On the Bookshelf
Physician writes about New Mexico small town
By Greg Johnston
UNM Press, 2004
By Dr. Ben Daltz
In his first novel, Dr. Ben Daitz introduces readers to the residents of Mogote, a familiar-sounding town in central New Mexico.
Daitz is a UNM professor of Family and Community Medicine who teaches medical students and residents. He is also a filmmaker, journalist, composer, fiddle player and avid fly fisherman. Daitz' documentary films have been honored by the Taos Talking Picture Festival and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He is a contributing writer to the New York Times.
In “Delivery,” published by UNM Press, Daitz describes Dr. Matt Dorgan, a respected family practitioner with an underlying compassion for the patients he treats and a deep reverence for the surrounding land and culture.
One notes Daitz' fondness for detail in his characters, settings and events. Throughout the book, he draws from his extensive medical background.
Life becomes complicated for Dorgan when he is sued for malpractice, three years after the delivery of Calvin, a boy with severe disabilities. The lawsuit hits Dorgan hard as he struggles to recall the procedure performed when the boy was born. To complicate matters, Calvin's father, Junior Shiflett, is a sleazy underachiever who hopes for a big legal settlement. Shiflett becomes involved in a marijuana smuggling ring as a way to quick financial gain with little effort.
While he is out getting high and sleeping around, his wife Clarisse remains confined with her brain-damaged son in a little trailer on the bleak outskirts of town. (Truth or Consequences artist Delmas Howe painted the book's lush cover art).
In describing the book, author John Nichols says, “Delivery is a fascinating, strangely luminescent and disturbing novel, written with great insight and compassion and a powerful love of New Mexico. It is a highly original and polished work that starts quietly and builds into a page turner impossible to put down.”