Local boy makes really good
From Littleton to Stanford to “Miami Vice” to "Alcatraz" is not the usual route to becoming an author living in Los Angeles, but it worked for Daniel Pyne.
“I never expected to be successful,” he said while in town visiting his sister, Susan Pyne, on June 20. “I did everything I needed to do to be successful, but if I wasn’t, I would have still done it all.”
In his case, “all” is a lot.
Pyne, the son of Charles and Barbara Pyne, got his dramatic start on the stage of Arapahoe High School as a sixth-grader at East Elementary School. He played Wilbur in “Inherit the Wind.”
“It was the beginning and end of my acting career,” he said. “The whole reason I write is to be behind the camera.”
He went on to Euclid Middle School and graduated from Littleton High School in 1973.
“I had kind of a love/hate relationship with Littleton,” he said. During his visit, he took a trip down memory lane, otherwise known as Broadway.
“There’s this weird ghostly overlay of what used to be there, and yet a lot of it looks nothing like I remember,” he said. “But in a way, it was great preparation for what I do. It exposed me to a combination of a classic, conservative Midwestern world and a kind of more modern, suburban, urban experience. I feel like it bridged this gap of old America and new America.”
As a kid, he wrote for the school paper and dabbled in cartoons, but prose remained his first love.
“I loved putting words together,” he said. “Writing, for me, was more than just storytelling. … I love the lyrical part of writing.”
He recalls one Mr. Pickering, AP English teacher, as being the first person to encourage him to pursue writing. But his father, a sculptor, was skeptical.
“As a struggling artist, my dad didn’t want me to go into art,” said Pyne. “He didn’t know anything about economics, so to him that sounded like a practical field.”
So off to Stanford he went with a compromise — he studied economics and creative writing. He graduated in three years and set off to find his true calling. At one point he thought he could make money writing by being a reporter.
“I was a terrible reporter,” he said. “I only liked the writing part, so I was tempted to make stuff up.”
Next he tried selling his short stories, without much success. Next up: film school.
“I thought maybe I could write movies to support myself while I got to be a better writer,” he said. “But it wasn’t like cocktail waitressing. It wasn’t just something to do while you’re waiting for something else.”
So he headed for L.A., where he realized not everyone has the same “boom or bust” mentality as Coloradans.
“Other people think sequentially,” he said. “They think you build a career rather than just have one.”
He found work as a story editor on the “Matt Houston” series in 1983. His next gig was writing the first episode after the pilot of “Miami Vice,” and things took off from there. He worked on several more crime shows and films, his favorite genre, as evidenced by his three novels.
“Everything is a mystery,” he said. “I’m really interested in the struggle for identity.”
That interest comes from Littleton, as well. He recalls living in his nice, happy suburban home but noticing the couple in the duplex down the street who were always fighting.
“I was always looking for those weird perversions of the dream,” he said.