Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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    A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths

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Valentine’s Day Checklist: Candy, Flowers and a Background Check

Posted by Writing PIs on February 11, 2015

Ah, it’s almost Valentine’s Day. A time to celebrate love with that special person in your life. A time to share a romantic evening with candlelight, roses, champagne…maybe even pop the question.  Now we’re talking about spending your life with someone, sharing sensitive financial data and resources, possibly raising children together, combining assets and more.

How well do you know this person? Do you know his/her background?

Be Heart Smart: Know Your Partner’s Background

Even if you’re not planning on getting married, knowing your beloved’s background is important. Not the background they choose to share, the black-and-white background documented in public records, such as a criminal history, arrest history, driving history, previous marriages and divorces. Keep in mind that co-habitation is as much a business venture as it is as a romantic enterprise.

You might be thinking, “But he/she’s a fantastic person! No way I’m going to sneak around behind their back to find out their history!”

But if you’re interested in this special person, seriously considering taking the next step — be it a committed relationship, moving in together or getting married — it’s smart to do a background check. Better to know the facts ahead of time than be surprised down the road.

Below are a few cases that have come into our office.

I’ve met this great guy, but I know so little about him…

This client called several years ago, referred to us by an attorney who’d handled her previous divorce. After she’d told the attorney she’d fallen for this great guy, but she knew so little about him, he stopped her right there, told her to contact us for a background check. We ran a quick criminal background check…and our jaws dropped! This dude had reams of felony charges and arrests, including a stint in prison for a felony conviction in another state. Seemed he was big on embezzlement…and when we shared this news with her, she admitted she’d been “loaning” him a lot of money, to the tune of thousands of dollars.

She ended the relationship. Then she started carefully reviewing her credit card statements and bank statements, and learned he’d misappropriated her credit card information, forged checks, and promised various lenders and businesses that she’d co-sign on loans.

She never got her money back. Not a penny.

Shame she hadn’t obtained a background check on this guy beforehand.

My ex-girlfriend is going after my assets!

This poor guy lived with a girl for a year, then they broke up and she moved out. She promptly went to an attorney and claimed she and her ex-boyfriend had been secretly married in a ceremony at a hotel the year before and that she was entitled to half of his assets. The guy (we’ll call him Tom) had to hire his own attorney to counter her claims. We were hired as investigators on Tom’s case. After we obtained evidence that showed she’d denied being married while living with Tom –and in fact, identified herself as a single woman on a notarized document to the federal government, the court dismissed her case.

Unfortunately, hiring an attorney was costly to Tom. His ex-girlfriend, angry that she’d lost the opportunity to win half his assets, called his work and made false claims about his sexual behavior at a company function she’d attended with him back when they were an item…and poor Tom was then forced to fight that charge (more $$ to the attorney) and he wasn’t allowed to return physically to his office for months until that case, too, was dismissed.

In our investigations, we learned she’d done this exact same thing to another guy a few years before! Except the previous guy, rather than hire an attorney, just settled with her for $20,000 to go away.

How’d she get by with this? She knew the law. She worked as a paralegal for a divorce lawyer, so she knew the ins and outs of common law marriages, and the possibilities for profit.

Shame he hadn’t obtained a background check on this asset-happy woman beforehand.

Could you check out my new boyfriend…he seems nice, but after the last time…

Remember the woman who found out her boyfriend had been embezzling money from her (first story, above)? Well, after that experience, she called us when she started dating again, asked us to conduct a background check on the new guy in her life. Guess what? No criminal records, no messy divorces in his past, no arrests. Everything he’d shared about his past (that we could verify through public records) was true. They’re now an item, considering moving in together.

So you see, background checks can also be a safety measure so you can move forward to the next step.

How to Obtain a Background Check

Many PIs conduct background checks. An easy way to find a PI who specializes in this area is to contact your state professional private investigators association and request (or look up) the name of a PI who conducts background checks. Below is a link, courtesy of PI Magazine, that lists state PI associations:

Private Investigator Associations

Have a great week, Writing PIs

On Sale for 99 Cents Through February 17, 2015

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye

“As an experienced private detective and a skilled storyteller, Colleen Collins is the perfect person to offer a glimpse into the lives of real female P.I.s”
~ Kim Green, managing editor of Pursuit Magazine: The Magazine of Professional Investigators

“This was a very informative and entertaining book. I can’t wait to check out the links that Ms. Collins shared. She is also an inspiration that it’s never too late to do something you love. “ ~Amazon reviewer

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#MondayBlogs Answering Writer’s Question: When Does a PI’s Activity Become Intimidation?

