The Curious Case of DP Lyle

DP Lyle
DP Lyle

From the 2020 Collegian | DP Lyle isn’t a man who makes decisions lightly. But when a decision is made, he doesn’t think twice about it—he sticks to it, and lets it shape the course of his life.

While growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, Lyle says he was always working towards one thing: going to medical school. He’s known since a young age that he was destined to do medical work, but not because it’s what his family did, or because he admired doctors. He says he just knew.

“I saw a documentary in the mid-1950s on what’s known as the blue baby surgery,” Lyle said. “It was the first surgery to operate on the heart of a child with congenital heart disease. I remember seeing it on TV and saying, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I not only knew I’d go to medical school, I knew I was going into cardiology.”

From the moment he saw that documentary, every decision Lyle made was to help him become a cardiologist. After graduating from UA with a chemistry degree on the pre-med track, he moved to Birmingham, where he completed medical school, and then to Texas. But after visiting a friend in California, he decided that’s where he would practice. He’s lived there since.

Throughout his career, Lyle has been recognized for his work as a cardiologist. For 33 years, he has worked as a partner at the South Orange County Cardiology Group, and served in almost every position in his local chapter of the American Heart Association. He credits much of his success to his ability to stick to a decision and let it drive him.

When he’s not practicing medicine, Lyle writes novels about mysteries, murder, and the American South. He credits this love of telling stories to how he was raised.

“I used to have these stories in my head,” Lyle said. “People say that, if you can’t tell a story in the South, they won’t feed you. And there’s some truth to that. So I used to make up stories in my head when I would run. A little over 20 years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to retire soon, so if I was going to write, I had to do it then. So I took a couple of writing classes at the University of California at Irvine, joined some writers’ groups, and started writing.”

Since then, Lyle has written over 20 books, including the Jake Longly series, detailing the adventures of an ex-baseball player who is unwillingly dragged into his father’s private investigation business; the Sam Cody series, which follows an ex-cop who moonlights as a professional boxer; the Dub Walker thriller series set in his hometown of Huntsville, and the Cain/Harper series, which features a pair of non-biological siblings who were raised by nomads, trained by the military, and now fix the unfixable. For each of these novels, Lyle has employed his creative thinking with his knowledge and skills as a physician, painting a realistic portrait of crimes and mysteries.

When Lyle began attending writers’ conventions to get feedback on his books, other thriller and mystery novelists were excited to find out he was a physician. They started to ask him questions about anything and everything related to his career in order to make their books more realistic.

“When writers figure out that you’re a physician, they want to know about everything,” Lyle said. “They want to know about knives, gunshots, DNA, poisons, and more. So I started helping writers with the science aspects of their books, and then later the forensic science aspects after I educated myself more on that subject.”

From there, his writing colleagues recommended that, because he lived close to Hollywood, he start consulting for movies and television shows. Because he had the knowledge, he decided to pursue that path, and has served as a consultant for writers on over a dozen shows, including Monk, House, Pretty Little Liars, and Law and Order.

After decades in his cardiology, writing, and consulting careers, Lyle has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge while maintaining his other interests. Lyle has written several books about forensic science and mystery writing, including Forensics for Dummies. He also hosts the podcast “Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction,” a blog titled “The Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog,” and co-hosts the radio show “Crime and Science Radio.” He has also led classes on crime fiction writing at The Learning Tree University and the UCLA Extension Writing Program.

“Teaching just seems like a natural extension of what I do,” Lyle said. “I love to teach. I don’t get paid for it. I do it for free because I love working with writers. They’re the storytellers. That’s what I like. And so I help teach them how to understand science and how it works in their stories.”

Though he never expected to become a writer, Lyle wouldn’t trade it for anything. He gives much of the credit for turning his two passions, science and writing, into sustainable careers to his determination. For him, it wasn’t ever a question of if he was going to do something, but when and how.

“When you figure out you want to do something, you need to deconstruct the steps,” Lyle said. “It’s like working a chemistry problem. You don’t just start throwing things against the wall—you figure out what you need to do to reach your goal, break it down into achievable steps, and follow that path.”