The Cadaver of Gideon Cathcart

Introducing a new & modern tale of gothic horror,
a novel of chilling intensity


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In 1996, in the fifth year of his training as a brain surgeon, Zach Dozier killed a man.

His name was Gideon Cathcart and he was Zach’s patient. In truth, the man had died already—or so it seemed. An hour before, with his skull open and his brain exposed to the elements, Gideon had bled out on the operating table. Half his brain had turned to mush amid the hemorrhaging. Gideon had even been tagged and bagged, near enough to death so as to qualify for it in all but fact. But in the end he hadn’t been dead after all, though how he could have done any sort of living with just half a brain wasn’t apparent. Likely he’d have never awakened. He’d have remained in a coma—a dead man breathing—with a tube in his stomach to feed and water him daily. Gideon’s life would have been nothing more than orderlies and nurses coming around a few times a day to change his diaper or turn him this way or that. Hell, a goddamn potted plant lives better. But Gideon wasn’t only his patient, he was his friend, and Zach knew he wouldn’t have wanted that.

So—hardest moment of his life—Zach finished what had been so horribly started in that operating room. He killed Gideon in a twin fit of madness and compassion. And when that terrible moment ended, Zach laid him to rest in potter’s field, under the daisies and wispy grass of a fallow earth.

Not a soul knew what Zach had done, but in all the days that followed he never knew a moment’s peace. Not because everything about that unfortunate night haunted him, although it did. Not because he saw that terrible face every time he closed his eyes, although that was true as well. Not because all he had ever loved or wanted in this world had been taken from him, although it had. No, the source of his unease was none of these things.

Zach Dozier was a man with an affliction. He killed Gideon Cathcart, then laid him to rest amid the poppies of potter’s field.

But Gideon didn’t rest—and he wouldn’t stay buried.

From the mind of Edison McDaniels comes THE CADAVER OF GIDEON CATHCART, with elements of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stephen King’s Bag of Bones, and the 1930’s classic horror novel The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck by Alexander Laing (in fact, the title is an homage to Alexander Laing). The novel is ghostly atmospheric, with the haunted hospital becoming a character in itself. A ghost story written in third person, with compelling prose and vivid depictions of hospital routines twisted into the surreal. A chilling descent into the inner world of modern medicine and surgery, against a pretense of old-fashioned gothic horror.
Consider yourself warned.

Own it today — click here to purchase for Amazon Kindle.


Cracking Skulls and Writing Fiction

Cracking Skulls & Writing Fiction
How I Get Into Your Head — with both pen and scalpel

By Edison McDaniels, MD surgeonwriter.com

Note: This blog entry first appeared on Southern Writer’s Magazine blog, click here. 

Me operating

The author at work.

My day job is a fairly severe mistress, consuming my time with a vengeance matched only by the concentration required to complete many of my daily tasks. That may not sound like much, until I tell you that what I do between 9 and 5—well, more like 7 and 7 most days—is crack skulls.

No, I am not a bouncer at some hellishly belligerent bar, though I do have occasion to interact with some of their more unfortunate patrons from time to time. You see, I not only crack skulls—I put them back together again. What I mean to say, in plain terms, is that I am a brain surgeon. I spend my days bent over a quarter-million dollar microscope roaming the nether regions of the central nervous system, chasing tumors, clipping blood vessels, and generally making sure the many and various nerves are happy.

Yes, this requires concentration. Yes, this requires persistence and dedication to the task. Yes, this requires years of schooling and study to achieve any modicum of success. And yes, it requires a certain degree of passion.

All things, which you, fellow writer, will recognize as being necessary to the success of the craft.
Which brings me to this little exchange between two partygoers:

“So what do you do for a living?” the first one asks.

“I’m a writer. A novelist actually,” the second one says.

“Wow, what a coincidence. When I retire I intend to write a novel.”

“What do you do now?”

“I’m a physician, a surgeon actually.”