Posted by Writing PIs on January 26, 2015

bad guy

Today we respond to a writer’s question about PIs and intimidation.

Writer’s Question: When does surveillance, or any legitimate investigative activity, become intimidation?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Many investigative activities (such as surveillance, knocking on doors and attempting interviews, service of subpoenas) can be done in such a manner to intimidate the target of an investigation. The legitimate activity can be so pronounced and intense that the subject not only knows they’re being investigated, they fear the person who’s hired the investigator (or they fear the investigator him/herself). This is intimidation. An example of an intimidation is to leave a dead fish on the windshield of someone’s car with a rose in its mouth (which L.A. investigator Anthony Pellicano did to intimidate a newspaper reporter ). This reporter was a witness before an official proceeding and Pellicano was charged for intimidating a witness with this not-so-subtle gift of seafood.

While the FBI agents in The Sopranos could sit at the foot of Tony’s driveway and even FBI special agentchat with him on occasion (which is not covert surveillance), they could not attempt to run his car off the road or interfere with his business because those acts constitute intimidation (or police harassment).

Private investigators are regularly asked by bill collectors to visit debtors. This is a dicey area because federal credit collection practice laws permit contact but they don’t permit collectors to threaten with bodily injury or improper damage to the debtor’s reputation. Any time that a debtor can prove that a PI is guilty of these acts then the PI is personally liable, his firm his liable, and the collection agency is liable. Your fictional PI might be employed to knock on doors and collect money, discourage witnesses to testify in a court case, or take photographs of an individual and his/her home, car, workplace, etc. When these acts are done to intentionally frighten the witness and/or drive them from either testifying or bringing a claim in court, those actions are legally classified as intimidation.

Writing PIs

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Investigator Takes the Stand: Tales from a Trial

Posted by Writing PIs on January 10, 2015

A Criminal Case 1865 by Honore Daumer, Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

A Criminal Case 1865 by Honore Daumer, Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

As many of you know, one of the Writing PIs, Shaun, has returned to being a criminal lawyer. He often says that having worked as a private investigator for 10 years makes him a better lawyer.

An example of that being this week at trial, when Shaun cross-examined an investigator on the stand.

Who Owns the Phone?

modern cell phone

One key issue in this trial is the ownership of a cell phone that was used to make certain purchases (its phone number shows on sales receipts).

The investigator (retired police officer/current investigator) traced the phone, via its phone number, to an address, at which he served a warrant. In a search of the residence, the investigator found the phone in Mr. X’s bedroom. In his investigation report to the prosecution, he identified the phone as belonging to Mr. X, the defendant.

At trial this week, the investigator took the stand, and Shaun asked, “Who owns the phone?”

The investigator responded that Mr. X, the defendant, owns the phone.

Shaun asked, “How do you know this?”

The investigator said that the phone had been found in Mr. X’s bedroom.

But several people live at this multi-bedroom residence, Shaun said, so how did the investigator know that the phone actually belonged to Mr. X?  Investigator repeated because it had been found in Mr. X’s bedroom.

Do You Know What a Reverse Search Is?

Shaun asked the investigator if he knew what a “reverse search” was on a phone number. The investigator responded that yes, he did. Shaun explained to the jury that such a reverse search obtains information about a phone, such as subscriber information, via its phone number. (In our private investigations business, we have run hundreds of reverse phone number searches over the years.)

Shaun then asked the investigator if he had run a reverse search on the phone. The investigator said no, he hadn’t.

finger pressing key on keyboardAt that point, Shaun listed three proprietary databases that offer phone number reverse searches for minimal charges, anywhere from fifty cents to a few dollars. He asked the investigator if he had access to any of these databases — the investigator said yes, he did. Without checking to whom the phone was registered, Shaun said, you instead assumed the phone belonged to Mr. X.  Such assumptions can make the difference between a not guilty verdict and a wrongful conviction.

