RSS

Author Archives: D.P. Lyle, MD

About D.P. Lyle, MD

Author, Lecturer, Story Consultant

Small Town Crimes; Small Town Cops

Recently Mystery Readers Journal had a two-part series on articles about small town cops. Mine appeared in Volume 2—and here it is. If you don’t belong to Mystery Readers International and subscribe to the Journal, you should.

Small Town Crimes; Small Town Cops

For me, small town crimes are big time fun. Crimes set in big cities, with large and sophisticated police forces, are good but when murder happens in a more closed community, it’s more personal. The cops, or PIs, or amateur sleuths who investigate such tragedies more often than not know the victims, and the suspects. That’s the way it is in small towns.

The cop likely got the job because no one else wanted it. The coroner is the local undertaker. Homicide detectives? Nope. Don’t have one of those. Maybe Barney, at best. So the pressure on the investigators is even greater. And the watchful eyes of the community add another layer of conflict. Good stuff.

The police station is in an old house, the chief hangs out at the local diner, the corruption a personal affront. No faceless bad guys here. The killer is part of the community. The secrets are tightly bound to local history. There are many examples.

The best, in my opinion, is James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series. Dave is an ex-New Orleans cop who now lives near New Iberia. LA—the home of Tabasco—a small town nestled among the swamps in the Atchafalaya Basin. Nowhere in modern literature does the locale play such a role in stories. The geography, the weather, the colorful characters create a feeling that is real and actually makes your clothes stick to your body as you read them. Mr. Burke puts you there. And Dave is constantly battling his past and nefarious characters who seem to continually slither from the swamp.

Linwood Barclay’s Promise Falls series is set in a small upstate New York town that has seen better days and has secrets within secrets. And it’s these secrets that often drive the narrative. His cast of characters include a cop, a PI, a newspaper man, and all the usual suspects you see in small town America.

And then there’s Chief Kate Burkholder, Linda Castillo’s wonderfully complex and conflicted ex-Amish cop. When Kate left the fold, she was shunned by many members of the order, yet in each story she must return to that community to solve one sordid crime after another. Her past not only allows her to understand the community but also causes personal and political conflicts she must navigate. This is what great storytelling is all about.

And  what about the death rates in Kinsey Millhone’s Santa Teresa, CA and Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove? This would give anyone pause before moving to either. But these towns and their skeletons play major roles in Sue Grafton’s alphabet novels and the hit Murder She Wrote TV series. These stories simply wouldn’t be the same if they played out in a larger, more impersonal locale.

I grew up in Huntsville. AL and that’s where my Dub Walker series is set. Sure Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center is the heart of the US Space Program, and the city has more scientists than you can shake a stick at, but Huntsville is a small town at heart. Drive 15 minutes in any direction and you are in the depths of rural America. Farmland and small communities. This small, tight-nit community plays a major role in each story.

RTG 200X300

In my Samantha Cody series, Sam hales from the tiny town of Mercer’s Corner. You won’t find it on a map because it’s a total fabrication. But it sits roughly where the town of Amboy is—you don’t even have to blink to miss it—where I-40 and the old Route 66 part ways. The town’s compressed geography and isolation play a large role in Devil’s Playground. The story simply would not have worked in New York. And when Sam travels, and invariably becomes involved in murderous situations, it’s always to a small town. In Double Blind it’s Gold Creek, Colorado (also a fabrication) along the famous San Juan Parkway, while in Original Sin it’s Remington. TN—loosely based on Winchester, TN—where many of my ancestors resided.

OS 200X300

DEEP SIX, the first in my new Jake Longly comedic thriller series, is set in Gulf Shores, AL and environs. Though Gulf Shores now boasts hoards of multi-million dollar homes and high-rise condos, it remains a small town. And everyone knows Jake, his PI father Ray, and his friend Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers. These entanglements are evident throughout the story.

DS 300X458-72

So, for me, small towns and small town cops make the best stories. The geography, the closed communities, and the many secrets these places strive to protect, complicate the stories in a way a large urban area never could.

