Robin Cook: Master of medical thriller on his new novel, "Cell"

Dr. Robin Cook -- best-selling medical thrill... 04:06

Medical thriller blockbusters make millions for the movie industry: you might know “Contagion” or “Outbreak.” But in the beginning, there was “Coma.” All are based on books by Robin Cook.

“‘Coma’ made people realize that the metaphor of being put to sleep is not really what's going on,” Cook told CBS News’ Don Dahler. “In fact, when you read ‘Coma’ you realize you're being poisoned to the point of death and then saved at the end of the procedure."

Cook is considered the father of the medical thriller. He's a doctor and a novelist, with most of his 33 books turning into hits. Cook's latest tale is called "Cell,” and it went on sale this week.

Cook wrote “Coma,” his first New York Times best seller, in 1977. He followed that book to Hollywood, but started writing in an unlikely place.

"You know where I started my writing career? In a submarine. I was underwater in a nuclear submarine,” said Cook.

Cook served as a navy doctor for almost three years, and practiced medicine for 15 years. Yet, he's famous for his imagination, especially when his fiction becomes reality.

“Back when I wrote ‘Outbreak’ about Ebola, I mean, Ebola was a real virus. There had only been an outbreak in Congo when I wrote about it, but to me, it was so obvious that this was gonna happen all over,” he told Dahler. “When the swine flu and the avian flu were both in the same location together in China, I started getting really worried, which is the reason that I wrote ‘Contagion.’"

And if his prognosis is again correct, look no further than his newest book, “Cell,” to meet the doctor of the future - a smartphone app called “iDoc.” But the technology takes a dark turn.

In the book, the app serves as a customizable personal physician which supposedly can diagnose and treat better than a real-life doctor. The app’s creator awakens one morning to find his fiance dead after participating in an iDoc beta test and then several of his patients also die after being part of the same test.

"Everybody thinks of their cell phone as their - it's the first thing they touch in the morning, the last thing they look at night. Well, there is a bad side,” said Cook. “I woke up two summers ago in the middle of the night and I said, ‘My gosh, I know what's gonna happen.’" 

Cook invests his time and money into homes around the country. He's written most of his books in Florida, but when he's in search of some inspiration, he writes in a little alcove, in his ski house.

"If I have a plotting problem, I don't know why it is, but I go up to New Hampshire and it's really cold out and the fire's crackling and I sit on the couch and all of a sudden I seem to come up with the solution,” he said. “So, it is a big luxury, but it's been a luxury that has made sense."

To watch Don Dahler's full report, watch the video in the player above