Reviews


The Big House: Toronto General Hospital from 1972 to 1984
by Hugh Cameron and Edna Quammie
Xlibris

 

 

“But this was Toronto in the ‘70s, bursting with life and full of immigrants who had just escaped from the dead hand of socialism.”

Reading this is like settling down for a leisurely conversation with old friends—if they happen to be an internationally recognized orthopedic surgeon and a superior orthopedic nurse who have rubbed shoulders with luminaries in the orthopedic world. No dry tribute to bones and scalpels, the writing sparkles with charming digressions, amusing stories, personal asides, gentle rants, self-deprecating wit, and helpings of poetry—all anchored by the fascinating history of orthopedic surgery, especially as lived in the glory days of Toronto General Hospital (TGH).

Cameron and Quammie collaborated at TGH during a time of remarkable medical innovation, including the invention of arthroscopy, screws that don’t rust in the body, cardiac pacemakers, artificial kidneys, and groundbreaking knee, hip, and spine implants. Cameron knew most of the inventors and shares their successes and quirks. Medical concepts are simplified: a meniscus is an “oiling pad for the knee”; a fused spine is “a long bony deformed tube”; and a screw in a poor-quality bone fastens “a wish to a moonbeam.”

A serious yet humorous perspective coats the prose as Cameron tackles the impact of inclusion and equity (“the dreaded buzzwords of the collective”), political correctness (“we are all personally responsible for the gulags”), food Nazis, insularity in universities, and assorted small annoyances. But the breezy digressions—delightful, priceless, and somehow sensible—shine. A personal anecdote about the cardiac pacemaker’s inventor morphs into a tale of vacation cottages, ice skating, chicken wings, and Polish history before settling on shoulders. Advances in arthroscopy become an essay on acupuncture, evangelism, hypnosis, and LSD and then connect to elbow and ankle joints. Cameron and Quammie offer personal, professional, and rare glimpses into the golden age of orthopedic surgery with an intelligent perspective that has one nodding in agreement, gasping in awe, and rolling wryly in the aisles.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review


Have Knife Will Travel

Reading Have Knife Will Travel is like drinking single-malt with Hugh Cameron into the wee hours of the morning and hearing about orthopaedics, research and other human adventures. The stories are romanticized memories, incredible and somewhat cynical but highly entertaining.

Back in the late 1970’s, I was one of the engineering students doing orthopaedic research and part of the training was to see Hugh Cameron doing surgery. We heard the stories, we participated sometimes but Hugh was the establishment and we were newbies. For our edification, we identified and repeated “hughcameronisms”.

Have Knife Will Travel is full of these sayings but somewhat deficient in the really good ones that were presumably too risqué for the book (and for this review). For example, I can give you two items in the ordered list of the only three “important things in life”, the first of which is “cutting” (surgery) and the third of which is “making money”. The complete list might appear later books.

The last 50 years or so were indeed times of rapid expansion of othopaedics with major contributions from Canadian surgeons and engineers, very much including Hugh Cameron. The development of porous surface structures for bone ingrowth fixation of implants was revolutionary and it was pioneered here and helped initiate the “have knife will travel” phenomenon. We hear about most countries in the world, we hear about the famous orthopaedic surgeons of this era, we hear about the famous engineers, we hear about disasters, we hear about adversity, we hear about achievement, we hear about knee implant design – all told through a series of very funny and very human stories.

And there is a strong undercurrent of cynicism, especially regarding the external control exercised by various inept bureaucracies. On page 93, we find out that “the most terrifying words anyone could hear is that we are from the government, and we are here to help you”. This is attributed to someone else but it aligns well with the political philosophy of the book.

But there is also a strong undercurrent of professional orthopaedic achievement and so before the surgeon becomes “an interesting relic, like the stonemasons of the medieval cathedrals” (pg xi), read this book and look at the cathedrals that we can still see today.


Professor John Medley reviews Hugh Cameron’s Have Knife Will Travel

Don’t Worry, the Knife is in Checked Baggage

Reading Have Knife Will Travel is like drinking single-malt with Hugh Cameron into the wee hours of the morning and hearing about orthopaedics, research and other human adventures. The stories are romanticized memories, incredible and somewhat cynical but highly entertaining. Since most of us will need orthopaedic surgery to keep moving (and living), a knowledge of the inside stories help might give you some element of control – or at least more cheerful treatment.

Back in the late 1970’s, I was one of the engineering students doing orthopaedic research and part of the training was to see Hugh Cameron doing surgery. We heard the stories, we participated sometimes, but Hugh was the establishment and we were newbies. For our edification, we identified and repeated “hughcameronisms”.

