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Meet the Maine writer who first wanted to be “a disease detective”

Chris Holm ended up as a novelist because he had “all these stories nattering around in my head.”

PORTLAND, Maine — It’s a rare work of fiction that contains a bibliography, but Chris Holm is not a typical novelist.

“When I was younger,” he wrote in an author’s note at the end of his new novel, Child Zero, “I wanted to be an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the CDC. You know: a bug hunter, a disease detective, one of the brave (and some—not I—would say, foolhardy) souls who travel the world containing outbreaks of Ebola, cholera, and the like.”

Holm enrolled in a Ph.D. program in microbiology focusing on infectious diseases but dropped out after realizing that what he really wanted to do was write and had “all these stories nattering in my head.”

Child Zero reflects Holm’s varied interests. It’s a thriller set in a world in which bacterial infections spread unchecked around the globe, inflicting a terrible human toll. And Holm clearly did his scientific homework in writing the book.

Among the citations in his bibliography is one from the medical journal “Gastroenterology & Hepatology” for a scientific paper called “Fecal microbiota transplantation: A review of emerging indications beyond relapsing Clostridium difficile toxin colitis.” Clearly a fine choice for light bedtime reading.

Plenty of people like to pick up a book that will give them a good scare, and Holm is happy to oblige them. Although “Child Zero” is a work of fiction, he wrote, “the science behind it is very real, as is the existential threat that it portends.”

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