Published in Mystery Readers Journal Volume 32, Number 4, Winter 2017

http://mysteryreaders.org

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Master CraftFest Is Nearly Filled

ITW-blue-white

Master CraftFest Is Nearly Filled

If you plan to come to New York this July for ThrillerFest and CraftFest and want to sign up for Master CraftFest, do it today. The classes are nearly filled so don’t miss out.

Master CraftFest is ITW’s unique, one-day, hands-on workshop led by a group of stellar and experienced teachers of the writing craft. Join us and take your writing to next level.

This year’s instructors are Steve Berry, Lee Child, Grant Blackwood, Meg Gardiner, Andrew Gross, Steven James, Gayle Lynds, and DP Lyle.

Sign up Now: http://thrillerfest.com/master-craftfest/

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Writing

 

Dub Walker Thrillers Discounted on Kindle

Pick up my three Dub Walker thrillers at a discounted Kindle rate on Amazon this week. Follow Dub, Claire, and T-Tommy as they track a serial killer (Stress Fracture), a scientist with zero morals (Hot Lights, Cold Steel), and a couple on the run after the public murder of a child killer (Run To Ground).

 

Stress_Fracture_Cover.indd

STRESS FRACTURE

INFO: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/stress-fracture.html

AMAZON LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Stress-Fracture-Dub-Walker-Lyle-ebook/dp/B004D4YIE8/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0

 

HLCSCover300X450

HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL

INFO: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/hot-lights.html

AMAZON LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Hot-Lights-Cold-Steel-Walker-ebook/dp/B0053HDJSU/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0

 

RTG 300X450

RUN TO GROUND

INFO: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/run-to-ground.html

AMAZON LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Run-Ground-D-P-Lyle-ebook/dp/B008YHUD5S/ref=pd_sim_351_4

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Writing

 

Will 3D Printed Fingerprints Unlock a Phone?

iphonefingerprint380

Can someone’s fingerprint be reproduced by 3-D printing technology and if so can it be used to unlock a cell phone? This is intriguing science and currently Professor Anil Jain at Michigan State University is looking into developing this technology. One of the problems is that many cellphone fingerprint security measures require not only pattern recognition but a certain degree of electrical conductivity that is natural to human skin. How to reproduce this in a 3-D printed model is one of the hurdles Professor Jain must overcome. But it is intriguing and we will see how it all shakes out.

 

 

 

Vintage Computer Games, Missing Aircraft, and an Amazing Forensic Resource: An Interview with Douglas White of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Software Reference Library (NSRL)

dwhite-headshot

BIO: Douglas White leads the National Software Reference Library project for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  He has 25 years of experience with distributed systems, distributed databases and telecommunication protocols, real time biomonitoring, real time video processing, system administration and network monitoring. He holds both a B.A and M.S. in computer science from Hood College. He has
given lectures for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the High Technology Crime Investigation Association, the Digital Forensic Research Workshop and other digital forensic conferences.

LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2017/02/04/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-douglas-white

Link will go live Saturday 2-4-17 at 10 a.m. Pacific

LINKS:

Digital Forensics Rescues Retro Video Games and Software: https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2016/09/digital-forensics-rescues-retro-video-games-and-software

NSRL website: www.nsrl.nist.gov

NIST Forensics topics: www.nist.gov/forensics

Video lecture on the Cabrinety-NSRL effort: https://www.loc.gov/preservation/outreach/tops/white/white.html

Interview that includes the FDA story: https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2012/05/life-saving-the-national-software-reference-library/

Blogs by SUL staff including Henry Lowood and Charlotte Thai: https://Howtheygotgame.stanford.edu

Video: The NSRL Library: http://www.nsrl.nist.gov/video/nsrl_shelf_walk.mp4

 

Guest Blogger: Lisa Black: Smart Phones and Not-So-Smart Criminals

tec-and-phone

USING SMARTPHONES TO DEFEAT NOT-SO-SMART CRIMINALS

My boss, the supervisor of our forensic unit, insists that soon we will be able to process an entire crime scene with nothing but a smartphone. Everything from photographs to sketching to measuring to note-taking, all on a 2 ½ x 5” flat item which one needs reading glasses to see unless one is under fifty which I, alas, will never be again.

