Hole In The Woods by Jennifer Dornbush

My friend forensic specialist, novelist, and screenwriter Jennifer Dornbush has a new book coming August 4, 2020. It’s a wild ride.




July 1989, in a sleepy Michigan town, high school grad, Nina Laramie, heads out with friends and is never seen alive again. Months later, her skeleton is found near a remote party spot in the forest. The ME determines Nina has been brutally raped and bludgeoned to death. Fear and anger ripple through this tight-knit community when the case goes cold. Thirty years later, Riley St. James, a Detroit PD assigned to Nina’s case, is determined to get her first big cold case win despite having a similar past to the victim. Relying on her investigative prowess and gut instinct, Riley tracks down a witness, who saw Nina Laramie’s murder. But as the truth comes to light, Riley must face the killers who want their secret to stay in the Hole in the Woods. Based on the 1989 true-life murder case of Shannon Siders from Newaygo County, Michigan. After the case went dormant, a Michigan cold case team formed in 2011 and uncovered new evidence that enabled them to arrest, try, and convict the killers, who were sent to prison for Shannon’s murder in 2015.

Check out her other books:

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Posted by on July 18, 2020 in Writing



Thanks to Paula Lanier for pointing out that my first Q&A book MURDER AND MAYHEM was clearly visible on a desk in the HBO series I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which chronicles the tragically late Michelle McNamara’s investigation of the Golden State Killer—-a moniker she gave this serial predator. I hope it helped with her research. Check it out. Just after the opening credits of Episode 2.

The original was published by St. Martins Press but I later got the rights back and it was republished in 2013 with an all-new cover. The details, links to order it, and the Table of Contents are on my website at:

My other two Q&A books are also available and the details and Table of Contents for each are also on my website.



The hope with each of these books is to help educate crime writers on medical and forensic science issues that might come up in their stories——as well as, hopefully, inspire new story ideas and plot points.


Posted by on July 10, 2020 in Writing


The First 3 Jake Longly Books Are Kindle Monthly Deals for July

The first 3 Jake Longly Books are Kindle Monthly Deals for July.
Only $1.99 each.

Order here:

BIG NEWS: The $1.99 has been extended through August on not only Amazon but virtually all eBook outlets. Drop by your favorite source and check it out.



Ex-professional baseball player Jake Longly adamantly refuses to work for his father, to enter Ray’s PI world. He prefers to hang out at his beach-front bar/restaurant and chase bikinis along the sugary beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. But Ray could be persuasive so Jake finds himself staking-out the home of wealthy Barbara Plummer, suspected of adultery by her husband. Seems simple enough. Hang around, take a few pictures, sip a little bourbon. Except Barbara gets herself murdered right under Jake’s nose. Jake launches into an investigation of the homicide, aided by new girlfriend Nicole Jemison, actress, budding screenwriter, and the progeny of Hollywood A-list parents, and Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers, Ray’s redheaded, behemoth employee who has crazy computer skills. 

Jake quickly runs afoul of Ukrainian mobster Victor Borkov, his henchmen Joe Zuma and Frank Boyd, cartel hitman Carlos, and the hitmen wanna-be Wilbanks brothers. Was Borkov behind Barbara’s murder? If so, why? What could he possibly gain? As Jake and Nicole peel away the layers of the crime, more murders pile up, and the intrepid couple must somehow escape being deep-sixed from Borkov’s massive yacht.



Jake Longly and girlfriend Nicole Jamison are still recovering from their ordeal with Ukrainian underworld boss Victor Borkov and life on the Gulf Coast is returning to normal. Then Nicole’s producer uncle Charles Balfour calls asking them to head to New Orleans where his mega-star, A-list actor Kirk Ford, has awakened with the corpse of a college co-ed in his hotel bed. Ford, in the Big Easy for a location shoot, remembers little of the evening and nothing of the murder. As if things couldn’t get worse, the girl is the niece of local mafioso-type Tony Guidry who will do what is necessary to avenge his niece’s death.

As Jake and Nicole attempt to put the pieces together, they butt heads with Tony’s muscle, his near-do-well yet aggressive nephews (the dead girl’s brothers), as well as drug dealers Ju Ju and Ragman. Of course, Ray and Pancake arrive to help sort things out with the help of Ford’s  beautiful co-stars in the multi-billion dollar Space Quest franchise, Tegan and Tara James (aka The Twins), who vehemently support and defend Ford. 

