Monthly Archives: November 2013

Crime & Science Radio: David Corbett: Private Investigators: Who Are These Guys?

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Join DP Lyle and former PI and gifted writer and teacher David Corbett for a lively trip through the worlds of private investigation and fictional character development. With the irrepressible Corbett this will be a wild ride.



David Corbett:

PIs, Wikipedia:

Detective Fiction, Wikipedia:

List of Fictional PIs:

Top 10 Fictional Detectives:

How PIs Work:

What A PI Cannot Do:

101 Things a PI Can Do:

PI tactics in the era of corporate espionage:

Anthony Pellicano, “Thug to the Stars” (and Inspiration for Ray Donovan):,0,2662582.storygallery

Palladino & Sutherland:

The PI and Politics: Jack Palladino and Gennifer Flowers:

The PI and Politics: The Paula Jones Case:

PI Jack Palladino Explains Who He Is and What He Does:

Jack Palladino, PI for Bank of New York:

Roy Radin and The Cotton Club Murders:

Jim Jones and The People’s Temple:


Book Review: Deadline by Sandra Brown




“… intelligently written, deftly paced, and convoluted…”

Sandra Brown has built her stellar career on gritty stories that always involve high tension: political, social, personal, psychological, and, of course, sexual. Often with anti-hero protagonists, chilling antagonists, and a cadre of deeply drawn supporting characters, her stories are edge-of-the-seat, deep-into-the-night tales. Deadline is such a story.

Dawson Scott is a highly-respected journalist, freshly back from war-torn Afghanistan where he brought back a bag full of soldier stories as well as a dose of PTSD so severe he must self-medicate with alcohol and psychotropic drugs to fend off his nightmare-driven insomnia. The last thing he wants is another story about a damaged soldier. But retiring FBI agent Gary Headly, who is Dawson’s godfather, convinces him to dig into the love-triangle murder of Marine Jeremy Wesson and Darlene Strong by Darlene’s husband Willard.

Dawson resists the story, thinking sitting in on the trial a waste of time. But since his godfather requested he do so and since his other option was to follow orders from his editor and cover a story about blind balloonists, he plops down in the courtroom, bored and disinterested. Until the beautiful Amelia, Jeremy Wesson’s ex-wife and witness for the prosecution, walks into the courtroom. After her direct testimony is completed, the trial recesses for a long holiday weekend after which she must return for what is anticipated to be a grueling cross examination. Dawson follows her to a small coastal South Carolina island where she and her two young sons are hiding from the media storm surrounding the sensational case. He leases the house next door in the hopes of an interview, not to mention getting to know her a better, unaware of how their lives will intertwine.

But is he the only one keeping an eye on Amelia? Is there more to the story than a simple double murder?

For Amelia, the long weekend is anything but relaxing. Odd things begin happening. Lost articles turn up in strange places, broken items are miraculously repaired. By whom? Why? The stranger next door, Dawson Scott, befriends her sons and her nanny, who later turns up murdered while a violent storm hammers the coast. Her only ally seems to be the kindly old man who has rented the house next to hers every summer for many years.

From Dawson, Amelia learns more about her ex-husband’s past than she ever wanted to know. More than she wants her sons to know about their father. And each revelation raises more questions. Is her ex truly dead? After all, he body was never found. Where is her long-missing father-in-law Carl Wingert, a domestic terrorist and one of the FBI’s Most Wanted. When last seen decades earlier, he was head of the Rangers of Righteousness and disappeared during a Ruby Ridge-type shootout with Agent Headly at Golden Branch, Oregon. Has he reentered Amelia’s life? Does he have a role in the double murder, or the strange happenings? Who killed her nanny? Who wants her dead? And more importantly why? Who can she trust?

The answer to each of these questions is revealed in a fast-paced conclusion that will keep the reader guessing until the end. Not to mention up late flipping pages.

This story is classic Sandra Brown. It is intelligently written, deftly paced, and convoluted to the point that each character must dig deep into his or her own past and current psyche to make sense of the chaotic world around them. Highly recommended.

