THE KING’S ANATOMIST: The Journey of Ron Blumenfeld [Interview]

Ron Blumenfeld
(Photo courtesy Ron Blumenfeld, Facebook)

While Ron Blumenfeld may not be a household name just yet, he may soon become synonymous with the most famous anatomist in history, Andreas Vesalius. He’s just published a historical mystery surrounding this enigmatic figure, one that is rich in history, adventure, and imagination. We hope you enjoy our exclusive interview with the author! —J&H

J&H: One of the best things about our job is that we get to meet so many wonderful writers. But we get super excited when we get the chance to introduce our readers to debut novelists, like today’s guest, Ron Blumenfeld. Ron, welcome!

RB: Thanks so much for having me!

J&H: We will talk about your book, The King’s Anatomist, in just a moment. But first, we’d love to get to know a bit about you. You haven’t always been a writer, have you? What did you do before now?

RB: In my former life I was a pediatrician and a health care executive, both of which were challenging and fulfilling in their own way. I came away with a multidimensional view of American health care.

J&H: When were you bitten by the writing bug? Was there someone who encouraged you to pursue writing as a career path?

RB: I was encouraged by several teachers growing up, but I was always aware of the writer living inside me. During my career, I never passed up the chance to write, be it healthcare-related or business writing.  When I retired, I became a columnist for my local newspaper, but the challenge of fiction took over. 

J&H: What has been the most challenging part of becoming a full-time novelist? And how has this job differed most from your work as a physician?

RB: I’ve learned that creative work, whatever the medium, is necessarily lonely work, which means that one must be selfish of one’s creative time. Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife who allowed Vesalius and his friends to move in to our house for five years. Clinical medicine is by definition a social profession, but interestingly, the caring relationships I developed with my patients over the years was not unlike the relationships I formed with my characters, flaws and all.

J&H: As we mentioned earlier, your first book is The King’s Anatomist: The Journey of Andreas Vesalius. When did Vesalius first appear on your radar and what is it about his story that made you want to write a novel about him?

RB: My mother worked in a rare bookstore in Manhattan, and I spent a great deal of time in that store growing up. When I was a high school senior aiming for a career in medicine, the owners of the store gave me a newly-published biography of Andreas Vesalius. I gamely tried to read it, but bailed after 20 pages – it was way too academic for my high-school brain. But the book waited patiently for me to pick it up again after I retired, fifty years later.  I was ready to read it, and discovered a fascinating person living in fascinating times.

J&H: Rather than write a straightforward biography of Vesalius, you decided to write this as a mystery surrounding his death. What prompted you to write from the story from this angle?

RB: Excellent biographies of Vesalius, like the one I own, already exist, and I’m far from qualified to add to his historical record with any competence. But his life was intriguing enough to allow for a compelling work of fiction that still stuck closely to his actual life and times.

J&H: How did you tackle researching this book? Were you able to travel at all to retrace Vesalius’ footsteps? And did the pandemic hamper your investigation at all?

RB: Aside from my trusty biography, there is a considerable literature on Vesalius, and on the use of images in anatomy over the centuries – the use of images being one of the primary reasons his textbook is such a milestone in the history of medicine. I also read widely about the Renaissance era to understand the political climate and how people lived.

I also had the good fortune in 2014, the 500th anniversary of his birth, to attend a Vesalius symposium on the island where he died. I made very valuable contacts there. The pandemic prevented me from going to the University of Padua where he wrote his textbook, but I was able to “visit” via Google Earth!

J&H: You begin the book with a quote from Epictetus, which reads, “We are not privy to the stories behind people’s actions, so we should be patient with others and suspend judgment of them, recognizing the limits of our understanding.” Did you find that not knowing your character’s motives limited your writing or did it lend you freedom as you wrote?

RB: Great question. The secrets that my characters kept from each other were a central thread of the story woven into the historical life of Vesalius, so their motives, conscious or not, were predetermined by me. That said, in the process of writing I made surprising discoveries about the characters I thought I knew well, and those discoveries made their way into the story – I think for the better.

J&H: As you wrote the book, which characters captivated your imagination most, and why?

RB: Vesalius remains the focus, but Jan, his fictional best friend and narrator, really becomes a co-protagonist, and since he is a total invention, was the most fun to develop. Anne, Vesalius’s widow, was the hardest for me, in trying to give her strength and agency in the context of 16th-century Europe. Jan had a serious crush on her, and I will confess to my own.  Except for perhaps King Philip II of Spain I have no real villains, but rather tragic, flawed figures.

J&H: Besides the blog tour, do you have plans to make any public appearances to promote the book?

RB: As a debut novelist, the promotion phase of this took me a little by surprise. There’s a lot to do! I’ve already done some events, and I even had a radio interview!  I guess I’m open to whatever comes along, but I really enjoyed meeting with book groups to hear what people think about the novel and answer questions. I’m waiting for my caller ID to say “Oprah.”

J&H: What are you working on next?

RB: Things are beginning to take shape around a sequel, but that’s all I can say about it for now except that there are loose ends in “The King’s Anatomist” that might need following up.

J&H: Ron, thank you so much for chatting with us today. We sincerely hope you’ll stop by again to visit with us again in the future!

RB: It was an absolute pleasure! Thank you.

