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Author Archives: D.P. Lyle, MD

About D.P. Lyle, MD

Author, Lecturer, Story Consultant

Writers Beware: The Sharks Are Out There

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Why is this shark smiling?

Because he’s going to eat your career.

It’s not news to us writers that the world of publishing is undergoing a great upheaval. Some good, some less so. But regardless, it is changing.

And since there is profit in chaos, predators take advantage of this confusion. Maybe it’s an agent that charges reading fees. A publisher who asks writers to pay for book production. A publicist that promises to get you “out there” and then does little. Or perhaps a contract that looks good but in the end gobbles up your hard work like a Great White Shark. And many more scams, often very well disguised.

What’s a writer to do? Like everything else in life, educate yourself so you will know what lies in these treacherous waters. A recent article by Elizabeth S. Craig is a good starting point.

Keep you eyes open and always ask questions. If you don’t like the answers you get, turn the page and walk away. In the long run, you’ll win.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Writing

 

Q and A: How Could My Character Keep Blood In a Liquid State For Later Consumption?

Q: I have a killer who drinks the blood of his victims. If he wants to bleed out a victim and wind up with blood in his freezer that he can reheat in a Mr. Coffee, I assume he’ll need some sort of anticoagulant. Is that right? Would he have to use it immediately at the murder scene? What would the average person have access to that could serve this purpose, especially if he didn’t preplan his first kill. Better still, is there some way to reconstitute the blood after it coagulates?

Craig Faustus Buck, Sherman Oaks CA

 

LEFT: Clotted and Separated Blood RIGHT: Unclotted Blood

LEFT: Clotted and Separated Blood
RIGHT: Unclotted Blood

 

A: Actually there are several ways to accomplish this. If your killer has access to the victim for several days or weeks prior to the event, he could slip some Coumadin into his food daily for two or three weeks prior to the killing. Coumadin, or warfarin, is an oral anticoagulant that works mostly in the liver to prevent blood clotting. It takes a week or so to build up to levels that would keep the blood liquid.

That might be cumbersome for your story, so there is another choice. Heparin. Heparin should be given intravenously but it works immediately as an anticoagulant. Your killer could inject a large dose of heparin right before the killing. This would of course require that he have full control of the victim or at least convince the victim that the injection was harmless. Either way, if he gave 100,000 to 200,000 units of heparin intravenously the victim’s blood would be anti-coagulated within seconds and he could then bleed him and store the blood as a liquid for an extended period of time.

Lastly, as he drained the blood he could put it into a container that contained EDTA. This is what is used in the blood vials when blood is drawn that needs to be anti-coagulated for certain tests. It’s a white powder that is available from pharmaceutical supply houses. Mixing some of this with the blood would prevent it from coagulating so it could be stored as a liquid.

As far a reconstituting it, once blood clots it immediately begins to separate into the reddish clot and the yellowish serum. Vigorous shaking or running it through a blender could remix the blood, resulting in a red liquid that he could then consume.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Blood Analysis, Medical Issues, Q&A

 

Guest Blogger: Juan Dillon: Sherlock Holmes: Forensic Science Pioneer

Holmes

 

There are very few characters that have managed to assume a personality as pronounced as that of Sherlock Holmes. Even though he was a fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes was and still is often given the same respect that one gives to a real person. Apart from infusing life into his characters, Doyle was a visionary as well. He created this amazing character that solved crimes with panache and used methods that would be adopted in the field of law making only decades later. Forensic science was not even in its infancy when Holmes solved all those mysteries. When Doyle wrote Holmes, the situation was such that it required eyewitness accounts and ‘smoking gun’ evidence to convict a murderer. It was very easy for murderers to roam scot free as there was practically no evidence against them.

Holmes used fingerprints, blood stains and chemistry to zero in on his suspects. It was fascinating because these methods were not in prevalence at that time. In many ways he has contributed to the existence of the modern detective. Holmes used blood splatter patterns and bullet trajectory analysis to solve some of his cases. Every forensic detective today has a lot to learn from Holmes when it comes to toxicology. There were many cases where Holmes used scientific methods that involved chemical analysis and even analysis of handwriting. One of the biggest contributions to the world of forensic medicine by Holmes is the ‘exchange principle’ according to which when two things come into contact with each other, one leaves a trace on the other.

The ramifications of the exchange principle were enormous. This means that cases could be solved years or even decades after they were committed. There are instances of how people were exonerated years after they were erroneously imprisoned. There have also been cases of how cases were solved years later and the culprits brought to book. This was possible only through the methods made famous by Holmes. Poisoning was one of the most popular methods of murder in those times and the reason for that was because it was virtually impossible to detect many kinds of poison with the technology available at that time. Holmes would use scientific methods to check the presence of poison in corpses and detect whether a death was indeed natural or unnatural.

