King of Hearts


"King of Hearts is The Right Stuff of open heart surgery."
-- Jonathan Harr, author of the bestselling A Civil Action

"G. Wayne Miller has written one of those books that makes you wonder why no one had done itbefore. The remarkable story of flamboyant heart surgeon Walt Lillehei's pioneering work in open-heart surgery clearly ranks with the most important of modern times, and Miller has told it in a breathless, spirited, and dramatic way in King of Hearts... It is science writing at its best."
-- Mark Bowden, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 7, 2000

"Wayne Miller's book is a roller-coaster account of this extraordinary man's life and achievements. By moving back and forth in time, he builds suspense and keeps the reader turning pages to see what miracle will next come from Lillehei's hands. It reads like the best of suspense novels."
--Decatur Daily,, December 31, 2000

"The book is ultimately a story of triumph against all odds."
-- Asian Cardiovascular & Thoracic Annals, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2001

"With gripping detail, Miller's book takes the reader inside the hospital's walls back in the 1950s and 1960s. He shows us anxious parents waiting to see if their desperately ill children would be the lucky ones that Lillehei could save. His heart surgeries were high-wire acts performed without a net. And with the instincts of a good showman, his academic lectures included photos of his grateful patients, not shot in hospital gowns, but dressed in cowboy and cowgirl outfits."
-- Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2000

"There are a lot of good stories to tell from the `country of hearts' (as the cardiologist and poet John Stone has called it). But these are more than simply good stories. Important ethical, emotional and financial dilemmas -- sometimes all three--are posed by the narratives of innovation in heart medicine."
-- Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2000

"The beauty of these fascinating tales lies in the detail and the personal interactions of the players. By means of interviews, datacollection, and other extensive research, the author conveys the essence of the early days of open-heart surgery...King of Hearts extensively chronicles the life of its main character and weaves together significant contributions of many other pioneers ofcardiac surgery. The author's end notes are a bonus. They contain a wealth of detail on events, equipment, and people involved in theformative days of open heart surgery."
--Journal of the American Medical Association, June 21, 2000

"This book by G. Wayne Miller is a thorough and entertaining biography of Walt Lillehei presented fromhis own perspective as well as that of his patients and his contemporaries. The reader gets a real sense of theadventure, the urgency, the excitement, and the disappointments of laboratory and clinical research during the exciting first two decades of cardiac surgery...Those who knew Walt Lillehei will agree that his scientific fervor and accomplishments, his brilliant laboratory studies and bold clinical innovations, his flamboyant style,his sometimes troubled but always colorful personal life, and his work-hard, play-hard character are all accurately represented."
--New England Journal of Medicine, June 29, 2000

"Highly recommended for all audiences."
-- Choice Magazine, July 2000

"No ordinary biography, King of Hearts is breathless reading--you'll find yourself surfacing every few chapters to remind yourself it's nonfiction."
--, February 4, 2000

"Dr. Walt Lillehei was one of the unsung heroes of surgery in the 20thcentury. King of Hearts is a fascinating and suspenseful inside portraitof how this pioneer blazed a trail for all heart surgeons. It is a storyof historical importance, and Wayne Miller tells it with precision andgreat spirit."
-- Dr. Christiaan Barnard, heart transplant pioneer

"Exhaustively researched, novel-like... Few people outside of medicine have heard of Lillehei, and few remember the sweaty-palmed suspense of open heart surgery's early years. It is fortunate that Lillehei has posthumously found Miller to rectify his anonymity. The resulting tale grips like a surgical clamp and doesn't let go."
-- Forbes magazine,, January 24, 2000

"The wrenching stories of these children, the sacrifices of their parents, and researchers' incredible experimental efforts to divert blood from damaged hearts using dog hearts or the living bodies of donors make for riveting reading... Highly recommended for all readers."
-- Library Journal, January, 2000

