In the Blood

How Two Outsiders Solved a Centuries-Old Medical Mystery and Took On the US Army


By Charles Barber

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$37.00 CAD

The "high-stakes" true story of how an absent-minded inventor and a down-on-his-luck salesman joined forces to create a once‑in‑a‑generation lifesaving product: "Suspenseful storytelling helps us see and feel the struggle and frustration, the sweat and tears . . . Inspiring” (Robert Kolker, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Valley Road).
At the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, dramatized by the popular film Black Hawk Down, the majority of soldiers who died were killed instantly or bled to death before they could reach an operating table. This tragedy reinforced the need for a revolutionary treatment that could transform trauma medicine. So, when Frank Hursey and Bart Gullong—who had no medical or military experience—discovered that a cheap, crushed rock called zeolite had blood‑clotting properties, they brought it to the military's attention. The Marines and the Navy adopted the resulting product, QuikClot, immediately. The Army, however, resisted. It had two products of its own being developed to prevent excessive bleeds, one of which had already cost tens of millions of dollars. The other, "Factor Seven," had a more dangerous complication: its side effects could be deadly. Unwilling to let its efforts end in failure—and led by the highly influential surgeon Colonel John Holcomb—the Army set out to smear QuikClot’s reputation.
Over the course of six years, Hursey and Gullong engaged in an epic struggle with Holcomb for recognition. Ultimately, a whistle‑blower inside the Army challenged the Army’s embrace of Factor Seven, which resulted in a massive lawsuit led by the U.S. Department of Justice. The lawsuit focused further attention on the financial ties between the pharmaceutical company that produced Factor Seven and Holcomb’s research institute.
By withholding QuikClot—which later became the medical miracle of the Iraq War—and in the use of Factor Seven with its known, life-threatening risks of heart attacks and strokes, the lives of countless soldiers were imperiled. Using deep reportage and riveting prose, In the Blood recounts this little‑known David‑and‑Goliath story of corruption, greed, and power within the military—and the devastating consequences of unchecked institutional arrogance.

  • “The captivating, often cinematic story of how a medical innovation was improbably developed, fiercely resisted, and ultimately adopted…. the most powerful aspect of “In the Blood” is its deeply empathetic sketches of the key figures, typically men who grew up with limited resources, who endured hard times, and who somehow forged a life for themselves and persisted in the face of adversity.”
    The Wall Street Journal
  • In the Blood is an amazing, all-too-true underdog story with intensely high stakes—thousands of lives in the balance. Medical miracles don’t happen overnight, and Charles Barber’s suspenseful storytelling helps us see and feel the struggle and frustration, the sweat and tears. The result is inspiring.”
    Robert Kolker, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Valley Road
  • "In the Blood is that wonderful kind of true story that is at times utterly unbelievable. Yet Charles Barber’s deep research and graceful prose turns it into something even greater: a portrait of an unlikely yet perfect friendship, a testament to the marriage of ingenuity and salesmanship, a fierce interrogation of groupthink, and a tribute to the courage of American soldiers and corpsmen. The story is inspiring, yet so many moments left me shaken."
    Jeff Hobbs, New York Times bestselling author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
  • “Charles Barber’s In the Blood is a riveting tale of discovery, perseverance, and dedication to the simple idea that you can do well by doing good. In Barber’s accomplished hands, Frank Hursey and Bart Gullong become the everyday heroes you hope succeed and rejoice when they do.”
    William D. Cohan, New York Times bestselling author of Power Failure and House of Cards
  • “Astonishing and often disturbing...this story of innovation and persistence merits a wide audience.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • "In The Blood is the finest kind of journalism: Riveting, seamless and utterly fascinating. The invention of QuikClot will go down as one of the great medical dramas of our era."  
    Sebastian Junger, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Storm and Tribe
  • "Important, vivid, engrossing ... In the Blood is a whistle-blower story, an idea-that-changed-the-world story, a last-chance-at-redemption story and a rags-to-riches-American-dream story. [Barber] evokes the psychic force field of money and power as it warps the ethics even of distinguished, principled doctors and soldiers. And he captures the agonizing moment when truth tellers within an inflexible bureaucracy feel their organization turning on them, with the virulence of the immune system turning on a deadly germ."
    New York Times
  • "Fast-paced, races like a thriller. Barber leads readers on the path from product invention to implementation -- and it's a treacherous journey."
  • "An engrossing and fascinating history of [a] simple but miraculous discovery, as well as the personal stories of the unsung heroes who fought to get it into medical kits the world over."
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    Pete Earley, author of The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison
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  • “An elegantly written account tackling one of the most important moral issues of our time—the role of redemption in our justice system and our society. This book offers an unforgettable rendering of a life redeemed.”
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    “[An] informed writer on cultural history as well as neuroscience, psychotherapy, and economics . . . A blockbuster essential for all libraries.”
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  • "Passionate yet fair-minded."
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  • "Chronicles the extraordinary psychopharmaceuticalization of everyday life that has arisen in recent years and appears to be growing apace. Barber marks out the inconvenient truths on our path to emotional climate change but also offers alternatives to readers who wish to avoid pharmageddon.”
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On Sale
May 30, 2023
Page Count
304 pages

Charles Barber

About the Author

Charles Barber is a Writer in Residence at Wesleyan University, a Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, and the author of the critically acclaimed books Songs from the Black Chair, Comfortably Numb, and Citizen Outlaw. He was educated at Harvard and Columbia universities, and lives in Connecticut with his family.

Learn more about this author