Sunday, November 15, 2009

East African Perspective

Hi. I'm going to use this, my first appearance on the International Christian Fiction Writers Blog to introduce myself.

I grew up with the name Harry Lee (actually, I still have it). Never knew it was considered redneck until I read John Grisham's novel "A Time to Kill" in which he says something to the effect: " Billy Bob or Harry Lee or other redneck names." Wow. Imagine that. I grew up with the name all my life and I never knew.

I'm a writer, having begun my novel career with a manuscript I started when I was working as a chief resident in general surgery. I've penned over a dozen novels since then and all of my stuff has a signature stripe of medical realism running somewhere in the pages. My life as a surgeon has taken me to East Africa where I work in Kenya and in Somaliland bringing the love of Christ in the form of good medical care.

That's what brings me to this forum. My experiences in life usually lag in terms of their reflection in my writing by a few years, but Africa is slowly seeping into my writing, coloring the stories with the blood, dust, corruption, and hardship that is served up in generous portions on the African continent.

How does an American surgeon end up in Africa? After a dozen years in private practice in Virginia, I took an opportunity to fill in for a surgeon in Kenya who needed a break to attend a meeting. I took my then thirteen year old son with me and at the end of just a few weeks, we both felt like the experience should be shared with the whole family. In short, I took a year sabbatical and moved the family (three sons and my wife). In that year, my boys experienced camping out under the African sky, running their dirt bikes among giraffe and zebra, the Indian ocean's warmth, the thrill of rafting the Nile as well as community projects such as "mudding" a hut, and tree-planting. As our time to leave grew near, my sons made me promise to return. I resigned my practice and returned to Kenya.

In Kenya, my surgery world expanded. I went from a general surgery/ vascular surgery practice to general, urologic, gynecologic, neurologic, plastic, and thoracic surgeon. I do everything from aortic aneurysms to pancreas resections to prostate surgery to surgery for huge goiters and other long-neglected illness. We regularly see patients who have been mistreated by the witch doctors first.

Likewise, my writing world has been expanded. Themes from the dark continent have help expand fictional settings. In my upcoming novel with Simon and Schuster, "The Six-Liter Club,"(pictured above) protagonist Camille Weller is the daughter of a male American surgeon and a Congolese woman. She becomes the first black female trauma surgeon in Virginia. Back-story from the Simba rebellion in the Congo bring the international coloring.

Who would have predicted a novel about a surgeon set in Africa and Virginia?

Anyone who takes more than a cursory glance at who I am and where I've lived.

What is the future? I'm currently at work on a novel about a Virginia heart surgeon who runs to Africa to start an open heart program in Kenya (or is it to escape the trouble that swirled around a suspected affair with the Virginia governor's wife or to make peace with a troubled past?).

Surgery has been in my blood since I started writing fiction as a chief resident.

Now Africa is too.

Thanks for joining me in the journey.
Harry Lee Kraus


  1. Fascinating, getting to know you a little from your posting, Harry. The realism in your book from your perspective must be awesome. Can't wait to read it.

  2. Thanks for telling us about the new blog.

    So, are you back in Africa now? Last time you mentioned it on your other blog, you were still deciding but leaning toward staying in the US. This sounds like you are back in Africa. Just curious!

    I don't see how you find the time to write with all the demands on your time! But I'm glad you do!

  3. Fascinating! I won't let my husband read this. He's a pediatrician and is always talking about medical missions. I think he would do the same as you and end up living over there!!

  4. I marvel at the wonderful talents God has given His people. Thank you for your dedication.

    The book sounds fascinating. I'll have to add it to my Wish List. :)


  5. Thank you for the interesting introduction! Good luck with your practice, and your writing.

  6. Wow, you live a very interesting life. Thanks for sharing and you can only imagine how unique your books must be.

  7. God bless you and the work you do. Africa's needs seem endless. I wonder how people like you keep from being discouraged. Thanks for being part of this group.

  8. Thanks for sharing such an interesting story, Harry.Congrats on the book.

  9. Harry, thanks for sharing your inspiring and fascinating story.

  10. that sounds like a very good read!

    just cant' C ya as a "redneck" tho ! ;)

  11. Fascinating post Harry. Thanks for sharing. I'm interested to see the term "redneck". According to my dictionary, this is a N.American term for "A poor White person in the southern United States".

    Here in South Africa we have the Afrikaans word "rooinek" (lit. redneck) which was used to describe the British because the back of their fair-skinned necks burnt so easily. Originally it was a derogatory term, but today it's often used affectionately by an Afrikaans person referring to an English speaker, "Hey Rooinek!"