In fact there were a few avid readers of Doyle who became so fascinated with the world of forensics that they even set up laboratories for the purpose of research. A Frenchman named Edmond Locard built a forensics lab 23 years after Doyle envisioned a similar one in one of his books. In his lab he kept samples of soil, hair and mineral fibre. This was perhaps the first ever lab that eventually evolved into the state-of-the-art labs that are used by Scotland Yard or FBI. Holmes was also obsessed with something that has now become a science of sorts. He used to analyse shoe prints to solve many of his cases and now that is called Gait analysis. He was also the person who came up with the idea of using dogs to track criminals. He was aware of the ability of a dog’s keen sense of smell way before his contemporaries.

The use of footprints, fingerprints, handwriting etc were a few innovations that can be attributed to Dolye’s intrepid detective. He even did decryption of ciphers, a science that would not be developed even decades after Doyle’s death. It can be said without doubt that Sherlock Holmes, if he was a real human being would have been the world’s first ever forensic scientist. And the credit to that goes to his creator, the visionary called Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Author Bio: Juan Dillon is a freelance writer and currently working as a review developer at EssaysOrigin.com, and online platform for customers to choose best essay writing services by evaluating the professional reviews on various companies. He loves the profession as it’s also covers some sort of intellectual findings while working on review creation.

 

Can Odor Reveal the Time Of Death?

One of the most important determinations that the medical examiner must make in any death investigation is the Time Of Death (TOD). This alone might help solve a homicide. Who had the motive, means, and opportunity? The time of death relates to the opportunity. If the death occurred while the primary suspect was in another state or had a solid alibi, then he moves down the suspect list. On the other hand, if the TOD was determined to be a time frame where he was in the neighborhood, then he remains a viable suspect.

The ME uses many techniques to help estimate the TOD. Check out this ARTICLE for a brief overview of these techniques. One of the methods he employs is the degree of decay that has occurred. He must take into account the environmental conditions near the corpse and then must make a best estimate as to how fast the decomposition process would have advanced under those conditions. This is always a best guess, as is the case with each of the techniques he employs.

When a corpse decays it undergoes a chemical decomposition and this process releases many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the surrounding air. These compounds are at least partially responsible for the odor of decay and they tend to be released in a predictable pattern as the decay process progresses. What if these VOCs could be sampled and used as a more scientific method for determining the Post Mortem Interval (PMI)? That is, the time since death.

Research is currently underway to assess this technique. Using the combination of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS), researchers have found that these volatile chemicals can be trapped and analyzed. Hopefully this technique will prove to be useful in narrowing down the TOD. We’ll see.

 

Gas Chromatograph

Gas Chromatograph

 

 

 

2014 Thriller Award Winners

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Another wonderful CraftFest/ThrillerFest has ended. A very busy and exhausting week but can’t wait until next year.

I want to congratulate all of this year’s Thriller Award winners as well as our new Grand Master Scott Turow and Silver Bullet Award winner Brenda Novak. All well deserved.

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL

Andrew Pyper – THE DEMONOLOGIST (Simon & Schuster)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL

Jennifer McMahon – THE ONE I LEFT BEHIND (William Morrow Paperbacks)

BEST FIRST NOVEL

Jason Matthews – RED SPARROW (Scribner)

BEST E-BOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL

Rebecca Cantrell – THE WORLD BENEATH (Rebecca Cantrell)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

Cristin Terrill – ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (Disney-Hyperion)

BEST SHORT STORY

Twist Phelan – “Footprints in the Water” (Ellery Queen)

Scott Turow, ThrillerMaster

Brenda Novak, Literary Silver Bullet Award

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 13, 2014 in Writing

 

Crime and Science Radio: The Skeleton Crew: A Conversation with Deborah Halber

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The Skeleton Crew: A Conversation with Deborah Halber on the Amateurs Who Are Finding the Missing and Solving Cold Cases

For decades, all across the United States, tens of thousands of missing persons cases have grown cold. At the same time, a mounting number of unidentified remains have been discovered and have been stored in coroner’s offices or buried in potter’s fields. But the Internet has been changing all of that. We talk to Deborah Halber, about some of the challenges and changes in the world of the unidentified dead and those who try to name them.

BIO: Deborah Halber started out as a daily newspaper reporter, then turned to the dark side to do public relations. She worked as a writer and editor for Tufts and as a science writer for MIT, where she chronicled everything from quantum weirdness (that’s the technical term) to snail slime. A freelance journalist since 2004, her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, Inked, Technology Review, and Symbolia. Her narrative nonfiction book, THE SKELETON CREW: HOW AMATEUR SLEUTHS ARE SOLVING AMERICA’S COLDEST CASES, is just out from Simon & Schuster. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the National Association of Science Writers, she lives near Boston in a house with a lot of former pets buried out back.

