Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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

  • Writing a Sleuth?

    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."

    Available on Kindle

  • Copyright Notices

    All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content on this site (including images owned by Colleen Collins) requires specific, written authority.

    It has come to our attention that people are illegally copying and using the black and white private eye at a keyboard image that is used on our site. NOTE: This image is protected by copyright, property of Colleen Collins.

  • Writing PIs on Twitter

  • Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes

Posts Tagged ‘best-selling nonfiction books’

Private Eye Writers of America Announces Nominees for 2012 Shamus Awards

Posted by Writing PIs on June 4, 2012

Each year the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) recognizes outstanding achievement in the private eye genre in short stories, paperback originals, first novels and hardcover novels. This year one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes co-authors, Colleen Collins, chaired the PWA hardcover competition, which although challenging (each judge read 63 novels!), was also a rewarding and edifying experience.  Let it be said, there were many, many wonderful books.

The official announcement for the top five contenders in each category is below.  Congratulations to the nominees!

Private Eye Writers of America


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       June 2012       


CONTACT: Gay Toltl Kinman, Shamus Awards Chair 




The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) is proud to announce the nominees for the 31st annual Shamus Awards, given annually to recognize outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. The 2012 awards cover works first published in 2011. The awards will be presented at the PWA banquet, to be held Friday evening October 5, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio, during the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. For banquet details, contact Robert J. Randisi at

2012 Shamus Awards Nominees


Bye Bye, Baby by Max Allan Collins / Tom Doherty

1222 by Anne Holt / Scribner

When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley / Riverhead Books

A Bad Night’s Sleep by Michael Wiley / Minotaur

The Highly Effective Detective Crosses the Line by Richard Yancey / Minotaur


The Plot Against Hip Hop by Nelson George / Akashic

Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran / Houghton Mifflin

The Ocean Forest by Troy D. Nooe / Ingalls

The Shortcut Man by P.G. Sturges / Scribner

The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams / Bantam


Quarry’s Ex by Max Allan Collins / Hard Case Crime

Threat Warning by John Gilstrap / Kensington

Serial by John Lutz / Kensington

Long Pig by James L. Ross / Perfect Crime Books

Fun & Games by Duane Swiercyzinski / Mulholland


“A Bullet From Yesterday” by Terence Faherty in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Jan.)

“Mr. Monk & The Sunday Paper” by Lee Goldberg in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July)

“Who I Am” by Michael Z. Lewin in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Dec.)

“Vampire Slayer Murdered in Key West” by Michael West in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Sept. / Oct.)

“Dancer in a Storm” by L. A. Wilson in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (Jan. / Feb.)

PWA was founded in 1981 by Robert J. Randisi to recognize the private eye genre and its writers. 

Posted in 2012 Shamus Award Nominess, Shamus Awards | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Private Eye Writers of America Announces Nominees for 2012 Shamus Awards

Booklist Online’s “Web Crush of the Week”: Guns, Gams and Gumshoes

Posted by Writing PIs on May 31, 2012

Thank you, Booklist Online!

The American Library Association‘s Booklist Online’s Reference Editor Rebecca Vnuk has designated Guns, Gams and Gumshoes to be “Web Crush of the Week” this week as part of their Mystery Month celebration.  Thank you Ms. Vnuk and Booklist Online. An excerpt of the write-up is below:

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes is a blog geared primarily to mystery, suspense and thriller writers, but readers will find plenty to enjoy here as well.  The contributors know what they’re talking about:  Shaun Kaufman is  a trial attorney specializing in personal injury, criminal defense and business litigation, and Colleen Collins is a novelist. They’re both licensed private investigators, to boot.

To read the rest of the write-up, click here.

To celebrate being the “Web Crush of the Week,” we’ll post links to some of our recent readers’ favorite articles, below.  To read an article, click the link.

Top Mistakes Writers Make When Depicting Crime Scenes

Flashlights are dandy for private eyes in stories, but many of today’s PIs are also using flashlight apps on their smartphones!

Story Foibles in Private Eye Fiction

Get a Bad Review? Three Tips to Minimize It on the Internet

Private Eye Stories That Get It Right

Answering Writer’s Question: Are PIs and Cops Compatible?

Answering Writers’ Questions: What Records Can PIs Legally Obtain?