What Is a Proprietary Database?

These are privately owned, password-protected online databases that are not available to the public. Proprietary databases cull information from thousands, if not millions, of public records. Years ago, one customer rep told me that her company’s proprietary database pulled information from billions of public record sources.

Many private investigators use such databases to aid their research, but even then, it’s smart to double-check search results. In cases when we’ve run reverse phone number searches, and a name pops up as being the registered owner, we’ll double-check that result by doing such things as running a reverse in another database and calling the number to hear the voice message.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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Jury Selection: Tales from a Trial

Posted by Writing PIs on January 6, 2015

gavel and scales

The criminal lawyer side of Writing PIs, Shaun, is starting a trial today. The PI-writer side of Writing PIs, yours truly, is on deadline finishing a book that features a lawyer protagonist, and she wishes she were at trial, too. Where better to do research and soak up “local color” for a legal story? But instead, one of us is at a real-life trial, while the other stays at home, writing a fictional one.

James Holmes Trial Postponed

The James Holmes trial was supposed to start this week, too, and Shaun anticipated it being a zoo at the courthouse with hundreds of spectators, media, and so on. Because of the Holmes trial, a large number of potential jurors had been called…then the Holmes trial was postponed a month.

By the way, when the two of us were at that courthouse a year+ ago, we noticed they had paved a huge, extra parking lot in anticipation of a large number of people — spectators, media — attending the Holmes hearings/trial.

Jury Selection: People’s Real-Life Stories

One result of the Holmes trial being originally set for this week was that there was an unusually large pool of potential jurors, 67 people, for Shaun’s trial.

During selection, the judge asked if anyone had reason to not be a juror. A man raised his hand, said that he was illiterate & was afraid other jurors would make fun of him. Shaun said it saddened him hearing the man’s story, made him realize the hurt the man must have endured in his life. Judge excused the man from jury duty.

Another man raised his hand, said English wasn’t his first language, so he should be excused, too. Judge rolled her eyes and sighed loudly, said she wasn’t going to put up with any dilly-dallying, and he was not excused.

#BookExcerpt A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers

Click cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click cover to go to book’s Amazon page

We wrote about jury selection in our recent non-fiction book A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms. Below is a link to that book excerpt:

The Steps of a Trial: Jury Selection

 Have a great week, Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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Don’t Make Hiring a Private Detective One of Your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Writing PIs on January 2, 2015


hat and magnifying glass on computer

We once got a call from a woman who wanted to know how her abusive ex-boyfriend had learned her new home address. We ran a quick search of her address on Google, and guess what? She’d listed it on an online resume, which meant anybody could find that home address by simply searching for her name.

Let’s go over a few resolutions you can make to protect your confidential information so you don’t need to add “Hire a Private Investigator” to that list.

house illustration

If a retail business asks for your home address, provide your business address or a virtual address instead

Tip #1: Stop sharing your home address

It’s your home, your private residence, the center of your family life — you don’t need to share this address with anybody other than friends, family and trusted business contacts. One way to protect your home address is to provide your business address instead.

Another way to protect your home address is to purchase a private mailbox from a US post office, or from a private mailbox service such as The UPS Store, then use this address on forms, registrations, mailings, and so on. Private mailbox companies often provide you with a “street” address (where your mailbox is the suite number) so those forms that say “You must enter a street address, not a post office box” will be satisfied that you’re entering a street address (although it’s not).

Tip #2: Don’t announce your location

Turn off location services on your smartphones

Turn off location services on your smartphone

It’s all the rage for people to automatically announce their location through social media sites (such as Twitter) and other online sites. If someone has decided to break into your residence, or confront you, or confront somebody who’s still at your residence (while you’re at your location), or conduct some other not-in-your-best-interest activity, don’t help them by letting them know your location. So when you see those prompts (“Click here so people can know your location!”) don’t click.

Also, it’s a good idea to turn off location services on your smartphone so you are not giving away your real-time location. Also, photos you take with your smartphone can record your location via embedded geotagging. This 2014 article in Forbes, Don’t Let Stalkers, Abusers, and Creeps Track Your Phones Location, contains instructions for turning off location services.

