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

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Posts Tagged ‘bestselling nonfiction books’

New Orleans Saints: Did General Manager Break a Federal Law?

Posted by Writing PIs on April 23, 2012

There were revelations today that the Saint’s GM Loomis had equipment in his possession from 2002 to 2004 that enabled him to listen in on opposing coaches’s radio transmissions during games.

Whoa! After all the Saints have gone through, what does this new revelation portend?

If true, Loomis broke both NFL regulations and federal wiretapping laws.  If proven guilty, Loomis could lose draft picks and be fined by the NFL. But that’s small change compared to being found guilty of wiretapping, which could mean up to five years in a

Wiretapping carries a potential sentence of up to 5 years in prison.

federal penitentiary.

To add insult to injury, during those years (2002 to 2004), the Saints won 12 home games and lost 12 home games. Seems like a lot of trouble to commit the federal crime of wiretapping for such a break-even win-loss record.

There'll be lots of investigators rummaging about, from those in attorneys' offices to those working for the feds.

Could the GM really be found guilty of wiretapping? Yes, but frankly, he’s a fine candidate for probation. So far, no other skeletons have come out of his closet.  There’ll be a lot of investigators — from Loomis’s attorney’s office to the feds — who will be skulking around, sniffing for dirt or ways to freshen up any found dirt.

But even if found guilty, there’s a glimmer of hope for Loomis.  After all, most federal judges in Louisiana are ardent Saints’ fans.

P.S. We’ve noticed a lot of articles refer to Loomis “eavesdropping” however he was tapping into others’ communications using an electronic device, which is wiretapping.

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Stop Giving Away Your Personal Information to Google

Posted by Writing PIs on April 7, 2012

Unless you’ve been living in a black box, you’re aware that Google has been blithely tracking user activity on the Web. Below are a few recent articles on this subject (click on link to read an article):

Google Caught Tracking Safari Users: What You Need to Know

Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt out

Did Google intentionally track you?

A warrior’s forum member had this stringent advice for stopping Google from tracking your web activities:

if you want to avoid Google knowing anything about you, stop using Google’s services. Like in Orson Well’s 1984 big brother wants to know everything. The more information you allow Google to know, they more control they gain over your life.

Okay, but some people do like to use Google — after all, it’s still the most comprehensive public, and free, search engine available. Fortunately, there are other options, as well as preventative measures, that people can take to protect Google from tracking their web activities.

How Trackable Is Your Browser?

Panopticlick, a research project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, tests your browser to see what information it shares with other sites. The service is free and anonymous.

A Few Tips for Protecting Your Browsing

Also, check out “Related Articles” at the bottom of this post.

Why Not Use a Proxy Service?

Although a proxy service, such as Anonymizer, hides a user’s IP address, it doesn’t necessarily anonymize the user’s personal information found in HTTP headers.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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Did Google Maps Steer You Wrong? Try a Crowdsourced Map!

Posted by Writing PIs on March 26, 2012

Have you ever followed instructions from Google Maps or another electronic map service that tells you to turn right on the next street…but there’s no street to turn down?

Some map services, like Waze, have incorporated people’s feedback (“Hey, just wanted you to know there’s no road where the map told me to turn”) to correct and add mapping in their utilities. The result? Crowdsourced maps! A huge benefit of these services is that these traffic and mapping services are more consistently reflecting the real-time landscape.

Check out these crowd-sourced mapping services, all of which are free:

Waze: This community-based map and traffic service began as Freemap in Tel Aviv in 2006. It now claims more than 14 million drivers worldwide. Waze claims that 45,000 of its users are dedicated map editors and 5,000 are regional managers who ensure maps’ accuracy. Download to your iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Nokia. Site shows latest user reports that show traffic jams, accidents, even where law enforcement has set up speed traps.

OpenStreetMap: This service more closely follows the Wikipedia model, and in fact calls itself the “free Wiki world map.” Anyone can use the maps, and anyone can create and edit the maps.

INRIX: Another service whose ad claims it puts “the power of the world’s largest driving community into the palm of your hand with real-time alerts, traffic forecasting, information about accidents, police and other events.”

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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

Posted by Writing PIs on March 17, 2012

Today we answer a writer’s question — one that a lot of writers ask, actually — about PIs and law enforcement.

Writer’s Question: I just read a book where the police detective and the private eye kept sparring before developing a friendship. Are cops and PIs like that in the real world, too?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: We see that same kind of PI-cop conflict all the time in books, TV shows and movies, too. In reality, most real-life PI-cop relationships are characterized by professional distance and unemotional exchanges.

Many PIs have law enforcement backgrounds

We’re saying most here. A majority of PIs have law enforcement backgrounds, and with the agencies with whom they worked, they typically maintain a more collegial relationship. Do these former law enforcement PIs get perks — such as inside information, tips, and access to law enforcement databases — from their former agencies (which is also often depicted in books and film)? No. Although there are friendly exchanges and social invitations exchanged, neither party wants to be seen as improperly advancing information and displaying favoritism to law enforcement officers (LEOs).

Here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, we work with various PIs who are former LEOs. Generally speaking, we have found their life experience to cause their investigations to slant toward law enforcement and prosecution. While they work for defense lawyers, they still think like law enforcement officers.