Private Investigators and Murder Cases

Shaun Kaufman writes about civil and criminal litigation issues, and sometimes basketball, at

Additional Articles of Interest

As Ms. Vnuk mentioned in her write-up, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s authors is Denver, Colorado, trial attorney Shaun Kaufman. Below are some of recent articles he’s posted on his site — as you can see, he’s also a die-hard basketball fan. To read an article, click on the link:

What Personal Injury Lawyers Can Learn from Dwayne Wade and LeBron James

Copyright Trolling: Don’t Be a Victim

Miami Heat-Bostom Celtics Match Mirrors DA-Defense Contest

Remembering Military Justice

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Posted in Writing Mysteries, Writing PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Answering Writers’ Questions: What Records Can PIs Get via Databases or by Phone?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 20, 2012

Writer’s Question: I know private investigators have access to both proprietary and public online databases. What about obtaining a birth certificate? In my story, I need to reveal that no father was listed on suspect’s birth certificate, but from what I’ve read, these certificates are hard to get. Is that true? Maybe a private investigator could purchase one through a database or make a phone call to request one?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: No, one cannot get birth certificates through proprietary/public databases or by phone. One needs to have permission (power of attorney) from the parents or from the individual. Or, permission via a court order.

Writer’s Question: What about employment records? My amateur sleuth wants to compile another person’s work history — is there a way to do this?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: Well, it’s possible to piece together some work history via proprietary/public databases, but this is getting more and more difficult due to identity theft legislation. There are some PIs who specialize in employment work histories (or they advertise they can retrieve such histories) but we’re not sure a legal means exists to get a complete work history. On the other hand, many people’s LinkedIn profiles (for example) reveal partial (sometimes full) work histories.  Sometimes other social media sites, such as Facebook, also show people’s work histories (that is, whatever the people wish to share via those sites).

Writer’s Question: Is it easy for PIs to find out what degrees a college graduate earned?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: Colleges & other educational institutions will provide the dates and degrees earned for an individual. Anyone can call and request this information. Same with accreditation. Professional organizations will release (via phone call) the type of accreditation a person earned and the dates the person belonged to the organization.

Writer’s Question: I understand police records are generally only available for a brief time after an incident, which is when the press gets them. True?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: False. Most police agencies now keep records for a minimum of 5-7 years. Sometimes we have found that when a case is currently open, a police department might not release those records to us. However, recently we were able to obtain (via a written request…these forms are often online within the PD website) records for a case that was open.

Writer’s Question: I also understand that a PI can get only convictions, not arrests. True?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: False. Many state police agencies keep records of arrests and release them to the public upon request and fee payment. However, these records caution that they are not to be relied on as any indication of conviction.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Posted in PI Topics | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Answering Writers’ Questions: What Records Can PIs Get via Databases or by Phone?

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

Posted in Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Answering Writer’s Question: How Do People Who Want to Disappear Stay Hidden?

Answering Writers’ Questions: Finding heirs, expectation of privacy

Posted by Writing PIs on May 16, 2010

Today we’re answering some writers’ questions about finding heirs and expectation of privacy when searching for an adopted child.

Writer’s Question: Maybe this is a question you can answer.  Let’s say a couple are married and the husband makes out a will.  If the wife is aware of how the estate is to be distributed and does not like that an estranged child from the husband’s first marriage is to receive money, could she pretend there is no will?  (Let’s say the child would not know the father died, so doesn’t know he/she inherited anything.)  Or when someone dies, how would it be made known if that person had a will or not?  Attorneys would not automatically be notified if a client died, so therefore would not intervene in the distribution of assets.  Could you be hired to find out if there actually WAS a will?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Could the wife pretend there’s no will?  Yes, the wife is welcome to pretend there is no will, however, should one of the heirs find that out, they can enforce the will.  When someone dies, how would it be made known that they had a will?  Generally, they have already informed an attorney or an executor of their estate or their will that they have this will.  Could we, as PIs, be hired to find out if there actually is a will?  Yes.  We’d first check with the county clerk of court where the decedent lived.  Frequently, a will is lodged with the clerk of court.  But, if the will isn’t found there, we’d interview whoever might know who the attorney was that drew that will up, and then we’d contact that attorney.  If that even failed, we’d look for records of trusts in the county clerk and recorder’s office where the decedent last lived.  Frequently trusts are established by the same people who draft wills, and we would then have a good chance of locating that attorney through the trust documents on file with the county clerk and recorder.

Writer’s Question: This is a question about a client hiring you to find a child given up for adoption–if you found the child, would you tell the child that  someone asked to have them tracked down?  Does it depend on the child’s age (very young as opposed to a teenager)?  Or would you have to advise the child’s guardian that someone hired you?  Would the situation be different if it wasn’t a child given up for adoption, but a child who belonged to a family member?  For example,  a sister’s child who remains with the husband’s family after the sister dies and perhaps the husband moves away and loses contact with the sister’s (his wife’s) family.

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: We cannot talk to children under the age of 18 about adoption issues.  We would speak to the adoptive parent/guardian and they would make the decision whether or not the child would be informed, and if yes, they would do the informing.  The situation wouldn’t be different if it was a family member because the law considers a child who is residing with a relative on a long-term basis the same as a child in foster care or in an adoptive relationship.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Posted in Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: