A New Orleans aristocrat and doctor, Clayton Otherson, is an aging national leader in the field of trauma surgery who begins to injure patients with his unacceptable technical and judgmental mistakes. Otherson’s younger partner, Mike Boudreaux, whom he trained and mentored, must discipline him. Otherson resents constrains and criticisms and denies his impairment. Boudreaux complicates his management by falling in love with Otherson’s beautiful wife, Catherine. Otherson’s wrath threatens violence as Boudreaux and Catherine shape their love struggling for respect in the contempt of New Orleans’ society.

Short-list finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.

William H. Coles

William H. Coles is the award-winning author of short stories, essays on writing, interviews, and novels in contests such as The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Com­pe­tition, among others. He is the creator of storyin­literary­fiction.com, a site dedicated to educational material, a workshop, and examples for writers seeking to create lasting character-based fiction with strong dramatic plots that stimulate thought about the human condition. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"A great medical drama with a surprise ending"
"I'm a complete book snob, but this really impressed me."
"A great introspection into the meanings of love – a must read in today’s social media driven society."
"Wonderfully written book … I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!"
"Similar to an ER drama episode, but in book format."
"A great medical drama with a surprise ending."
"I found that I was unable to put the book down and was sorry when I finished the book."
"A book that will stay with me for a long time to come."

— Amazon Reviews

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Chapter 1

New Orleans 2003

Mike Boudreaux’s gloved hands worked quickly and decisively to finish a gallbladder in operating room five. Paul Smythe, the anesthesiologist, entered from the corridor through swinging double doors. “Trouble in seven,” he said, his usually calm voice edged with urgency.

Boudreaux’s hands didn’t hesitate in the measured motions of the instrument tie. The toothed forceps gripped the tissue, and with a twist of the needle holder, the needle passed cleanly through with little resistance. “Who is it?” he asked Paul, without taking his eyes off the field.


“He ask for me?” Boudreaux asked.

Paul refused to answer a trivial question. He stared directly until Boudreaux met his gaze, and then he glanced in the direction of room seven to indicate the urgency.

Boudreaux finished one more tie and handed the instruments to the resident assistant. In seconds, he was in room seven. Except for the respirator and monitors, the room was silent. Clayton was bent over the OR table, his usual ruddy complexion now pale below the line of the blue surgical cap. The circulator stared at the floor, avoiding eye contact, her body slack from vexation and chagrin.

“Suction,” Clayton said with a tenuous voice. The scrub nurse passed the instrument with a hesitant, uncertain motion, sweat beading on his forehead. Clayton pressed a sponge up into the wound, pulled it away, then activated the suction. The resident gripped the retractors with a fine tremor that faintly rippled the tissue held by the blade, his anxious eyes diverted from the field.

Boudreaux moved to the table and the assistant shifted toward the foot of the table to give him room to see without breaking sterility. He couldn’t see any anatomy with the blood; a vessel had been cut. They needed better exposure.

There was no time to rescrub. From sterile packages the circulator dropped gown and gloves on a back table. Mike gowned and regloved, waiting for a look from Clayton. But Clayton worked mechanically with his eyes down, refusing to acknowledge Mike’s presence. This was Clayton Otherson, his professor and mentor during training, nationally prominent for his bold innovations and unmatched results for so many years, his senior partner for the last twelve years, now floundering in indecision, unable to find the right choices to save his patient’s life. Unthinkable.

The anesthetist, her face frustrated and angry, turned the monitor so he could see. The pulse was 138.

“I think I got it,” Clayton mumbled

Denial. The most dangerous response of the impaired physician.

“More blood’s coming,” Paul said directly to Mike, making adjustments to an IV, his gaze intent and away from Clayton.

With a firm nudge of his elbow, Mike moved the resident farther away from the action to gain a better view and access to expose the error. Clayton glared at him for the first time with red, rheumy eyes with a mixture of fear and humiliation.

