One of my motives for writing The Rabbit Skinners was the admittedly Quixotic hope that creating a character afflicted with Meniere’s Disease (as I am) would lead to improved awareness by the public (or at least the three or four people in the public who actually read the book!) of this appalling condition. To my knowledge, The Rabbit Skinners is the only novel out there that features a main character with Meniere’s Disease.
I deliberately set up the protagonist, FBI agent James Strait, as precisely the kind of person who would feel most devastated at the prospect of losing his ability to do basic physical things, and by the social isolation that chronic disease inflicts, the kinds of losses most Meniere’s patients experience. In the blog entry titled The Circular Saw, I’ve included a chapter from my book that depicts the main character experiencing a rotational vertigo attack typical of what Meniere’s patients have. Drawing on the attacks I have had, I easily spent three months sweating over every word of that chapter, because I wanted non-afflicted folks to at least get a glimpse into what the condition does to people.
James Strait, a gargantuan, Hercules-like former soldier and rising star in the FBI, a man with superior physical abilities in pretty much everything, a national hero for stopping a major terrorist attack, loses everything when he develops severe, debilitating vertigo attacks. I wanted Strait to be someone who refuses to let the disease destroy him, who challenges authority and trusts his own wits more than those of anyone else, someone who refuses to quit even when a doctor says, “You’ll never be able to do _______________ again.”
While Meniere’s supplies a catalyst for much of Strait’s behavior, The Rabbit Skinners is not a “disease book.” To a large degree, it is a traditional mystery-suspense novel, if perhaps a little more on the “literary” side than average. It is essentially a fall-from-grace, reversal-of-fortune story where the protagonist has to battle enormous odds and experience extreme self-sacrifice to even get a stab at redeeming himself and getting his life back. The struggle to overcome enormous odds is one familiar to every Meniere’s disease sufferer, so I suppose I also wrote the book to inspire my fellow Menierites and maybe myself too.