Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

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

    "How to Write a Dick is the best work of its kind I’ve ever come across because it covers the whole spectrum in an entertaining style that will appeal to layman and lawmen alike."

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Posts Tagged ‘best nonfiction books on private investigations’

Tips for Writers Writing Sleuths: Tracking Missing Persons

Posted by Writing PIs on January 2, 2012

How a Sleuth Might Track a Missing Person

by Colleen Collins, originally printed in Novelists Inc. January 2012 newsletter NINK

A large percentage of a real-life and fictional PIs’ work involves, to an extent, finding persons whose location is unknown to the PI. For example, a person might be actively avoiding being found, such as a debtor who does not want to be served with a lawsuit. This person might come and go at odd hours or start shimmying in and out a back window instead of using the front door of her residence.

Sometimes the missing person case is more complex, such as a parent who has abducted his child and fled the jurisdiction. In such scenarios, people are more deliberate in their efforts, typically travel farther and attempt to cover their tracks more thoroughly.

If you’re writing a story with a PI or sleuth, your character might be hired to locate someone. A few techniques for finding a person whose location is unknown include:

  • Searching databases that contain public records. There are numerous online public records that anyone can search, such as:
    • County assessors’ sites have lists of owners of real property. If the person was not the owner of the residence, you’ll find out who is.  That owner/landlord might have information about the person’s current whereabouts or know someone who does.
    • Privately owned cemeteries and mortuaries maintain burial permits, funeral service registers, funeral and memorial arrangements, obituaries, intermediate orders and perpetual care arrangements. For example, if the missing person recently attended a funeral, a PI can find names of friends and relatives through some of these records.
  • Interviewing past and current neighbors as well as relatives, past and current landlords, co-workers and known associates.
  • Searching the Internet using Google and other search engines for blogs, images, news and so forth. You’d be surprised what you can find by simply typing a telephone number into the Google browser, for example.
  • Looking up bride/groom’s names if there’s been a recent wedding, or one is in the works: Wedding Channel.  Often, photos and lists of guests are also posted.
  • Checking Internet communities and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. We once located a missing person who was on the run, but she still found time to log into her social media account and write about places she was visiting and restaurants she liked. One search engine that searches dozens of social networking sites with each lookup is Socialmention.
  • Conducting surveillances at locations where the subject has been known to hang out, from bars to exercise clubs to softball games.

There are entire books written on the subject of finding missing persons – if you’re writing a story with a missing-person plot, considering purchasing a recent book on the topic. PIstore.com offers a wide variety of books on different investigative specializations.

There are also organizations whose websites offer help with networking, services and resources to find people who are missing – below are several of these sites:

If your fictional sleuth specializes in missing persons, think about the following character traits:

  • How tenacious is your character? This kind of research can be time-consuming, detailed, frustrating, with lots of dead-ends before finding a clue.
  • Is your sleuth a people person? Because most likely he’ll be talking to a number of people and trying to, in the course of their conversations, pull the nuggets of information he needs.
  • What kind of tools does your sleuth use? Does she have access to a computer, proprietary databases, an adequate vehicle to conduct surveillance?  Is he knowledgeable conducting research in public libraries, courthouses and the like?
  • Does your sleuth incorporate all of the tools of the PI trade in her search, including trash hits at recently vacated residences for signs as to where the missing party might have been headed?
  • Does your sleuth like putting together jigsaw puzzles? Because that’s what locating missing persons is like — assembling varied pieces of information from disparate sources to get, finally, a clear picture.

Have a good week, Writing PIs

Like private eye mysteries with thrills, humor and romance? Check out The Zen Man, a 21-st Nick and Nora mystery, now available on Kindle.

Posted in Writing Mysteries | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Tips for Writers Writing Sleuths: Tracking Missing Persons

A Couple of Non-Fiction Books for the Sleuth-Writer in Your Life

Posted by Writing PIs on December 16, 2011

Maybe you know someone writing a story featuring a private eye, or someone who’s a PI-genre fan, or someone who’s intrigued about the world of private investigators. Hey, maybe that person is you. Below are two books by Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s private investigators about the real world of private investigations. Below that are a few links to some recent articles about private investigations for your reading pleasure.

How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths

Geared mostly to writers writing sleuths, with plenty of info for those wanting to read more about the real-life world of whodunits. Topics include a history of private investigators, a sampling of private investigative specializations (from legal investigations to pet detectives to investigating white-collar crime), the ins and outs of a private investigator’s business (from licensing to marketing), homicide investigations, a DNA Primer and a “Gumshoe Glossary.”