But something isn’t right. The facts don’t fit. Who would want Kristi Guidry dead, or Kirk framed for murder? And why? Everyone has an opinion, including Kristi’s friends, her ex-boyfriend, homicide detective Troy Doucet, and even local fortuneteller Madam Theresa. It’s up to Jake and Nicole to decipher who’s lying, who’s telling the truth, and exactly who schemed to murder Kristi Guidry. 

Nothing is easy in the Big Easy.



In SUNSHINE STATE, Jake Longly and girlfriend Nicole Jamison are confronted with the most bizarre case yet. Serial killer Billy Wayne Baker now denies that two of the seven murders he confessed to doing are actually his work. An anonymous benefactor, who believes Billy Wayne’s denials, hires Longly Investigations to prove Billy Wayne right. Yet, Billy Wayne confessed. Not only did he have the motive, means, and opportunity, but also DNA connects him to each murder.

Jake, Nicole, Ray, and Pancake travel to the small Gulf coast town of Pine Key, where three of the murders occurred. The local police, the FBI, and the state prosecutor and crime lab each did their jobs, uncovered overwhelming evidence of Billy Wayne’s guilt, and even extracted a full confession. Is Billy Wayne simply trying to tweak the system, garnering another fifteen minutes of fame? Is it all a game to him? But, if he’s being truthful, is there a killer out there getting away with murder? Who? Why? Most importantly, how?

Nothing is as it seems in the Sunshine State.


 Also Available.

Details and Order:

First loves are never forgotten. Ever. Certainly not for Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers. His first-kiss, sixth-grade love Emily, who he has not seen since grammar school, is sliding toward divorce in the artsy Gulf Coast town of Fairhope. Alabama. Longly Investigations has been charged with looking into the finances involved. But, when Emily doesn’t appear for their nervously anticipated meeting, Pancake’s radar goes on high alert. When her body, along with that of Jason, one of two guys she has been dating, are found murdered, Pancake calls in Jake, Nicole, and Ray and the pursuit begins. Who would have done this? The soon-to-be ex, who has an ironclad alibi, the other guy Emily is seeing—jealousy being a motive for harm, or do the drugs found in Jason’s pocket indicate a drug-related hit? That world yields a host of suspects. As they peel back the layers of this idyllic community, dark secrets come to light and convoluted motives and methods of murder are revealed. 


Posted by on July 6, 2020 in Writing


Bad Luck X2: First Your Head Gets Lopped Off, Second You End Up In A Wall

The guillotine was an integral part of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror that followed. Ask Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. But at least their bodies, and their heads, ended up in a cemetery. It seems that several hundreds of others weren’t that lucky. They simply got plastered into a wall. That’s what a recent discovery at the Chapelle Expiatoire suggests.

I’ve blogged about the guillotine before. It was a brutal but fascinating piece of equipment with a history that is more than a little bloody. It also indirectly left a future king in prison and his heart on the lam. 

Guillotine and Death: How Long Does It Take?:

Mitochondrial DNA and the Heart of a Future King:


RIGGED: Kings River Life Review and Giveaway


Kings River Life Review

Longly Investigations includes Ray the owner, his son Jake, Jake’s girlfriend Nicole, and Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers. They are currently investigating the finances of Emily and her husband Sean who are in the process of divorcing. Emily was Pancake’s first love, and he has never forgotten her. When Emily fails to show for their first business meeting, Pancake is thrown into a turmoil. Shortly after the missed meeting Emily’s body along with the body of the man she had been dating are found in a neighbor’s field killed execution style. Pancake is devastated and is determined to find the murderer.

Is Emily’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Sean, involved even though he has an iron clad alibi? Sean was working on a Gulf Shore oil rig at the time. Was it the second man who Emily had been dating, even though she considered him just a friend? Had he wanted more? Was it someone who had a beef with Emily’s boyfriend and Emily was just collateral damage?

As Pancake and the team investigate, drugs come into the picture. A small amount of drugs had been found with the bodies and as the team digs deeper into the town of Fairhope, Alabama, they find themselves scoping out the local drug community for suspects and reasons. Soon they have a whole new list of suspects to follow up on. Can Pancake and the team find the murderer and provide Emily with justice or will they fail?

This was an intense read that kept me turning the pages. The characters are well drawn and never lose their focus. The murder plot is cunningly twisted and will keep you guessing right to the final confrontation. I highly recommend this book and series to anyone who enjoys a great mystery thriller because the author always delivers a fantastic adventure!

