Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

  • 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 and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content on this site (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any violations of this reservation will result in legal action.

    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.

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Posts Tagged ‘Colleen Collins’

International Women’s Day: Honoring Female Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s. On this day, thousands of events occur around the world to celebrate women and their accomplishments.

For International Women’s Day, I’m honoring several women PIs through articles written about them to radio shows hosted by them. This post isn’t meant to be all-inclusive by any means, just a cross-section of outstanding women investigators, including their fictional counterparts.

Radio Shows: New and Old

Below are two radio shows, one hosted by a contemporary female PI, the other about a old-time radio female private eye.

PI’s Declassified

California PI Francie Kohler hosts this weekly Internet radio show where she interviews private investigators and other professionals in associated fields. The show airs every Thursday at 9 a.m. Pacific Time: PI’s Declassified.

Old-Time Radio: Candy Matson Yukon 2-8209cover ebook 2000px longest side

This old-time radio show kicked off in 1949. Every show opened with a ringing telephone with a female answering, “Candy Matson, YU 2-8209,” after which the theme song “Candy” played. According to the Internet Archive, Old Time Radio (OTR) researchers view this radio show as the best of the female private eyes. It ran until 1951. Listen to single episodes here: Candy Matson YUkon 2-8209.

Articles About Real-Life Female Private Investigators

Possible sketch of Kate Warne, the first U.S. female PI

Possible sketch of Kate Warne, the first U.S. female PI

Below is a sampling of articles written about female PIs:

The First U.S. Female Private Eye: Kate Warne (The Zen Man)

Q&A: Norma Tillman–Right and Wrong (Pursuit Magazine)

What Does It Take to Be an International Private Eye (interview with international private investigator Yin Johnson and her husband Phil, via RC Bridgestock Blog)

The PI Wears Prada: One Woman’s Midlife Career Change (What’s Next)

What Is It Like Being a Female Private Investigator? (The Zen Man)

This Private Investigator is One of the Few Jersey Women Working as Sleuths (NJ.com)

Articles About Fictional Female Private Eyes

There are many entertaining female “eyes” in literature, going back to the mid 1800s.

Dangerous Dames: A Timeline of Some of the Significant Female Eyes (The Thrilling Detective – if you haven’t checked out The Thrilling Detective, you’re missing out on one of the most comprehensive and entertaining sites about fictional private eyes on the ‘net)

Female Private Eyes in Fiction: From Lady Detectives to Hard-Boiled Dames (by Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s Colleen for Festivale magazine)

Did you know a well-known writer of private eye novels based a female PI character on a real one? Check out the interview “Susan Daniels: If Sam Spade Had Been Samantha – Cleveland’s Female Private Eye”

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Click on cover to go to Amazon page

Click on cover to go to Amazon page

“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. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority.

Posted in Private Eyes in the News, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories, Secrets of a Real-Life Female Female Private Eye | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on International Women’s Day: Honoring Female Investigators

Happy 4-Year Anniversary Guns, Gams and Gumshoes! #bookgiveaway

Posted by Writing PIs on June 8, 2013

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: A Defense Attorney and PI Who Also Happen to Be Writers

On June 9, 2013, Guns, Gams & Gumshoes celebrates its four-year anniversary — thanks for being along for the ride!

Our blog byline started out as “A couple of PIs who also write” but as one of us is now a criminal defense attorney, we’ve changed it to “A defense attorney and a PI who also happen to be writers.”

We’ve had a great time writing these blogs.  Four years ago, we started this blog  to help fiction writers better understand the tools and tasks of contemporary private investigators for their characters and stories.  But we’ve also written for our peers in the profession, as well as those simply curious about the real-world of private investigators.

Shoutouts to Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

Along the way, we’ve garnered some recognition:

We’re Giving Away Books!  Yeah, We’re Talking Freefree

What’s a celebration without some free stuff?  To celebrate our anniversary, we’re offering free downloads of our two nonfiction books on private investigations on June 9 and 10.  To download a book for your Kindle, PC or Mac computer, browser or a variety of mobile devices, click on the links below.

Click on the book title link (or the book cover) to open its Amazon page. Remember, these downloads are free on June 9 and 10 only:

How Do Private Eyes Do That? by Colleen Collins

HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT cover

“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

“Real-life private investigator Colleen Collins spills the beans.”
~The Thrilling Detective

How to Write a Dick: A Guide to Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman

How to Write a Dick cover

“This is an amazing book and I’m very happy that I got it. The authors cover so much ground about a PI’s life and work, I’d find it hard to get a more thorough overview. Since this book is geared towards writers, I think the authors provided just the right amount of detail regarding specific PI work.”
~Allie R.

“HOW TO WRITE A DICK is an accessible, up-to-date guide to the realities of P.I. work uniquely tuned in to what fiction writers want/need to know. If it had been around when I was fiction editor for THE THRILLING DETECTIVE WEB SITE, my job would have been much easier.”
~Gerald So

Readers’ Favorite Articles Over Four Years

In four years, we’ve written 256 posts in 165 categories, with nearly 200,000 of you dropping by to read and post comments. Below, we list our readers’ top 10 favorite articles since we opened our blog doors in 2009…

Our readers’ #1 blog post over these four years has been:

Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference?

Below are the next most popular readers’ posts, from #2 through #10:

Can You Put a GPS on My Boyfriend’s Car?

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

How to Find Someone: Free Online Research Tips

When the Amazing Race Reality Show Called and Invited Us to Audition

Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins, the Writing PIs

What’s the Importance of a Crime Scene?

