Biology, Cuba, and an Idea for a Book…

November 23, 2014


Welcome to Janet L. Greger!

Picture With Dog Cropped

Janet and Bug


I first met Janet at a PSWA conference in Las Vegas a few years back, and most recently talked with Janet at this year’s conference. In line with so many writers I’ve met at PSWA, Janet is an intelligent and sharing author with a most interesting background (a former biology professor!) I’m so pleased to welcome Janet L. Greger to my blog today. She’s sharing some personal thoughts based upon her travels in Cuba–and explaining how the idea for her novel Malignancy came about. So interesting to hear how ideas and books materialize for another author…



 A Locale with Personality: Cuba

Cuba is changing.

Among the propaganda spouted by my Cuban tour guide in 2013 was the statement: Cuban scientists had patented a drug for cancer. When I got home, I found researchers in Havana had patented a therapeutic cancer vaccine to treat a rather rare type of lung cancer (non-small cell). In essence, the drug is supposed to rev up patients’ own immune systems to produce cells to slay the cancer cells without injuring the normal cells.

This patent demonstrates several facets of modern Cuba. Cuban scientists are doing competitive science. The Cuban government recognizes the importance of commercialization of their research. My guide’s comments suggest many Cubans think science and economic changes are important parts of their future. Yes, they’re proud of Che Guevera but they are ready to move on.

The U.S. response to Cuba is surprising.

First off, I was amazed by the tons of consumer goods being flown by American Airlines from Miami into Cuba daily despite the embargo. I bet you’d be amazed, too, if you saw the baggage check in for flights to Havana.

I was also surprised to learn hundreds of Cuban scientists and artists had participated in non-U.S. government-sponsored exchanges already. Now U.S. scientists are trying to get U.S. government sponsorship of scientific exchanges. (Check out the editorial “Science diplomacy with Cuba” in the journal Science on June 6, 2014.)

My trip to Cuba turns into the thriller Malignancy

Realistically the U.S. government might send (in the near future) scientists to Cuba to establish government-sponsored exchanges between the two countries. Scientific exchanges were one of the early steps in the normalization of our relationship with China in the 1970s. I thought Sara Almquist, the epidemiologist and heroine of my previous medical thrillers Coming Flu and Ignore the Pain would be the perfect protagonist to do a little “scientific diplomacy” in Cuba.

I wanted readers of Malignancy to see more of Cuba than its scientific aspirations. So I have Sara slip into La Floridita Bar, made famous by Hemingway, in Old Havana to meet a mysterious Cuban. Is he just a potential colleague, a spymaster, or both?

I suspect most Americans, including myself, know less about Cuban history than they realize. Accordingly, Sara discovers interesting quirks of Cuban history, as well as clues about those who are trying to kill her in Albuquerque, while she explores historic Colon Cemetery and Plaza de la Revolución in Havana.

Hopefully, you are now eager to learn more about Cuba and Sara’s predicament. Then you can decide if the personality of Havana matches your expectations.

Malignancy by JL Greger

Malignancy by JL Greger



Men disguised as police officers shoot at Sara Almquist twice in one day. Albuquerque police suspect Jim Mazzone, a drug czar who has tangled with Sara before, will order more hits on Sara. Thus when colleagues in the State Department invite Sara to arrange scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, she jumps at the chance to get out of town and to see the mysterious Xave Zack, who rescued her in Bolivia. Maybe, she should question their motives.




I bet many readers purchased a copy of Clavell’s Shogun before they traveled to Japan and reread sections of The Da Vinci Code before they visited Paris or Scotland. I dislike winter, but Smilla’s Sense of Snow made me want to visit Greenland. I’m hoping readers, who want to “see” more of Cuba than vintage American cars, will read my new thriller Malignancy.

More information about Janet

Her website is: And she can be reached at All her books are available at Amazon.

Amazon buy links


Ignore the Pain:

Coming Flu:

Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight:

JL Greger is no longer a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, instead she’s putting tidbits of science into her novels. In the suspense novel Coming Flu, learn whether the Philippine flu or a drug kingpin caught in the quarantine is more deadly. In the medical mystery Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, discover whether an ambitious young “diet doctor” or old-timers with buried secrets is the killer. In the thriller Ignore the Pain, feel the fear as an epidemiologist learns too much about the coca trade while on a public health assignment in Bolivia.


She and Bug, her Japanese Chin dog, live in the southwest. Bug is the only non-fictional character in her novels.

Thanks, Janet, for a lovely visit!

14 Responses to “Biology, Cuba, and an Idea for a Book…”

  1. JL Greger said

    Jake, Thanks for the comment. Malignancy is available on Kindle too.

  2. Jake said

    Most enjoyable and interesting. Thank you both for a good read. Will definitely be sampling Malignancy soon.

  3. JL Greger said

    I was surprised by a number of things in Cuba and especially in the airport going to Cuba. I guess I didn’t understand the limits of the embargo. I think most readers will be surprised too as i describe the airport scene.

  4. Excellent post, Janet. This sounds like a book I’ll truly enjoy, and frankly, I’d like to learn a bit more about Cuba. Thank you!

  5. JL Greger said

    Thanks for all the kind comments. I strove to be accurate in my comments, but not at the expense of readability and excitement. I hope readers get a glimpse of the emerging Cuba in my books.

    Thanks Madeline for hosting me.

  6. JL Greger said

    Thanks for all the glowing comments. I really strive for accuracy but not at the expense of readability and fun. I really tried to give readers a view of Cuba as it’s evolving , not it’s past.

  7. This book sounds so interesting. I’m moving it to the top of my reading list!

  8. Janet’s book, Malignancy is on my list to read. I can’t wait!!

  9. mmgornell said

    Thanks for re-blogging, Jackie! Janet’s unique perspective is indeed interesting…


  10. photojaq said

    Reblogged this on Here's How It Happened and commented:
    An interesting interview on a fascinating author. Her books are suspenseful, researched and a bit scary. Check her out, then visit her author website.

  11. photojaq said

    Wow, that sounds very intersting! Talk about a “fresh idea” that agents and publishers are looking for. I’m eager to give it a read. Thanks Madeline for introducing me to this new (for me) author! Her other books sound intriguing too, and I suspect being a former biologist (and traveler) they are well researched and authentic!

  12. What interesting stories and the fact Janet has a background in science makes the tales even more intriguing.

  13. I’ve read Malignancy–and it is a fascinating tale. Janet really knows her stuff.

  14. mmgornell said

    Thanks for visiting, Janet! Interesting how you got your idea for Malignancy!


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