RIGGED Details:

Original Post and Giveaway:

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Posted by on June 27, 2020 in Writing


Golden State Killer’s Evidence Pilfered From Sheriff’s Office for “Book Research.”

Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who authorities suspect is the so-called Golden State Killer responsible for at least a dozen murders and 50 rapes in the 1970s and 80s, is accompanied by Sacramento County Public Defender Diane Howard, right, as he makes his first appearance, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Sacramento County Superior Court in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

An amazing turn of events in the Golden State Killer case. Might this evidence “heist” impact his prosecution and/or plea deal? Is this a problem with evidence handling by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, another case of Hollywood getting special access, or both? We will see what happens.

The good news is that for crime writers this might offer you another plot point to work with.


Criminal Mischief: Episode #38: PIs Make Great Characters

Criminal Mischief: Episode #38: PIs Make Great Characters




PIs Make Great Characters

Cops are cool, and memorable fictional characters, but P.I.s seem to come in more variable and quirkier flavors. From ex-military types to everyday folks with a knack for sniffing out wrongdoing to little old ladies with cats. The latter tend to be the smartest and toughest. This wide variety is what makes reading P.I. stories fun. Private investigators, both licensed and amateur, tend to be more eccentric, possess different skills (some useful, others less so), and seem to break the rules with impunity. How much fun is that?

The fictional P.I. world is populated with iconic characters such as Holmes, Spade, Marlowe, Milhone, Hammer, Archer, Robicheaux, and the list goes on. Meeting such folks is why reading P.I. novels is so rewarding. And so much fun to write.

James Crumley’s CW Sughrue:

From The Last Good Kiss:

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog names Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

Trahearne had been on this wandering binge for nearly three weeks, and the big man, dressed in rumpled khakis, looked like and old soldier after a long campaign, sipping slow beers to wash the taste of death from his mouth. The dog slumped on the stool beside him like a tired little buddy, only raising his head occasionally for a taste of beer from a dirty ashtray set on the bar.

Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe:

From The Long Goodbye:

When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes, people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick; bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness. It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn’t have one. I didn’t care. I finished the drink and went to bed.

Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins:

From Devil With A Blue Dress:

I was surprised to see a white man walk into Joppy’s bar. It’s not just that he was white but he wore an off-white linen suit and shirt with a Panama straw hat and bone shoes over flashing white silk socks. His skin was smooth and pale with just a few freckles. One lick of strawberry-blond hair escaped the band of his hat. He stopped in the doorway, filling it with his large frame, and surveyed the room with pale eyes, not a color I’d ever seen in a man’s eyes. When he looked at me I felt a thrill of fear, but that went away quickly because I was used to white people by 1948.

I had spent five years with white men, and women, from Africa to Italy, through Paris, and into the Fatherland itself. I ate with them and slept with them, and I killed enough blue-eyed young men to know that the were just as afraid to die as I was.

Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade:

From The Maltese Falcon:

Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting V under the more flexible V of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, V. His yellow-gray eyes were horizontal. The V motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down—-from high flat temples—in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.

Robert B Parker’s Spenser:

From God Save The Child:

If you leaned back in the chair and cranked your neck hard over you could see the sky from my office window, delft blue and cloudless so bright it looked solid. It was September after Labor Day, and somewhere the corn was probably as high as an elephant’s eye, and the kind of weather when a wino could sleep warm in a doorway.

“Mr. Spenser, are you listening to us?”

I straightened my head up and looked at Roger and Margery Bartlett.

“Yea, Ma’am,” I said. “You were just saying about how you never dealt with a private detective before, but this was an extreme case and there seemed no other avenue. Everybody who comes in here tends to say about the same thing to me.”

Each of my four thriller series (Dub Walker, Samantha Cody, Jake Longly, Cain/Harper) features a private investigator, of sorts. None are what you would call a normal, licensed P.I. but each serves that function one way or the other.

Dub Walker from Stress Fracture:

“You ain’t going to like it,” Sheriff Luther Randall said.

My gut knotted. “Let’s do it.”

Life morphed into slow motion as I followed Luther down the hallway toward Mike’s bedroom. My legs felt heavy, and my shoe soles grabbed the carpet as if trying to hold me back. As if they knew what lay ahead.

