Spoiler alert: Dean Murphy survived all of the incidents below and became a better writer from each.
The adversity that formed Dean Murphy’s life is known as Murphy’s Law. At age eleven
when playing Tarzan by swinging from a vine, he fell and broke both wrists. Outdoor
activities not allowed, books were his windows to the world. Quite a view! More doors
closed when he was a teen—his mother died. With no government safety net he grew
up quickly, had to learn how to cook—or eat his father’s cooking. Cremated toast left an
indelible mark on his mind and taste buds. “Wind from open windows blew the door closed,”
he says. Now, when life’s doors slam shut, he chooses the view from those open windows.
He channeled all the adversity detailed below into a short story, The Big Hug.
Already stretched thin with both a blue-collar job and real estate investments, his
love of reading led to reviewing books for Charlotte Observer, correctly predicting
Judith Krantz’s Scruples to become a bestseller. That review led to an exclusive
interview with mega-bestselling Krantz, published by Writer’s Digest. Shortly after,
Murphy wrote “Through a Blind Man’s Eyes” for Writer’s Digest’s Chronicle, a piece
that encouraged writers to enhance descriptive skills. When Police Product News
published his exposé entitled “A Shot In the Dark,” the Writing Bug bit. Murphy
morphed a cliché phrase from the ’60s to Write on!
One frozen February morning, he fell, breaking the coccyx bone. Unable to work for a month,
he visited editors he knew in Florida and fell in love with year-long summer. After returning to North Carolina’s gray fog and temperatures hovering barely above freezing, he quit his job and moved to Miami. And lost connection with writing and book review venues.
He became a medical research paralegal, sheer drudgery for 20 years. To save
his sanity, he organized an urban reforestation project. He walked 167 miles, from
Key West to Miami Beach, in three days to get media attention for the Children With
AIDS Foundation. Then he walked for 25 consecutive hours to raise awareness for
the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. His feet still haven’t forgiven him.
[See Contact page regarding continued efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer.]
A spinal injury ended all that. His law firm retroactively fired him. Depression set
in like the 1930s. A friend recommended reading Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Soup-titled
mysteries, which he began reviewing. (His “U is for the ubiquitous queen...” is third
of 478 U is for Undertow reviews, and “Kinsey Millhone is back with a Vengeance”
is Amazon’s top-rated review of 881.) Bookreporter and International Thriller Writers
engaged him to review books and interview authors. Mystery Writers of America and
Florida Writers Association accepted his membership. Like butter, he was on a roll.
Moving to Orlando, he wrote under the name L. Dean Murphy. (“The L stands for my
first name,” he mysteriously said. “I didn’t know I had a first name, until age twenty.”)
He discovered that Victor Gischler’s protagonist Dean Murphy is an Orlando private eye.
The spinal injury caused a fall that resulted with broken knuckles. An excruciatingly
painful incident in physical therapy led to the plot for a mystery. Two authors declined
to use his idea but encouraged him to write what became The Art of Murder. Grateful
for each adverse incident as a learning experience used for plots in his novels, Murphy
has lost everything many times. Everything but the love of books, which led to his maxim:
When there’s nothing left, write!