Tip #3: Don’t give out your phone number

It's possible to track a person's address via their  phone number

Did you know that it’s possible to track a person’s address via their phone number?

It’s relatively easy to find home addresses from phone numbers. It’s just as easy for you to protect that number, and your personal information associated with it, by using a virtual phone number. What’s that? A virtual number is a regular number (area code + number, such as 123-456-7789) that you can set up to ring through to your real number. Then, you give out the virtual number when a stranger, or someone other than family and trusted friends, asks for your phone number. When somebody calls that virtual number, you answer, and nobody knows it’s not your real number.

If someone attempts a trace on that phone number (to find the name/address it’s registered to), they won’t find it (that is, as long as you haven’t posted your name as being associated with that number somewhere on the Internet). Basic virtual number services typically cost anywhere from $6.95 to $10.95 a month (extra features, such as fax services, cost more). You can sign up for a virtual number at sites like Vumber and FlyNumber.

That’s it.  Three tips to protect your confidential information in the new year.

Like this article? It and other investigative articles by this author are in How Do Private Eyes Do That? available on Kindle.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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Readers’ Favorite Articles in 2014

Posted by Writing PIs on December 25, 2014

woman looking thru mag glass black and white2

As 2014 draws to an end, we’d like to share our readers’ favorite Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s posts from this year. Some of you have been along for the ride since we kicked off this blog in 2009, and we thank you for your support!

Readers’ Top 10 Articles

Starting with number 10…detective with flashlight

#10: “Private Investigators and Murder Cases” Colleen wrote this article for former lawyer/mystery-book-reviewer/editor Elizabeth A. White’s blog in 2012.


#9: “Historical Research: Finding People From Over 40 Years Ago” In this techno-digital age, people often think private investigators just sit at their computers all day, digging up dirt on the Internet and databases. Not so. Even in the 21st century, some cases can only be solved the old-fashioned way: On foot.


#8: “Interview with Steven Kerry Brown, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating” We’re happy to say that Steven Brown is doing well since his bone marrow transplant…in fact, so well that a month ago he contacted Colleen about posting information about his new private-eye book here at Guns, Gams and Gumshoes.  Steven–a former FBI special agent and president of Millennial Investigative Agency–knows his stuff about investigations and then some. We’re looking forward to previewing his upcoming novel, so stay tuned.


#7: “Private Detective Couples in Fiction and Real Life”

This image is protected by copyright - do not copy or distribute.

This image is protected by copyright – do not copy or distribute.


#6: “What’s the Importance of a Crime Scene?”


#5: “Tips for Hiding Your Home Address from Online Searches”


#4: “Marketing the Private Investigations Business” We wrote this in 2009, and the tips remain valid. Yes, even print items such as letterhead and business cards. We had a well-respected criminal lawyer who set aside our letter and business card for two years, then one day he picked them up and thought, “Hey, I should call these guys.” Our letter/card stood out over all the online pitches he regularly received. Six years later, he’s still one of our best clients, although now he also sends litigation cases to Shaun, who has returned to practicing criminal law.


#3: “How to Conduct a Trash Hit: A Private Investigator’s Dumpster trash hit man in dumpsterSecrets” This remains another popular article, year after year, since we wrote it in 2011.


#2: “Can You Put a GPS on My Boyfriend’s Car?” Remains one of our top 5 favorite articles since 2009.


#1: “Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference?” Amazingly enough, this article has remained readers’ #1 favorite, every single year, since we started the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes blog in 2009.

A tip of the fedora to 2014, Writing PIs

fedora black and white


All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

Posted in Best Articles 2014, PI Topics, Private Eyes and Crime Scenes, Private Eyes Handling Crime Scenes, Steven Kerry Brown | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Handy Resource for Learning About the World of Private Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on December 23, 2014

Featured on - Top 100 Private Investigators on Twitter 2014 announced its annual list of top private investigators on Twitter to follow for learning about investigative techniques, news, tools, events and more. We’re pleased to share that it ranked Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Writing PIs (@writingpis) as number 12!