My name is Dub Walker. I’d worked more than a hundred homicides in my career. As a MP for the US Marines, as a lab tech with the Alabama Department of Forensic Science here in Huntsville, as a trainee and consultant in Quantico with the FBI’s Behavioral Assessment Unit, and as a crime scene and evidence analyst on cases all over the country. I’m considered somewhat of an expert in this stuff. I’ve written a dozen books on these subjects, and if you do that people automatically think you know a bunch about it. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Could go either way. It was that perception-reality deal.

I’d seen angry spouses slice, dice, and shoot each other; drug deals gone sideways; murders for hire; gang massacres; Mafia hits; and a few killings that didn’t fit into any pigeonhole. I’d seen victims of shootings, poisonings, beatings, fires, explosive devices, and one-way flights off tall buildings. I’d seen firsthand the work of serial killers who tortured, mutilated, cannibalized, and even preserved victims.

None of this prepared me for this one.

Jake Longly from Rigged:

Life runs in odd circles. Creates circumstances you never see coming, could never predict. Makes for strange bedfellows.

As my grandfather was quick to say, “Life can park your butt in some unpleasant locales.” Loved that guy. More so than my father Ray, who could be a pain in the ass. Not that I didn’t love him, just that he was be a bit intense for my tastes. I think he and I tolerated each other as much as anything else. I often wished he was more like his father but that train hit the rails decades ago.

Back to parking your butt in unpleasant places.

Right now, mine had found itself on an uncomfortably hard, wooden chair behind the defense table in the Gulf Shores Municipal Courthouse. I wasn’t sure what caused the most unease—the seat, the fact that I was the defendant in the proceedings at hand, the stack of charges levied against me, or the sullenness of Judge Ruth Corvas. The woman was all decked out in her black robe, shoulders hunched forward, sharp eyes following my attorney as he walked back and forth before her, offering his closing argument. She looked like a hawk, eyeing prey. Maybe a turkey vulture sizing up carrion. Made me reconsider having waved my rights to a jury trial.

I was good with people. Always had been. That’s one reason Captain Rocky’s, my bar/restaurant, was so successful. I was the “face” of the operation. A jury might like me; judge Corvas less so. She looked like she had eaten a bad taco. Or too many barbecued beans.

Bobby Cain from Skin In The Game:

That Bobby Cain made it into the military was a minor miracle. For one thing, he had a criminal record—juvenile, sealed, and later expunged—but still a record. Surely the military had access to that part of his life. He had limited formal education. Some homeschooling as his gypsy family scurried from town to town, thanks to Aunt Dixie, and his adoptive parents, the Cains, had pushed him to a high school diploma. But his education had always felt haphazard, incomplete. 

Degree in hand, he enlisted in the US Army. Amazingly, they accepted him. Even though his final two years of school were at a military academy, he had no real “military connections” to smooth the path. Everything indicated that his Army career would be uneventful. 

Things changed a few months in. Thanks to the not-so-formal education he had received from his gypsy family.

Several of the “parents” in the troupe had offered lessons that aren’t available in a real school. Things like how to run a con, or lift a wallet, or a watch, or empty a purse in a heartbeat. Day, night, alone, in a crowd, each required a different approach and skill set. 

For Cain, these lessons most often came from Uncle Al, Aunt Dixie, and Uncle Maurice, known as Uncle Mo.

Fighting lessons were particularly intense. “No fight is fair,” was Uncle Mo’s mantra. “The guy who fights fair, loses.” He taught Cain to box, wrestle, and what he called “grappling.” The art of taking someone of any size down with a single punch, or the literal snap of a finger, or out cold with a choke hold. Most of Cain’s “brother” opponents back then had been years older, and much larger and stronger. But, he learned quickly. The key, according to Uncle Manny, was hand strength. Strong hands win fights.

Uncle Al taught him that in a fight, everything was a weapon. Fists, feet, elbows, knees, your head. A stick, a stone, a chair, a lamp, and, of course, a knife. He showed Bobby where to hide knives in his clothes and shoes, even how to construct those that could be secreted in belts, hats, pocket linings, seams. 

Aunt Dixie gave him a master class in the art of throwing.

I think the great variability in P.I. characters makes for engaging stories and, as a writer, excellent fodder for character creation and storytelling. It’s why I read P.I. novels and why I write them. As do many of my fellow authors. 

