She is one of the world’s most celebrated crime authors, having penned more than 30 books, however British writer Lynda La Plante had to dictate every word of her latest novel to her assistant after an eye operation left her clinically blind for three months.
La Plante – whose best-known works include the Jane Tennison book series, which was transformed into Prime Suspect starring Dame Helen Mirren – underwent surgery to remove cataracts on both eyes in 2018. However the 77-year-old said it was ultimately vanity that caused her to go under the knife.
Speaking to the Daily Mail’s Femail section, La Plante opened up about the procedure which left her temporarily unable to see, and revealed she is still unable to work at her computer for longer than 10 minutes at a time, before her eyes begin to weep.
“I couldn’t tell darkness from light, or judge steps,” she told Femail. “I fell over all the time. My legs were covered in black bruises. People thought: ‘Poor soul, she’s drunk; she’s paralytic’.”
La Plante told the publication she had initially intended to undergo laser eye surgery to correct her vision, however she was told that she was too old for the procedure by her consultant, who suggested she have the cataracts removed and permanent convex lenses inserted instead.
Cataract surgery, which is the most common elective procedure in Australia, sees the cloudy or damaged lens removed and replaced with an implant.
It is usually recommended that patients have one eye treated at a time, however La Plante had both eyes operated on at the same time – which she is now urging other people not to do.
Following the operation, she developed an infection and began seeing black dots, which she was told meant her retina was detaching. She added: “[It was terrifying]. You really don’t know how very important your sight is to you.”
While she told Femail that her vision has improved over the last six months, the long-lasting effects of the surgery mean she will never be able to drive again and must always wear a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors in the sunshine, while La Plante revealed she can no longer use word processing programmes or read regular print.
She also had to rely on her assistant to take down her latest novel ‘Buried’, a sequel to her Widows series, which she dictated word for word.
“To get to that point of dictation, I need to have hours of plotting in my head.,” she added. “I rehearse every line, work out all the repetitions of speech. I can paint you the faces of the characters.”