J&H: The book is The King’s Anatomist: The Journey of Andreas Vesalius, and you can order it now from Jathan & Heather Books and everywhere else fine books are sold.

Add to Goodreads badge

ABOUT THE KING’S ANATOMIST

Ron Blumenfeld's THE KING'S ANATOMIST
History Through Fiction, LLC

A revolutionary anatomist, a memory-laden journey, and a shocking discovery.

n 1565 Brussels, the reclusive mathematician Jan van den Bossche receives shattering news that his lifelong friend, the renowned and controversial anatomist Andreas Vesalius, has died on the Greek island of Zante returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jan decides to journey to his friend’s grave to offer his last goodbye.

Jan’s sentimental and arduous journey to Greece with his assistant Marcus is marked by shared memories, recalled letters, and inner dialogues with Andreas, all devices to shed light on Andreas’ development as a scientist, physician, and anatomist. But the journey also gradually uncovers a dark side of Andreas even as Jan yearns for the widow of Vesalius, Anne.

When Jan and Marcus finally arrive on Zante, the story takes a major twist as a disturbing mystery unfolds. Jan and Marcus are forced to take a drastic and risky measure that leads to a shocking discovery. On his return home, Jan learns that Andreas was an unknowing pawn in a standoff between King Philip of Spain, his employer, and Venice. When he arrives home in Brussels, he must finally reckon with his feelings for Anne.

A debut novel by Ron Blumenfeld, The King’s Anatomist is a fascinating medical history blended eloquently with meaningful relationships and a riveting mystery. Set within a pivotal time in European history, the story carries readers through some of the most important medical discoveries while engaging them in a deeply personal story of growing older and confronting relationships. A fictional masterpiece with real and relevant historical sources, The King’s Anatomist is as enlightening as it is enjoyable.

PRAISE

“A historical novel with a twist. An old friend of the most famous of all anatomists, Andreas Vesalius, sets out to solve the mystery of his death on a Greek island. What he finds involves a tangle of acquaintances going back to their Brussels childhood and earlier dissections. This lively story combines fine historical detail with a sensitive feel for past personalities.”

—Vivian Nutton, Hon FRCP,
Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine, University College London

“In his imaginatively woven historical mystery, Ron Blumenfeld explores the life of the pioneering anatomist Andreas Vesalius amidst the turbulence of 16th-century Europe. Readers will enjoy a finely-tuned story infused with doses of Renaissance anatomy and art that highlight the groundbreaking achievements of Andreas Vesalius in these two linked disciplines. Blumenfeld’s erudite adventure leaves the reader with tantalizing speculations.”

—Philip Eliasoph, PhD
Professor of Art History & Visual Culture, Fairfield University, Fairfield Connecticut

“With The King’s Anatomist, Ron Blumenfeld has successfully crafted a story from disparate elements. Descriptions of Renaissance sciences, emerging European cities, and the pre-industrial countryside are intertwined with love gained and lost and the mystery of the death of Andreas Vesalius, the father of modern anatomy. The result is a plot of rich tapestry that leaves the reader panting for the next page, the next vignette along a journey from Brussels to the Greek Island of Zante and along another journey; that from childhood friendship to the grave. As with much fine literature, I was sorry to reach the last page.”

—Maynard Paul Maidman, Professor Emeritus of History, York University, Canada

“Centered on the mysterious death of the great anatomist Andreas Vesalius, this enjoyable tale is anchored by scholarly literature. The device of a first-person account by an observant but hesitant “best friend” allows for vivid recreation of the many remarkable moments in the anatomist’s life. Relying solidly on social and political history, it convincingly evokes the atmosphere of sixteenth-century Europe. The surprising but plausible ending will surely encourage readers to learn more.”

—Jacalyn Duffin, MD, PhD, Professor Emerita,
Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine, Queen’s University, Canada
Ron Blumenfeld
Ron Blumenfeld

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ron Blumenfeld is a retired pediatrician and health care executive. Ron grew up in the Bronx, New York in the shadow of Yankee Stadium and studied at City College of New York before receiving his MD degree from the SUNY Downstate Health Sciences Center. After completing his pediatrics residency at the University of Arizona, he and his family settled in Connecticut, but Tucson remains their second home.

Upon retirement, he became a columnist for his town’s newspaper, a pleasure he surrendered to concentrate on his debut novel, The King’s Anatomist (October 12, 2021). Ron’s love of books springs from his childhood years spent in an antiquarian book store in Manhattan, where his mother was the only employee.

He enjoys a variety of outdoor sports and hiking. He and his wife Selina currently reside in Connecticut and are fortunate to have their son Daniel and granddaughter Gracelynn nearby.

For more information, visit the author’s website, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Goodreads.

THE KING’S ANATOMIST: THE JOURNEY OF ANDREAS VESALIUS
By Ron Blumenfeld
294 pp. History Through Fiction LLC. $27.95

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours banner

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a paperback copy of The King’s Anatomist by Ron Blumenfeld!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on November 5th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

BUY THE BOOK

Purchase The King’s Anatomist direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, eBooks, Half Price Books, History Through Fiction, IndieBound, Powell’s, or Walmart.

The King’s Anatomist is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to THE KING’S ANATOMIST: The Journey of Ron Blumenfeld [Interview]

  1. Thank you so much for hosting Ron and his blog tour, Jathan & Heather!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: