Hot Lights, Cold Steel by D. P. Lyle

by John T. Cullen

When forensic and criminal behavior expert Dub Walker agrees to help his old friend locate her nineteen-year-old daughter, he never imagines the nightmare that will follow. Authorities discover the bodies of the daughter and of another young woman, in a shallow grave, in a densely wooded area, excavated by feral pigs. Far more disturbing: both young ladies were buried after undergoing a series of highly technical surgical procedures. Soon, police find nearly two dozen more bodies in various rural locations around the city, and even in the massive midtown public cemetery. Now Dub must unravel the questions. Who would do this? Who had the skill and the equipment to perform these procedures without attracting attention? And more importantly, why?

Award-winning author Dr. D. P. Lyle, M.D. is a medical doctor, forensics expert, and practicing cardiologist whose medical thrillers are backed up by years of training and work experience.

Dub Walker, a consultant to the FBI’s Behavioral Assessment Unit and a former homicide investigator, first appeared in D. P. Lyle’s 2010 medical thriller Stress Fracture, a ‘dark serial-killer thriller’ (Booklist).

D. P. Lyle, thanks for talking to us today. Who is Dub Walker? How did he get his name? What unique talents does he bring to the task—and what exactly is the task?

Dub is an expert of sorts in forensic evidence and criminal behavior. As part of his back story he spent time working at the Alabama Department of Forensic Science in Huntsville, Alabama, where the stories are set and incidentally my hometown. He also spent about 18 months with the FBI’s Behavioral Assessment Unit as a consultant. He’s written many books on these subjects so is a quasi-expert. The one thing he discovered while working in forensic science is that he had a knack for seeing how evidence linked together and for understanding how the perpetrator of the crime must have planned his criminal activity. For this reason he is consulted on various difficult or unusual crimes.

I went to school with a guy named Dub. He was actually Little Dub and his dad was Big Dub. I always liked the name and so I used it for this character. Incidentally, I also went to school with a guy named Slick. And you guessed it. He was Little Slick and his dad was Big Slick.

Tell us about Dub Walker’s past. He is a former homicide investigator.

Dubs background is that he attended medical school but didn’t quite finish. When he was only weeks away from graduating his sister disappeared from a parking lot at the medical center. He was supposed to meet her at a certain time but was late arriving and when he finally showed up the only thing left was one shoe and her purse. She was never found in the crime was never solved. His guilt threw him into depression, causing him to leave med school. His depression ultimately resolved when he joined the Marines. Not much room for self-pity in the corp. His time there was spent as an MP, which gave him police experience. He then worked at the forensic science department for six years where he gained his skills and then his stint with the Behavioral Assessment Unit. From there he became a consultant and author. He also owns a lumber company that he inherited from his father. This pays the bills while he gets involved in cases.

In creating this character I wanted him to have medical knowledge but not be a physician. I did not want him to have a license. If so, there would be many things he could not do in order to protect that license. I wanted him to be able to bend the rules and even break them if necessary.

Dub’s driving need is to catch bad guys. The killer of his sister got away and that fact causes him to take every case personally. This is what drives him forward but it is also his weakness in that he tends to charge headlong into an investigation and sometimes gets in too deep.

Is he still, in this second novel, a consultant to the FBI’s Behavioral Assessment Unit?

No, he doesn’t do formal consulting with them but he does call on them from time to time. In this novel there is no need for that so he does not interface with the BAU in this story.

What can you tell us about Dub Walker’s personal life? Is there a love interest for him?

During his period of depression after the disappearance of his sister he had a brief marriage to Claire McBride who is a TV investigative reporter. Claire is tough, smart, and as stubborn as Dub. They still love each other and spend quality time together–as friends with benefits type situation–but they also lock horns since both are so stubborn. Claire can be extremely sarcastic but mostly in a teasing way.

Dub’s best friend is Homicide Investigator Tommy Tortelli, or T-Tommy as he is called. They have been best friends since the fourth grade, played football together throughout their school years, and now work together to solve crimes. T-Tommy is a straight-ahead in-your-face kind of guy who also has little patience with rules and regulations.

Tell us about the novel’s story arc, as you see and feel it. Your premise sounds very intriguing—that someone with expensive equipment and sharply honed skills may be history’s most technologically advanced serial killer.

One of the things that Dub brings to any investigation is his understanding of the type of individual that would perpetrate the crime and how he must’ve gone about doing it. In this story they are confronted with a series of murders in which the victims seem to have been subjected to multiple surgeries using very high-tech equipment prior to their death and dumping. Dub is brought to the investigation because an old friend is looking for her missing daughter. As the investigation unfolds and more bodies are found with the same types of injuries, Dub must work with T-Tommy and Claire to uncover who had the motive, means, opportunity, and skills to perform these procedures and ultimately the murders.