For my other posts on this topic check out:

King’s River Life Magazine

The Crime Fiction Writers’ Blog:

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Posted by on June 23, 2020 in Writing


THE BIG THRILL: UP CLOSE: Dark Secrets, Convoluted Motives, and Startling Methods of Murder

By Austin Camacho


RIGGED Jake Longly #4

Dark Secrets, Convoluted Motives, and Startling Methods of Murder 

In these trying times we can all use a smile, but rare is the writer who can get a chuckle out of his readers while delivering edge-of-your-seat suspense and thrills. That’s one reason D. P. Lyle’s latest novel, RIGGED, is such a glorious find.

This is the fourth thriller in the Jake Longly series, and Longly is certainly the hero—but it’s Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers who kicks off the case. Jeffers is spurred to action when Emily, his sixth-grade crush, is found murdered execution style, along with one of the two men she was dating. Pancake calls in Longly and the team to find the killer. And while ex-professional baseball player Longly could make any bad guy run for cover, Pancake, at six-foot-five and 275 pounds, is even more intimidating despite being a nice guy at heart. 

“Yes, you would love him if you met him at a party or anywhere else,” Lyle says. “Unless you’re a bad guy. Then he just might dismantle you. Literally.” 

Pancake is bound to Jake and his girlfriend Nicole, whom he would protect to the death. His nickname, from his football days, refers to his ability as an offensive lineman to make pancake blocks—those that flatten the opponent.

The plot leads our heroes through dark secrets, convoluted motives, and startling methods of murder in the idyllic community of Fairhope, Alabama. Location makes good fiction feel real, and this one is not made up. Lyle says the real Fairhope is a wonderful town and anyone who visits the Gulf Coast of Alabama should drop in. 

“Very artsy and upscale with lots of restaurants and bars,” Lyle says, “and it sits on the east side of Mobile Bay—facing west so the sunsets are spectacular. It’s quaint and quiet and that’s why the murders in this story are so upsetting to the locals—fictional locals of course. Page and Palette, the bookstore used as a scene setting in RIGGED, is a wonderful store. I’ve signed and given a talk there in the past.” 

The victim in this case is not one with lots of obvious enemies. Emily is, in fact, a wonderful person, kind and generous, a good worker, loyal, smart, and reliable, although her personal life is a bit convoluted at this point. 

“She is simply going through the dissolution of a marriage,” Lyle says, “so yes, she is dating two guys, one more serious, the other friendly. She is loved in the community and that also makes her murder more startling. She was Pancake’s sixth-grade sweetheart, his first love.” 

Which explains why he takes her murder very personally. 

Like the earlier books in this series, the murder and other criminal activity depicted are real and gritty. Still, this entire series is comedic in nature. Lyle effectively takes a lighter hand with the darker stuff and unlike most such attempts, in his books it works marvelously. 

“Most of the comedy comes from Jake’s odd take on life and his seeing of any situation,” Lyle says, “and from the interactions of the various characters. So it is more or less a sitcom with crime. To understand Jake and Nicole’s banter and jousting with each other, watch an old Tracy-Hepburn movie.” 

To an extent you can see Jake Longly as an amateur sleuth. Generally he gets involved with cases because of his father, Ray, who runs a sought-after private investigator business. 

“PIs get into these types of situations all the time—it’s just that the ones Jake, Pancake, and Nicole get involved with are a bit quirkier. Still down and dirty, but off kilter a bit. Thus the comedy.” 

Lyle is a multi-talented author. He’s a cardiologist who, in addition to his thrillers, has written mysteries, science fiction, and popular nonfiction about forensics. In addition to writing, he is a sought-after consultant who has worked for more than a dozen television shows. Some of this work concerns storytelling, but most deals with medical and forensic science, two areas he knows a lot about. 

“I think those who reach out for my help know that I can bring both scientific and storytelling elements to their work in progress,” Lyle says. “It’s one thing to know science, it’s another to make it story-friendly. “ 

Lyle actually has two successful series going right now. In addition to Jake Longly’s humorous adventures, he writes the Cain/Harper series of darker, more traditional thrillers. 

“I try to complete one from each series each year,” Lyle says. “I go back and forth, and I find that that keeps getting stale at bay. Each series requires different storytelling techniques, with a lot of overlap of course, but a different mindset and focus. I find that alternating series books in this way keeps me more engaged in the one I’m working on.” 

You can’t go wrong with any of Lyle’s work, but if you have a taste for the rare book that will both thrill you and make you laugh, RIGGED is the book for you. 

