Retired Manhattan Beach lawyer pens environmental thriller
Darryl Nyznyk remembers the late 1970s and early 1980s as a time when major developers flocked to Los Angeles. The real estate development market in Los Angeles was in bloom, and Nyznyk knew a thing or two about that as an attorney representing multiple developers in Los Angeles County.
On the other side of the coin was a man named Carlyle Hall Jr., a leading authority on California environmental and land use law and renowned lawyer representing citizens’ groups in environmental matters. With the backing of his nonprofit group, Center for Law in the Public Interest, and the Sierra Club, Hall convinced a California Supreme Court judge to order an injunction against the county to halt approving developments as the county lacked a valid general plan.
Rather than feeling animosity toward the man who was singlehandedly blocking his clients’ grandiose development plans, Nyznyk, 61, remembers being thoroughly impressed.
“He knew the law and he went after the County of L.A.,” Nyznyk said. “Every developer for a period of time who wanted to development in L.A. had to deal with him, and it was very invigorating to me.”
The case not only made him environmentally conscious, but the spark of interest culminated, some 30 years later, into the premise of Nyznyk’s third novel, The Condor Song (Cross Dove Publishing).
Intrigued by the work of the Sierra Club after his encounter with Hall, Nyznyk picked up a copy of Wild by Law, a picture book chronicling the group’s historic legal efforts to preserve natural resources from the threats of politics and large developments.
One particular battle that caught Nyznyk’s attention was the group’s ultimately successful efforts to block Disney’s $35 million project to build a ski resort in the Mineral King Valley, a wilderness area nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Walt Disney, an honorary member of the Sierra Club, had done all the right things as a developer: he proposed a plan that was environmentally friendly and acquired initial approval from the group, which it later rescinded. The legal battle was drawn out for years before Disney finally pulled the plug.
“From my perspective, Disney should have gotten the right to do it, but in hindsight they might have never been able to protect that area,” said Nyznyk, a former president of Anastasi Development, a Hawthorne-based real estate development company. “It’s a tough call, as is every environmental-developer issue.”
That ambiguity of good versus evil planted a seed in Nyznyk’s mind. Fast forward several decades to today, the seed has bloomed into The Condor Song, a 360-page environmental legal thriller about a once-disgraced attorney whose mission is to save a piece of the Sierra Nevada wilderness from development by his nemesis’ client, a businessman dreaming of building a Disney World-like theme park.
“It set up some intriguing possibilities for me—ethical, legal, humanistic, environmental,” he said. “That was kind of the mess that I really wanted to dive into.”
A Canada-native who at age 5 moved to California with his family, Nyznyk always dreamed of writing fiction. But he pursued law, inspired by his personal hero Abraham Lincoln, receiving his degree from the University of San Diego. Nyznyk initially worked in insurance defense and made his way into real estate development, ultimately opening his own practice.
After some 20 years of practicing law, Nyznyk, with encouragement from his wife Loretta, decided to pursue his childhood dream. In 1991, he took a year off from his practice and holed himself up in the garage of his Manhattan Beach home. It was then he handwrote his entire first book, The Third Term, a self-published political suspense tale about a newspaper reporter whose life is endangered when she acquires classified information regarding the U.S. president.
He also began penning Mary’s Son, a modern Christmas tale that “brings Christ back to Christmas,” he explained. Since its publication in 2010, the book has become an Amazon Kindle bestseller and has won three Mom’s Choice awards.
Since retiring in 2007, Nyznyk has been writing full-time. Two more novels, one of which is a thriller, are currently in the works.
“I need to stay with the writing,” he said. “I’ve got a million of them up here.”
The Condor Song is available on Amazon, as well as Pages Bookstore in Manhattan Beach and Banner Stationery in El Segundo. Nyznyk is donating $2 of every sale from the bookstores to the Oklahoma Tornado Relief.