by Marilyn Meredith
& Terell Byrd
Marilyn Meredith interviews mystery author D.P. Lyle and Terell Byrd reviews his new book Royal Pains: First Do No Harm. At the end of this post is a chance to win a copy of the book. Not only is D.P. Lyle an author, but with his knowledge of medicine and forensics he has helped many other mystery authors with their research, including KRL’s publisher Lorie Lewis Ham. He is a vital part of the mystery community.
Marilyn: I’ve certainly admired you from afar for a long time, asked you questions on your Ask Dr. Lyle website, and had the honor to be on a panel with you at Bouchercon. Now I’m going to be nosy and ask you a bunch of questions. First, tell me a bit about your background.
DPL: I’m flattered and I’m glad I was able to help you with your story. Yes, I well remember our Bouchercon panel. It was a fun one.
By profession I’m a cardiologist and I practice in Orange County, California. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. I grew up in Alabama where I attended the University of Alabama for college and the University of Alabama College of Medicine for medical school and internship. I then moved to Houston, Texas where I did my residency in internal medicine and then my cardiology fellowship at the Texas Heart Institute. After that I moved to California and have been here ever since.
Marilyn: When did you first decide to start helping mystery writers? I love the questions that people ask you—and your answers. Please give the correct URL for that site.
DPL: Everything began a decade or so ago when Jan Burke was president of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She was trying to beef up the newsletter and asked if I would contribute an article. I wrote one titled “Timely Death” that discussed how the medical examiner determines the time of death. The article is on my website if anyone wants to read it. That elicited a huge response from the readers in that they wanted more of this type of information. Jan and I then designed a monthly column where I would answer medical and forensic questions for writers. After that I developed my website and things took off from there.
Marilyn: Has anyone asked you a question that you opted out of answering? And you might as well add the most bizarre questions you’ve ever been asked, either on your website or in person.
DPL: Yes. I often receive questions from people regarding a personal medical problem or a case that they are involved in and they are often seeking advice. I don’t answer these questions since it would not be proper or ethical for me to offer either medical or forensic advice to someone I do not know and who was in a situation that I was not familiar with. It would be like offering medical and legal advice to an anonymous caller. Not a smart thing to do.
Along these lines, the most interesting and bizarre situation was a female prison inmate who sent me a very detailed summary of the murder for which she had been convicted and even included colorful crime scene drawings. She of course said she was innocent and wanted me to intervene on her behalf. I never responded.
Marilyn: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
DPL: I grew up in the South where storytelling is part of growing up. I’ve often said that in the South if you can’t tell a story they won’t feed you. There’s some truth to that. I always had stories I wanted to tell, and could always spin a good yarn, but I wasn’t sure I could make that story come alive on the page. I said that when I retired I would begin to write but 15 years ago I realized that I probably would not retire for many years since I was enjoying my profession. So I basically said: If not now, when? I took some classes at the University of California, Irvine, then joined a couple of writing groups and just began writing.
Marilyn: Who are your favorite mystery writers and give us a hint as to why?
DPL: My two favorite are James Lee Burke, because he spins a great yarn and is to me the greatest living writer, and Elmore Leonard, because he is a master of dialogue and odd characters. I also read T. Jefferson Parker, Robert Crais, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Palmer, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, and many others.
Marilyn: How you came about being chosen to write the Royal Pains novels based on the TV series.
DPL: This came about from my friend Lee Goldberg. He writes the Diagnosis Murder and the Monk media tie-in novels and he was approached about doing the Royal Pains series. He suggested me to the publisher and that’s how it began. Lee, myself, and several other tie-in writers are doing a panel for MWA in Los Angeles on June 18. The details are on my website in case anyone wants to attend. It should be a fun day.
Marilyn: Will you tell us a little bit about the process of putting a TV series into book form?
DPL: Basically when you write a tie-in novel you are using someone else’s characters and creating stories based on the series. This means that there are restrictions regarding what you can do since they control the characters. You can’t go too far afield. So basically you’re taking someone else’s characters and creating a story around them, which of course must be approved by the creators from the beginning and throughout the project. It’s been an interesting and challenging process. I’ve learned a lot, which was my main goal in taking on this project. It’s a new type of writing for me in that is much lighter than the stories I write in my Dub Walker and Samantha Cody series.
Marilyn: What are you favorite TV shows? (Do you really have time to watch any?)
DPL: There are a few. I love Justified. It’s like reading an Elmore Leonard novel. Of course, he’s the executive producer of the program and the main character comes from one of his short stories. I also like Dexter, True Blood, Mad Men, Weeds, and the insanely funny Big Bang Theory.
Marilyn: What do you like to do in your spare time? If you have any, that is.
DPL:I read and travel. The latter seems to be mainly for writing conferences, however. I also play the guitar though writing has eroded the time that I used to commit to that.
Marilyn: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Dr. Lyle. Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers about you or you new venture?
DPL: Visit my website and blog. Both are fun and have some interesting information for crime writers.
Royal Pains: First Do No Harm By D. P. Lyle
Review by Terell Byrd
I admit it, up until lately, I have been living in the dark. Oh, I have electric lights for night time, but I went for years without cable and the illumination it brings. I have not caught up with all the new series that my satellite dish provides. When I heard I was going to write about this book, I watched a couple of shows from the USA network television series. If you have not watched the series from the start, it makes the relationships and storyline much clearer if you read the book first. If you have watched the series, you will have a richer experience from reading the book. A television script is like a storyboard with action telling the tale, a book rendition allows for inner thought and a more complex description of the characters.
The tale begins when Dr. Hank Lawson loses his job in an emergency room and takes a short vacation in the Hamptons. He saves a life and shortly thereafter becomes the concierge doctor (one who makes house calls) for the ultra wealthy, extremely private and mysterious Boris. Boris offers Hank the use of a guest house. Hank’s brother Evan moves in and decides to make himself CFO of the practice (HankMed). In this volume, Evan divides his time between selling new clients on the service and trying to persuade his brother to buy a van with all the amenities. The last of the main characters is Divya Katdare, a Physicians Assistant, who knew she was needed and insisted on joining the practice.
The fascinating cases in this volume include; Nicole, a bride-to-be, who keeps disappearing with no memory of why or where she went, the Mendez’s, a couple struggling with the damage done by two strokes and increasing dementia, and the appearance of Dr. Julian Morelli, a charismatic weight loss guru who inspires an almost religious fervor in his clients.
What surprised me the most was the variety of people who became Hank’s clients. There are some who are wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice and there are a number who are a paycheck away from poverty. Whether wealthy widow or poor waitress, they are all treated with the concern and compassion that everyone dreams of in a medical provider. Especially fascinating are the emergency field cases in which Hank has to improvise to keep people alive until they can reach a hospital.
This is the first television tie-in book I have read since I was a teenager, but if D.P. Lyle writes another, it will not be the last. I spent a lot of the last week telling anyone who would listen about the stories. Several people wanted to know when this show was going to air – there is a realism to the medical cases that comes from Lyle’s long career in medicine. Pick the book up for your summer vacation even if you are only going as far as the wading pool in the back yard. It is a fun read!
The third season of Royal Pains premieres Wednesday, June 29 at 8 p.m. You can learn more on their website.
To enter to win a copy of Royal Pains, simply email KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Royal”, or comment on this article. U.S. residents only please. A winner will be chosen June 26, 2011.
Terrell is a member of the Fresno Chapter of Sisters In Crime, a mystery readers and writers group. To learn more about them and their meetings check out their event page here on KRL.