Ballard author Kevin Ready describes battle against avian flu in ‘Viral’
It’s up to Karen Llewellyn and others to save the world.
Karen must be a leader during efforts to combat a pandemic, but it’s not COVID-19. It’s something deadlier: avian influenza.
And the world must work together to survive.
Fortunately, “Viral” is a work of sheer fiction, but Ballard author Kevin Ready knew the time was right for it.
The local author’s story explores a timely topic, and its locations include Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
“There’s a family in Santa Ynez that plays an important part in the spread of the disease,” Mr. Ready, 67, told the News-Press.
“Also, one of the first successes in fighting the disease is in Santa Barbara County,” said Mr. Ready, whose books include “The Big One,” a 1996 novel (later updated) about a major earthquake striking Southern California.
The Ballard resident is among Santa Barbara County authors who have worked on novels about pandemics.
Mr. Ready’s novel “Viral” (Saint Gaudens Press, $18.99) was released May 8. It can be ordered at local bookstores, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and saintgaudenspress.com.
“It’s an international thriller, but there are also a lot of individual character stories,” said the author, who’s a retired attorney for the Santa Barbara County government and a former Army judge advocate (a JAG lawyer).
“It (‘Viral’) occurs a couple years in the future after the coronavirus pandemic.” he said.
“Supposedly we’ve learned a little bit from the coronavirus, and things are handled a little different,” Mr. Ready said.
He described one lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. In “Viral,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency decide they need a universal software program to help local agencies track and control the spread of the avian flu.
He said the pandemic that people such as Bill Gates have feared has not been the coronavirus but the avian flu. Mr. Gates warned about it in a 2015 speech.
Mr. Ready said his book stands out from other plague novels by being totally based on science. He explained he has heard feedback from readers who like the book’s realism.
He said the fictional avian flu pandemic in his novel is something that could happen.
To address such a pandemic, Mr. Ready drew on his lifetime working for the government.
“I spent 25 years working for Santa Barbara County,” said Mr. Ready, a lawyer who worked in various departments. “I was one of the attorneys assigned to the Office of Emergency Services.”
In “Viral,” Mr. Ready has a U.S. government-owned plant in Thousand Oaks serve as a vaccine-making operation. The government hires a pharmaceutical company to create a vaccine but controls the operation, which Mr. Ready considers to be more efficient than what’s happening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government is spending millions of dollars with various companies as it awaits the development of a vaccine.
Mr. Ready, a Mason City, Iowa, native who grew up in Denver, enlisted in the Army in 1971 and served as an interpreter of Russian and Arabic messages that were intercepted at a Berlin listening post. His work included the Yom Kippur War, which involved Egypt, Syria, Russia and Israel.
During this time, Mr. Ready studied at the University of Maryland campus in Berlin and earned his bachelor’s in politics and government in 1974.
After leaving Berlin, Mr. Ready stayed in the Army Reserve and attended the University of Denver, where he earned his law degree in 1976.
Afterward, Mr. Ready joined the Navy and became a missile officer on a guided missile cruiser off the coast of Iran when the nation held Americans hostage. But he wanted to be closer to home, so he requested a transfer to the Navy’s JAG Corps. When the Navy declined his request, he returned to the Army and served as a JAG lawyer there from 1981 to 1983.
“In 1984, I got out of government service and ran for Congress back in Iowa,” he said.
Running as a Democrat, Mr. Ready lost to Jim Leach, a liberal Republican who decades later supported a Democrat, Barack Obama, in his successful campaign against U.S. Sen. John McClain, R-Ariz., for president.
“We became good friends during the campaign,” Mr. Ready recalled about the 1984 race. “The day after the election, we sat down and had breakfast together.” (Mr. Ready ran for Congress a second time in 1994 in a district encompassing part of Ventura County, but lost to former U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, a Simi Valley Republican.)
In 1988, Mr. Ready went through a divorce and was a single father when he started working in California at the Imperial County Counsel’s Office. He didn’t like the hot climate and moved in 1991 to Santa Barbara, where he worked in various attorney positions for Santa Barbara County. They varied from county tax attorney to public works attorney and senior deputy county counsel.
He was also the attorney for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and wrote measures D and A, which are paying for local highway projects.
Mr. Ready’s favorite job was his last one as a legal adviser for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
“I enjoyed working with Sheriff (Bill) Brown and all the deputies,” said Mr. Ready, who moved in 2005 to Ballard from Santa Barbara.
Mr. Ready retired in 2018.
He has two sons, ages 37 and 40, from his first marriage and a 22-year-daughter and 17-year-old son from his current marriage to Olga Ready.
In addition to “Viral,” Mr. Ready has released another novel, “A New Chance.” It’s about Naomi, who wakes up in a hospital treating mental illness. There, she struggles to understand a soul-wrenching change that has stripped her of her identity but also offers her a second chance.
“My books have always crossed the boundaries of genres,” Mr. Ready said. “ ‘New Chance’ is one of those. There’s an underlying supernatural event.”
The novel also involves stories about love and war.
“Viral” by Kevin Ready (Saint Gaudens Press, $18.99) can be ordered at local bookstores, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and saintgaudenspress.com.