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Not ready to give up stethoscope

Success as a novelist hasn’t lured Jackson obstetrician away from his chosen profession

To the casual observer, practicing medicine and writing novels does not appear at first glance to fit together.

Apparently, nobody told Darden North.

A respected Jackson obstetrician/gynecologist who writes award-winning novels with the same deft touch in which he delivers babies, North is making a name for himself in the literary world.

He’s written and published three books and is currently working on a fourth, “Wiggle Room,” a novel in which North confesses he’s a bit uncomfortable writing. The contemporary novels are set in fictional, small-town Mississippi, draw from his medical background and are built around characters that are often surrounded by controversy.

“The characters in my books are mostly borrowed from the medical profession, but not necessarily people I’ve known,” North said. “Sometimes a patient or colleague will say, ‘I know who you are talking about’ in a particular book but that’s not the case. I’ve drawn upon an amalgam of my life experiences. With ‘Wiggle Room,’ I’m just trying to go a bit deeper.”

For degree of difficulty, meeting a publishing deadline trumps the pressure of bringing a new born into the world, he admits.

“Writing is much more difficult than practicing medicine,” said North, who has been associated with Jackson Healthcare for Women since 1986. “I’ve grown to love and enjoy my ob-gyn practice. By this stage of a medical career, you’re very comfortable in what you are doing. But when you write, it’s a whole new ballgame. The writing has to stand on its own.”

Though born in Jackson, North grew up in the quintessential Mississippi Delta town of Cleveland. At the age of 13, he was selected for a part in the Cleveland Little Theatre’s production of “The King and I.” The stage experience fortified young Darden’s thirst for the arts and later his literary pursuits.

While an undergraduate at the University of Mississippi, where he graduated magna cum laude, North served as vice president of the student body and edited the Ole Miss yearbook.

North’s third book, “Fresh Frozen,” differed from his first two novels, which were based on his life and career experiences.

“‘Points of Origin’ and ‘House Call’ were written to flesh-out some characters I wanted to explore and center on things that have happened to me,” he said. “On the other hand, ‘Fresh Frozen’ is different in that I explore some areas I haven’t been involved with. I don’t have a political agenda in my writing but my writing reflects that people in the South are educated and have all the modern conveniences.

“I approach each novel I’ve written with the idea of telling a good story.”

People are noticing North’s work and reviews have been good.

“Fresh Frozen,” his suspense thriller in which the boundaries between good and evil medicine are blurred, was recognized by the National Indie Excellence Awards, the New Generation Indie Book Awards and the 2009 San Francisco Book Festival. One critic hailed North’s novels as “the truth of medical fiction.”

New York independent film producer Frank Vitolo is said to be interested in making a film adaptation of “Fresh Frozen.”

However, swapping his stethoscope for a laptop full-time is not in North’s immediate future.

“I don’t plan to give up my practice anytime soon,” North said. “We all want to slow down at some point, but I’m in a very good single-specialty group and we have great people. To be able to make a positive change in someone’s life physically, talk to them and give them good news is very fulfilling.”

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