Glenn Vanstrum


Glenn Vanstrum’s fiction has been published in LITnIMAGE, the Bellevue Literary Review, and THEMA. His book of nature writing, The Saltwater Wilderness (Oxford), won a San Diego Book Award. Essays of his have appeared in Sierra, California Wild, and the Los Angeles Times.

Vanstrum has written five novels and two story collections. Setting plays a major role in his character-driven fiction, work that often uses nature, music, or medical themes. His novels range from drama (Let Fall Thy Blade; Certain Stars Shot Madly) to historical fiction (Northern Liberties) to satire (S.I.C. Memorial). His latest work, Humboldt, a story set among the Northern California redwoods, is part roman noir, part satire, and part thriller.

A Minnesotan by birth, Vanstrum majored in music at Grinnell College in Iowa and attended U.C.S.D. medical school. He has spent most of his life in California, where he practices anesthesiology.

A professional nature photographer, he publishes images in numerous venues worldwide. Magazine credits include Audubon, Sierra, Terre Sauvage, National Geographic Traveler, National Wildlife, and Discover. The photographic stock agencies Animals Animals/Earth Scenes and Custom Medical Stock Photography represent his photographs.

Vanstrum, a pianist from age five, still practices daily and performs works from the classical, romantic, and modern repertoire on a regular basis. A student of Cecil Lytle and the late Nathan Schwartz, he plays both solo and chamber pieces.

The author, a lifelong surfer, has ridden waves in Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Bali. Still riding a shortboard, he wipes out with great regularity.

Further information on Vanstrum’s writing, including book reviews; music, including concert schedules; and surfing, including a surf blog; appears at

"Glenn Vanstrum is a force of nature. In addition to being a published author (The Saltwater Wilderness, Oxford University Press, 2003), he is a concert pianist (and regularly performs complex pieces by Beethoven and Mozart in public venues near his home in San Diego), a highly regarded medical doctor, an accomplished surfer, an underwater photographer who has worked around the world, and a dedicated husband and father. Somehow, in this incredibly busy life, he continually produces exemplary works of fiction and non-fiction.

"I've known Glenn for fifteen years. In that time, I have read every single one of his books, and they are uniformly excellent. His fiction is distinguished by fast-paced plots, fascinating characters, amazingly realistic dialogue, and passages of great strength and beauty. His innovative treatment (in Northern Liberties) of Thomas Eakins' painting 'The Gross Clinic' was absolutely brilliant, and his collection of animal stories is par excellence--certainly in the league with such notables as Roger Caras and Ernest Thompson Seton.

"His non-fiction, best exemplified in the essays of The Saltwater Wilderness, reflects his love for the sea and dedication to the conservation of oceanic resources. In summary, any book by Glenn Vanstrum is worth reading and owning, and I enthusiastically encourage all those who value contemporary literature to explore the corpus--now available as e-books or print-on-demand--of this gifted American author. "

--John A. Murray, senior editor, The Bloomsbury Review (1987-present); founding editor, the Sierra Club American Nature Writing annual (1994-2005); former director, graduate program in professional writing, University of Alaska; author of 42 books; recipient of Southwest Book Award and Colorado Book Award.

Where to find Glenn Vanstrum online

Where to buy in print


Certain Stars Shot Madly
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 91,740. Language: English. Published: December 1, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American, Fiction » Adventure » General
Rick Justin, a burned-out, Vietnam-era ex-corpsman, gets an education on friendship from his first day in a California medical school, when he meets his three anatomy partners. Majoring in surfing, he and his trio of pals, Aaron, Jody, and Natalie, learn about the human body-and mind-the hard way. When Rick becomes a patient himself, he finds he must battle his friends' demons, as well as his own.
Of Lion Paw and Tiger Jaw
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 72,070. Language: English. Published: November 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Humans may not be the only animals who crave freedom. In these stories, we enter the minds of thirteen wild creatures and the people interacting with them. No anthropomorphizing here--these beasts may be sentient, but they do not think like us. Whether we encounter an eagle nervous about an approaching photographer or a tiger aching to kill a deer, we step through these pages into an alien world.
Northern Liberties
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 116,940. Language: English. Published: November 5, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American, Fiction » Historical » General
(4.00 from 1 review)
A painter can imitate life through his art, but he can also imitate death. Thomas Eakins creates a masterpiece as anatomy labs proliferate, whores and winos vanish, antisepsis appears in hospitals, and the world visits Philadelphia for its 1876 exposition. His painting, The Gross Clinic, evokes a literary vision of beauty, murder, and redemption, blending impasto pigments, medicine, and passion.
Disease Beyond My Practice--Stories
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 76,220. Language: English. Published: October 30, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
No one can survive a bi-polar universe without a healthy dose of madness. An infectious disease doctor falls in love with a dope addict/real-estate agent. A paranoid schizophrenic decides he must render himself sterile. A meth freak tries to destroy his surgeon with a stolen tank. In these stories, set in today's crazed world, the only way to acquit oneself may be through the insanity defense.
S.I.C. Memorial
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 91,200. Language: English. Published: October 29, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
When a marine fungus fouls the air ducts of S.I.C. Memorial, Dr. Hubert Humperdinck, a surfing, goof-ball anesthesiologist, gets the blame. An oil sheik offers $200 million to rebuild the hospital, an offer matched by a Catholic charity. As Muslims battle Christians over naming rights, Hubert becomes a patient himself and must deal with a mad neurosurgeon, Mexican drug cartels, and his angry wife.
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 111,660. Language: English. Published: October 15, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
An ex-con pot-grower, full-blooded Yurok, and big-wave surfer, Hobart Hawkins, tries to go straight after prison. While climbing giant redwoods, he falls for his biology professor, Faith Bartlett. But Faith wants to save 800-acres of old-growth forest, and her NGO needs cash--lots of cash. Hobart, blinded by love, decides to grow a last, illicit crop to avoid a clear-cut--and conquer a heart.
Let Fall Thy Blade
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 92,150. Language: English. Published: October 4, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
(4.00 from 1 review)
A cardiac surgeon and long distance runner, Malcolm Hartford, takes his family on safari. At first, the Serengeti works its magic, but when the travelers encounter a gang of poachers, the vacation becomes a disaster. As the long rains threaten, events cascade into a raging torrent. Malcolm must run the marathon of a lifetime and use all his medical skills to rescue his his loved ones.