photo-measure

Most phones now come with 10 or 12 megapixel cameras, which are more than sufficient for forensic purposes. You can get attachments for tripods and flashes. My boss can open and close the shutter from his Apple Watch (important for taking ninety-degree close-ups of fingerprints or tire tracks where the slightest vibration could blur the details).

roomscanpro

Simply browsing through the tablet he got us for crime scene work and nagged us for a few months to use before he finally gave up, I find:

The flashlight app. Of course. (I was at a crime scene yesterday where the two young men were trying to plug my USB into the video system, cleverly hidden in the ceiling panels. It’s dark up there, of course, and they were stymied as they had never downloaded a flashlight to their relatively new phones. I pulled my mini-Mag out of my pocket and suggested they use an actual flashlight. Sometimes us old chicks rule.)

Pill Identifier, with which you can enter the color and shape of a medication and it will help you narrow down to the name of the drug, then link to information on purpose, dosage, side effects and drug interactions.

Photo Measures, which allows you to take a photo of a room and then annotate it with measurements. This way my boss, the detectives, the prosecutors and the jury no longer have to suffer through trying to decipher my hastily scribbled sketches of uneven walls and amorphous blobs representing the pit couch. I can take a photo of the room and write the dimensions right over the picture, then add the feet and inches from the south wall to the bloody knife on the floor. The only catch is you still have to take the measurements yourself.

And for that, we have RoomScanPro. Simply start it up, give each room a name like ‘dining’, hold the phone against each wall, in order but at any particular spot on the wall until you’ve gone around the whole room. The app will create a floor plan including measurements. Do a complete walk-through and it will give you the whole house. Be warned, however, that these apps may only be accurate to half a foot, so that you could wind up with an attorney grilling you how the murder weapon could have been five and a half inches from the victim’s body instead of six.

For traffic incidents, Vehicle Identification System can give you pictures of nearly every make and model available in the last decade to aid witnesses in describing the getaway car. And Cargo Decoder can translate the four-digit DOT code on a truck’s placard to tell you what kind of materials they’re hauling.

There are a number of panoramic photo apps, so that you can quickly scan a 360° shot of the crime scene as is before EMTs, firemen, reporters, angry mobs or bigwig looky-lous breach your perimeter.

So the next time you see a team processing a crime scene it might not only be the nerdy young guy using the newfangled gadgets to do the job. It might be the grizzled old detective using a smartphone and a rubber-tipped stylus.

And reading glasses.

unpunished

Lisa Black has spent over 20 years in forensic science, first at the coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and now as a certified latent print examiner and CSI at a Florida police dept. Her books have been translated into 6 languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s List and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series.

 

King Henry the VIII’s Brain Injury and Behavioral Changes

henry_viii

King Henry VIII was often a bad boy. I mean, he had two of his many wives executed, for starters. But he was an historical giant—-he took on the Pope and established the Church of England—no small feat in the 1500’s.

But he also developed erratic behavior later in his life. Many date his significant personality change to a head injury following a fall beneath a horse in a 1536 jousting match. He apparently remained unconscious for two hours.

But could a blow to the head cause a dramatic personality change? Absolutely.

There are many types of brain injuries that could lead to such an outcome: Concussions (usually multiple such injuries are needed before personality changes would occur—if at all); Cerebral contusions (brain bruises); intracerebral bleeds (bleeding into the brain tissue; and subdural hematomas (bleeding in the space between the brain and the skull). In Henry’s case, I suspect the later might be the case.

subdural

Subdural Hematoma

Subdural hematomas follow blows to the head and here blood collects in the dural space—between the brain and the skull. It can be small and inconsequential or larger and compress the brain. It can occur immediately or be delayed by hours, days, weeks, and even months. The increased pressure on the brain can lead coma and death. Less dramatically, it can cause headaches, visual impairment, weakness, poor balance, sleepiness, confusion, and, yes, personality changes.

 
 
%d bloggers like this: