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PRESS RELEASE

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Contact: Elizabeth Fogarty
212/572-2693
efogarty@randomhouse.com

Inside the FBI’s investigation of the anthrax attacks
Controversial smallpox experiments at the CDC and the race for a new vaccine
Meet the scientists and government officials waging the war against bioterrorism
Exclusive interviews with Dr. Stephen Hatfill and top FBI agents

THE DEMON IN THE FREEZER
A True Story
___________________________________
RICHARD PRESTON
Author of the #1 Bestseller THE HOT ZONE

“Never mind Ebola, the hemorrhagic disease that was the main subject of Preston’s #1 bestseller The Hot Zone. What we really should be worrying about, explains Preston in this terrifying, cautionary new title is smallpox, or variola… Preston humanizes his science reportage by focusing on individuals – scientists, patients, physicians, government figures. That, and a flair for teasing out without overstatement the drama in his inherently compelling topics, plus a prose style that’s simple and forceful, makes this book as exciting as the best thrillers, yet scarier by far, for Preston’s pages deal with clear, present and very real dangers.”
- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Preston guides us deftly on another scary excursion into the world of really bad viruses – this time smallpox, with a side helping of anthrax. The author’s steady, ominous voice gives the world of smallpox a particular grimness… Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from microscopic infectious agents? Welcome to Mr. Preston’s frightening neighborhood.”
- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Richard Preston is available for interviews in:
New York Thursday, October 10 and ongoing
Washington Tuesday, October 15
Atlanta Wednesday, October 16
Chicago Thursday, October 17

The anthrax attacks in October 2001 -- the first major bioterror event in the United States and the second largest investigation in FBI history – were a wake-up call for American scientists working with hot agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In THE DEMON IN THE FREEZER: A True Story (Random House; Publication date: October 15, 2002; $24.95), his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, Richard Preston takes us inside the Centers for Disease Control and USAMRIID --the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases—once the headquarters of the US biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense.

At the heart of Preston’s chilling narrative is Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at USAMRIID and one of the chief scientists involved in the anthrax investigation. Jahrling – a virologist with top secret security clearance -- is convinced that smallpox is in the hands of bioterrorists and of rogue states like Iraq and North Korea.
He sees smallpox as the greatest threat to national security – a new genetically engineered superpox virus that is resistant to the vaccine.

Preston introduces us to D.A. Henderson, the head of the smallpox eradication program and now the bioterrorism czar in the Bush administration, and chronicles the amazing story of the campaign he led to wipe smallpox from the planet. “The Eisenhower of the eradication,” Henderson organized a handful of doctors and thousands of health workers scattered around the world who worked tirelessly to contain outbreaks. In India alone, they paid almost 2 billion house calls. The eradication of smallpox was widely seen as one of mankind’s greatest achievements, saving an estimated fifty to sixty million human lives. “No greater deed was ever done in medicine,” Preston writes, “and no better thing ever came from the human spirit.”

A battle broke out over whether to destroy the last remaining stocks of smallpox, and in the end, a victim of cold war politics, smallpox was put into dormancy in two sets of freezers – at the CDC in Atlanta, and at Vector, a virology lab in Siberia. But in a terrible irony, the eradication of smallpox made it into one of the world’s most appealing biological weapons. Russia began to mass produce it in secret and set its scientists to work to genetically engineer a new smallpox virus that would be resistant to the vaccine. In THE DEMON IN THE FREEZER, Preston discusses:

  • Controversial experiments being conducted inside BioSafety Level 4 labs at the CDC where scientists are reawakening the smallpox virus and infecting monkeys with live smallpox for vital vaccine research.
  • In 1991, the World Health Organization destroyed 99% of the smallpox vaccine stockpile to save $25,000 dollars a year in electricity costs. Currently, they have 500,000 doses of smallpox vaccine – less than one dose for every 12,000 people on Earth. To replace the stockpile would cost half a billion dollars which they cannot afford.
  • Infectious Disease Experts had a secret meeting at the National Institutes of Health in April 2002 to assess the fallout from a smallpox outbreak in the US. They concluded that an outbreak “would make 9/11 look like a cakewalk” and were told to keep their findings secret.
  • Visiting American scientists have learned that delegations of officials from Iran tried to hire Vector in Russia (the only official repository of smallpox besides the CDC) as a subcontractor to do unspecified research into such viruses as Ebola, Marburg and perhaps smallpox.

In THE DEMON IN THE FREEZER, Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’s response to the anthrax attacks. He reveals the competition and conflict between the CDC and the Army scientists and lets us follow in the footsteps of the FBI investigation as they hunt for the anthrax terrorist. He shares his exclusive 1999 interview with Steven Hatfill, whom the FBI investigated, and reveals what the FBI knows about the terrorist – their profile of the suspect, how much the terrorist knew about forensic methods (enough to avoid even breathing on the envelopes which would have left DNA evidence), the exact “moon-rock” appearance of the anthrax particles, which stunned scientists and FBI investigators, and he explores the theory that the terrorist is an American scientist. Preston also reveals:

  • The FBI has taken possession of Steven Hatfill’s research freezer from the Level 4 labs at USAMRIID and is testing its contents.
  • The anthrax in the terrorist attacks was formulated using a super-powdered glass called nanosilica, which made it much more powerful.

Medical experts say that one case of smallpox would constitute a global emergency. In THE DEMON IN THE FREEZER, Preston takes us to the front lines of the US Army’s secret war against biological weapons and shows, with devastating clarity, what may be at stake for all of us if Jahrling’s bold and controversial experiment to develop a new vaccine fails.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Richard Preston is the author of The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, and The Cobra Event, a bioterror thriller, also a New York Times bestseller. A writer for The New Yorker since 1985, Preston won the American Institute of Physics award and is the only nondoctor ever to have received the CDC’s Champion of Prevention award. He lives near New York City.

 

MEDIA APPEARANCES

National Print
New York Times – daily review
New York Times – Op-Ed
The New York Review of Books
The New York Times Book Review
Entertainment Weekly – review
Associated Press review

National TV
NBC/Today Show – 10/10
CNN/Wolf Blitzer – 10/10
CNN/Late Edition w/Wolf Blitzer – 10/12
CNN/Newsnight with Aaron Brown - date to come

National Radio
NPR/Fresh Air – 10/7
Westwood One Radio Network/Jim Bohannon – 10/10
ABC Radio Satellite – 10/10

Local Print
Atlanta Journal Constitution - review
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - review
Seattle Times - review
Dallas Morning News - review
Washington Post Book World - review
Newsday - review
Chicago Tribune - review
Orlando Sentinel - review
St. Louis Post Dispatch - review
Rocky Mountain News - review
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - review


TOUR CITIES / EVENTS

New York
NBC/Today Show
WNYC/New York & Company – date to come
Washington – 10/15
USA Today/feature
XM Radio/USA Today Book Report – air date 10/31
Atlanta – 10/16
WGST Radio
WAGA-TV/Good Day Atlanta
Woodruff Health Sciences Center at Emory University – talk and signing
Chicago – 10//17
WGN Radio/John Williams Show


 

 

 

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