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[GUEST POST] Glenn Cooper on The Story Behind NEAR DEATH (Plus: Giveaway)

Glenn Cooper has a degree in archaeology from Harvard and practiced medicine as an infectious diseases specialist. He was the CEO of a biotechnology company for almost twenty years, has written numerous screenplays and has produced three independent feature films. His novels have sold six million copies in thirty-one languages. He lives in Gilford, New Hampshire.

The Story Behind NEAR DEATH

by Glenn Cooper

I had long been aware of the phenomenon of near death experiences (NDEs) when, as a young doctor, I took care of a very ill patient who had one. She was a teenager with advanced leukemia which was resistant to therapy and one day on the wards, she had a cardiac arrest. We got her heart going again and revived her and when she was stabilized she tearfully recounted her experience, replete with many of the iconic references to floating above the bed, tunnels of light, meeting a deceased family member, a grandparent, if I recall. In those days I was too busy and strung out with exhaustion to study the phenomenon but I tucked the memory of that day away, remembering it the day the girl died and again, many years later when I thought I might want to write a film script about near death experiences.

That was some fifteen years ago, before the internet was in full swing, and the stack of paperbacks I read on the subject were sketchy but interesting, mainly for the fact that the earnest folks who wrote them were passionate about their experiences and felt they had profoundly affected their view of life and death. I wrote a screenplay draft that wasn’t much good and shelved the idea until an article in a scientific journal got me thinking about the subject again about three years ago. This time, when I did my research, I found that there were many online discussion forums about NDEs and also a good number of scientific papers on the subject.

It became clear to me that the brain under the stress of oxygen depletion, puts out an array of chemical mediators and hormones that produce the well-known manifestations of NDEs. So the idea for the book began to crystallize with a series of what ifs: what if the brain, at the threshhold of death, produced a particular, powerful substance that causes NDEs, and what if that chemical could be isolated and produced in a laboratory, and what if it caused healthy people to have profoundly alluring and specific NDEs that formed a de facto “proof” of the existence of an afterlife, and what if that chemical were to radically change the world as we know it.

I had long been aware of the phenomenon of near death experiences (NDEs) when, as a young doctor, I took care of a very ill patient who had one. She was a teenager with advanced leukemia which was resistant to therapy and one day on the wards, she had a cardiac arrest. We got her heart going again and revived her and when she was stabilized she tearfully recounted her experience, replete with many of the iconic references to floating above the bed, tunnels of light, meeting a deceased family member, a grandparent, if I recall. In those days I was too busy and strung out with exhaustion to study the phenomenon but I tucked the memory of that day away, remembering it the day the girl died and again, many years later when I thought I might want to write a film script about near death experiences.

That was some fifteen years ago, before the internet was in full swing, and the stack of paperbacks I read on the subject were sketchy but interesting, mainly for the fact that the earnest folks who wrote them were passionate about their experiences and felt they had profoundly affected their view of life and death. I wrote a screenplay draft that wasn’t much good and shelved the idea until an article in a scientific journal got me thinking about the subject again about three years ago. This time, when I did my research, I found that there were many online discussion forums about NDEs and also a good number of scientific papers on the subject.

It became clear to me that the brain under the stress of oxygen depletion, puts out an array of chemical mediators and hormones that produce the well-known manifestations of NDEs. So the idea for the book began to crystallize with a series of what ifs: what if the brain, at the threshhold of death, produced a particular, powerful substance that causes NDEs, and what if that chemical could be isolated and produced in a laboratory, and what if it caused healthy people to have profoundly alluring and specific NDEs that formed a de facto “proof” of the existence of an afterlife, and what if that chemical were to radically change the world as we know it.

To tell the story I immersed myself in the subject of NDEs from spiritual, religious, philosphical, and biological points of view and further delved into cross-cultural representations of the afterlife. It was a fantastic journey through dozens of books and research papers and hundreds of blogs and websites, and what I learned can be found in the pages of Near Death, a page-turning, apocalyptic thriller which explores the boundaries of medicine and spirituality and of good and evil.To tell the story I immersed myself in the subject of NDEs from spiritual, religious, philosphical, and biological points of view and further delved into cross-cultural representations of the afterlife. It was a fantastic journey through dozens of books and research papers and hundreds of blogs and websites, and what I learned can be found in the pages of Near Death, a page-turning, apocalyptic thriller which explores the boundaries of medicine and spirituality and of good and evil.


GIVEAWAY (U.S. Only): Win a Copy of NEAR DEATH by Glenn Cooper!

Courtesy of the publisher, we have 2 copies of the book Near Death by to give away to 2 lucky SF Signal readers!

Here’s more about what the book is about:

#1 International Bestseller

New from the internationally bestselling thriller writer Glenn Cooper, whose books have sold more then 6 million copies worldwide, comes Near Death.

A brilliant neuroscientist, obsessed with death since his own childhood near death experience, resorts to drastic measures to prove the existence of the afterlife.

Milan, Italy today. It is the most serious crisis that the world has ever faced. Bewildered, young and old, believers and atheists are asking all the same, distressing questions: What will they do now that the greatest dream of humanity has turned into a nightmare? What will happen when the countdown clock winds to zero?

Boston, a few months before. It is the most complex investigation that Cyrus O’Malley has ever faced. The FBI special agent looks at photos of the victims for the umpteenth time and wonders why, after being strangled, the serial killer has drilled a tiny hole through their skull. For Cyrus, the case becomes an obsession. To solve it, he will be forced to give up everything he holds dear.

England, 1988. It is the most overwhelming feeling that Alex Weller has ever had. In ecstasy, at the pivot point between life and death, the boy sees a river of light flowing in front of him and on the other side there is his father, joyfully urging him to join him. But Alex cannot move, and suddenly he is back at the site of the terrible car accident that has just killed his parents.

Since that time, Alex has had only one goal: to understand and relive that experience. Even if he is forced to kill.

And here’s how you can enter for a chance to win:

  1. Send an email to contest at sfsignal dot com. (That’s us).
  2. In the subject line, enter “Near Death
  3. In the body of the email, please provide a mailing address so the prize can be sent as soon as possible. (The winning address is used only to mail the prize. All other address info will be purged once the giveaway ends.)
  4. Geographic restrictions: This giveaway is open only to residents of the U.S.
  5. The giveaway will end Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 (9:00 PM U.S. Central time). The 2 winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!


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