Mixing in Humor with the Thrills
By J. H. Bográn
According to Tom Hanks’s character in A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball!”—a maxim that feels as real as “There’s no comedy in thrillers!” Be that as it may, a myriad of authors have proved the latter theory wrong. Chief among them is author D. P. Lyle and his Jake Longly series.
In this latest entry, SUNSHINE STATE, Jake Longly and girlfriend Nicole Jamison are hired to prove that two of the seven murders tagged to convicted killer Billy Wayne Baker were not his doing at all—even if he previously confessed to all of them because of DNA found in the seven crime scenes.
Lyle says the story started with the classic “what if?” What if a confessed serial killer, who is doing consecutive life sentences for seven murders that he confessed to, suddenly decided to come forward stating that two of the murders were not by his hand?
Billy Wayne Baker obviously knows which ones he didn’t do, if he’s telling the truth, but he refuses to say. His take is that only a completely independent investigation would be believed, and if he hired someone and then guided them in a certain direction, no one would believe the outcome and the actual killers would probably get off. On the other side of that coin, Billy Wayne could simply be tweaking the system and looking for a little more media facetime. Jake, Nicole, Pancake, and Ray must figure it out.
They have their work cut out for them.
After taking the case, the four travel to a small town in Florida. The choice of location was deliberate.
“Come on? Florida? Why wouldn’t I? I mean Florida is another planet,” Lyle says. “It’s not like the rest of the United States. Florida is kind of a funnel for the East Coast. Everything is drawn that way by gravity. And again, they run out of real estate and settle in Florida. Another thing is that encompassing such a diverse population, on many levels, makes for great relationships and conflicts. The story in SUNSHINE STATE is so quirky that it had to be set in Florida because, well, anything can happen there. It’s Florida, Jake.”
And speaking of Jake Longly, Lyle’s protagonist has remained the same in that he’s still a fun-loving, less than ambitious guy who just wants life to be easy. He likes his bar/restaurant on the Gulf Coast and would rather just hang out there. Still, he appears to have evolved in certain areas. For example, Jake was always a ladies’ man and constantly chased the next romantic adventure.
“With his relationship with Nicole, he seems to have settled a bit and is completely content in her company,” Lyle says. “And the feeling has grown mutual. Not sure where this relationship is going but I am sure that there will remain one throughout the series. Jake and Nicole make a great couple and their dynamics are just too much fun to write.”
On mixing humor in with the thrills, Lyle says, “People say that it’s very difficult to write humor or to develop a comedic voice. For me, it was always natural. My favorite family stories, those that occurred while growing up with my parents and my two sisters, were always humorous. Mom could unwind a yarn and was always funny; Dad had a wicked sense of humor that was quieter and much drier. We just always found things funny. I still do. The dark humor of medicine is always present. It’s much like cops. You had to be there, but if you were, it really was funny. I swear. So, I find humor in everything. If you look back at my previous books—the Dub Walker and Samantha Cody series, and of course, the Royal Pains media tie-in novels—humor is sprinkled throughout the stories. When I decided to write the Jake Longly series I wanted to make it lighter and more humorous. Less hard-boiled crime and detailed forensic science, and more just a fun ride. That’s the goal anyway.”
Lyle has always enjoyed reading thrillers—the pace and the excitement of the story. The love for the genre began with the discovery of Jules Verne’s wonderful stories Journey to the Center of the Earth and Mysterious Island. This led to international, political type thrillers, and the works of folks like Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follett, and Jack Higgins.
“From there I moved on to more crime-oriented fiction, and read Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and then further down the path to more modern authors such as Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke,” Lyle says. “The definition of a thriller, a mystery, and a crime novel is quite muddy and often it’s difficult to peg a particular story as one or the other. But, this entire group that is lumped under the banner of crime fiction is what I read and write. At the end of the day, I think it’s the thrills and the puzzles that are involved in many of these stories, as well as fantastic characters, that draw me to read and write in these genres.”
Work is never finished with an ongoing series, and Lyle is already at work on the next book, titled Rigged. It’s the fourth in the series and comes out next year from Oceanview Publishing.
“With the book already in the pipeline, I also have a new series that I call my Cain/Harper series. The first in this series will be coming out in October and is titled Skin in the Game. It’s being published by Suspense Publishing,” Lyle says. “Bobby Cain and Harper McCoy were raised by a quasi-gypsy family that wandered throughout the South. They were basically a group that traveled together and committed crimes. Bobby became an expert knife thrower and Harper a consummate con artist. All before they were 12 years old. Which is when the family was disbanded by the FBI and they were sent their separate ways to different orphanages. They didn’t meet again until they were both on the other side of the world, Bobby as an expert assassin who employs knives and stealth, and Harper, a black ops controller for the CIA. Of course, they’re led into dark and dangerous corners where things don’t always work out as planned.”
In addition to being a successful author, Lyle helps coordinate an important part of ThrillerFest. “For the first ThrillerFest, I was given a single track of eight classes for a series of craft lectures. Not the usual panels but a single teacher teaching a single subject to a group of aspiring writers. I, of course, did what I always do, and recruited Kathleen Antrim to help set up the classes. The feedback was strongly positive, so CraftFest was born.”
CraftFest has evolved into a day-and-a-half multitrack craft school. From that spun off the ITW Online Thriller School and author Steve Berry’s vision, Master Class.
“I’m biased of course, but I think these educational programs are one of the many things that sets ITW apart from most organizations and a main reason ThrillerFest is the best conference every year.”