Available now on Amazon, Audible and Apple/iTunes
Experience the opening minutes:
Honored with the Eric Hoffer Award for the Best General Fiction Book of 2018, among Kirkus Indie’s top five historical fiction books of 2018, and winner of the AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award, January 2021, Fortnight on Maxwell Street is a reluctant hero’s journey of fear and courage set in Chicago in the spring of 1968.
24-year-old medical student Nick Weissman spends two weeks delivering babies in the kitchens and bedrooms of the inner-city’s slum tenements. Over his head medically, and unprotected in one of America’s most dangerous neighborhoods, his character and resourcefulness are tested in the extreme when a national tragedy intervenes.
The young white protagonist steps into his racial fear, testing his fledgling professionalism and his honor to care for a black family in grave danger. The embodiment of racial hatred, James Earl Ray, moves in parallel with Nick, stalking Martin Luther King, Jr., killing him and igniting the urban chaos that is the setting for the climax of the story.
A note from the author about the audiobook:
My 2018 novel, Fortnight on Maxwell Street, is a retrospective of an experience and an era a half century ago. It is a coming-of-age tale, heavily influenced by my own professional and personal journey, and an examination of racism, aptly described as a “spectrum disease” by novelist and writing professor Jessica Grant.
I could not anticipate that two years after the novel’s initial release, in the summer of 2020 amid the most serious public health crisis in a century, a collective outcry against the fundamental unfairness and immorality of racism would again be moving millions of people to protest and political action.
The novel, I believe, speaks to this American moment, and is dramatically enlivened in the new audiobook edition narrated by Chicago actor Doug MacKechnie.
David Kerns retired a decade ago from his role as Chief Medical Officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, CA and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford to devote himself full-time to writing. For the past nine years he has been a columnist and feature writer for the Napa Valley Register. Born and educated in Chicago, his inspiration for his 2018 novel, Fortnight on Maxwell Street, was his own two-week Northwestern medical student rite of passage at the Chicago Maternity Center on the city’s West Side.
Doug MacKechnie is a Chicago-based stage and on-camera actor and audiobook narrator/producer. While appearing professionally on regional stages and TV, he spent more than 20 years in business analysis, software support, project management, and data analysis. He left the corporate world for good a few years ago (safety net provided by his amazing wife Linda) and splits his time between union and nonprofit board work and the full-time actor hustle. A proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA, he is thrilled to help bring David’s Fortnight on Maxwell Street to peoples’ ears.
“David Kerns’ Fortnight on Maxwell Street is a suspenseful medical odyssey that dances along a high wire of racial tension during a tragic and historic American moment.”
James McManus, author of New York Times Bestseller Positively Fifth Street
“Kerns masterfully stitches his young and reluctant medical hero’s story together with the fascinating and dark journey of James Earl Ray as he stalks and murders Martin Luther King Jr. This realistic tapestry of life and racism in America in 1968 is profound and timely.”
Robert M. Reece, M.D., author of To Tell The Truth and Double Blind Double Cross
“A propulsive, harrowing, and moving read, from beginning to end. David Kerns delivers a nuanced portrayal of racism as a spectrum disease. We see how heroes and villains are made, how character is forged in the crucible of a historical moment. Fortnight on Maxwell Street rings absolutely, heart-stoppingly true. A book for our time.”
Jessica Grant, author of Come, Thou Tortoise
“With craft and compassion, David Kerns has written a gripping story of one young medical student’s journey into America’s racial divide in 1968 Chicago.”
Hillary Homzie, author of Queen of Likes and The Hot List
“David Kerns’ thrilling and intelligent novel follows a medical student’s inner-city trial-by-fire in a time of national peril.”
Sasha Paulsen, author of Dancing on the Spider’s Web
U.S. Review of Books: “Set in the racially and politically tense late 1960s, this slow-boiling story is part true crime novel, part coming-of-age drama. Nick’s awkward, if optimistic, new adult steps into his healing profession contrast starkly with (James Earl) Ray’s ruthless, cold-blooded predation. As the two weeks pass, suspense builds with expert pacing until the inevitable collision of life-saving and life-ending forces.
“Ray, meanwhile, is depicted in terrifying, self-contained clarity. A hunter, sub-human and consumed by images of violence and hatred, this grotesque name from history blooms to life as a fully realized and all too horrible flesh-and-blood character. In the unflinching tradition of true crime narratives from Truman Capote to Jon Krakauer, Ray emerges both real and unthinkable, a wrecking ball gathering momentum to devastate the best of humanity.”
