‘Pretty Ugly,’ a high-end contemporary fiction, focuses on the challenges facing an unlikely trio – a supermodel, a skin specialist and a newspaper reporter – as they lift the veil of secrecy on a powerful cosmetics company intent on concealing the health hazards from toxic ingredients in its products. Ironically, the greatest risk is concealed inside an ordinary concealer – nano-particles of botulinum toxin (the main substance in 'Botox') - so tiny they infiltrate nerve and blood cells causing untold damage.
Sensing a national exclusive, Colm Heaney, a frustrated medical writer at a US daily, embarks on a quest to a remote part of Ireland, in search of Patricia Roberts, a former Miss America in hiding after a bizarre accident left her severely scarred, both mentally and physically.
After finding her involved in an experimental skin procedure using the most ancient of remedies - Irish turf - Colm then finds himself involved in a major investigation that reveals corruption at the highest levels of American business and politics, with important people ready to risk everything to protect their very survival.
'Pretty Ugly,' which embraces the three 'Cs' of celebrity, cosmetics and Celtic mythology, confronts two key issues of our time - the decline of print media in face of the Internet and the lack of research on potential dangers associated with largely unregulated use of nano technology.
The book links the American Midwest with the Irish Northwest and is the first novel located on the famous ‘Wild Atlantic Way,’ with the chosen Irish location being the remote northwest region of Donegal, otherwise known as the ‘Forgotten Land.’ The plot also involves scenes and characters in the US cities of Kansas City, Boston, New York and Washington.
The tone of the book is a blend of Dean Ray Koontz and Robin Cook. ‘Pretty Ugly’ is the first novel in a proposed series with Colm Heaney as main character.
‘Pretty Ugly’ is published in memory of the late Massachusetts Senator Edward Moore ‘Ted’ Kennedy, known as ‘The Lion of the Senate.’ who spent a great part of his exemplary political life supporting varied consumer health issues and was particularly active in attempting to better regulate the cosmetics industry. May his name be writ higher than the Washington Monument itself.
I also dedicate ‘Pretty Ugly’ to a pre-eminent medical practitioner and teacher, now sadly gone from us, who encouraged me both as a health correspondent and in my first faltering footsteps into authordom. ‘Doctor Gray’ in ‘Pretty Ugly’ is a fictional character named to honor Doctor E. Grey Dimond, cardiologist and founder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Medicine and the international Diastole Scholars’ Center, now under the direction of its president, Nancy Hill.
With the agonizing decline in investigative reporting in all but the bravest and strongest of newspapers, it would be remiss of me not to mention one shining example in the field that I had the privilege and honor of calling friend. A gentle, soft-spoken man and fierce reporter – sadly departed, long before he should have left us – he not only possessed the determination and stamina to run multiple marathons but also to track down and reveal corruption at the highest levels of society, from the Midwest to the East coast, from Kansas and Missouri to New Jersey. Pulitzer Prize winning, Dunstan ‘Dusty’ McNichol, meet Colm Heaney.