Glenn Vanstrum's tag cloud

abrams tank    africa    african safari    aids    alaska    anatomy class    anesthesiology    antarctic peninsula    antarctica    antibiotics    antisepsis    antiviral drugs    art class    australia    baby whale    bali    bartok    big wave surfing    bigfoot    biologic field research    blindness    borneo    brahms    brain surgery    cadaver    cardiac surgeon    cardiomyopathy    cartel    chum    civil war    clearcut forestry    coastal redwoods    crappie    crocodile    cults    cuzco    drug war    eagle    elephant    elephant poaching    eyrie    fungus    game parks    germ theory    giraffe    gray whale    grizzly    hare and burke murders    heart surgery    hepatitis    hepatitis c    history    hospitals    humor    hurricane    hypoxia    inca    indonesia    infectious disease    insanity    internship    joseph lister    julia butterfly hill    kenya    leopard seal    liver transplant    louis pasteur    lymphoma    maasai    macaw    machu picchu    malaria    manitoba    marijuana    marijuana dispensary    marine corps    marlin    masai mara    medical residency    medical school    mexico    minnesota fishing    musth    nest    new guinea    night call    north shore    obgyn    oil painting    omphalopagus    orangutan    organ procurement    painting    pamplona    pediatric heart surgery    philadelphia    piano trio    pitching    poaching    polar bear    posttraumatic stress syndrome    pot farming    prostitute    pseudorcas    psychiatry    puerto escondido    pyschiatrist    rabuul    rain forest    recon    redwoods    religions    samuel gross    san fermin    sasquatch    satire    schizophrenia    sea world    serengeti    shark cage    siamese twins    south africa    staphylococcus    sterilization    sunset beach    superbug    surfing    surgery    tanzania    terrorism    the gross clinic    theater    thomas eakins    transplants    trauma    treesitting    underwater photography    vietnam draft    vietnam war    white shark    wild animal park    wildlife photography   

Smashwords book reviews by Glenn Vanstrum

  • The Friendship of Mortals on July 30, 2012

    Audrey Driscoll can flat out write. Her magnum opus, a trio that is really a quartet, begins with The Friendship of Mortals, a stunner of a whopping novel. A character study set from 1910-1938, the book combines historical fiction with strong dollops of Edgar Allen Poe, Henry James, Mary Shelley, and Stephen King. The Ahab-like central character, renegade physician Herbert West, lures our Ishmael-like narrator, the meek Charles Milburn, to assist him in increasingly dangerous and illegal experimental activities involving, well, revivification. The plot, aided and enriched by the finely wrought journalist, Alma, slowly envelopes a reader until reaching a fever pitch at the climax. To get back to the writing: The tone is sure, the descriptions and word paintings lush, the action inevitable, and the reader's suspension of disbelief complete. I spent many an evening reading this tome (it's not a short book), and relished every minute. I'm looking forward to reading the next three in the series. Experience tells me I won't be disappointed.
  • Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey on April 17, 2013

    Islands of the Gulf-Part I slipped down like fine sherry, as did the first book in the quartet. Herbert West self-metamorphosizes into a new persona, Francis Dexter, one who now eschews revivification and has morals. It's all very fascinating, and Driscoll, a superb writer, takes you on a fine series of adventures at sea and to the Pacific Northwest with her stellar prose and pitch-perfect tone. That I've sailed in and around Desolation Sound and Victoria Island only made things better. The characters of Andre Boudreau and Margaret Bellgarde are perfect foils for our deranged hero. The author paints them well, bringing them to life as they respond to the strangeness around them. As a physician myself, there's something paradoxically attractive about these novels of a rogue doctor. I love 'em. Beware, though, reader, there's more than a bit of Patricia Highsmith in Ms. Driscoll, and her heroes--like the Talented Mr. Ripley-- have a dark side. Of course, this adds to the fun.