"The Invention of open-heart surgery is an epic tale of caution and recklessness, genius and serendipity, selflessness and megalomania. Until now, it was a story available only to readers of scholarly books and journals. With King of Hearts, G. Wayne Miller has given this great story to the rest of us... And he has written King of Hearts with clarity, simplicity and grace."
-- Associated Press, February 14, 2000

"Fascinating medical history... Miller tells Lillehei's story with elegance and an immediacy that keeps the medically complex story from getting boring...This medical pioneer was far from a moral paragon, but Miller never allows his subject's deficiencies to detract from the glory of his medical accomplishments. In fact, the contrast between Lillehei's personal and professional lives spices up King of Hearts considerably."
-- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 18, 2000

"The book may be read on several levels -- as a medical thriller, a historical record, or a fascinating personality study.Indeed, in its grand themes of life and death, power and temptation, it is reminiscent of a Greek tragedy, whose herorepresents humanity itself.''
-- Texas Heart Institute Journal,, Vol. 27, No. 2, summer, 2000

"Chief among its pioneers was the intense and flamboyant Minnesota surgeon Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, whose story Miller tells here in thriller style. Miller, a staff writer for The Providence Journal, re-creates the anxietiesand excitement of an era poised on the brink of astonishing technologicaladvances... Miller's fast-paced and scrupulously researched account revealsboth the exhiliration and the tragedy of Lillehei's story."
-- Publishers' Weekly, December 20, 1999

"Miller skillfully describes the years of research that finally led Lillehei to his first cross-circulationoperation on a human... a sturdy telling.''
-- The Boston Globe, May 12, 2000

"An unflinching, blood-and-guts look at the science and despair of modernopen-heart surgery, framed by a biography of a giant in the field, Dr. C.Walton Lillehei... With the medical profession under financial siege,Miller's breathless, suspenseful reminder of thelife-and-death-but-mostly-death drama of medical research, as well as thepathological risk-takers that drive it forward, could not have come at a moreopportune time."
-- Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2000

"Miller calls himself 'one lucky writer,' and anyone who picks up his informative and enjoyable biography of pioneering heart surgeon C. Walton Lillehei can become one lucky reader."
-- Booklist, January 2000

"The book reads more like a perfectly written thriller than it does a nonfiction book -- one page into the story and you'll be absolutely riveted by the unfolding drama."
-- Writers Write recommended book, February 2000

"The book may be read on several levels—as a medical thriller, a historical record, or a fascinating personality study. Indeed, in its grand themes of life and death, power and temptation, it is reminiscent of a Greek tragedy whose hero represents humanity itself, vulnerable to flaws and errors in judgment. Aimed at a lay audience rather than at medical professionals, King of Hearts will be enjoyed by all who relish a gripping narrative."
-- Dr. Denton A. Cooley, legendary Texas surgeon, writing for Texas Heart Institute Journal, 2000; 27(2): 224–225

"Miller casts his "King of Hearts" as a romantic tale of a flawed and passionate genius."
-- Minneapolis Star-Tribune, March 5, 2000

"What Miller has done is recapture the high drama of the race to work inside the human heart."
-- Providence Sunday Journal, January 30, 2000

"(An) engaging work of modern medical history."
-- Winnipeg Free Press, April 16, 2000

"An epic writ in blood."
-- East Brunswick (N.J.) Home News Tribune, February 20, 2000

"Highly recommended reading for parents, adult patients, and medical professionals!"
-- Mona Barmash, Children's Health Information Network, February 21, 2000

"This compelling book by Wayne Miller has beautifully captured the intense drama of the fifties and sixtieswhen everything was happening... not to be missed by anyone involved in heart surgery and by all who aspireto be complete heart surgeons."
-- Indian Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, June 2000

"Written in the form of a fast-paced, dramatic thriller, this book is sure to rivet your attention... In this elaborately researched work, (Miller) has captured the magical moments that were those early days of heart surgery."
-- Heart Beat Healthzine, January 2000

Recommended non-fiction title.
-- Barnes&, week of March 6, 2000



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