RIGGED Details/Order:


Original Post in the June 2020 The Big Thrill:

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Posted by on June 6, 2020 in Writing


Criminal Mischief: Episode #37: Who The Heck Is Jake Longly?

Criminal Mischief: Episode #37: Who The Heck Is Jake Longly?




Who the Heck is Jake Longly?

Jake Longly is the protagonist of my series of comedic thrillers (DEEP SIX, A-LIST, SUNSHINE STATE, RIGGED). He’s an ex-professional baseball player. Pitcher for the Texas Rangers with an overpowering fastball. Until his rotator cuff injury ended his career. Then he purchased Captain Rocky’s, a bar/restaurant on the sand in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

His major life goals now are running his bar and chasing bikinis. Worthy goals for Jake. His father Ray feels otherwise. Ray has some murky background in the US military world of black ops and now runs a P.I. firm in Gulf Shores. He can’t understand why Jake won’t work for him and is constantly trying to drag Jake into his world. Jake’s refusal creates tension, to say the least.


Here’s the deal. Ray thinks I’m a wimp. Has for years. The best I can remember it began around the time I left major league baseball. For several years, I pitched for the Texas Rangers. Could really bring the heat. A hundred miles an hour. Zip, pop. Loved that sound. Loved that the catcher would often shake his hand out after snagging one of my fastballs. That was me. Jake Longly, baseball stud. Everybody said so. Even the ESPN folks.

Not so Ray. He never actually used the word wimp. Pussy. That’s the one he preferred. Four weeks ago being his most recent assessment.

Jake has an ex-wife. who he affectionately calls Tammy The Insane. 


It was precisely 12:12 a.m. when the window shattered. A crack-crunch, an eardrum concussing pop, and a spray of glass shards. It didn’t explode by itself, mind you, but rather courtesy of a cavity-backed, perimeter-weighted two-hundred-dollar five iron. A Callaway. I recognized it because it was mine. Or at least it had been.

I knew the exact time because the flying glass yanked me from sleep, my forward-slumped head aligned squarely with the dashboard clock. Took a couple of seconds to gain any sort of perspective on what had happened. 

Of course, sleep wasn’t part of the job. Watching the house two doors down and across the street was. In my defense, nothing had moved in the house, or even along the street that snaked through the high-dollar neighborhood, for at least a couple of hours. But sitting in the dark, behind the wheel of my car, boredom did what boredom does. Knocking back the better portion of the bottle of Knob Creek hadn’t helped either. Stakeouts were mind numbing and a little more numbing of the mind couldn’t be all bad. Right?

“Jake, what the hell are you doing?” the reason for the glass explosion screeched through the jagged hole. 

This wasn’t just any window. It was vintage, the reason it shattered rather than simply spider-webbing. The original passenger window of my otherwise spotless 1965 Mustang. Burgundy with black pony interior, now littered with glass shards. Going to be a bitch to find a replacement.

Speaking of bitches, I recognized the grating voice even before I looked up into the face of my ex. Tammy’s the name; crazy’s the game. I’d lost four good years listening to it. Mostly whining and complaining, sometimes, like now, in a full-on rage. She had a knack for anger. Seemed to need it to get through the day. 

She gripped the five iron with both hands, knuckles paled, cocked up above her shoulder, ready to smash something else. If history offered any lesson it was that she might graduate from the side window to the windshield and so on until she got to me. Tammy didn’t have brakes. Or a reverse gear.

Cute according to everyone, except maybe me, she was a beach-blond with bright blue eyes, a magic smile, and a perfect nose. Some plastic surgeons were gifted. Expensive, but gifted. I knew. I’d paid for the nose.

But cute Tammy had a short fuse. She could go from zero to C4 in a nanosecond.

Like now.

Jake has a girlfriend. Nicole Jamison. Insanely beautiful, but no bubble-headed bleach blonde. Not even close. Smart, clever, tough, and she doesn’t suffer fools well. They met the same night Tammy The Insane shattered Jake’s Mustang window.


After the ever-pleasant Tammy and the all-business Officer Blake Cooper vacated the premises, I surveyed the damage to my car. The shattered windows were essentially irreplaceable. Seems Ford doesn’t make windows for fifty-year-old cars. The nerve of them. I began knocking away the toothy window remnants from the frames and picking up the larger pieces from the seats, dropping them on the floorboard. The floor mats were expendable, the Pony interior not. 