Have Knife Will Travel is full of these sayings but somewhat deficient in the really good ones that were presumably too risqué for the book (and for this review). For example, I can give you two items in the ordered list of the only three “important things in life”, the first of which is “cutting” (surgery) and the third of which is “making money”. The complete list might appear later books.

The last 50 years or so were indeed times of rapid expansion of orthopaedics with major contributions from Canadian surgeons and engineers, very much including Hugh Cameron. The development of porous surface structures for bone ingrowth fixation of implants was revolutionary and it was pioneered here and helped initiate the “have knife will travel” phenomenon. We hear about most countries in the world, we hear about the famous orthopaedic surgeons of this era, we hear about the famous engineers, we hear about disasters, we hear about adversity, we hear about achievement, we hear about knee implant design – all told through a series of very funny and very human stories.

And there is a strong undercurrent of cynicism, especially regarding the external control exercised by various inept bureaucracies. On page 93, we find out that “the most terrifying words anyone could hear is that we are from the government, and we are here to help you”. This quote is attributed to someone else but it aligns well with the political philosophy of the book.

But there is also a strong undercurrent of professional orthopaedic achievement and so before the surgeon becomes “an interesting relic, like the stonemasons of the medieval cathedrals” (page xi), read this book and look at the cathedrals that we can still see today.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and I am reviewing it voluntarily.

 



Have Knife, Will Travel
Hugh Cameron
Xlibris, 152 pages, (paperback) $19.99, 9781796053418
(Reviewed: March 2020)

While they don’t perform before adoring fans, some surgeons nevertheless attain rock star status. As a pioneer in the world of orthopedic surgery and the development of artificial joints, Hugh Cameron traveled the world and took great notes along the way. Have Knife, Will Travel is a fast-moving, frisky memoir of medicine as it was practiced in a bygone era, with less regulation and more room for improvisation and fraternization.

Cameron writes like he’s telling war stories among friends over a few pints, describing his early years in a small Scottish village and the schooling that led him to orthopedics. Once established in the field, he combined his medical and bioengineering studies to focus on improving the duration of artificial joints, especially knees and hips, which originally functioned for seven years before wearing out. The work kept him in airport lounges and lecture halls, then gowned and scrubbed for surgery. He describes how working at Toronto General led him to London for further training, and an instance in which he performed the same obscure, difficult foot operation three times in one day to master the technique.

Two minor changes could make this book even better. A bit more context and explanation in sections describing operations would help lay readers more closely follow what’s happening. Sentences like “The femur is subluxed laterally on top of the tibia” can be hard to envision. More important, Cameron peppers the book with negative views about government oversight, the FDA, the concept of participation trophies and so forth. It’s clear from the book as a whole that he’s self-aware and reflective, but these rants leave behind a bitter taste.

Overall, though, Have Knife, Will Travel offers an intimate tour of places most of us will never see, including some inside the human body.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

 



Have Knife, Will Travel
Hugh Cameron
XlibrisUS (Aug 16, 2019)
Hardcover $29.99 (152pp)
978-1-79605-341-8

Have Knife, Will Travel is an engaging memoir that covers innovations in orthopedic surgery and the larger-than-life characters who brought them to the world.

Hugh Cameron’s lighthearted memoir Have Knife, Will Travel celebrates medical marvels and the surgeons who developed them.

Cameron’s story begins in a poor Scottish mining village, where boys and men resolved arguments with their fists, pollution hung heavy, and summers were marred by the terror of polio. His hopes of qualifying for the Olympics dashed by an injury, Cameron threw himself into a medical career instead. His prodigious memory, love for engineering, and creativity led to his becoming a respected orthopedic surgeon.

Moving to Canada, Cameron joined with fellow orthopedic surgeons in “The Traveling Roadshow.” Bypassing the university system, these surgeon-educators employed innovative teaching methods to introduce advanced joint replacement techniques to surgeons across the globe. Cameron’s accounts of their travels are laced with stories of memorable people, places, and events—some intense, some humorous, and some gruesome, including an account of harvesting bones and organs from recently executed murderers in Singapore.

Entertaining and informative, the book hooks attention thanks to Cameron’s wit, lively storytelling, and behind-thescenes views into orthopedic surgery. One account tells of “the world’s fastest surgeon,” a man who could “take off a leg in ninety seconds,” and whose flair with the knife once resulted in the death of three people in the same operation. And Cameron’s love for Canada doesn’t exclude lambasting its various bureaucratic ineptitudes: “The Toronto City Council operates like ‘every child gets a trophy day,’” he writes.

