Author Interview: D. P. Lyle
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 movie Dial M for Murder spins a tale of someone trying to plan the perfect murder. The killer miscalculates and his plan goes awry. If anyone could get away with murder—forensically—my money would be on author Doug P. Lyle. He’s a practicing cardiologist in Southern California, written several non-fiction books on murder and forensics for writers, and authored several mystery novels. He knows how to write about murder.
Author D. P. Lyle, MD is the Macavity Award winning and Edgar® Award nominated author of the non-fiction books, Murder and Mayhem, Forensics For Dummies, Forensics and Fiction, and Howdunnit Forensics: A Guide For Writers as well as the fiction thrillers, Devil’s Playground and Double Blind. His next medical thriller, Stress Fracture, will be released in April, 2010. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law and Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, and 1-800-Missing.
MARK: Your next novel, Stress Fracture, is scheduled for release in April. New York Times bestselling author James Rollins writes about your novel: “If Michael Crichton had written an episode of Law and Order, here might be the result.” Is this a fair assessment? Give our mystery readers a taste of what to expect in this Dub Walker series.
DOUG: Those were very kind words from Jim and I greatly appreciate them. The story is a fast-paced thriller with little downtime for the reader. It has a brutal and confusing killer, a lot of forensic science, and hopefully it will give the reader some entertaining hours of reading and maybe a sleepless night or two. The story deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD and its effect on an unstable individual. The reader knows the killer early on but he does not know why he is doing what he is doing. And of course Dub Walker must not only interpret the forensic information but also get into the mind of the killer in order to track him down.
MARK: Tell us about your main character, Dub Walker? What is his background? What are the demons he’s battling?
DOUG: Dub is a character with a history. He was a good high school athlete and a very bright student who did well in college and attended medical school. Before completing medical school, in fact only months away from graduating, he failed to meet his younger sister in a parking lot near the medical center as he had promised. He was an hour late and when he arrived he found only her purse and a single shoe. She was never seen again. This happened some 12 years before this story begins, but this is the life event that will haunt him forever as he feels responsible for not being there for her. This is what drives him to solve cases. This is what drives him to figure out the criminal mind.
After his sister's disappearance, Dub became despondent and ultimately, to shake himself from his depression, joined the Marines and served as an MP for two years. After his discharge, he returned to Huntsville and worked for several years in the forensic science lab, where he gained his expertise in forensic science. He spent time with the Behavioral Assessment Unit of the FBI as an observer and student and learned more about criminal behavior. He then became an author and wrote many books about forensic science and criminal psychology. He also possesses an innate ability to read crime scenes and evidence and to dig inside the mind of the bad guys. His current role is that of consultant on difficult cases around the country. It is the murder of an old friend that drags him into the case in Stress Fracture.
MARK: Is Dub Walker a reflection of D.P. Lyle?
DOUG: I would have to say that he has many of my characteristics and some of his own. I think most authors are that way when they create a protagonist. He has a love for science and is fascinated by abnormal behavior. He likes problem-solving. He has a strong sense of justice and personal responsibility and doesn't believe that anyone should get away with a crime. Those are the things that he and I agree on.
MARK: Tell us about the killer. Is there anything about this guy that might generate some empathy with the reader or is this villain pure evil?
DOUG: I don’t want to give too much away because this story is not so much a whodunit as it is a whydunnit. That said, even though the killer is totally out of control, there are parts of him that I believe the reader will empathize with. I'll just leave it at that and let readers decide for themselves if the bad guy has any redeeming qualities.
MARK: In terms of genre, where would you classify Stress Fracture? Police procedural? Medical/forensic thriller? Combination of these and others?
DOUG: Genres are always hard to peg and that seems to be getting more difficult every day as one bleeds into the other. But if I had to classify Stress Fracture I would say that it was a medical and psychological thriller.
MARK: You’ve authored an array of non-fiction books on forensics—Forensics and Fiction, Forensic Science for Writers, Forensics for Dummies, and the ever-popular Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers. Tells us a little about your background and how you’ve become a medical forensic expert to writers.
DOUG: If you are a physician and go to a cocktail party people ask questions about their cholesterol or their gallbladder, but if you are a physician and go to a writers conference you're immediately asked questions about how poisons work and how to kill someone with a gun. So I simply began answering questions for writers on medical issues and that immediately bled into forensic issues, which in turn led me to educate myself in that arena. I was a chemistry major in college with a minor in biology and have a medical degree and specialty training in cardiology, which is what I practice here in Orange County. So my love of science has been since childhood. I never considered doing anything else but medicine and in fact knew that cardiology was the field that I would practice even before I started medical school. Forensic science is also fascinating to me. My self-education in forensic science was actually quite simple. You can't get through medical school and specialty training without being well-versed in all the “ologies.” Pathology, physiology, pharmacology,