Q.: Doug, for Women in Crime Ink readers who don’t know you, please give us a little about your background.
A.: I'm a Southerner, having grown up in Huntsville, Alabama, graduated from the University of Alabama for both college and medical school and then did my cardiology training at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. I now practice cardiology in Orange County, California. I write both fiction and nonfiction, have won the Macavity Award, and been nominated for an Edgar Award. I also consult with the writers of many TV shows, including Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, and 1-800-Missing.
Q.: You are considered an expert in forensic science. How do you use those skills?
A.: I don't work in the forensic field and do not consider myself an expert but more an interested party. Being a physician, the terminology and the science behind forensic science is not foreign to me, so it wasn’t difficult to educate myself in the field. Now I use it to translate this often difficult science into simple terms for writers and hopefully to help them use this information in their stories. So I'm more or less a translator for fiction writers.
Q.: What are you doing to stay abreast of today’s forensic science?
A.: I read anything and everything that has to do with the field. I stay on top of it through the many scientific blogs, scientific journals, and rummaging around the net. I will say that a lot of my research is stimulated by the questions I receive from writers who want to know some forensic detail for their story. I probably learn more from the questions that are asked than the questioner learns from my answers. I am constantly amazed at the creative mind of fiction writers and the wild scenarios and questions they come up with.
Q.: What do you think about the state of forensics today? Do you see progress being made? Are we staying ahead of the criminals?
A.: Like any science, forensic science progresses in fits and spurts. The hot topic of recent years has been DNA and there have been some incredible advances in this arena. With the new so-called "touch DNA" techniques, investigators are finding DNA samples in places they never looked before. A simple fingerprint will often contain the person's DNA because these prints are made up of oils and skin cells left behind when an object is touched. With the newer DNA testing techniques a single cell is enough for DNA profiling in many cases.
Q.: Thank you for the review copy of your latest book, Stress Fracture. Can you provide a brief book jacket explanation?
A.: Stress Fracture is the first in my new Dub Walker series. It’s set in Huntsville and revolves around the world of murder and forensic science. In the story, a series of brutal killings take place that are very confusing to Dub in that each killing suggests that the killer on one hand is cold and methodical while on the other is frenzied and out of control. It creates a difficult profiling situation and makes tracking the killer problematic. He leaves little evidence behind yet appears to be completely insane, a situation that the profilers call a "mixed presentation." Of course, it becomes personal when a close friend of Dub’s is murdered and both Dub and his ex-wife Claire McBride are threatened directly by the killer.
Q.: Your main character, Dub Walker, is a crime scene and evidence analyst. What is he responsible for? Are you are going to pepper all your stories with forensic science details?
A.: Dub almost made it through medical school but dropped out three months from the finish line when his sister was abducted. He was supposed to meet her at a certain place and at a certain time but was delayed. When he got there she was gone. Never seen again. This drove him into depression, which ultimately led to him joining the Marines where he was an MP and got his head screwed back on. After that, he worked at the Alabama Department of Forensic Science in Huntsville where he gained his expertise in forensic investigations. He also did a stint with the FBI's Behavioral Assessment Unit where he learned more about criminal behavior. He then became a writer and teacher on these subjects, which led to his being consulted on difficult cases around the country. He brings a broad spectrum of knowledge and experience to the cases and has a knack for thinking outside the box.
And yes, each story in the series relies heavily on forensic science. Stress Fracture deals with PTSD as well as criminal behavior and the second in the series, Hot Lights, Cold Steel, which is already completed and will be out in 2011, deals with robotic surgery. So each book contains not only forensic science but also medical science.
Q.: Would you care to share details about your writers' forensic blog?
A.: I started the blog in order to communicate with writers about forensic issues. It is meant primarily for writers though I have readers who cover a very broad spectrum, including police officers, attorneys, forensic experts, and many others. I try to take something interesting that I've seen in my net searches, or maybe stimulated by a question from a writer, or perhaps some crime story that appears in the papers or on television, and use that as a springboard to discuss some forensic technique. When I post things to my blog I always attempt to keep writers in mind and ask myself—What about this story might help a writer with something they're working on or perhaps generate a new story idea? And of course, I learn a lot doing it.
Q.: Is there anything else you would like to tell Women in Crime Ink readers?
A.: Those of you who write, keep writing. Those of you who read, keep reading. We writers love our readers.