This list is also a handy resource for mystery/suspense writers who want to learn more about the world and work of private investigators for their stories. Check PIs’ tweets, which often include links to articles, on such subjects as fraud investigations, white-collar crime, insurance investigations, surveillance tips and equipment, the legalities of private investigations, process service, obtaining court records, drones, finding people, conducting background checks, and much more.

Click this link to access the list: Top 100 PIs on Twitter 2014.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe holiday! Writing PIs


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From Federal Prosecutor to White-Collar Criminal: A True Story

Posted by Writing PIs on December 16, 2014

This past year, Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen wrote an article about our having once worked for a well-respected former federal prosecutor who we later learned had been secretly committing a million-dollar white-collar crime. Within the piece, Colleen outlined several other white-collar cases we had investigated, the myth that white-collar criminals are kinder and gentler than other criminals, and a type of crime now called fraud detection homicide.

A Case That Still Haunts Us…

We have investigated some interesting crimes, including several white-collar crimes that had been carried out by some shrewd criminals. But one particular crime still haunts us. Not because we investigated it; in fact, we didn’t even know about the crime as it was in progress. What haunts us is that the perpetrator of the crime was our client, an attorney we viewed as a friend. Still do, actually, for the simple reason he always treated us kindly. I’ll call him “Mr. A” for the rest of this article.

Former Federal Prosecutor Turns Criminal

Mr. A had been well-respected as a federal and state attorney

Mr. A had been well-respected as a federal and state attorney

Mr. A had been a former federal prosecutor who had returned to private practice as a trial attorney. He was a man widely respected not only for his brilliance in the courtroom and his legal skills, but also for his ethics and good character. He was in his sixties and silver-haired, with an aura of sophistication and a gentle wit. Once at a holiday party at his home, we all gathered in the kitchen, chatting with Mr. A while he cooked a prime rib for our meal and attended to his guests’ needs. I was impressed how he cooked, mixed drinks and charmingly kept up with multiple conversations at once, never missing a beat. He was part Cary Grant, part Wolfgang Puck. On the drive home, my husband and I marveled at Mr. A.’s perfection.

So a year later, when a federal grand jury issued a 29-count indictment accusing Mr. A of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud, my husband and I were stunned. Mr. A, a white-collar criminal? Impossible!

It was not only possible, but true. Let’s pause a moment and discuss white-collar crime.

What Is White-Collar Crime?

The term white-collar crime was first used in 1939 by sociologist Edwin Sutherland, who was more interested in who committed these crimes rather than what had occurred. “White collar crime,” he wrote, “[is] crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” It was a profound redefinition in criminal law as Sutherland was emphasizing the status of the accused versus the criminal act or intent.

Types of White-Collar Crime

Types of white-collar crime include embezzlement, bribery, larceny, extortion, fraud and price fixing. In general, the components of the crime include:

  • A non-violent, illegal act that principally involves deception, concealment, manipulation, breach of trust, subterfuge or illegal circumvention.
  • Enactment by a business person or government/public official.
  • Evidence achieved by following a “paper trail” that investigators use to prosecute 
the case.

Unlike Sutherland’s definition of white-collar crime, the U.S. Department of Justice’s formal definition disregards class and economic status. Nevertheless, government prosecutors are more likely to indict the upper-class businessman who works for a major corporation than the middle-class grandmother who buys medications in Canada.

Our Previous White-Collar Crime Investigations

Below are several white-collar crimes my husband and I have investigated.

Money Missing from a Family Trust

Once for a probate attorney who hired us to investigate what had happened to the money that disappeared from a family’s trust fund. In our research at the assessor’s and clerk of recorder’s offices, we learned a certain family member had suddenly been making expensive purchases, from a new home to several new cars. It wasn’t difficult to follow that paper trail and obtain evidence that this person was the culprit.

Assets in a Faux Divorce

A couple faked their divorce to avoid paying a judgment

Another white-collar crime we investigated was for an attorney who wanted us to investigate a man who claimed his ex-wife had gotten all the assets in their divorce. In our investigations, we learned that although the husband and wife had indeed gotten a divorce two years back, they were still living together quite happily in their marital home. In our research of court records, we learned that the “ex” husband had pursued a fast divorce with the full cooperation of his “ex” wife two weeks before he was served with a lawsuit that demanded he pay a hefty judgment to a former business partner. The bogus divorce was the man’s fraudulent attempt to avoid paying that judgment.

