Mimi Swartz

Listen to the interview

Journalist and author Mimi Swartz joins us this week. We’ll be talking with her about her upcoming book, Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart (Crown Publishing, August 7, 2018).

Writing on the Air is broadcast Wednesdays at 6pm Central from the KOOP Radio studios in Austin, Texas. We’re heard on 91.7FM KOOP – Austin,  KOOP.org, TuneIn.com and Radio Free America.  Episodes are available in the Radio Free America archive for 2 weeks after broadcast.

Did you know we have over 150 podcast episodes? To listen, just browse our episodes here on our website and download the audios from each page; or you can download the podcast from the Podcast ap and iTunes.  For show updates, be sure and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

We’re glad you’re here, and thanks for listening to our show.

Mimi Swartz is a long-time executive editor at Texas Monthly, and a two-time National Magazine Award winner and a four time finalist. 

Her fourth book is Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart, out August 7, 2018 with Crown Publishing. Her three previous books include the national bestseller Power Failure, co-authored with Sherron Watkins, about the failures at Enron. 

Mimi’s work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New YorkerEsquire, Slate, and her op-ed pieces appear regularly in the New York Times. She was previously a staff writer at the New Yorker and the now defunct Talk Magazine. Her pieces have also been collected in Best American Political Writing, Best American Sportswriting, and The Stories We Tell, Classic True Tales by America’s Greatest Women Journalists.

Mimi grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and now lives in Houston, with her husband John Wilburn. They have a son, Sam.

PRAISE FOR Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart by Mimi Swartz (Crown, August 7, 2018)

“A riveting medical thriller…Told in an appropriately over-the-top style, this is a quintessentially Texas story: sprawling, unpredictable, and teeming with risk and opportunity.” -Publishers Weekly

“Even casually interested readers will become fascinated by Swartz’s vivid depiction of Frazier at work in the operating room…Swartz is a witty, savvy, seasoned journalist, and she offers a welcome history of significant medical advances.”Kirkus Reviews

“Smart, compelling, and completely engaging, Ticker is a story about science, personality, innovation, and obsession, all in pursuit of a staggering accomplishment, the creation of an artificial heart. Mimi Swartz drives the narrative with great style and deep reporting; it’s a book anyone with a heart will love.” -Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and The Orchid Thief
 
“A remarkable journey through the harrowing world of heart surgery, as a brilliantly gifted and eccentric team of doctors work to develop a complete artificial heart, to save the thousands of patients a year whose hearts are failing.” -Bryan Burrough, author of Public Enemies, The Big Rich and Barbarians at the Gate
 
Ticker is like a medical version of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Swartz takes you into the operating theater with some of the most brilliant, ingenious and driven heart specialists in the world. It’s a book full of memorable characters grappling with life-threatening crises, which is both illuminating about modern medicine, and also just a wonderful read.” -Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money
 
Ticker is a page-turner, a mind-expander, a heart-pounder.  Swartz unveils a wild story of medical innovation with the keen eye of a storyteller.” -David Eagleman, Stanford University neuroscientist and internationally bestselling author of The Brain and Incognito
 
“A fast paced, utterly riveting tale of the decades of effort that have gone into developing an artificial heart. The characters, many of whom dedicated their lives to this quest, are captivating, and their rivalries are the stuff of legend.” -Bethany McLean, co-author of All the Devils Are Here and The Smartest Guys in the Room
 
“A thrilling and affecting account of a modern medical miracle. Ticker is not only an inspiring tale of persistence, imagination, and sacrifice, it’s also a joy to read.” -Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Looming Tower and God Save Texas
 
“Who knew that the story of the artificial heart was such a rip-roaring one, with one larger-than-life character after another, and plot twists galore?  In Ticker, Mimi Swartz has told that story with verve and elegance, and brought those characters to vivid life. A wonderful work of nonfiction by a wonderful nonfiction writer.” -Joe Nocera, Bloomberg News columnist and author of Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA
 
“An exciting, propulsive, and at times surprisingly tender account of the swashbuckling surgeons and inventive geniuses who achieved one of the greatest medical breakthroughs—the development of the artificial heart. Mimi Swartz has done an outstanding job, and uncovered the human story behind the triumph of technology.” -Jennet Conant, New York Times bestselling author of Tuxedo Park and 109 East Palace

ABOUT Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. If America could send a man to the moon, shouldn’t the best surgeons in the world be able to build an artificial heart?

In TickerTexas Monthly executive editor and two time National Magazine Award winner Mimi Swartz shows just how complex and difficult it can be to replicate one of nature’s greatest creations.

Part investigative journalism, part medical mystery, Ticker is a dazzling story of modern innovation, recounting fifty years of false starts, abysmal failures and miraculous triumphs, as experienced by one the world’s foremost heart surgeons, O.H. “Bud” Frazier, who has given his life to saving the un-savable.  

His journey takes him from a small town in west Texas to one of the country’s most prestigious medical institutions, The Texas Heart Institute, from the halls of Congress to the animal laboratories where calves are fitted with new heart designs. The roadblocks to success —medical setbacks, technological shortcomings, government regulations – are immense. Still, Bud and his associates persist, finding inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. A field beside the Nile irrigated by an Archimedes screw. A hardware store in Brisbane, Australia. A seedy bar on the wrong side of Houston.

Until post WWII, heart surgery did not exist. Ticker provides a riveting history of the pioneers who gave their all to the courageous process of cutting into the only organ humans cannot live without. Heart surgeons Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley, whose feud dominated the dramatic beginnings of heart surgery. Christian Barnaard, who changed the world overnight by performing the first heart transplant. Inventor Robert Jarvik, whose artificial heart made patient Barney Clark a worldwide symbol of both the brilliant promise of technology and the devastating evils of experimentation run amuck.

Rich in supporting players, Ticker introduces us to Bud’s brilliant colleagues in his quixotic quest to develop an artificial heart: Billy Cohn, the heart surgeon and inventor who devotes his spare time to the pursuit of magic and music; Daniel Timms, the Brisbane biomedical engineer whose design of a lightweight, pulseless heart with but a single moving part offers a new way forward.  And, as government money dries up, the unlikeliest of backers, Houston’s furniture king, Mattress Mack.  

In a sweeping narrative of one man’s obsession, Swartz raises some of the hardest questions of the human condition. What are the tradeoffs of medical progress?   What is the cost, in suffering and resources, of offering patients a few more months, or years of life? Must science do harm to do good?  Ticker takes us on an unforgettable journey into the power and mystery of the human heart. –Penguin-Random House

For more information, please see MimiSwartz.com. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Facebook.