There are preachers and there are storytellers, as folks from New Orleans like to say, and Michael Lewis is one of the premier storytellers of our time. His latest book, The Premonition, focuses on three individuals—Dr. Charity Dean, the former assistant director of California’s Department of Public Health; Dr. Carter Mecher, who worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs; and Joe DeRisi, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at U.C. San Francisco—who conspired to work around Washington officialdom to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Journalists find it easy to envy Lewis and his success, but anyone who meets him finds it impossible not to like him, thanks to his charm and self-effacing manner.

JIM KELLY: Your new book focuses on a mosaic of medical experts who battled the Trump administration’s incompetence in handling the coronavirus. You point out that before the pandemic hit, the U.S. had been ranked by a study group as the No. 1 country able to handle such a catastrophe. And yet, as you point out, with about 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has suffered about 20 percent of its coronavirus deaths. If you had to give a percentage of blame to Trump himself, what would it be?