While the foibles of people who became legends in the field are reported with glee, deep sensitivity is reflected in observations of features like the “manned watchtowers of that monstrous tyranny” near the East German border, and memories of Japan, a country “full of swords and blood and death and women in kimonos. A terrible place, like my homeland.” The various stories round out Cameron’s character, showing him to be not only a passionate, driven surgeon, but a man whose soul was marked by a lifelong love of poetry.

The conversational, sprightly narrative maintains a steady pace even as scenes and subjects change. Emotions, whether of bitterness when the first government man appointed to regulate orthopedics in Canada turned out to be a nuclear power plant supervisor, or the sadness felt at the end of a long and worthy career, are palpable, adding depth to the reading experience.

Distracting errors in the text include several mistakes in word order; missing or extra words; several misspellings; an untranslated German word; an erroneous statement about hemophilia in Czar Nicholas’s family; and a few mistakes in punctuation. The book’s font and type size make for comfortable reading, but narrow page margins result in a cramped appearance.

Despite dealing with the rather niche topic of orthopedic surgery, the book is not technical and avoids the use of scientific terminology. Its down-to-earth stories both inform and entertain as they reflect the passion of top surgeons for their work and give a glimpse of the economic and political realities of the field.

Have Knife, Will Travel is an engaging memoir that covers innovations in orthopedic surgery and the larger-than-life characters who brought them to the world.

KRISTINE MORRIS (April 7, 2020)

 



To Slip The Surly Bonds of Earth
Hugh Cameron
Publisher: Xlibris
ISBN: 978-1-7960-5323-4
Pages: 256
Genre: Fiction
Reviewed by: Tara Mcnabb

The struggle to maintain new colonies in space takes a dark turn when malevolent forces will stop at nothing to tear down the fabric of humanity forever.

In this highly entertaining and imaginative novel, conflict on Earth has reached climactic proportions, and it’s only a matter of time before an all-out nuclear war takes place. With overcrowding becoming a nightmare and Europe on the brink of collapse, the Prometheus Group is scrambling to find a way to save humanity, while also preventing the destruction of the new space colonies. The number of options for relocation are growing less by the day, which means that establishing new societies on Mars and the moon could be mankind’s last hope. But even space can have its limits, as the Prometheus Group quickly finds out. Could America still have a chance at being one of the last truly free countries on Earth? And if so, what will it take to keep it that way in a time of war and chaos?

To Slip The Surly Bonds of Earth, being book one in a series, it’s safe to say that there will be more thrilling developments to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Book one successfully ends with a cliffhanger of mixed feelings, indicating that progress has been made but there is still much left to contend with. Like other apocalyptic-type stories, there is a powerful sense of foreboding and collective darkness about the future, which serves to keep readers guessing. But unlike other doomsday-narratives, there is a surprising humanistic quality to the characters that make them more complex, and less super-hero. They are depicted as having their own inner conflicts and motivations as they witness the drastic societal changes around them, which ends up making them more relatable and empathetic. It’s especially interesting to observe how the education of children impacts the adults and how the search for talent can call into question some deeply rooted beliefs.

Knowing that author Hugh Cameron is an orthopedic surgeon, it’s no wonder there are so many detailed and impressive descriptions of medical procedures. The complications of surgery and the emotional toll they can take are surprisingly realistic, so much so that only someone with intimate experience and knowledge could possibly have written them. That is probably the most fascinating part about this series; the author has managed to combine science fiction with deep human emotion, resulting in one of the most potent combos there is in fiction. Fans of high-stakes, end-of-the-world books will also appreciate the underlying subplots of human desires and conflict, as this adds a richer sense of realism to an already compelling novel.

 



To Slip The Surly Bonds of Earth: Upon the Further Shore
Hugh Cameron
Publisher: Xlibris
ISBN: 1796060844
Pages: 204
Genre: Sci-Fi
Reviewed by: Liz Konkel

The Prometheus Group has one goal: to increase the numbers on earth to help further the success of colonies on the moon and Mars. A European civil war threatens everything they’re working towards which makes it more important than ever they establish their country’s independence. To save the project, The Prometheus Group has searches for extraordinary children that can help them reach success. To Slip the Surly Bonds of Earth: Upon the Further Shore by author Hugh Cameron weaves between the children as they become adults and the war that escalates tensions which pushes them to develop a plan to relocate to the United States.