But these were small-time white-collar crimes compared to the seemingly perfect Mr. A.

Personalities of White-Collar Criminals

Of course, Mr. A obviously wasn’t all that perfect. Terry L. Leap, the author of Dishonest Dollars, The Dynamics of White-Collar Crime (Cornell University Press), said that white-collar criminals typically share certain personality traits: They have natural “smarts,” are educated and often have an appetite for risk and committing acts of “destructive dishonesty” that eventually cause serious financial pain and suffering to others. Leap also stated that white-collar criminals are often highly accomplished liars who skillfully distort facts and events as well as craft lies of omission.

I always admired Mr. A’s intellect, but was he destructively dishonest? No, Mr. A, was always kind to people. In fact, he was one of our few clients we could always count on to pay his invoices on time!

Bad Crimes, But Good Criminals?

White-Collar Criminals: More Sophisticated and Educated, Therefore Kinder and Gentler?

In the article “White-Collar Criminals: The ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Offender?” lawyer and fraud examiner Frank S. Perri analyzes the myth that white-collar criminals are somehow the “kinder and gentler” offender. This erroneous assumption, claims Perri, is because white-collar crime is classified as a non-violent crime, which he claims isn’t true. According to Perri, research shows that white-collar criminals often display a pattern of criminal thinking that parallels street-level offenders, and that a subgroup of white-collar criminals are willing to resort to violence, namely murder, to prevent their fraud from being detected. In fact, there’s a term for this kind of murder: fraud-detection homicide.

Nevertheless, many people continue to view white-collar criminals as good people. Recently, Michael E. Peppel, the former chairman and chief executive of MCSi, was convicted of conspiracy, money laundering and filing false documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission – his fraudulent activities eventually causing the downfall of his company and his shareholders to lose $18 million. However, the district judge overseeing his case handed down a seven-day sentence because the defendant was just “a remarkably good man.”

The U.S Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati weren’t very happy with the judge for giving Mr. Peppel a “99.9975% reduction” from the 8 to 10 years the federal sentencing guidelines recommended. They have sent Mr. Peppel’s case back to the same judge so she can reconsider a more appropriate sentence.

Meanwhile, Mr. A is in his second year of a six and one-half year sentence in federal prison. I can’t help but imagine that he’s considerate to his fellow inmates, probably listening to their legal issues while he serves food in the mess hall – part Cary Grant, part Capone, and never missing a beat.

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All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

wreath lineChristmas Sale – 99 Cents!
Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye

To go to book's Amazon page, click on banner

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on image

SECRETS OF A REAL-LIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE is a part-memoir, part-reference nonfiction book based on the experiences of a professional private investigator and writer.

“As an experienced private detective and a skilled storyteller, Colleen Collins is the perfect person to offer a glimpse into the lives of real female P.I.s” ~ Kim Green, managing editor of Pursuit Magazine: The Magazine of Professional Investigators

To order, click here.

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Private Eye Writers of America 2015 Shamus Award: Open for Submissions

Posted by Writing PIs on December 12, 2014

fedora black and white



For Works First Published in the U.S. in 2014

Following are the categories for the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) 2015 Shamus Awards for private eye novels and short stories first published in the United States in 2014.  The awards will be presented in the fall of 2015 at Bouchercon in Raleigh, North Carolina.

DEADLINE: For publishers submissions must be postmarked by March 31, 2015. No extensions can be given.

Shamus Committees will forward their final list to the Shamus Awards Chair by May 31, 2015.

ELIGIBILITY: Eligible works must feature as a main character a person PAID for investigative work but NOT employed for that work by a unit of government.  These include traditionally licensed private investigators; lawyers and reporters who do their own investigations; and others who function as hired private agents.  These do NOT include law enforcement officers, other government employees or amateur, uncompensated sleuths.

SUBMISSIONS; Please send one copy of each eligible work to ALL members of the appropriate committee, and send a copy to the Shamus Awards Chair, Gay Toltl Kinman. Do NOT submit a book to more than one committee.