Original review for the NY Journal of Books:


Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Book Review, Writing


MURDER & MAYHEM Available Again

My first Q&A book MURDER & MAYHEM has been out of print for a few years. My agent Kimberley Cameron and I recently got the rights back (Thanks, St. Martins) and the book is now available in the various electronic formats from Reputation Books.

And with a new cool cover to boot.

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“The first person I call for help is Dr. Lyle.”

-Matt Witten, executive story editor for LAW and ORDER

Mystery writers are you looking for answers? In Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers, Dr. D. P. Lyle culls the best of his popular “The Doctor Is In” question-and-answer column for the Mystery Writers of America, in which he answers medical and forensic questions from writers all over the country.

A frequent advisor to published mystery writers, as well as writers for TV shows such as Law and Order, Dr. Lyle tackles subjects such as traumatic injuries, doctors and hospitals, weapons of death, poisons and drugs, police and the crime scene, the coroner and the crime lab, and more. In extremely organized and accessible detail, he answers questions spanning a wide range: Do pupils shrink or enlarge with death? Can X rays be copied? Can ingested cocaine kill? How soon do strangulation bruises appear?

Lively and accessible, this solid reference book is bound for every mystery writer’s shelf.

Of course the other two books in this series, FORENSICS & FICTION and MORE FORENSICS & FICTION are also available.


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Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Writing


4 Key Book Publishing Paths from Jane Friedman

Excellent Infographic on paths to publishing posted by Jane Friedman. Visit her excellent Blog for more info.



1 Comment

Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Writing


Dub Walker Now in the Czech Republic

Just got the covers for the Czech Republic editions of my first two Dub Walker thrillers: STRESS FRACTURE and HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL. Big difference.


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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Writing


Crime and Science Radio: Jan Burke Interviews Cat Warren, Saturday at 10 a.m. PST

Listen in at 10 a.m. PST this Saturday or catch it later in the archives.

What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs: An Interview with Cat Warren

Cadaver dog handler Cat Warren is the author of What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs, a terrific book on dogs who work in the military, in police departments, and by searching for both contemporary and historical missing remains.  She talks with Jan Burke about how cadaver dogs and their handlers are trained, the environments and conditions they work in, and what we do and don’t yet know about how dogs find the missing dead.


Cat Warren:

What do we know about dogs noses?:

Cadaver Dog (Andy Rebmann and Marcia Koenig’s site):

National Search Dog Alliance:

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS):

FBI Statistics for Missing and Unidentified Persons in the US for 2012:


What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren

The Cadaver Dog Handbook, by Andrew Rebmann, Edward David, Marcella Sorg

Analysis of Lost Person Behavior by William Syrotuck and Jean Anne Syrotuck

Canine Ergonomics: The Science of Working Dogs by William S. Helton



Life Imitating Art? Murder or Accident?

It’s been said that art imitates life and that often life imitates art? Is the death of “spy” Gareth Williams a murder or a tragic case of autoerotic asphyxia? Is it a true mystery anticipated by an author’s question?




The Story:

The Question:

Two other posts on autoerotic asphyxia:



Dr. Michael Welner on Mass Shooters


My friend forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner speaks on the psychology that drives mass shooters:


The Rules of Fiction: My Interview in Suspense Magazine

Anthony Franze put together a wonderful series titles “America’s Favorite Suspense Authors On the Rules of Fiction” for Suspense Magazine. My interview is in the latest issue. Here it is:

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Posted by on November 11, 2013 in Writing


Guest Blogger: Jodie Renner: Thrillers vs. Mysteries


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by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker

Until the last decade or so, most readers were more familiar with mysteries than thrillers. In fact, my small neighborhood library has a section called “Mysteries” but no section called “Thrillers,” which seems weird to me! Mysteries of all sorts (cozy, hardboiled, suspenseful, etc.) are still going strong, but thrillers make up more and more of the bestsellers these days.

How exactly do thrillers differ from mysteries, anyway? Both are fiction stories involving criminal activity, catching the bad guy(s), and at least one murder.

Two main differences stand out. First, in a mystery, neither the reader nor the protagonist knows who the killer is. The whole idea is to figure out “whodunit,” then apprehend the bad guy. In a thriller, the reader often knows who the villain is early on, and sometimes the hero does too. The object is for the hero to outwit and stop the killer before he kills others, including the hero, or endangers the world. Also, in mysteries, the protagonist is not usually in danger, whereas in thrillers, the protagonist is almost always directly threatened, fighting for his life as he matches wits with a clever, determined, amoral villain.