As if to prove that any situation could go from bad to worse, the wind kicked up, dragging with it the smell of rain. Out over the Gulf a bank of dark clouds, tops silvered by the moonlight, innards flashing bright white with lightning, marched toward shore.

Just great. Twenty miles from home, no right-side windows. Didn’t bode well for my Pony interior.

Headlights washed over me, and I looked up the street. Now what? Did Cooper have more to say? Maybe he called it in and his boss gave him the green light to haul my ass down town. To tweak Ray if nothing else.

I raised one hand to shield my eyes from the headlamp glare. The car, a shiny new red SL Mercedes, rolled to a stop. The deeply-tinted window slid down, revealing a young woman. Her straight blond hair hung like silk curtains to her shoulders and framed a face that could grace the cover of Vogue. Definitely not what I expected.

“That was interesting,” she said.

“You saw that, huh?”

She laughed. Soft, almost musical. “Hard to miss a woman beating the hell out of a classic Mustang with a golf club.”

I looked back up the street, from where she had come. “You live around here I take it?”

She brushed a wayward strand of her from her face. “Just back around the bend.”

“You on a beer run or something?”

Another soft laugh. “Heading out to see a friend.”

“A little late, isn’t it?”

“He’s a bartender. Doesn’t close up until one. But he’s not nearly as interesting as this.”

“Bet he’d be happy to hear that.”

She shrugged. “He’d get over it.”

I reeled in my first response—that a woman as beautiful as her probably didn’t have to worry too much about pissing him off. No one would put her on the road for being late. Instead, I smiled.

“So what was that about?” she asked.

“My ex. She’s insane.”


“I’m Jake,”


She extended a hand out the window, and I shook it. Soft skin, firm grip. The first drops of rain peppered my face.

“You better get that beauty under cover.”

“My thoughts exactly. Problem is, cover is about twenty miles away.”

She hesitated, examining me as if trying to decide something. “Or just up the road. My place. You can stick it in the garage until this blows over.” 

“What about your friend?”

“Sean the bartender? Like I said, this is much more interesting.” 

She smiled. Perfect teeth. Perfect smile. Just perfect. Down boy.

“Glad I could brighten your evening,” I said,

“A girl’s got to find fun where she can.”

“You have an odd definition of fun.”

“I hear that a lot.”

Jake has a best friend—-Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers. Big doesn’t cover it. His hair is red and his ability to take in massive amounts of food legendary. Most people think he got his nickname from his ability to demolish a stack of pancakes, which of course he could, but as a star offensive lineman in his youth, he was famous for pancake blocks—-those that flatten the opponent. Pancake works for Ray. He possesses crazy computer skills but also knows how to handle almost any confrontation.

From A-LIST:

Jimmy Walker, aka Rag Man, was a piece of work. A piece of something anyway. The alley he did business from, as Doucet had said, was wedged between the fire station and an industrial-looking building that had seen better days. The sidewalk was veined with cracks and the alley narrow and littered with refuse. As we reached the alley entrance, we saw him. Thin, black, baggy pants, a New Orleans Saints jersey, three-sizes too large, almost reaching his knees, cigarette hanging from his lips, slouching against the building. He looked up from the phone he was working with his thumbs and came off the wall, moving toward us. He didn’t seem alarmed. Probably thought we were customers.

“Good day gentlemen,” he said, smiling. A true salesman. Probably would do well with aluminum siding. Or as a midway barker.

We introduced ourselves, Ray saying we were P.I.s and needed to ask a few questions to which Rag Man said, ““I don’t got to talk to you.” His head swiveled up and down the street. Like he didn’t want to be seen talking to us. 

“No, you don’t,” I said. “But we’d appreciate it.”

“Go appreciate something else,” he said. 

“It’s about your business,” Ray said.

“I ain’t got no business.” Another glance up the street. “I suggest you move along. Get out of my face. Might not be healthy for you white boys to hang around here. Know what I’m saying?”

I love watching Pancake work. It’s a true work of art. Mostly he’s a gentle giant, wouldn’t hurt anyone. Even go out of his way to avoid trouble. Then there were times he did stuff that made you stare in disbelief. Even if you’d seen it before.

This time, he simply grabbed Rag Man’s arm and tossed him into the alley. Just like that. Like a kid having a tantrum and tossing a doll across the room. Rag Man rolled and bounced a couple of times but to his credit quickly scrambled to his feet. Pancake was on him. He poked his chest with a finger. “No, I don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Hey dude, you can’t do that.”

