The Heart Merchants
Paperback Library, New York, 1970
The blurb on the back:
The Doctor - Dr John Lynn, a respected, successful surgeon. He didn't feel he was ready to perform a heart transplant. But the outside pressures were great - and so were his ambition and need for fame.
If you read the sleeve notes, you may conclude that this is just a straight rip-off of George Bernard Shaw's play The Doctor's Dilemma, which itself was the Shaw piece most derivative of Henrik Ibsen's social issue phase. And you'd be dead right. There may be nothing new under the sun (or in the Sun), but you're supposed at least to pretend.
There are, however, a couple of twists here. One is the reverence with which heart transplant surgery is seen in these early years after Christiaan Barnard (whose fame incidentally is ascribed here to the endeavours of his PR people): transplant surgeons are compared to Columbus and Lindbergh in their heralding of a brave new age. And the other is the element of race - a popular theme of the time and one handled pretty well here: there's never any doubt about where our sympathies lie.
Other than that, it's a fairly routine piece of work, told retrospectively from the angle of the transplant surgeon being charged by a disciplinary panel with unprofessional behaviour - specifically that he took the new heart before the donor could properly be said to be dead.
Lawrence Louis Goldman had previously specialized in screenplays, working on TV shows such as The Cisco Kid, The Fugitive and Perry Mason and writing period-piece movies like War of the Satellites, Kronos and Roger Corman's The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent. Not exactly a household name, then, but a better writer than his c.v. might suggest.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 2/5