Former-LEO PIs often have years of experience on the streets with tough, violent people

Meaning, a former LEO PI might have unsubstantiated bias against their criminal defense clients. In all fairness, this bias is the product of years on the street with tough, violent, and often dishonest people — easy to see how a former-LEO PI might have developed opinions about the ethics of accused individuals.

To balance this point of view, former LEO PIs are also best situated to know how current police can make mistakes in their investigation procedures, such as Constitutional propriety and evidentiary processing. These PIs are best able to advise defense lawyers about how to attack the integrity of a police investigation.

The Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes PIs have a unique situation in their neighborhood. A few blocks over is a coffee shop owned and run by a local police detective (he works the small coffee shop during his off hours). We like to hang out at the coffee shop and jaw about cases, both past and current. Add to the mix that one of us is also a criminal defense attorney, there have been some lively conversations and a lot of good-natured teasing about our various roles.

To be clear, we never discuss shared cases. However, both the police detective and us get valuable information about the how-tos, whys, and the end results of investigations. In this particular relationship, all three of us step outside of our professional roles and transcend our rivalries.

Postscript: Our detective friend is planning on retiring in the next few years and is thinking about becoming a PI. We’ve invited him to join our agency. He’s invited us to take over his coffee shop.

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Historical Research Links

Posted by Writing PIs on March 16, 2012

Today Savvy Authors has posted this article by Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PI Colleen Collins: “Tips from a PI: Historical Research Sites for Your Stories.” In it, Colleen outlines several genealogical, news and media research sites that are handy for private investigators, writers, and other researchers. To read the article, click here.

We thought we’d follow up on that article by listing several more historical research sites.  Some offer tips for conducting historical research, others provide lists of links for more specific historical research, and some are just fun to browse.

Learning to Do Historical Research: Professor William Cronon and his team of students created this website to help others learn basic research skills. Topics include how to frame questions, effective research techniques, and a slew of online resources.

Best of History Websites, a portal to hundreds of history websites, including links to educational resources.

Military History Research Sites (this site can be a bit of hit and miss as some links are inactive — however, there’s dozens and dozens of links to specific military events, battles, organizations and more)

From the National Archives, Eyewitness offers first-person eyewitness accounts in letters, diaries, audio and film records.

From Genealogy, a photo gallery of cemetery symbolism.

Have a great Friday, Writing PIs

Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it. – Oscar Wilde

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Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Loss Prevention/Industrial Security

Posted by Writing PIs on January 29, 2012

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

Basically, loss prevention refers to people hired to prevent theft and fraud in a retail establishment. An investigator who specializes in loss prevention might handle the following types of cases:

  • Credit frauds
  • Employee thefts (for example theft of money or merchandise)
  • Theft by store customers (for example, shoplifting, credit card scams, auto thefts)
  • Staged accidents.

A Deeper Look Into Employee Theft

The majority of bankruptcies in the United States are filed by organizations and are attributable to employee theft.  One study shows that the company loss per customer shoplifting incident is $207.18 whereas the loss per employee theft incident is $1,341.02!  Employee theft causes bonuses, promotions and raises to decrease as profits shrink and the company losses increase. This means there’s a big incentive for an organization to hire an in-house investigator or an outside investigator who specializes in investigation of embezzlement, staged robberies, “shrinkage” and computer frauds.  A ripe specialization for your fictional PI!

What signs of employee theft (specifically, cash money) might your fictional PI encounter?

  • No sales at register
  • Fictitious refunds and voided sales
  • Income from medical appointments paid with cash
  • Failure to record sales
  • Abundance of collections and donations
  • Passing to friends
  • Sales prior to opening the business
  • Refunds/Voids after the business closes
  • Questionable coupon redemption
  • Robbery with scanty identification information.

Signs of employee non-cash money theft:

  • Questionable credit card refunds
  • Phantom payroll
  • Fictitious vendor accounts
  • Bogus travel expenses
  • Kickback schemes
  • Credit card fraud with friends.

Signs of employee merchandise theft:

  • Direct theft
  • Fictitious mail order
  • Fraudulent receipts (free merchandise)
  • Fraudulent computer entries.

As of the writing of this book, the online Loss Prevention magazine is free and offers access to past issues as well.  Great resource for researching topics such as asset protection technology, shoplifting cases, retail investigations and more.

Writer’s Slant: If Your PI Specializes in Loss Prevention, Think About

  • His background — is he a former thief, or more likely, a former police officer?
  • How did she get her skills in developing and documenting a case against a target?  (Many times a PI must present a completed case file ready for prosecution to a Deputy D.A. or to a company official who can then legally fire an employee.)
  • What ambivalences might your PI have about going after someone without benefit of the tools that law enforcement agents have, such as search warrants and intelligence data?
  • On the other hand, your fictional PI also has an easier job than a police officer in this investigative field because employees in the workplace might waive many constitutional rights to privacy, the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney’s presence when questioning takes place (steps the average police officer must respect).
  • The relationship between this job and the kind of work done by other, similar investigators who assemble cases for submission to insurance companies so that a claim for loss is paid. After all, loss prevention investigators are frequently making a case for money from an insurance company, which is not all that different from how personal injury investigators work.

Praise for How to Write a Dick:

“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

“What every wanna-be sleuth needs: a revolver, a bottle of scotch, a trusty sidekick, and this book.” ~ Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown

“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

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