IT IS OFTEN said that the practice of medicine is like a detective story. The patient presents clues to be followed, some leading nowhere, others eventually proving crucial. Arthur Conan Doyle, MD, considered by many mystery fans to be the father of the detective story, is held to have based the character of Sherlock Holmes on one of his teachers at the University of Edinburgh.
It is surely appropriate therefore that Berton Roueché, one of the best-known reporters of the world of medicine, should have received an award from the Mystery Writers of America for one of his articles describing an unusual series of cases of sodium nitrite poisoning among some New York bowery derelicts. Titled, with Holmesian echoes, "The Case of the Eleven Blue Men," the article appeared in 1947 in The New Yorker magazine, the publication for which Roueché has worked for more than 40 years.