This week I am putting the finishing touches on my manuscript. The complete title as it now stands, perhaps a little wobbly, is
The Cancer Chronicles
A Journey Through the Science of an Ancient Medical Mystery
But that is still in flux. Are there too many syllables in the subtitle? Snappier, perhaps, would be “Exploring the Science of an Ancient Medical Mystery.” But the idea of a journey is more in keeping with the feel of the book, which combines the story of someone very close, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic carcinoma, and my own attempt as an outsider to understand what science does and does not know about cancer.
A friend and I who were brainstorming about the book became very excited about an entirely different approach:
The Immortal Devil
Unlocking the Secrets of Cancer’s Earthly Reign
But my editor, whose judgment I trust, didn’t like that one. Nor did other trusted friends. And the “unlocking the secrets” trope has become such a science book cliché. Steven Rosenberg’s The Transformed Cell: Unlocking the Secrets of Cancer was published in 1992. A decade later the secrets, as far as treatment goes, remain tightly wrapped.
In the midst of all this, I was pointed toward an item in the Times’s Opinionator blog: Is This Title O.K.? by Andy Martin. It helped to be reminded that this is a universal problem for us authors. It seems harder though this time than it did for my previous eight books.