Pretty Ugly

Pretty Ugly book, Sean Hillen author

Cosmetics create beauty, but when that turns ugly, it’s lethal.

A thrilling, intriguing ride through the murky undercurrent of corporate and political machinations bridging the complex worlds of medicine, media and modeling, in both the United States and Ireland.

What physical horrors can rogue nano-particles, a thousandth time smaller than a human cell, create when they flood through your body contained within a simple cosmetic? Facing the terrible truth, an unlikely trio – Colm, an investigative journalist, Dr. Gray, a skin specialist and Patricia, a celebrity model - embark on a dangerous mission. If they move fast enough, they can save lives. If they don’t …

Pretty Ugly,’ a contemporary novel based on scientific facts, links medicine, media and modeling, the US (Kansas City, Boston, New York and Washington) with Ireland (Belfast and Donegal), with elements of Celtic mythology and magic realism.

‘Pretty Ugly’ is a high-end contemporary fiction, grounded in cutting-edge medical science, with a hint of magic realism, focusing on the challenges facing the trio in a race against time as they struggle to lift the veil of secrecy on a powerful cosmetics company intent on concealing the health hazards from toxic ingredients in one of its key products. Ironically, the greatest risk is contained inside an ordinary concealer - nanoparticles so tiny they infiltrate nerve and blood cells causing untold damage.

This first ever novel set on the northwest Wild Atlantic Way, it embraces the three 'Cs' of celebrity, cosmetics and Celtic mythology and confronts two key issues of our time - the decline of traditional media such as newspapers in face of the all-reaching Internet and the lack of research on potential dangers associated with the ever-expanding and largely unregulated use of nano-technology.


Praise for ‘Pretty Ugly’:

Pretty Ugly” is a fascinating tale that takes us from Kansas City to Washington, D.C. and on to Ireland – a genuine tour de force from a global journalist turned global novelist. It’s a fast-moving triumph from a writer who really knows his way around human relationships, especially those involving politicians, editors, doctors and even strangers lurking in the mysterious fogs of Éire!” (STEPHEN FARNSWORTH is a political science professor and founder of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies, University of Mary Washington. Multi-book author, Fulbright scholar and national commentator, including The Washington Post, Reuters, The Chicago Tribune and MSNBC.)

"Start with a natural raconteur who is at home in Romania as Kansas City. Add a shot of old-school newspapering, a sinister dose of big medicine and the right mix of Irish humor and moral indignation, and you get a novel as bracing as a shot of Jameson."(MIKE WEATHERFORD is Arts & Entertainment Reporter and Columnist for the 'Las Vegas Review-Journal' newspaper and author of 'Cult Vegas.')

"Seasoned journalist and writer John Sean Hillen has filed a story that’s as entertaining as it is timely.  "Pretty Ugly" is a richly written novel that is both journalistic procedural and cautionary tale about the cosmetics industry, politics, and corporate journalism. When they collide, it can be pretty ugly."(JOHN DEDAKIS is a novelist, writing coach, former CBN White House correspondent and senior copy editor for CNN’s ‘The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.’ Adjunct journalism faculty member at University of Maryland-College Park.)

“Rich in detail, this is a novel by an astute observer. Sean Hillen is a curious and peripatetic writer and he gives his readers a remarkable sense of place and time in this elaborate story of political, journalistic and medical intrigue. From a midwestern newsroom to the halls of Congress to the ‘brown-black turf bogs beyond Cnoc Fola,’ Hillen not only takes us on a narrative journey, he places us there.” (JIM KUHNHENN, newspaper bureau chief, editor and Congressional and White House correspondent, past president of the Washington Press Club Foundation and former member of the Congressional Standing Committee of Correspondents


Profile Photo Sean Hillen

About Sean Hillen

During a 40-year media career, Sean Hillen has been war correspondent, medical reporter, arts reviewer, travel writer, editor, publisher and author, as well as media trainer and creative writing coach with Ireland Writing Retreat.

Born in Belfast, northern Ireland, he wrote for Belfast Telegraph newspapers and The Irish Times before emigrating to the United States to work at the United Nations Media Center in New York. He moved to the Midwest with Scripps Howard Broadcasting, now an NBC-affiliate, and then The Kansas City Times, becoming the daily newspaper’s health and science correspondent.

Sean’s writings have also appeared in other newspapers including Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Business Post, as well as specialized publications such as American Medical News, the national newspaper of the American Medical Association, American Nurse, national magazine of the American Nurses Association, and Nursing Times in England.

After winning regional and national journalism awards, Sean left the US for Eastern Europe immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as a volunteer with the Human Rights League to establish the first post-Communist journalism schools in Romania. This led to him working with international aid agencies such as the British Council, United Nations Development Fund, Soros Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). He was a foreign correspondent for The Times and The Daily Telegraph, London, before establishing his own national publishing and events company based in Bucharest for 15 years.

Reflecting his achievements in academics – including two postgraduate degrees in economics and journalism – Sean was elected chairperson of the US Fulbright Commission in Romania, a position he held for four years. He was also honored by the President of Romania for launching the nation’s first-ever Corporate Citizen, Civic Journalism and Community Service Awards.

Sean’s other books include a guide to media training and a light-hearted, intra-country travelogue entitled ‘Digging for Dracula’ published exactly 100 years after the first publication of Irish author Bram Stoker's famous Gothic novel, 'Dracula' as part of the centennial celebration.

Sean shares his life with his Transylvanian wife, Columbia, and two enchanting collies, Siog (‘fairy’ in Irish) and Lugh (the Celtic Sun God) in the ‘Forgotten County’ of Donegal, a northwestern region boasting the most awe-inspiring landscapes on Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way.’

All books by Sean Hillen

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