What is a “Shadow Merchant”?

A Jack Merchant Medical Mystery

The emergency room doctor had become a thorn in my side. He was demanding. He was demeaning. He was defensive. It was obvious to me he had suffered a painful experience with radiologists in his past practice. Pleasing the man was almost impossible. Every interpretation I gave him was insufficient. I was taking too long to report his ER cases. I was too vague in my reports. I was wrong with my diagnoses. You name it, he never appreciated my hard work.

As a radiologist, I was used to this kind of treatment. I’ve been in the business for almost 40 years and recall how poorly we were regarded at the beginning of my practice. Times have changed and radiologists are integral partners in patient diagnosis and treatment and we are accepted as equals by our colleagues in other specialities.

But that was not the case years ago with this emergency room physician. He sat in my office while I was going over the findings of a CAT scan of a patient’s abdomen and pelvis. He told me he was leaving our hospital for another practice. I was ecstatic but didn’t show it. In a rare moment of honesty he looked at me and said, “You know, I practiced in a military hospital before I came here. The radiologist there was not that proficient. That’s not a commentary on the military. Just a commentary on the person. Your group has done a good job while I’ve been here and I wanted to thank you before I left.”
I was stunned and he shook my hand. He stood up and before he walked out the door he said, “You’re the best of the shadow merchants in your group.”
“Shadow merchants?” I asked.
“Yeah. That’s what we call radiologists in the military. Shadow merchants. You live in the shadows and make a living by interpreting shadows on your films. Shadow merchants.” He walked out.

There is a suggestion for authors, write what you know.

I know a lot about my profession, radiology. But how can radiology be interesting? It’s interesting to me and I have been in practice for 38 years. If I were to write a book about radiology, what would it be about? How to hold your breath for an Xray? How to interpret an MRI of the pituitary? Sounds pretty boring.

But like most professions, there is a lot of drama in my world of radiology. After all, humans are involved. And wherever humans are involved, there will always be drama. About 15 years ago I started writing a story about a fictional radiologist named Dr. Jack Merchant. Some of my readers recently met Jack in the 7th Demon and the 5th Demon books. I had always planned on bringing Jack into the Jonathan Steel Chronicles based on the stories I had already outlined for his own series.

I am excited to announce the first book in the “Jack Merchant Medical Masteries” series, “Shadow Merchant”. The book will be available on April 1. What is the story about? Here is “blurb” from the back of the book.

Dr. Jack Merchant is a radiologist in a busy private practice and now finds himself mourning his wife on the one year anniversary of her death. He returns to the site of her death one year later only to find he is now accused of the murder! His job is now in jeopardy and his life is almost taken in a botched medical procedure in his own radiology department. He joins forces with the local medical examiner in trying to find out why someone would kill his wife and just who that might be. As the tentacles of an international conspiracy close around him, he must protect a secret relationship from his past that could be the key to revealing the mystery!

I’ve waited a long time to begin publishing this series mainly because of the possibility that some of my medical colleagues may see a bit of themselves in some of my characters. I have gone a long way to avoid placing one of medical colleagues in the story. However, I have borrowed some of the best and, yes, some of the worst quirks for my characters. The setting is totally fictional to avoid any comparison to a real health care system environment. And I will NEVER use a patient’s real story in my books.

When it comes to any patient mentioned in my books, they are compilations of interesting cases, inspiring cases, and informative cases I have encountered in my over 40 years of medical practice and training. No single patient will ever be utilized in my stories. Always, any condition and story line used will be fictional but will be based on the medical illnesses I have been involved with as well as the doctors and health care personnel who have inspired me over the years.

For instance, in the first book, the reader meets a character named Gill. Gill is based on one of my best friends, Johnny Blake. I can say this unconditionally because Johnny long ago gave me permission to base a character on him. Unfortunately, this great and wonderful man of God passed away on March 10, 2022.

Another brother of mine, Gerald Brown, is the inspiration for future characters. Gerald lived 18 years after his heart transplant and although we are from different worlds in so many ways, our love of Jesus Christ united us early on in our friendship. His wife, Diane, has asked that I never post anything about Gerald but the reader will see some of Gerald’s love of the Lord in the character of Gill. Gerald passed away from heart arrhythmia on April 3, 2020.

I hope you enjoy “Shadow Merchant”. It is a very different book from any I have written. There are no demons involved. Except the human kind!!!

About Bruce Hennigan

Published novelist, dramatist, apologist, and physician.

Posted on March 31, 2022, in Steel Chronicles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Bruce, looking forward to the read as always.


    • Shadow Merchant is a slang word used in the military to refer to a radiologist. A radiologist works “in the shadows” reading X-rays, MRIs, etc. Long ago, radiologists read films hung on an illuminated view box and the room had to be dark all the time. Whenever a physician would come in to go over those imaging studies, they would always be shocked at how dark it was. Now, all images are digital and are reviewed on high resolution monitors so the rooms are not as dark as they once were.


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