“I’m just getting started.” Pancake palmed his chest, pressing him against the wall.

Despite Jake’s resolve, he is repeatedly dragged into Ray’s world. Mostly by Nicole, who, like Pancake, works for Ray. Jake was never sure exactly how that happened but she even has a laminated card to prove it. 

Jump on board and enter Jake’s world. Lot’s of crime, craziness, and fun.

Originally published in the Mystery Fanfare, Mystery Readers Journal

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Posted by on May 26, 2020 in Writing


Why P.I.s Are Cool

Originally posted in King’s River Life Magazine

Why P.I.s Are Cool
by DP Lyle

Cops are cool, and memorable fictional characters, but P.I.s seem to come in more variable and quirkier flavors. From ex-military types to everyday folks with a knack for sniffing out wrongdoing to little old ladies with cats. The latter tend to be the smartest and toughest. This wide variety is what makes reading P.I. stories fun. Private investigators, both licensed and amateur, tend to be more eccentric, possess different skills (some useful, others less so), and seem to break the rules with impunity. How much fun is that?

The fictional P.I. world is populated with iconic characters such as Holmes, Spade, Marlowe, Milhone, Hammer, Archer, Robicheaux, and the list goes on. Meeting such folks is why reading P.I. novels is so rewarding. And so much fun to write.

Each of my four thriller series (Dub Walker, Samantha Cody, Jake Longly, Cain/Harper) features a private investigator, of sorts. None are what you would call a normal, licensed P.I. but each serves that function one way or the other.

Case in point: Jake Longly.

Jake, the protagonist of my comedic thriller series (DEEP SIX, A-LIST, SUNSHINE STATE, and now RIGGED) is a reluctant P.I. Though he tries to avoid it, he finds himself repeatedly dragged into that world, kicking and screaming all the way, Usually by his father Ray and best friend Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers, both real P.I.s, as well as his girlfriend Nicole Jamison, who sorta, kinda works for Ray. 

Jake is an ex-professional baseball pitcher and now owns Captain Rocky’s, his bar/restaurant on the sand in Gulf Shores, Alabama. His life goals are running his bar, hanging out with friends, and chasing bikinis. Well, until Nicole came along. For Jake, life is good. He’s content. He feels that running his bar and lazing on the beach are worthy aspirations. Ray feels otherwise. Ray, who has some murky military history that he rarely talks about and probably can’t without violating a stack of federal statutes, simply doesn’t understand why Jake won’t work for him. A real job is Ray’s take. Jake believes that running Captain Rocky’s is as real as a job needs to be. I mean, he has to show up most days. Isn’t that the definition of a job? Jake also believes that Ray, and probably Pancake and Nicole, are constantly conspiring to drag him into Ray’s domain. Jake’s refusal creates tension, to say the least.

Though Jake fights, scratches, twists, and turns to avoid entering Ray’s world, he constantly finds himself exactly there. And then things get quirky. Therein lies the comedy.

Jake is not well-suited for the P.I. life. And not all that good at it. Barbara Plummer, the target of an adultery case who Jake is staking out gets murdered right under his nose (DEEP SIX); Kirk Ford Hollywood A-List actor filming in New Orleans awakens next to a dead co-ed who happens to be the niece of a mafia-type (A-LIST); Billy Wayne Baker who sits on death row in Florida hires the crew to prove he only killed five of the seven people he confessed to murdering (SUNSHINE STATE); and the solving of the murder of Pancake’s sixth-grade sweetheart in the idyllic town of Fairhope, Alabama leads to a world where nothing is as it seems (RIGGED). In each story, Jake manages to stumble and bumble into solving the crime and saving the day. 

The protagonist investigators of my other series are entirely different animals. Samantha Cody is an ex-cop. ex-professional boxer, who often becomes involved in solving issues for friends. Dub Walker, a forensic science and criminal behavior expert, works alongside best friend Detective T-Tommy Tortelli to solve difficult cases. Bobby Cain and Harper McCoy are non-biological siblings who were raised by a gypsy-like family and trained by the military and now fix the unfixable. See? A variety of characters.

I think the great variability in P.I. characters makes for engaging stories and, as a writer, excellent fodder for character creation and storytelling. It’s why I read P.I. novels and why I write them. As do many of my fellow authors. 

If you also like P.I. stories drop into Jake’s world. I think you’ll have fun.


RIGGED Details:


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Posted by on May 21, 2020 in Writing

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