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Snakes and People

I don't know exactly why, but I'm both fascinated by and terrified by snakes. In my latest novel, still being written, there is a potentially lethal snake( green mamba) found at a crime scene. Dream Killing is a novel about Julianne Bristol MD ( the protagonist in all of my books so far), and her journey in figuring out forensic factors around complex murders as a career.

Her inner landscape is cluttered with jagged rocks, the memories of her pain-filled childhood losses and her decade-long marriage to a serial killer, Simon Macnair, now deceased. At present, she has painful romantic and sexual encounters--some with the worst of men, rarely with the best.

Photo credit: WIX gallery

I think my own outright fear of snakes has been life-long. One summer in Idaho at my grandparents' home on the Snake River, someone--one of my uncles, my grandfather, or a workman--killed a big rattler. I do not really know how big it was, as I was just about seven years old. But it terrified me. Then, during my pediatric intensive care training, there was a toddler who had been bitten on his leg by a rattlesnake. He was envenomated ( meaning his critical illness was caused by snake venom injected by the biting snake). We used anti-venom of course, measured tissue pressures and lab values. Scary to me, anyway!

As I've been doing internet-based research for my fourth book (Dream Killing), I've learned quite a bit about snakebite. It is actually a substantial public health problem. About 100,000 people worldwide die annually from snakebite, almost all in the developing world. Almost all are agricultural workers. and many are children working in fields. In addition to the fatalities, there are many more amputations and permanent disabilities. The anti-venoms are a mixed bag, and the venoms they treat are quite complex....a lot of trans-species effects, and unproven efficacy. Here is a link to the UCSD toxicology service, a pre-eminent group looking at and treating snake bite (

Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published an article that is a good comprehensive review. Here's a link for additional reading:

You can access the full-text for free at this site ( a 2 month trial subscription.

Much more research is needed, and I hope that we can see some improvements in outcomes around the world. I downloaded the video below from YouTube, and I'm hoping you will be able to watch it. I've learned that snakes are quite valuable to humans in that without them, we would be overrun by rats and other rodents!

So, take a look if you're able!

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