Kirkus Reviews: A highly recommended historical tale that will make readers hope that the good doctor has more novels in him. Kerns is an engaging writer who gives the story such momentum that it fairly gallops to its conclusion. He also effectively draws on aspects of his own life, including two weeks that he spent working at the Chicago Maternity Center in real life; all of the novel’s gritty details ring as true as they should.
Rave Reviews of the Audiobook:
“Loved it. This is a fascinating peek into a time and place full of tension, excitement and humanity. All well written and well narrated. Highly recommend.”
“This was an awesome novel. I think this was even better since I am a nurse, but I think I would have enjoyed it almost as much if I wasn’t a medical professional. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story.”
“A gripping yet poignant story. This is a gripping story of racial tension and human relations with strongly developed and very realistic characters. The narration by Doug MacKechnie is outstanding and truly enhances the story. I am very impressed with this audiobook and can strongly recommend it.”
“Kerns captures the unrest and fear, the dreadful conditions of inner-city life, inequality, and racial divide of the time as only a skilled storyteller can. While suspenseful, the book is a reminder that we as a people have not moved much in our thinking or actions since then thus making this a highly emotional and poignant story.”
“The narrator, Doug MacKechnie, gives an excellent performance moving the story along as the book progresses. His voices are well done and capture the fear and confusion of the characters well. MacKechnie’s strong voices gave credibility to each character.”
“This is so much more than I expected it to be. I loved it from the moment it started until the end. A medical student’s account of his training and inner struggles working in urban Chicago during one of the most racially turbulent times in our country’s history. Wonderful story. Perfect narration. Five stars.”
“Five stars. Listening to David Kerns’ audiobook “Fortnight on Maxwell Street,” narrated by Doug MacKechnie, was a captivating experience for me. I felt the deep commitment, excitement and fear of Nick Weissman, the young white doctor, as he delivered babies in Chicago’s inner-city during the tumultuous year of 1968. In tandem with he story of the young doctor’s experiences and feelings, the author shares the experiences and feelings of James Earl Ray as he stalked and assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr., which ignited riots in Chicago and across the country. As he masterfully wove the stories together David Kerns revealed the racial tensions that existed in the United States 50 years ago, and left me wondering how much progress we’ve made since then.”
“Riveting, rewarding and revealing. Fortnight on Maxwell Street tells the compelling, comedic, and surprisingly relatable story of Nick Weissman, a 24-year-old medical student just trying to survive and earn his credentials by delivering babies at a run-down hospital in a seedy neighborhood in Chicago. Set in the Spring of 1968, Weissman’s journey is interwoven with the story of James Earl Way, on his own twisted mission to murder Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The narrative is riveting and David Kerns’ prose is nothing short of immersive. There were moments when I felt like I was actually there at a park in Chicago watching a group of Jazz street musicians performing, or buying a rifle at a gun shop in Memphis. The story also provides intelligent and insightful commentary on different forms of racism and dealing with our own submerged prejudices. While this novel was written in 2018, it was slightly eerie listening to it in 2020 and seeing the parallels between the political climate of 1968 and today. The themes explored in this story are just as relevant in now as they would have been then. Doug MacKechnie’s performance in the audiobook version was also fantastic, crisp and clear and with dynamic voices for different characters’ thoughts and dialogue. I will definitely be recommending this book to friends and family, and to anyone else looking for a good excuse to get lost in a story.”
“Narrator Doug MacKechnie introduces Nick Weissman and his Northwestern University medical school classmates, who spend two weeks in 1968 working for the Chicago Maternity Clinic. Listeners will be awed and shocked as Weissman and a midwife journey around one of Chicago’s most dangerous areas to deliver babies for the very poor. They use kitchen tables, newspapers, sheets, and towels from the household. A backstory about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, assassination adds historical context. MacKechnie captures members of Weissman’s Jewish family and, later, 14-year-old Blossom, who delivers twins. Most memorable is Chesterfield-smoking Dr. Teresa Butler, Weissman’s strong-willed supervisor. Audio is a must for traveling every step of the way with Kerns’s novel, which is based on his own own experiences.”
Experience the opening minutes:
Fritz Goro (audiobook cover)
J.L. Sousa (David Kerns)
Hillary Harbor (Doug MacKechnie)