 

LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2014/06/29/crime-and-science-radio-with-deborah-halber

 

LINKS:

Deborah Halber http://deborahhalber.mit.edu/

NamUs: The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System http://namus.gov

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children http://www.missingkids.com/home

NOKR: The Next of Kin Registry http://www.nokr.org

Black and Missing Foundation http://www.blackandmissinginc.com/cdad

Clark County Nevada Coroner’s Office: Las Vegas Unidentified  http://www.clarkcountynv.gov/depts/coroner/unidentified/Pages/default.aspx

Provincetown Site for Lady of the Dunes http://www.provincetown-ma.gov/index.aspx?NID=618

Todd Matthews Tent Girl Site http://www.angelfire.com/tn3/masterdetective2/

Porchlight International http://z10.invisionfree.com/usedtobedoe/index.php?showforum=41

The DOE Network http://www.doenetwork.org

The Charley Project http://www.charleyproject.org

America’s Missing Adults http://americasmissingadults.com/

California State Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit http://oag.ca.gov/missing

Ohio Missing Adults http://www.ohiomissingadults.com/

WDAZ: Remains Found 31 Years Ago in Wyoming Identified as Missing Minnesota Native http://www.wdaz.com/content/remains-found-31-years-ago-wyoming-identified-missing-minnesota-native-0

People Magazine: Murdered Teen’s Remains Given to Her Family 46 Years Later http://www.people.com/article/philadelphia-missing-girls-jane-doe-identified-family

Story About The Skelton Crew by Deborah Halber in Time Magazine: How to Solve a Murder With Just Your Computer http://time.com/2973705/how-to-solve-murder-with-computer/

 

Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference Begins July 24th

The 21st Annual Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference will take place from July 24-27 in Corte Madera, CA. This conference has a strong tradition of great authors and teachers. Mystery writers learn all the clues to a successful writing career. Editors, agents, and publishers share with participants what they need to know to get published. Authors offer classes on setting, dialogue, suspense and point of view. Panels of detectives, forensic experts, and other crime-fighting professionals provide invaluable information that allows writers to put realism into their work. Faculty members this year include Valerie Plame, Anne Perry, Tom Rob Smith, Isabel Allende, Cara Black, D.P. Lyle, John Lescroart, David Corbett, George Fong, Laurie King, Otto Penzler, Jacqueline Winspear, and many more!

 

Link to register: http://bookpassage.com/mystery-writers-conference

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Writing

 

Visine and Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy

visine-1

 

Visine is a useful medication. I use it all the time. When the Santa Ana’s blow in SoCal and the temperature rises, the humidity falls, and eyes dry out, Visine works very well. When used properly it is very safe and effective—-but, if used improperly, it can be a deadly poison.

Actually, anything can be deadly. The difference between a drug and a poison is simply a matter of dose. What can cure, can harm; what can harm, can kill. It’s really that simple.

The active, and dangerous, ingredient in Visine is tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride. If ingested in sufficient amounts, it can cause an elevation in blood pressure, a drop in heart rate, a reduction in body temperature, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, blurred vision, seizures, coma, and death, to name a few effects.

The case of Samantha Elizabeth Unger underlines this danger. Seems she poisoned her two children by adding the medication to their juice. And may have done so multiple times—-which could indicate that this is a case of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy—a psychiatric disorder in which parents harm children in order to garner attention and sympathy. Odd, but not rare.

Recently on Crime and Science Radio, Jan Burke and I interviewed Beatrice Yorker, the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at California State University, Los Angeles and a renowned expert in Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy. Take a listen and check out some of the links for more info on the fascinating topic.

 

 

Samantha Cody Trilogy Giveaway Begins Today

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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Writing

 

Book Review: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Cop Town

 

 

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Delacorte Press

June 24, 2014

ISBN-10: 0345547497

ISBN-13: 978-0345547491

416 pages

 

Unblinking and in your face

Karin Slaughter writes tough, gritty crime fiction. Unblinking and in your face. Always filled with tough and committed characters who are deeply flawed. Her villains are always well-drawn, evil, and totally believable, with clear agendas that drive their actions. Cop Town is such a story and just might be her best yet.

Set in 1974 among the mean streets of Atlanta and within the corrupt, racist, sexist Atlanta PD, the story revolves around two female officers, one seasoned, one a rookie, who essentially serve as co-protagonists. Each has easily exploited weaknesses, while possessing skills and a toughness that drives the story.

Maggie Lawson comes from a cop family. A family that is dysfunctional on many levels. Maggie tries to live up to the standards demanded by her hard-nosed uncle and brother while trying to retain her own humanity. She is thrust into the chase of a brutal cop killer, whose motives aren’t readily apparent, the only thing known for sure that he will kill again. The clock is ticking and Maggie feels the pressure at every turn.

Entering this pressure cooker is first-day-rookie Kate Murphy. Jewish, strikingly beautiful, privileged from her tony digs in Buckhead Atlanta, and completely over her head. Yet, when she and Maggie team up, they create a powerful symbiosis that proves to be more than capable in the good-old-boy world of Atlanta cops.

The story is fast-paced, with unexpected twists and turns, and a climax that is shocking yet inevitable. A great read.

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Book Review, Writing

 
 
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