The other main difference between mysteries and thrillers is in the delivery—how they are told. Mysteries are usually more cerebral, for readers who enjoy solving puzzles, whereas thrillers are more heart-pounding, adrenaline-raising, appealing to the emotions and a yearning for excitement, a desire to vicariously confront danger and defeat nasty villains. A mystery, especially a “cozy” one, can unfold in a leisurely fashion, but thrillers need to be much more fast-paced and suspenseful.

David Morrell, , author of about 28 thrillers, explored the difference between mysteries and thrillers several years ago. His detailed description included this: “Traditional mysteries appeal primarily to the mind and emphasize the logical solution to a puzzle. In contrast, thrillers strive for heightened emotions and emphasize the sensations of what might be called an obstacle race and a scavenger hunt.” (David Morrell,

James N. Frey, author of How to Write a Damn Good Thriller and How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, among other “damn good” books on writing, describes the differences like this:

“In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer.

“In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil.”

Frey goes on to elaborate, “a thriller is a story of a hero who has a mission to foil evil. Not just a hero—a clever hero. Not just a mission—an ‘impossible’ mission. An ‘impossible’ mission that will put our hero into terrible trouble.”

According to International Thriller Writers, a thriller is characterized by “the sudden rush of emotions, the excitement, sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace.”

ITW defines thrillers as a genre in which “tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world.”

Part of the allure of thrillers, they say, comes from not only what their stories are about, but also how they are told. “High stakes, nonstop action, plot twists that both surprise and excite, settings that are both vibrant and exotic, and an intense pace that never lets up until the adrenaline-packed climax.”

Here are some distinctions James Scott Bell makes between the two, in his book, Conflict & Suspense:

Mystery = Who did it?  Suspense = Will it happen again?

Mystery is about “figuring it out.”  Suspense is about “keeping safe.”

Mystery is a puzzle.  Suspense is a nightmare.

Mysteries ask, “What will the lead character find next?”

Suspense asks, “What will happen next to the lead character?”

I asked some friends, clients and colleagues what they thought the main differences were between these two genres. According to thriller and horror writer Allan Leverone, “In a mystery, the crime has already been committed, but the hero and the reader must figure out by whom. In a thriller, the crime (at least the biggie) hasn’t been committed yet, but the reader knows who the bad guy is; the question is whether he can be stopped.”

My friend, bestselling suspense-mystery and thriller writer LJ Sellers, tells me she recently read that in a thriller, the villain drives the story, versus mystery, in which the protagonist drives the story.

And finally, another friend and colleague, bestselling thriller and horror writer Andrew E. Kaufman says, “Here’s a less conservative, completely off-color definition, coming from a less conservative, completely off-color mind: A thriller is like mystery on Viagra. Everything’s more amped up, fast-paced, and frenetic. A good thriller should keep your heart racing, your fingers swiping at the pages, and your rear on the edge of its seat. Of course, those lines can be blurred. Many authors straddle the fence between the two. Nothing is in black and white, and gray is a beautiful color.”

True – there are those fast-paced mysteries that seem to straddle both genres. For suspense-mysteries, I love Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar stories and Robert Crais’s Joe Pike and Elvis Cole stories, among others.

Which do you prefer, mysteries or thrillers?

It probably depends on your mood, but personally, I usually prefer the adrenaline rush and pulse-pounding suspense of thrillers!

Who are some of your favorite contemporary thriller or mystery writers?

What about your favorite thriller characters?

For series, I love Robert Crais’ Joe Pike and Elvis Cole, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar, Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch, and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and the two men in her life — both hunks!

For more on this topic, check out Tom Sawyer’s recent post over at The Thrill Begins blog: “Mysteries & Thrillers – The Differences”:

Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER (Silver Medalist in the FAPA Book Awards, 2013). Both titles are available in e-book and paperback. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.


 Jodie blogs


Posted by on November 5, 2013 in Guest Blogger, Writing

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