From the Stethoscope to the Pen—Malibu Physician Is Gifted Novelist

Malibu doctor Bryan Ney with his novel, “Calamity Jane: How the West Began”

Malibu doctor Bryan Ney has been practicing medicine since 1985. While his Hippocratic oath is to heal and advocate healthy practices, of course, he also encourages “everybody to have a creative outlet.”

With a general and internal medical practice in Los Angeles for 35 years, Ney’s profession generally does not allow for much creativity, but Ney found his niche to channel a creative streak along with a thirst for history. He has combined his passions by writing historical fiction. His interest in the old West and fledgling beginnings of America’s great frontier has him deep into writing his second novel.

“This has always been my love—to research these historical things I find fascinating,” he said. “I enjoy writing and creating fiction and having an audience.”

Dr. Ney had the seedlings of his first book 20 years ago while researching real events that happened in Montana back in the 1860s where, he said, “The bad guys ran the town. The sheriff, in fact, was their leader.”

“My interest in it wasn’t so much the traditional western with a John Wayne-type guy shooting up all kinds of people,” Ney shared. “My idea—the interesting part—was the psychology of how the common citizens were all divided. It took them a while to figure out who the bad guys were and also to coalesce. One of the interesting things is, they coalesced around the Masons back then.”

Screenwriter friends of Ney and his wife encouraged him to write a book about the infancy of the wild west and the unbelievable events that shaped its lore. That project became Ney’s first book—a historical fiction entitled “Calamity Jane: How the West Began.” Although Calamity Jane is not the main focus of the book, she does figure into it. 

“It turns out Calamity Jane was in this place about a year after the events I was interested in,” he said. “For historical fiction, I took Calamity Jane and put her into those other events.”

Ney has spent countless hours researching the old West and elaborated on the fascinating life of the legendary frontierswoman. 

“There’s an episode that’s not well known in her life, but very well documented,” Ney said of Calamity Jane. “When she was about 11, her parents were kind of derelicts in a frontier town in Montana. She ended up being temporarily abandoned by them. She was begging in the streets with her younger sister and a baby brother in her arms. It’s very well documented.” Ney explained these events happened a year after the area sheriff was taken to court for nefarious deeds.

“There was a trial,” he said. “After that, there was a vigilante episode.” Ney’s book focuses on the trial. He weaves the real-life events of the lady sharp shooter into his book as a catalyst. 

Ney elaborated on Calamity Jane’s connection. 

“There were a bunch of children in this gold rush town,” Ney said. “They pleaded to the adults, ‘We’re the children of the West and we want you to make this a safe place for us to live.’”

The Malibu resident of more than two decades will be able to spend more time on writing now that he’s cut his medical practice schedule to three days a week instead of full-time. 

His latest work focuses on a real-life “fascinating character” James Beckwourth. Beckwourth was a mixed-race man who, in the 1820s, was freed from slavery by his white father. He worked as a trapper until he was captured by members of the Crow tribe and began to live among them. Beckwourth later rose to become a leading Crow war chief. 

“My historical fiction compresses 14 years or more of Beckwourth’s life into three. People who read historical fiction like to be educated and entertained,” Dr. Ney explained.

As a member of the Greater Los Angeles Area Writers Society, Dr. Ney is booked to be a guest at the popular Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this year. He’ll appear April 18 at the fest to be held at the University of Southern California where he’ll be signing his first book.

Ney is also currently looking for representation.

“I recommend everybody have a creative outlet,” he said. “This is mine. I just love writing. I enjoy it at least as much as being on vacation.”