Medicine: Dr Bill Bateman

Bill is an experienced GP who spent more than 25 years in rural practice before moving to the city with this family. Most recently Bill wrote his first medical crime novel, ‘Hard Labour’.

What led you to study at the University of Melbourne? 
I was really keen to study Medicine and since the University has such an impressive reputation and stunning campus, when I received an offer, I didn’t hesitate. For a country boy, the opportunity to stay in one of the Colleges of Residence and be so close to the action was very attractive.

What are your strongest memories of your time at the University of Melbourne? 

I have very strong memories of the campus itself - the camaraderie and first year hijinks at Newman College and the three pre-clinical years spent on campus. The large cohort of med students, the huge lecture theatres, the on-campus entertainment, the social activity around the North Court and the delights of exploring Carlton and the surrounds. It was an intoxicating mix for a wet behind the ears, seventeen year old from the bush.

What goals did you set yourself when you finished University and have you stuck to that plan? 

My goal was to work as a procedural GP in the country. So, I spent a few years working in the UK, doing obstetrics, paediatrics and anaesthetics to better prepare me for that role. Then for twenty-five years, I worked in rural ‘cradle to the grave’ practice, delivering babies, giving anaesthetics, performing surgery and having hospital inpatients - the whole box and dice. I was lucky enough to be around for the golden era in country general practice.

What drew you to general practice and what do you love about it?

I was drawn to general practice by the diversity of the role, the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and to be able to work as part of a local community.

I love the fact that a GP can have an ongoing longitudinal relationship with patients and their families and assist them through the various stages of their lives.

After years as a rural family GP, what have found are the biggest differences in rural practice to your current work?

The main difference is the opportunity to do more procedures in rural practice like obstetrics, surgery and anaesthetics, as well as being able to admit patients to the local hospital and care for them as inpatients yourself. There is more continuity of care and it is less fragmented than in city practice.

Can you tell us more about the work you currently do at Albert Park Medical Centre?

My work in Albert Park is typical city based general practice. I see mostly young families and do a lot of shared care obstetrics for the Royal Women’s Hospital, as well as some acupuncture. skin checks and men’s health work.

I also work one morning a week at the Sacred Heart Mission GP Clinic in St Kilda, dealing with a completely different demographic to Albert Park, including many homeless people with complex mental health problems and poly substance abuse.

What was your career journey that lead you to write your first novel? What was your inspiration for ‘Hard Labour’?

GPs are uniquely placed to observe human nature in all it’s forms and witness the agony and ecstasy of our patients’ lives.

I became keen to chronicle some of this and for 15 years wrote a fortnightly column about the vagaries of general practice for ‘The Australian Doctor,’ a national medical magazine. I read a lot of contemporary Australian fiction, including crime, and the idea of writing a novel myself started to take shape. It was a crazy notion, because I didn't really have the time.

What was your biggest learning from the process of writing your first novel? What surprised you about the process?

I dashed off a draft of ‘Hard Labour’ and was convinced it was a masterpiece. Sadly, publishing houses didn’t share my view and I eventually learned about the need for revision, revision and revision, as well as the value of expert, albeit savage, editing. I was surprised how hard it is to keep language simple and eliminate irrelevant verbiage. (As my family, friends and patients would testify, I’m very prone to irrelevant verbiage.)

Do you have any advice for aspiring doctors or novelists?

To aspiring doctors, I would say - go for it, I can’t imagine a better career.

To aspiring novelists, I would say - go for it, but best to have a day job too!

About Hard Labour

After a medical mishap, Dr Vince Hanrahan crashes professionally and personally, is all but struck off, and the Medical Board kicks him all the way down the Princes Highway to be a rural GP. Supervised. On notice. He rents a dump, lives off takeaway, and plans to see out his time before regaining his rightful position on the specialist pedestal. 

Vince's old terrors resurface when he sees his young patient dead on the labour ward floor. The investigation declares the cause of death suspicious. Unless he can find out who did it, and why, the Board will come after him. And he’s on his last chance. 

After another suspicious death, Vince realises that only he can clean up this mess; it’s time to pull his finger out. With the help of the IT-savvy Senior Constable Elena Genovesi and Emu Quick, a dying junkie and drug dealer, he sets up an elaborate, high-risk sting. 

But even if he can get through this, has Vince lost his old life forever?

Praise for Hard Labour

“I loved the pace of this book. At times, I felt as though I was watching it on the screen as I could so easily picture Vince's messy rented house, his teenaged twin daughters, and his work place and colleagues. I enjoyed it being set in Victoria where I recognised authentic aspects of regional life in Australia. But, ultimately, it's just a good, well-paced whodunnit!” – Goodreads reviewer

“Hard Labour is a surprising detective story and a wonderful introduction to the characters for Bill Batemans’s planned future books. A new detective is on the horizon.” – Goodreads reviewer

To read more about Hard Labour, please click here.