William Leibowitz, an entertainment lawyer, has written a novel with a fascinating concept: What if someone was born with an IQ of an unheard-of level of 550? What would he do with all that brain power? Oh, and as a baby he was tossed in a trash can so there’s that whole nature vs. nurture debate.
This book supposes he is housed and schooled with the help of a government agency that eventually expects he will use his amazing brain to help the country develop and improve weapons. But, partly due to a friend who discouraged helping the military industry complex, he set his sights on a higher goal: Helping cure diseases.
Thus problems ensue: The government agency shuns him since he won’t help them with weaponry, and big pharma is none too happy about his curing of diseases destroying their finances.
Good book, great concept. It was named “Best Thriller – 2014” at the National Pacific Book Awards.
I interviewed the author by email and this is the result
How did you come up with this story?
I wanted to create a modern day believable “super-hero” who is an “anti-celebrity” because I thought that such a person could be inspirational when contrasted with the meritless celebrities that dominate media today (e.g. the reality TV stars who are famous for being famous, but have no real talent).
I also wanted Miracle Man to be the vehicle within which I could convey, in an entertainment context, certain spiritual and humanistic messages that are important to me.
Why did you decide to have the main character have such high intelligence? Was it based on any real person? Do you think he could be diagnosed as having Asperger’s?
I didn’t base Robert James Austin on any real person, as his intelligence is so extraordinary that it’s unique. In order for him to accomplish what he does in Miracle Man, Robert needs to have intellectual powers of a magnitude never seen in actuality. While he doesn’t have Asperger’s, he certainly is very complex psychologically and has more than his share of personal demons. The peculiarities of his psychological make-up weave throughout the book and create a lot of the plot tension.
How did you go about researching a book like this?
I spent a great deal of time doing extensive research in two areas: (1) the nature of human intelligence (particularly genius), and (2) diseases, treatments attempted cures –and the medical/scientific methodology relevant to formulating cures. Regarding #1 – I researched the lives of actual geniuses so that I could understand how genius manifests itself at various ages –and the behaviors often attendant to genius. Because Robert James Austin’s intelligence is a high multiple of any of the actual known geniuses, I then extrapolated from my research and ‘pumped up’ various things about Austin so as to reflect his unique level of intelligence. So while I highly magnified elements of Austin’s behavior and thought processes – they are grounded in documented realities. Regarding the medical/scientific aspects of the book, I didn’t want to ask the reader to take giant leaps of faith when reading it, so I knew that in order for the story to be credible, it had to have a plausible scientific foundation for the way in which Austin invented cures and the way that the cures worked. at the same time; however, I was mindful that I had to minimize the science so that I didn’t bore the reader.
Can you tell me about your usual job – a lawyer for celebrities? – And how that informed and affected this book?
Yes –I’m a lawyer in the entertainment business—predominantly the music business. I’m not a litigator –I’m a “transactional lawyer” –meaning that I negotiate contracts and work on other business matters. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of representing quite a few famous and very talented performers, and also some of the more significant record companies, publishing companies, merchandisers and talent managers. My being a lawyer only informed Miracle Man in certain areas –such as the legalities (or illegalities) of the various villains’ behavior, and the interrogation and other tactics used by the police, the sec agents, and the CIA.
This book seems to me, at first glance, a mile away from your usual job. Is there some connection between the two? I apologize if I’m missing something.
Other than what I mentioned above there is no connection between the two.
What was it liked to have this book named “Best Thriller-2014” at the National Pacific Book Awards.
It was thrilling. I found out when I was sitting in a New York City bus one morning checking email on my phone. All of a sudden, I get an email giving me the news – and I wanted to scream out on the bus “I won, I won” – but I knew that screaming on New York City mass transit wasn’t the smartest way to start a day.
Are you working on other books? Will there be a sequel?
Many readers have emailed me asking for a sequel to Miracle Man. In fact, the ending of the book hints at more to come. I’ve begun sketching out the plot and I can tell you that readers will be very surprised when they see what unfolds in book #2.
Would it be wrong to interpret your book as suggesting you have issues and concerns about big Pharma?
You certainly wouldn’t be wrong. Like Robert James Austin I find it incomprehensible that virtually no major disease has been cured in over 50 years. How can that be the case when so much the money has been spent over the decades on research? Simply put, there’s a lot more money in treating symptoms than there is in curing diseases. That’s why the common cold has never been cured –a cure would eliminate tens of billions of dollars of revenue for big pharma each year. Austin realized that big pharma has no interest in curing diseases. It just wants to keep on selling expensive symptom treatments – and as we know, many people are on “medication maintenance” programs for years. Austin wanted to change all of that – and that’s why he became big pharma’s worst nightmare.
Why did you choose to make Robert an anti-celebrity?
I wanted to tell a story about a real hero – not a celebrity. Robert is a person who acts on important human values and uses his extraordinary gifts selflessly. He doesn’t want adulation. He doesn’t want his picture to be on magazine covers and T-shirts. He refuses to accept or pursue celebrity status. An individual like this can be inspirational. Too much time and attention is heaped upon the meritless celebrities who contribute nothing to society—they’ve become an American obsession. I believe that this undermines the moral fabric of our society and sets a terrible example for today’s young people. We need a real hero—and Robert James Austin is that guy.
Lastly, what was the hardest part about writing a book versus your legal work?
The hardest part was the best part. While law is all about cold rationality and logic, writing a novel sets one’s mind free to be creative and to dream and to create one’s own reality. It’s a privilege to do that.
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