Dr. D.P. Lyle M.D had just received a query from yet another writer seeking his expert medical opinion. But this was no ordinary wordsmith slogging it out trying to get his or her new novel published or noticed. This inquiry came from none other than New York Times best selling author Charlene Harris.
The year was 2007, and hot on the heels of the Twilight book phenomenon, vampires were the “in” thing. Charlene Harris had a series of novels about our favorite bloodsuckers, and she wanted to get her facts straight.
“I got a lot of questions back then about vampires,” Lyle laughs. “What is vampire blood like? Do vampires have DNA? If so, what would vampire DNA look like?
Strange questions to be sure, but then, the Orange County, California cardiologist had been receiving similarly bizarre solicitations for several years now.
It all began close to two decades ago when then Mystery Writers of America president Jan Burke asked Lyle to write a piece for the group’s newsletter about determining a corpses time of death. The article and the Q and A that followed launched a side gig that the doctor had not seen coming. Before long, other writers looking to glean his knowledge were seeking him out at conferences, panels, and author events.
“You go to a cocktail party and people find out you’re a doctor and they want to talk to you about their gall bladder or their cholesterol,” Lyle quips. “You go to a writers conference and people want to ask you about poisons, gun shot wounds, etcera.”
It’s not something the doctor shies away from or tries to avoid. In fact, he relishes it.
“I enjoy teaching, and helping other writers and people in general. We all have some sort of skill and I believe in sharing it.”
And share he has. Over the past twenty years or so, Dr. Lyle estimates he has answered over six thousand questions from everyone from writers, to attorneys, to law enforcement. He also wrote a book, “Forensics for Dummies” in 2004, and in 2005, he launched a submission form on his website to formally answer specific queries from writers – both of these efforts spawned some unintended consequences.
“I’ve been informed by law enforcement several times that the Forensics for Dummies book has been found in the possession of suspects of crimes. And some of the questions I received on my website just had a strange vibe to them, like the person on the other end wasn’t a writer plotting the perfect crime, but an individual possibly intent on carrying it out.”
He’s since initiated a policy of requiring the requestor to surrender their personal information to him, so at least he has a record of it. Most of the people who contact him willingly provide the info, but occasionally someone won't. And the policy hasn’t seemed to abate the substantial volume of requests the doctor receives on an almost daily basis. Most of the questions he gets are fairly prosaic, but some run to the extremely bizarre.
Asked about the most peculiar question he ever had submitted and Lyle admits that it’s tough to put a blue ribbon on any one question, although one does stand out in his mind.
“It was all about bee venom and how could you kill someone with it,” he says. “This person wanted to learn everything there was to know about it. What if you locked a person in a car and released a swarm of bees? How about injecting someone with bee venom? Could you kill them if you forced them to drink bee venom?”
To learn about some of the other offbeat and downright morbid questions he has answered through the years, check out Dr. D.P. Lyle M.D. books, “Forensics and Fiction” and “More Forensics and Fiction”. Besides winning numerous awards, Dr. Lyle's also the author of three crime series, as well as several more books on forensics for writers. His website is: http://www.dplylemd.com/