“Well then, that is a coincidence. When I retire, I intend to practice medicine.”

Preposterous? Maybe, but not in the vein you might think. As someone who does both—with a fair amount of success in each—either endeavor requires a combination of attention to detail, perseverance, and passion most folks lack. Writing a novel is no less daunting than cutting out a brain tumor. Both require a certain frame of mind. A surgeon has to want to be in the OR more than the bedroom. The only time a writer enters the bedroom is to sleep or for new source material, to paraphrase Betsy Lerner, The Forest For The Trees.

When I am writing, my mind is singularly focused in a quest to tell a story. I want the reader to journey with me, but not just come along for the ride. I ultimately want him or her to take the wheel, to feel the bumps and bruises for themselves, to laugh, cry, squirm, or grimace despite themselves. It’s not just finding the right word, but also the correct point of view, the proper voice, the right sentence make-up, the appropriate story structure, building the best and most telling fictive world to give life to the characters—in short, making a myriad of critical decisions, upon which the ultimate result depends. I agree with Stephen King that stories are found things, like fossils, and getting them out of the ground in one piece—or at least as intact as possible—is both the substance and the art of the craft.

For me, writing is an intimate act, and I leave a piece of myself in each story.

When I am operating, I am of a similar mind, honed into a world just a few inches in diameter. I go hours without needing—or even thinking—to eat, drink, or piss. Time condenses and hours pass like minutes. Everything becomes about the cut, about when, where, and what to cut, about creating a path in and out, and about doing it all—completing the task—with as little trauma as possible to my patient. Critical thinking skills rise to the forefront. A knowledge of anatomy replaces a knowledge of grammar. It is the opposite of sculpting. Here, I am not so much trying to gather the fossil as protect the ground around it.

When operating, I am writing my signature in the flesh.

Both the task and the craft are goal directed, cerebral undertakings, but surgery is a left brain, concrete, get it done right now thing and writing is a right brain, creative, take your time thing. Surgery requires a rote knowledge of anatomy, writing calls up an esoteric awareness of words and grammar. Surgery is relatively quick and mentally (and often physically) exhausting; writing is time-consuming and brain building. Surgery involves a team (no surgeon operates alone), though it is an intensely isolating feeling to be deep inside somebody’s brain and know his or her entire future depends on your next move, and your next, and your next…; writing may be one of the most solitary things we humans do routinely, yet when done well it yields a community like few other pursuits.

No one would expect a surgeon to be made overnight—the idea is not only ludicrous, but might well prove fatal. The novice writer’s craft is benign in execution, but no less grotesque. Writing, like surgery, gains much from experience. The best writing—mastering the craft—takes years of study. A professor of neurosurgery once told me it takes five years after residency to make a brain surgeon tolerably good. The same might be said of writing, paraphrased thus: it takes a million words on the page to make a writer readable.

That’s about ten novels folks, and they ain’t gonna write themselves. Best to get writing.

Read Juicing Out.

Even the bravest surgeon risks somebody else’s life. Until now.

A novella well calculated to keep you in suspense.

Click to see JUICING OUT on Amazon.

Click to see JUICING OUT on Amazon.


The Matriarch of Ruins

Today, the Gettysburg Trilogy continues…

In Book 1, Not One Among Them Whole, a novel of Surgeons and the Wounded at Gettysburg, the harrowing story of life at the front edge of a 19th century battlefield hospital was told.

Now, from the author of that acclaimed novel, comes the story of the civilians among the wounded in that surreal time:


Husbands and wives.

Sons and daughters.

Soldiers and surgeons.

Men and slaves.

Widows and ghosts.

The living and the dead come alive in this epic novel of a widow struggling to keep her family together amid the carnage of the Battle of Gettysburg—and the memories of her dead husband. A story of ordinary folks caught in the maelstrom of an extraordinary time.