A new category has been added for Best Indie PI Novel.

There is no application fee and no submission form; as a simple cover letter will suffice. If you have any questions, please e-mail Gay Toltl Kinman at BEFORE submitting.

BEST HARDCOVER PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction published in hardcover in 2014 that is NOT the author’s first published P.I. novel.

BEST FIRST PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction, in hardcover or paperback, first published in 2014 that is the author’s first published novel featuring a private investigator as a main character.

BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction first published as a paperback original in 2014 that is NOT the author’s first P.I. novel; and paperback reprints of previously published novels are NOT eligible.

BEST PI SHORT STORY: A work of fiction of 20,000 words or fewer.  Stories first published in an earlier year and reprinted in a magazine, anthology or collection in 2014, are NOT eligible.

BEST INDIE PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction, in hardcover, paperback or e-book, first published in 2014 featuring a private investigator as a main character and published independently by the author.

For more information, email Gay Toltl Kinman at

Posted in 2015 Shamus Award | Comments Off

Five Tips for Staying Safe This Holiday Season

Posted by Writing PIs on December 6, 2014


One of the Writing PIs, Shaun, is now a lawyer specializing in criminal defense, and the other Writing PI, Colleen, conducts legal investigations for his firm. As the holidays approach, our work load invariably picks up as more criminal cases come into our office. Sometimes on a festive evening, such as Christmas or New Year’s Eve, we’ll look at each other and say, “Wonder what’s happening tonight that brings in work over the next few weeks or months?” Notice we don’t say “Wonder if something will happen…”

Five Safety Tips

Here’s a few safety tips to keep you and yours from hiring attorneys or private investigators over the next few weeks:

Tip #1: When you go shopping, lock your car. It sounds so simple, yet you’d be surprised at the number of people who forget to do this. People get preoccupied with shopping, holiday parties, who’s picking up Great-Aunt Sarah on Christmas Eve…and they forget to lock their car doors. That makes easy pickings for thieves looking through car windows —  if they see a package, it can be theirs within seconds. Several years ago, Sergeant Foley of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department claimed that nearly 50 percent of the car break-ins in his area were due to cars being left unlocked.

Tip #2: Park in well-lighted areas. Don’t tempt a thief by parking where there’s little or no lighting.

An unlocked door is an invitation to a criminal

Badly lighted areas and unlocked doors are open invitations to criminals

Tip #3: Avoid parking on side streets. Vehicles parked on secluded side streets are easy prey for thieves. Also, with increased holiday traffic, and drivers preoccupied with cell phone conversations, passengers, or even eating while driving, your vehicle might be the victim of a hit-and-run.

Tip #4: Drink responsibly.

You Don't Want to Wear One of these Bracelets This Holiday

You Don’t Want to Wear One of These Bracelets This Holiday

Yeah, this sounds like one of those ads, but it is smart advice. Many of our criminal investigation cases involve people drinking too much and doing something stupid that they regret for years to come. Watch the other guy, too — is someone getting blitzed and out of control at a party? Be proactive and make sure he/she has a sober driver to take them home. Or call a taxi and pay the driver upfront for the person’s ride home, which might be the best holiday gift they get. Also if a party is getting out of control, it’s a good time to leave.

Tip #5: Be aware. Perhaps the best advice is to be aware and use common sense.  Don’t carry so many packages to your vehicle that you can’t quickly reach your cell phone or car keys. Shop in groups rather than alone. If you have a choice to shop during the day or at night, pick daylight hours. Don’t leave items visible in your car that might tempt a thief. Have fun at parties, but drink responsibly and avoid those who aren’t.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season!

Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye
On Sale for 99 cents Dec 9-22!

To go to book's Amazon page, click on banner

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on banner

“As an experienced private detective and a skilled storyteller, Colleen Collins is the perfect person to offer a glimpse into the lives of real female P.I.s”
~ Kim Green, managing editor of Pursuit Magazine: The Magazine of Professional Investigators

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

Posted in Holiday Safety Tips, Secrets of a Real-Life Female Female Private Eye | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

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