The story has a unique setting that surrounds the creation of space colonies on Mars and the moon set against the backdrop of impending war which creates a blend of science fiction and a literary exploration of humanity. The war is fast approaching which affects each of the characters while providing a majority of the action that pushes the characters forward and is also what puts each character into the middle of a war. The writing has a strong literary tone through the rich style with detailed descriptions which bring this world to life through the characters’ experiences. This gives the story a sense of reality which feels timeless, as this could be the past or the future. The story orbits around a few key characters which include Maria, Agnes Hinchcliff, and La Contessa; each having a gritty background which guides them into the women they become. Hugh Cameron thoroughly delves into their personalities and their individual back-stories which makes them feel more well-rounded, which in turn drives the story forward.

These three characters receive solid details that show their exceptional abilities as more than what they’re capable of, but also who they are which is three different women. La Contessa is described as quiet, clever, and delightful, while Maria is a happy child and Hinchcliffe is called a stern little thing. Their three stories are woven together through various threads of their stories which ranges from La Contessa rising above her dreadful past to Hinchcliffe studying under a ninja that teaches her about her own strength. These are a few of the characters that use their exceptional attributes to find solutions for the survival of the project and saving their country. This places a huge weight on the shoulders of the characters as the future of the colonies (and human life) relies on them, which puts them in a position where they’re the ones making major decisions. Cameron delivers serious moments of helplessness and the dark effects of war which delves directly into the purpose of the Prometheus Group who as the name suggests are delivering a new way of life for humanity.

The focus of the plot is the space project’s determination to find children with extraordinary abilities which sets up the structure to weave through various characters with chapters that introduce various characters such as those behind the project, the children, and other characters including Running Bear, Quiet Bear, and Sandra. These characters are the perspectives that give the story a character-driven tone that delves through several serious themes that include war, prostitution, rape, and assault. To Slip the Surly Bonds of Earth will appeal to those who enjoy science fiction and stories that explore space colonies, which are heavily character-driven, and have a war setting.

 


Title: The Big House: Toronto General Hospital From 1972 To 1984
Author: Hugh Cameron, Edna Quammie
Publisher: XlibrisUS
ISBN: 978-1796060751
Pages: 136
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Reviewed by: Aly Avina

There is much to be said for history — whether it be personal or on a larger level. For some, the two intertwine. And if we think specifically about what happens in the OR at any hospital during any given time period, we can only imagine the wild — sometimes somber, other times comical — moments that have occurred there. This is precisely what we dive into in The Big House: Toronto General Hospital from 1972 to 1984 by Hugh Cameron and Edna Quammie. This non-fiction autobiographical novel is the brainchild of orthopedic surgeon Hugh Cameron and OR nurse Edna Quammie who spent the early years of their careers at Toronto General.
This book has events which occurred during the seventies and eighties, a time not long after Woodstock, a time which had changed the youthful generation of North America. Cameron and Quammie met at Toronto General during this period as well, and have since stayed lifelong friends. It was during a conversation full of nostalgia which led to the idea of this book. Throughout this journey of Toronto’s medical past, we not only get several wonderful anecdotes about memorable patients, but also learn more about the medical field and what it is actually like to work in an OR — particularly during this revolutionary time period.

They delve into the goings-on with the staff of the hospital and even touch on the vast differences in how the practices have changed to modern times. Beyond that, it is interesting to learn of the relationships the surgeons had with people like the anesthesiologists, which tended to be hit or miss, or the fact that for surgeons, the OR is a place of sanctuary. It is where their passion finally thrives and they are able to do what they feel is their life’s mission. Moreover, a little more than halfway through the book we go from Cameron’s perspective as a surgeon in the OR to Quammie’s as an OR nurse.
Edna had several of her own intriguing and anecdotal experiences throughout her time at Toronto General. Her stories were just as enthralling, and it was refreshing to get both perspectives from surgeon and nurse respectively in one book. The chapter titled, “Monika’s Memories”, also gives us a look at a fellow OR nurse in their “Dinosaur Club” during this time period. She regales us with tales of pranks played on her fellow staff, as well as stories of funny pickup lines used between the staff on Friday’s for TGIF.
Overall, this book is the perfect read not only for those in the medical field but those looking to get a glimpse into what life was like in the seventies and eighties. The Big House: Toronto General Hospital from 1972 to 1984 shows how different things were and also teaches you so much about what the OR surgeons and nurses go through on a daily basis. It shines a light on not only the sad times but the happier ones as well and is a fantastic read. Be sure to get your copy today!