has to keep a water bottle nearby at all times, but otherwise his life goes on.
It could have been so much worse.
What if the tumor had been more advanced and more aggressive? He might have had to have his larynx removed (which means he’d be talking through a squawk box or burping his words) along with part of his jaw and most of his tongue. The more intense radiation would leave him with no saliva, and no taste buds as well.
Then I thought: What if that were me? As far as I’m concerned, that’s not living. I’d rather be dead. But before I died I’d explore every other possible means of a cure.
And that’s how The Fifth Harmonic came to be. I knew it would be a tough sell but it was something I simply had to write. Turned out I couldn’t find a New York publisher for it. (They all said they had no idea how to market it.) It wound up with a small New Age house and remains largely unknown. The hardcover is out of print, and the paperback is years off. The publisher’s ebook edition remains available. Go here. (Again, I apologize about the price – not my doing.)