Local doctor pens page-turners of medical mayhem


As a urologist and surgeon, Kelly Parsons’ job is to take the best possible care of his patients and help them overcome serious illnesses and medical conditions.

But when he sits before a keyboard to write one of his medical thrillers, his mission is completely different. He’s a storyteller and entertainer, and the picture he paints of doctors and hospitals is much darker.

“My experience has been that people find my books appealing because we’re all patients, including myself, at some point in our lives. The books tap into the vulnerability we feel when we are patients. We are entrusting our health and our very lives to hospitals, institutions, doctors and nurses who are human beings and can potentially make mistakes,” said Parsons, whose day job is caring for patients at UCSD’s Moores Cancer Center. He’s also a professor at UCSD’s medical school.

On Thursday, April 20, Parsons will speak at the Rancho Santa Fe Library about his latest book, “Under the Knife,” which was published in February by St. Martin’s Press.

The event, which will be held from 6:30-8 p.m., is sponsored by the Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild, and the $45 admission includes a private reception and signed copy of the book. For information or reservations, call 858-756-4780 or visit

Parsons’ new novel- his second - is about a vengeful, grieving husband who stalks the surgeon whom he blames for his young wife’s untimely death during an operation. His first book, “Doing Harm,” which came out in 2014, is about a serial killer on the loose in a hospital.

In both books, he used his medical knowledge to provide detail and immerse his readers in the experience that he conjured on the page.

“They complement one another,” he said of juggling careers as a doctor and novelist. Although they require him to “flex different sides of my brain,” he said writing offers him a chance to refresh his mind and step away from the daily rigors of his medical practice.

“You can’t think about medicine 24/7, he said. “Writing for me represents an escape and it refreshes me.”

Parsons said he gets up early to work on his novels (he’s currently writing his third book), before heading to the office for a day of practicing medicine. He also writes on weekends when he gets the chance.

And he plans to continue his dual-track career for the foreseeable future.

“I love both and I really don’t want to give up either one,” he said.

Another way the two complement each other, he said, is that doctors are trained as storytellers, listening to their patients and crafting a narrative that can be used to help them surmount their medical conditions.

Parsons said he has always loved to write, from the time he was growing up in La Jolla. During college, as a history major, he wrote non-fiction papers, but he began to compile notes for his first novel as he was finishing his medical training. He said writing fiction helped him emotionally process things he saw and experienced as a young doctor.

Parsons attended The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, where his two children, ages 13 and 15, now attend. His wife is a pediatrician who practices in La Jolla.

After his first book was published, Parsons’ writing career got a boost when horror novelist Stephen King picked up the novel at a bookstore, read it and posted a rave review on Twitter.

“Best damn medical thriller I’ve read in 25 years. Terrifying OR scenes, characters with real texture,” King wrote.

Parsons said his books don’t seem to have scared away his patients in spite of his spine-tingling tales of things going very wrong in medical settings. On the contrary, he said, they have been enthusiastic about his writing and often bring in copies of his books for him to sign.

“I’ve found it’s a very fun part of my practice now,” he said.

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