It is 1863 and the war has come home to the Gamble farm in Southern Pennsylvania. With her husband buried under the willow tree in the back yard, and only four months in the ground, the widow Purdy Gamble must cope with losing him all over again when a rebel surgeon conscripts her farm—and Purdy’s growing respect despite herself. Hannah Gamble Griel, Purdy’s daughter, disappears into the chaos of war to chase her own ghosts, both imaginary and real. And then there are the twins Loli and Coal, just fourteen. One, struck dumb by a mule kick at age five, will find a disturbing peace amid the flames of war. The other will twice save a man’s life, unburying a horrid family secret in the process—a secret at once as alive as warm flesh and as dead as cold bones mouldering under the earth. 

The Matriarch of Ruins is a haunting story of lost love, moral dilemmas, and psychological traumas amid the ruins of war, by the author of Not One Among Them Whole. This is a vivid, suspenseful tale, told with heart-breaking empathy and stunning detail.


Now available for the Amazon Kindle. Soon in paperback as well. From Northampton House Press. Buy it today and be transported to another era. 

The Matriarch of Ruins (Gettysburg Trilogy, #2)



From the mind of Edison McDaniels comes a ghost story like no other…

What happens when a surgeon becomes obsessed with death?

Dr. Isaac Weed was touched by the death of his daughter. Unfortunately, so were his patients…

Dr. Isaac Weed had it all. A loving wife, a beautiful daughter, a thriving surgical practice, and an almost supernatural gift for healing. But two years after the death of his daughter, struggling to heal and just a shell of the man he once was, Dr. Weed becomes increasingly convinced his dead daughter is trying to contact him from the beyond. When he discovers a door to the afterlife, a door never meant to be opened, he just might be able to get her back. There’s just one problem.

In order to open the door, somebody has to die.

˃˃˃ A supernatural medical thriller that will leave you breathless & exhausted…

“The Touched is one of those unexpected surprises that make reading worthwhile. At once a page-turning thriller, and a metaphysical adventure of the highest order, it’s a book that will keep you turning the pages until you hit the marvelously redemptive ending craving more. One can’t but think of Stephen King, as the story’s rich cast of lovable, exquisitely-rendered characters grapple with evil, beauty, and the depths of grief and hope.”

–Tim Farrington, Author of The Monk Downstairs

The TOUCHED is currently available for the Kindle at just $2.99.
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Why wait? Let the haunting begin.

~ An Excerpt ~

Then comes the night of the ballet, the night that changes everything forever.

That glorious but awful evening begins with the sun retiring behind a veil of shimmering twilight. The couple shower and, with the hot, luxuriant waters cascading down upon them, entwine as lovers for the first time in perhaps six weeks or two months. The orgasmic embrace is at the furious urging and persistence of Anna, who feels especially close to her husband on this night and knows that Homer would never, otherwise, seek such loving solace of her in her delicate condition. For years afterward, Homer will remember this time together and will wonder if, even then, Anna somehow knew what the night would bring. Over the years to come, this idea will act like a water hammer against his sanity—and slowly erode its very foundation.

But on this night he is as sane as he will ever be again. Anna considers the promise of the life she carries and tells Homer it is a soul in creation. He realizes just how much he loves this woman, how much he loves their baby. They have a quiet, romantic dinner for three and Homer presents her with a diamond tennis bracelet that would have taken him another two years to pay off. He has considered a corsage, but has decided instead upon the bracelet, reasoning she would rather have a permanent keepsake of their special evening at the ballet. The keepsake will be buried with her and Homer will never pay it off.

They arrive 20 minutes early for The Nutcracker. Sitting down, they listen to the murmurs of the crowd and the marvelous but unprepared tunes of the orchestra as it warms up. As the opening curtain rises, Homer places his hand upon Anna’s child-filled belly. He pokes and feels the future within kick back, strong and healthy. He smiles, the two kiss, and the curtain rises.

