And the Waters Turn to Blood
by Rodney Barker
Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997
It seems to be part science fiction, part murder mystery. It keeps the reader up all night turning the pages in horror and fascination. But it is not a work of the imagination. It's real, and it's true.
First, beginning in the 1980s, in the estuaries of North Carolina, there were dead fish by the thousands, stripped to the bone.
Then the fishermen were attacked, afflicted by open sores that would not heel.
Only when the scientists studying the microscopic monster responsible for these incidents began to suffer from health effects that were mistaken for Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis did state officials reluctantly concede that they might be confronting a terrifying new plague upon our waters. Then, rather than investigating, they went after the messenger.
Now, all along the eastern United States seacoast, a mysterious and deadly aquatic organism named Pfiesteria piscicida – scientists call it "the cell from hell" – threatens to unleash an environmental nightmare and human tragedy of catastrophic proportions.
In his dramatic and shocking new book, Rodney Barker, investigative author of Dancing with the Devil and The Broken Circle, tells the full and terrifying story of a microorganism far closer to home than the Ebola virus and equally frightening.
At the very center of his narrative is the heroic effort of Dr. JoAnn Burkholder and her colleagues, embattled and dedicated scientists confronting medical, political, and corporate powers to understand and conquer this new scourge before it claims more victims. Having gained extraordinary access to "Level 3," one of the most sensitive biohazard research levels, Rodney Barker has returned with a harrowing, tru-life medical thriller, written with the detail, depth, and authority of such bestsellers as A Civil Action on a subject that has already made fearful and angry headlines but has never been fully exposed until now.
Just as The Hot Zone opened readers' eyes to a terrifying health threat, And the Waters Turned to Blood – a Biblical reference to the first recorded "red tide" – is a clear-eyed, frightening, and dramatic scientific adventure, far more exciting and disturbing than any fiction could be.
Rodney Barker, bestselling author of The Broken Circle, as well as the acclaimed Hiroshima Maidens and Dancing with the Devil, has been a newspaper editor, investigative reporter, and feature writer for a variety of regional and national magazines. He lives in New Mexico.