Double Helix, Backstory

Double Helix is a suspense thriller set in the contemporary world of biotechnology, and it’s also a love story about Eli and his girlfriend, VIv—but it’s also a family story. In particular, it’s a father-son story. And that, rather than in news stories about genetics, is where the novel had its start.

Originally, I imagined a triangle in which two men, Jonathan Samuels and Dr. Quincy Wyatt, struggle for the soul of the novel’s hero, eighteen-year old Eli Samuels. Which man’s influence will form Eli? I wondered. To whom will he pledge his future and his loyalty?

But then, as I wrote, it became apparent that the tie between Eli and Jonathan, the man who raised him (and who may, or may not, be genetically connected to him), was so strong that Dr. Wyatt hadn’t a hope of interfering. Eli has many issues with Jonathan, and the anger and distrust between them as the novel begins is real—but nonetheless their bond is unbreakable. And so my original plan for the novel had to go out the window, and Double Helix became in part the story of the strong and mysterious connection of love and loyalty between son and father. Genetics be damned.

And yet, at the same time, genetics were and are obviously important to the genesis of the novel. Nothing in Double Helix is imaginary science; the novel reflects the current state of development in human molecular biology. I believe—as Eli Samuels comes to believe—that it’s our duty as human beings to pay a lot more attention to this than we have done thus far.

More particularly, I believe that we must make sure that the next generation is educated about the choices they will certainly face. I hope our children will not do as we adults have done so far, and risk leaving these decisions and choices in the sole hands of the scientists and politicians. My biggest hope, of course—and this is why I wrote Double Helix—is that the book might help to trigger that discussion.