It happens in the middle of Act II, during the dream. It is fast, with no warning whatsoever. The Arabian dancer is onstage, and her serpentine movements mesmerize the audience. There is a faint popping sound, a sound nobody actually hears in all probability, then a whoosh as the small but heavy spot light crashes down from the ceiling above. Seth’s mother is struck in the head and does not suffer. She dies instantly, or so the coroner will claim later despite all evidence to the contrary. The bread loaf size light cleaves her head, splits it open across the top, and explodes its contents in a wide swath around her. Anna’s blood and skull are flung against Homer with such force he is knocked from his seat. The woman on the other side of Anna screams, a high pitched wail that immediately curdles the stomachs of those within earshot. When the house lights come on a moment later, they reveal gray and white flecks of brain—tissue that had previously held Anna’s memories, hopes, and dreams—splayed across the head and shoulders of a score of strangers.

One of those strangers, a heavyset, older black woman with distinguished gray hair, manages to remain calm and comforts the others. Her presence is soothing in an oddly familiar way, as if she is everyone’s grandmother or best friend, and she somehow keeps the macabre situation from completely unraveling to chaos. The prime individual she comforts is Homer, who sits on the floor between the seats, at the feet of his wife. He looks at his Anna. Tears flow freely down his cheeks and mingle with the blood upon them to produce tiny rivulets of pink here and there. This makes his tears stand out eerily against his black skin. He is dazed and confused but knows at once she is dead, knows their dreams are gone. On impulse, perhaps he senses something or maybe he just needs to touch her, he reaches up and feels her belly. He rubs his hand around in the blood, as if in a trance, as if finger painting on the belly of his dead wife.

It moves.

Not a breath, not inward like the pull of a contracting diaphragm. Not outward either; there is no broad, diffuse relaxation of the ribs and belly to suggest the movement has been the last gasp of a dying woman.

It moves again.

A poke, a kick.

Something lives inside the dead woman.

Something that is trying to get out.

Something that needs to get out.

Strangers bring the woman to the aisle and lay her there. The elderly black woman has her arm around Homer even as he weeps over the pregnant remains of his wife. A tuxedoed obstetrician—there is a white carnation stuck in his lapel—kneels at Anna’s side. Jenny White observes how he only briefly looks at Anna’s head. It’s blown apart—almost as if something had needed to get out instead of in—and it’s apparent to all no amount of attention there will help her. He focuses his attention on her belly, and must feel impotent the old woman thinks. Jenny White knows the baby must be born at that moment, but there is nothing that can be done without a knife. The physician’s hand reaches along the woman’s neck, apparently seeking a pulse. From the look on his face, and the glance at his watch, it is apparent he can’t find one. 

“Three minutes,” he says quietly.

Jenny White knows this is virtually an ultimatum: three minutes before the child within will be as lost as the mother now is.

It takes seven minutes, the obstetrician has timed it, before the first paramedics finally arrive to see Homer still clutching his now very dead wife. As they pull him away, they see the woman’s pregnant belly.

“Please,” he begs, “you must do something…” The tears stream down his cheeks and hysteria finally overcomes him as he reaches out to touch her belly one last time.

It moves again.

The obstetrician sees it and Jenny White watches as he moves with deliberate speed. He takes a scalpel from the paramedic’s bag and immediately cuts the injured woman from one side to the other just below her pregnant belly button. In his haste, the doctor plunges the knife completely through the wall of the uterus and cuts the child’s scalp, leaving an odd mark across the boy’s forehead that Seth will not easily be able to explain in the future. The womb is thus torn open and the doctor pulls from it an infant boy—tiny, blue, listless, and bloody. Dead by all accounts. The paramedics swaddle the newborn in blankets.

Later, at the hospital, people will say it is a miracle the boy survived. Ten minutes by the watch of the obstetrician they will say, ten minutes during which the child should have died three times over.

Ten minutes that evolve into a decade of pain and suffering.