Photo by Robert Noles
By Morgan Bryce
Though there is no relation between the two, Scottish-born Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Opelika-based author Peter Doyle both have one thing in common – a passion for writing tales of mystery and intrigue.
Born into a Navy family, Peter and his family moved constantly, often giving him little chance to adjust to his new surroundings.
“It seemed like every time I was just getting used to living in a place, my father would get the call and we’d have to move again,” Doyle. “My grades suffered, and I just thought I was dumb and incapable of doing well in school.”
But after his father got deployed during World War II, Peter had the chance to adjust to his home of Pensacola, Fla., and become a better student.
“After my father went off into service, we were able to adjust to our new lives in Pensacola. I had a cousin down there who taught me how to study, and my grades and attitude toward school improved,” Doyle said.
From then on, school work was no longer an issue for Peter, and after high school, he pursued a degree in history at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.
“History is my passion, and even though I had always had a passion for writing, I just felt when it came time to choose a major that I should do what I truly loved, and that was history,” Doyle said.
During his sophomore year of college, Doyle said he felt a call from God to pastor too, and kept that calling as his focus once he finished his history degree.
A couple of years later, nearing graduation, Doyle took on a summer job, acting in a play called Common Glory, a story set during the Revolutionary War. One of the dancers he worked with in rehearsals, his now wife of 61 years, Sally Ann, caught Doyle’s eye.
“I saw her in the show and knew I had to meet her. We met in 1953, started dating in 1954. We were married the next year, in August 1955. She is my life’s biggest blessing,” Doyle said.
In 1957, after earning a Master’s Degree in Divinity from an Episcopal seminary, Doyle received the call to pastor his first church, which was located just outside of Altavista, Va.
“It was a very heated time in the South, with racial tensions running high. Shortly after I arrived, I gave a sermon on a situation in the Bible similar to ours and stated that all races were equal and should be able to come to worship together. That message did not set well, and I was released from my post shortly after,” Doyle said.
Needing to find a job, Doyle saw an advertisement for a school in Liberia needing teachers, and in January 1960, he and his wife Sally Ann made the move to Liberia.
“Liberia was a wonderful experience for us and the people I taught and met were incredible. But after nearly two years there, I felt called to further my education, and my wife and I made the move to Switzerland to learn under one of Europe’s best theologians.”
In August 1962, then, Doyle and his young family left Liberia, and moved to Switzerland, so he could pursue a Doctorate in Divinity under Swiss theologian Karl Barth.
Doyle’s training was going smoothly until Barth’s sudden retirement in 1963, and in September, Doyle and his family moved back to the United States.
“When he retired, I was still in the middle of writing my dissertation. So when we got back to the U.S., I wanted to go back to preaching, and was offered a job at a church in Leesburg, just outside of Washington, D.C.”
After pastoring at several churches over the next few years, Doyle wound up getting the call to a church in Auburn, Covenant Presbyterian Church, where he became the pastor in 1977.
“I immediately fell in love with the area, and knew that I was going to live here for a long time,” Doyle said.
In 1985, he moved to Opelika. He became pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in 1991, which he pastored until his retirement in 2006.
Although Doyle had written dissertations and small tracts of Christian literature, he had never before written a full-length book. It was during his years at Trinity that this other talent of his came into full bloom.
“My daughter Susan loved my story telling, and convinced me to write for her. I started doing this in 1991, and after 6 months, I had a manuscript for her to read. She called me about an hour and a half after I gave her a copy to read, which she read from cover to cover, and she wanted more,” Doyle said.
This manuscript would be the first in a series of children’s adventures called the “Daring Family Adventures”, stories describing the adventures of three teens in their travels across Africa and Western Europe. The series, which ended up at a dozen books in total, was greeted with great success, and he sold more than 350,000 copies of the books.
“Instead of cutting grass or working on items from a honey-do list, I would spend my Saturday mornings and afternoons at the local Burger King writing my books. I would completely immerse myself in my imaginary worlds and the words just flowed onto the paper,” Doyle said.
After completing the Daring series, Doyle moved on to his next adventure, a book series called “Drums of War”.
“Because of my passion for American history, this series was easy to write. It’s basically a historical novel revolving around the lives of several teenagers during the Revolutionary War, and how their courage and values guide their decisions to get involved and fight for our independence,” Doyle said.
Currently, Doyle is working on the fifth installment in the Drums of War series, and plans to continue writing as long as he can, all the while balancing family time, exercising or volunteering for Auburn’s Campus Crusade for Christ ministry.
“I have a passion for youth, and will work as long as I can to try to help mold and shape the lives of young people for Christ,” Doyle said. “I want God to be glorified in everything I do, and for those that read my books to see God’s hand in everything I do, so that they can come to know him and appreciate the people and places that make up our world.”
To find copies of his books or other information about Mr. Doyle, go to www.doyleadventures.com.