“If you want authenticity in creating a fictional private investigator for your stories, then this is a must-have reference book. Its authors, Colleen and Shaun, are living breathing PIs with years of actual experience in the PI game.” ~ R.T. Lawton, 25 years on the street as a federal special agent and author of 4 series in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

“How to Write a Dick is a gift to crime fiction authors everywhere, a comprehensive and no-nonsense compendium of information, analysis and thought-provoking writing prompts that will help you create your own 21st century shamus with confidence and class. An absolute must for the library of any PI writer!” ~ Kelli Stanley, critically acclaimed author of City of Dragons and the Miranda Corbie series

To order How to Write a Dick

How to Write a Dick is an eBook, but you don’t need an ereader. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble provide free apps that are easy to download onto your laptop, desktop, other device.  Want to give as a gift? All you need is the person’s email address.

How to Write a Dick on Kindle

How Do Private Eyes Do That?

Geared to the armchair sleuth, with plenty of info for writers, investigators, and others interested in the techniques and tools of today’s private investigators. Dozens of articles about private investigations on such topics as how to catch a cheater, techniques for finding people, how to locate a cell phone number, tips for locating a family trust, email security tips, how to unblock incoming blocked phone numbers, intellectual property investigations, the art of interviewing witnesses, listening devices, sleuth gadgets…we’re running out of breath, here…online research tips, how to search for people on YouTube, case examples, a listing (plus links) of several dozen private investigator blogs and PI-genre writers…and a whole lot more.

If you’re looking for the lowdown on private investigations, this is it. Packed with details and insights. A must-have for anybody writing private-eye fiction and for anybody who’s curious about what being a private-eye is really like.” ~ Bill Crider, author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and many other novels in multiple genres

“A must have for any writer serious about crafting authentic private eyes. Collins knows her stuff.” ~ Lori Wilde, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

To order How Do Private Eyes Do That?

Same as above — you don’t need an ereader to download this book. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble make it easy (and free) to download an app onto your PC/Mac/other device to read this book. If you want to send it as a gift, all you need is the person’s email address.

How Do Private Eyes Do That? on Kindle

 

Posted in Nonfiction book: HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?, PI Topics, Sleuth Gifts, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Couple of Non-Fiction Books for the Sleuth-Writer in Your Life

Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Catching the Cheater

Posted by Writing PIs on July 12, 2011

How to Write a Dick: A Guide to Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, available on Kindle

Infidelity Investigations: Catching the Cheater

When we accept an infidelity case, we request:

  • Information about the suspected cheater’s habits, work schedule, days off and so forth.
  • Photographs of the suspected cheater (and the suspected girlfriend/boyfriend, if available)
  • Addresses and phone numbers (for the suspected cheater’s home, businesses, other places of note as well as the addresses/phone numbers for suspected girlfriend/boyfriend, if known)
  • Any known routes suspected cheater takes on way to work, home, to exercise gym and so forth
  • Vehicle descriptions, license plate numbers for suspected cheater (and suspected girlfriend/boyfriend)
  • Contact information for client, preferred times to call, private numbers person can be reached at, preferred means of contact (work email, cell phone).
  • Any other pertinent information.

As with any other case, we then devise an investigative strategy.  Sometimes the client will call and inform us if the suspected cheater has changed his/her work schedule, is taking off for a surprise appointment or other event.  We can’t always comply with last-minute schedule changes (which we’ve made clear to the client up front) but if time permits, we do.

Part of our contract is that we’ll provide reports on either a biweekly or monthly basis.  However, we’ll work with the client on a different report scheme as long as it’s appropriate, workable and legal.  For example, we’ve had clients who like to call periodically and discuss the case.  We don’t mind discussing the current progress on a case as long as the client remains professional and courteous.  Sometimes a client might request an email update the morning after an evening surveillance, and we’re happy to comply.

The most difficult thing we’re ever had to do was tell a client that we had garnered photographic evidence that her husband was being unfaithful.  It had been a lengthy investigation (several months) and the husband (who had a background in military investigations) had covered his tracks exceptionally well, so well we believed her suspicions were unfounded.  We had scheduled one last surveillance, which she asked us to continue doing, and after that we mutually agreed to terminate the investigations.

It was during that very last surveillance that we saw, and photographed, his infidelity.  The wife’s suspicions of his infidelity had been right on — he was involved with her best friend.  We finished the surveillance, did a wrap-up meeting where we discussed how to present the evidence to the client, then we made the call.  The client immediately wanted to know if her husband and her girlfriend were still at the location where they’d been photographed. We explained the husband and girlfriend had already left the scene, but we had photographic evidence that we would forward in a report.