Mike repositioned the retractors in the resident’s hands, opening the abdominal wall incision by three inches. Emerging thick layers of fat gleamed above pools of arterial blood that had lost its healthy hue. Suction and irrigation isolated the artery that was cut through. With a tie, Mike stopped the bleeding. He could feel Clayton’s humiliation, the humiliation of needing help that eroded confidence and self-image, and that would never fade. But this was no time for sympathy. Clayton was in no condition to continue, and with his eyes Mike indicated to the resident to act as assistant from his position, without making Clayton move away from the table, to let him preserve some dignity.

With the bleeding sources stopped and the field dry, Mike finished the repair and started closure. Clayton left the table to take off his gown and leaned against a back wall, his head down. The anesthetist turned a stopcock on an IV line and adjusted gas flow percentages. She glanced at Mike with relief. The monitors changed pace slightly. As the resident completed the last sutures, he waited to be sure the blood pressure was safe, then told the resident to remove the drapes and dress the incision.

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Reviews from Indie Book Reviews:

– “The Surgeon’s Wife” by William H. Coles a literary drama with romantic and medical elements and one of the most original and most addicting novels (novellas) I’ve read in a long time! I was completely interested from the very beginning pages where Coles wastes no time thrusting us into the world of high-stakes world of surgery and introducing us to the main characters including Mike and Clayton whose tumultuous relationship will shape the events of this riveting book. Loved the author’s use of description of the medical ins- and outs and ‘behind the scenes’ action… the drama there provides a great, realistic backdrop for the personal/romantic dramas… perfect for this type of novel, and we really feel like we are there. The writing is clear and fast paced, solid literary prose that has powerful, solid word choices that truly bring this memorable story to life. A fast read with more than one shocking (and sad) twist. Highly recommend! (5 stars)

– Another amazing read by William H. Coles! “The Surgeon’s Wife” is an excellent novella that captured my attention from the first and never once let it go. Each scene was authentic, impressively detailed, and well written.  The descriptions were very good and it’s obvious the author knows the medical field well (as is also indicated in his impressive bio!). The pacing was really quick, as was the dialogue. Most of the actual ‘action” happens in part 3, but there’s lots of character drama leading up to it. Definitely a mesmerizing story that kept me turning the pages quickly. I read it in one night and think this might actually be my favorite William Coles book so far (And I’ve read 4). It had great interweaving plotlines, from suicide to obese surgery to infidelity and romance… the editing was almost flawless and the story was a wild ride till the end… in a good way! Can’t wait to read more from him. Recommend for fans of literary drama. (5 stars)

– Wow, I really loved this book. I thought it was just beautifully written and kept my attention the whole way through. There is some setting up the stage of action on the beginning, and we get to meet the main characters, and some supporting cast who come into the mix. I really like Catherine and Rosie and feel bad for them and their situations especially with Mike. Mike is dynamic and we relate to him, even though he is flawed, (as is Clayton.) He tries to do the right thing and I like that. The characters are all good, some more richly detailed than others, and there are some surprising turn of events I didn’t see coming. It is a quick read, one I finished in the course of an evening but there is a ton of story and emotion here. I was genuinely surprised at a few things that happened, and thought the tension and narrative was great. I will be looking forward to reading more books from William H. Coles soon. Happy he has so many! Recommend reading for fans of literary novellas with a darker, complex twist. (5 stars)

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A captivating story that explores the subjects of broken families, mental health and unconditional love. The book has a few plot twists and an intriguing storyline which grip the reader's attention throughout the read. All the characters are well-developed and the root of their personas are well explained. Even though this book has a medical theme, the author ensured that this did not overshadow the flow of the story.
What I love most about the book is how the author highlights the issue of instability in families, particularly strained parent-child relationships. This topic was handled in a raw and explicit manner. I found it brave of the author to shed light on such a delicate matter.
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I found The Surgeon’s Wife by William H. Cole to be captivating read. I was intrigued by the medical/ethical dilemma of treating patients with bariatric surgery. The conflict between the two doctors could be felt and was conveyed well throughout the novel. The chemistry and dynamics between characters as the story unfolded made me want to continue reading to feed my curiosity of their lives, forgetting about my own. The ending was shocking and unpredictable!
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