What brought you, Dr. D. P. Lyle, to writing? What were your early reading interests? What movies have you most enjoyed? Anything else cultural or artistic we should know?

I grew up in the South where you must be able to tell stories, otherwise they won’t feed you. If you can’t spin a yarn you’re not worth much. Everybody in the South is that way. The simplest tale of what happened yesterday becomes a multipart story with multiple characters, setting, dialogue, and subplots. That’s just the way it is. I always said that when I retired I would write some of the stories that I’ve been thinking about for years. But approximately 15 years ago I decided, “If not now, when?” So since I have no intention of retiring from cardiology anytime soon I took some classes at UCI–the University of California at Irvine. I also joined a couple of critique groups and began writing.

I read constantly and my favorite authors are James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard. I read everything by them as soon as it comes out. I also enjoy Tess Gerritsen, Michael Palmer, Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, Sandra Brown, Lee Child, and the great T. Jefferson Parker. There are many others but these are some of my favorites.

As for movies, I tend to like psychological thrillers and in fact thrillers of all types. I thought the “Dragon Tattoo” trilogy of movies was outstanding–the Swedish versions with subtitles. I of course like all the Hannibal Lecter movies. My favorite movie of all time?  Inherit the Wind. It’s a little different than a thriller but it’s historically significant, wonderfully written, and incredibly well acted. I mean Spencer Tracy. What else do you need to say?

What intrigues and excites you about writing? Do you feel writing is an alternative career, an escape from the demanding rigors of medicine, or both? Many medical doctors have been successful authors, many of great poetry or fiction. What is the connection? Is it the analytical aspect? The puzzle or problem solving as in diagnosis?

Where else can you sit in a dark room and kill three or four people before breakfast? They needed killing. I swear. I love writing. I love sitting down at the computer and trying to spin a story. I find that first drafts, the heavy lifting, are not my favorite part, but rewriting and editing I really enjoy. It’s the time that you really create the story. I write every day or at least work on something related to writing every day.

Actually, I think that being a professional in a scientific career often interferes with storytelling. Physicians, myself included, tend to think and act linearly. Scientifically. Stick to the facts. It’s a necessary part of the profession. But when it comes to fiction, all of that structure must be cleared out of the way so the story can be told. The story is the bottom line, the science is simply the background of the story. We physicians often think too scientifically and this can get in the way of creativity as far as storytelling is concerned. That said, I know many physicians who are incredibly talented in other creative fields. Writing, music, art, you name it.

Will we see Dub Walker again, or will you revisit Samantha Cody? Did you learn anything from the Cody series that makes the Dub Walker series stronger?

The next Dub Walker story is already completed and I’m going through the final revisions right now. I’ve also begun work on another novel that just might turn into a Samantha Cody novel. I haven’t decided that yet.

Thanks again for taking time to interview with us today. Best of luck in all your future writing, and of course in your brilliant medical career.–JTC

*****

D. P. Lyle is an award-winning author of medical suspense thrillers as well as nonfiction books in which he offers his expertise at forensic science. Dr. D. P. Lyle, M.D. is a medical doctor. He is a practicing cardiologist in Orange County, California.

He won the 2005 Macavity Award for Best Non-Fiction for his how-to book Forensics for Dummies. He has also authored the nonfiction books Murder & Mayhem, Forensics & Fiction, and Howdunnit: Forensics.

In June 2011, he has two new novels appearing: Hot Lights, Cold Steel (Medallion Press) a Dub Walker medical thriller; and Royal Pains: First, Do No Harm (Penguin Putnam, TV series tie-in).

He has been nominated for the 2011 Edgar Award, the 2011 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award, and the 2011 Anthony Award. In 2005, his nonfiction book Forensics for Dummies was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.

His earlier Dub Walker thriller is Stress Fracture. He has also written two Samantha Cody thrillers, Devil’s Playground and Double Blind. He wrote an essay, ‘The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne,’ published in Thrillers: 100 Must Reads (2010). A DVD, Forensic Science for Writers, was released as part of the Killer Fiction Workshop Series (2006).

As a lecturer and consultant, he has worked with many novelists, and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.

 

John T. Cullen

John T. Cullen writes fiction and nonfiction. He is the author of A Walk In Ancient Rome, Revised Second Edition (Sep 2009; nonfiction/ancient history); Lethal Journey (Sep 2009, dark thriller based on a true 1892 crime/ghost story); Umnitsa (WW2 espionage thriller); The Generals of October (suspense: what if we had a Second Constitutional Convention?); and nearly two dozen other books.

Visit John at: www.johntcullen.com.

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