We’ve since talked to this client and learned that after being confronted with the evidence, he admitted to the affair, and they are now in marriage counseling.  This was a happy ending.  More often, a client’s next call to us is requesting a recommendation for a good divorce lawyer.

PI Wise:  Except in only a few cases, a PI shouldn’t contact a client while the investigation is in process.  Especially in a cheating spouse case, a PI never tells a client, in real time, where her/his spouse is in flagrante delicto.  Remember the woman who ran over her philandering husband three times in the Texas parking lot?  That’s because the PI she’d hired to follow her husband called from the hotel where he was rendezvousing with his mistress and reported the infidelity in real time.  Wifey, enraged, drove over and…let’s just say if the PI hadn’t made that call, wifey might not now be spending years behind bars.

Posted in Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Catching the Cheater, How to Write a Dick excerpts | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Catching the Cheater

Answering Writer’s Question: How Do People Who Want to Disappear Stay Hidden?

Posted by Writing PIs on September 29, 2010

Today’s world is a small one–it’s not as easy to disappear, much less stay that way.  Today we post our answer to a writer’s question on this topic.

Writer’s Question: Let’s say a person plans his or her disappearance and pulls if off successfully.  How can he can stay hidden? What are some of the ways people have tried, but haven’t worked?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: As to successful ways a person can stay hidden, they cannot use banking/financial institutions they previously used.  Their funds need to be liquid, and preferably kept in an account offshore.  They must ignore creating government records (such as auto registrations, property ownership records, government licenses, bidding/accepting government contracts, and so forth).  A crucial element of staying hidden is for the person who is hiding to change hobbies and similar life patterns.  Recently, a criminal fled our area, established residence in a foreign country, kept his funds liquid, refrained from creating any traceable records (such as a driver’s license), used a forged passport, changed his style of dress and hair, even married a local woman in the foreign country (and essentially “buried” himself underneath her identifiers–meaning, everything was in her name).  But he messed up in one big way: he had a notorious hobby and vocation, which he prominently displayed and advertised in the host country.  A person saw this individual on “America’s Most Wanted” and recognized him from this hobby (the person was either a tourist or local and had seen the advertisements this individual had placed in the area).  This man had done just about everything right to hide his identity and ability to be found, but he failed to abandon his established hobby.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Answering Writer’s Question: How Can a Person Stay Hidden?

Posted by Writing PIs on August 15, 2010

Writer’s Question: I have a question about people who disappear. What are some of the more successful ways a person could stay hidden? What are some of the ways people have tried, but haven’t worked?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: As to successful ways a person can stay hidden, they cannot use banking/financial institutions they previously used.  Their funds need to be liquid, and preferably kept in an account offshore.  They must ignore creating government records (such as auto registrations, property ownership records, government licenses, bidding/accepting government contracts, and so forth).  A crucial element of staying hidden is for the person who is hiding to change hobbies and similar life patterns.  Recently, a criminal fled our region, established residence in a foreign country, kept his funds liquid, refrained from creating any traceable records (such as a driver’s license), used a forged passport, changed his style of dress and hair, even married a local woman in the foreign country (and essentially “buried” himself underneath her identifiers–meaning, everything was in her name).  But he messed up in one big way: he had a notorious hobby and vocation, which he prominently displayed and advertised in the host country.  A person saw this individual on “America’s Most Wanted” and recognized him from this hobby (the person was either a tourist or local and had seen the advertisements this individual had placed in the area).  This man had done just about everything right to hide his identity and ability to be found, but he failed to abandon his established hobby.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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Researching Online News Sources

Posted by Writing PIs on November 11, 2009

Updated March 25, 2012

news

There’s many online news sources and archives available to investigators–great research tools for writers, too.   Good idea to first pinpoint which type of resources, as well as the region they cover, are most beneficial to your research–for example, are you interested in:

      • Current news or historical news?
      • A specific region, country, worldwide?

Below are several online news sources/searches:

Google News:  Google is just about the most comprehensive search engine around.

Onlinenewspapers.com: Search thousands of newspapers and magazines by region.

Eagle World News:  Search international news, top headlines around the world, topics by subject.  They also maintain an archive of news back to 2006, sources for geneology and obituary research.

Info Pig: Search news by category, news outlet, region.

USNPL: Provides searchs by state and country, with handy search links at the bottom of the page to phone books, maps, weather, cool sites, and more.

Posted in Online News Sources, PI Topics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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