Private Investigators and Murder Cases

Marketing the Private Investigations Business

How to Find Someone’s Cell Phone Number

iPhone Apps for Private Investigators

Our Other Sites

Shaun Kaufman Law

Colleen Collins Books

Thanks for dropping by, Writing PIs

Posted in Amazing Race Audition, Book Giveaways, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hot Research Sites, Tips from a Lawyer and Support for a Fellow PI

Posted by Writing PIs on June 23, 2012

Today we have some educational and heartfelt tid-bits to share, from hot research sites to tips from a lawyer to a fellow PI who’s undergoing a bone marrow transplant and needs our support.

Hot Research Sites

This past week, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s authors, Colleen Collins, was a guest blogger at Jersey Girl Book Reviews, run by book reviewer Kathleen Anderson.  Colleen’s article “Be Your Own Investigator: Four Free Online Resources” is excerpted below–click on the link at the end of the excerpt to read the entire article.

Be Your Own Investigator: Four Free Online Resources
by Colleen Collins

Besides being a multi-published author, for the last nine years I’ve also co-owned a detective agency with my husband (probably no surprise my current book, The Zen Man, features a private eye man-and-woman team).  As a private investigator, I’ve discovered dozens of online research sites that are handy for such tasks as locating people, digging up historical data and finding owners of cell phone numbers. For my guest blog at Jersey Girl Book Reviews, I thought readers might enjoy learning about four of these online resources for their own use. Best of all, most of these resources are free!

Search the deep web with 123people.com: With more than 50 million searches each month, 123people.com claims to be the largest real-time people search engine in the world. It’s also what is known as a “deep web” search engine, which means it often finds data not indexed by more traditional search engines. Search results might include images, network profiles, blog entries, documents, e-mails, addresses and phone numbers.

Note: Some advertisers, such as peoplefinders.com, promote pay-for people search services on 123people.com. The problem with such pay-for services is that there’s no guarantee how relevant or current the information is, and there’s no live source to interpret the results. My advice: Don’t waste your money. If you’re tempted to pay money to one of these online services, you’re better off hiring a professional private investigator.

Research multiple social networking sites at SocialMention.com: According to Silicon.com, there are nearly 4.5 billion active social networking and other online accounts! Therefore, it can be beneficial to conduct a search in a social media search engine, such as Socialmention, that concurrently checks dozens of social networking sites. Search results include blogs, networks, images and news.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Tips from a Lawyer

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s author Shaun Kaufman is the managing partner at Shaun Kaufman Law. On his site, he’s been writing articles with tips on such topics as what to say (or not say) to a police officer, how to not be a victim of copyright trolling, mistakes people make when representing themselves at a DMV hearing and more.

Below are links to several of these articles — to read an article, click on the link:

Should You Lie or Not Talk to the Police?

Meet the First Amendment Free Speech Guarantee

Do It Yourself DUI/DMV Representation: Three Top Mistakes People Make

How to Say No to a Vehicle Search

Copyright Trolling: Don’t Be a Victim

Support for Steven Brown

Steven Brown, a well-respected private investigator and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating is undergoing a bone marrow transplant. Steve has been a guest here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, and his informative and interesting articles on private investigations are included below, as well as links to his blogs about the current transplant experience.  The operation is expensive (half a million dollars) — here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes we’ve donated to help out Steve. If you’d like to also donate (ever bit counts), a donate button is on the left side of his website, Handcuffed to the Ocean.

To read Steve’s blogs about his bone marrow transplant, click here.

To order his book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating” click here.

Links to Steve’s guest posts at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes (click on link to read article):

Interview with Steven Brown, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating”

Part 2: Interview with Steven Brown, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating”

Congratulations to The Three Winners of Our Third-Anniversary Giveaway!

This month Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes celebrated its third blog anniversary. Congrats to B.V., J.C. and Guillaume, who each won a copy of How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths.

Have a wonderful weekend, Writing PIs

Posted in Be Your Own Investigator, Nonfiction book: HOW TO WRITE A DICK, Steven Kerry Brown | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hot Research Sites, Tips from a Lawyer and Support for a Fellow PI

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 http://www.shaunkaufman.com.

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

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Top Mistakes Writers Make When Depicting Crime Scenes

Posted by Writing PIs on May 18, 2012

Today Novel Rockets, one of the Writer’s Digest 101 Top Websites for Writers, has posted an article by Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PI, Colleen Collins: “Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make at a Crime Scene.”  Besides offering a PI’s perspective on crime scene faux pas, Colleen interviewed other experts for this article: Joe Giacalone, veteran NYPD detective sergeant and commanding officer of their Cold Case Squad and author of  The Criminal Investigative Function; David Swinson, retired Washington, DC, detective and author of A Detailed Man; and Denver criminal defense attorney Shaun Kaufman.

Below we post an excerpt.  To read it in its entirety, click on the “To read the full article, click here” link at the bottom of the article.

Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make at a Crime Scene

by Colleen Collins

Incorrectly describing a crime scene can hurt the credibility of a story

Next to confessions, crime scenes contain the most first-hand evidence explaining the who, what and whys of a crime.  Unfortunately, sometimes writers get aspects of a crime scene wrong, which puts a dent in the credibility of a story.

David Swinson, a retired Washington, DC, detective and author of A Detailed Man (available in most bookstores and Amazon), calls these dents “Aw c’mon, man” moments.  “I have been to countless crime scenes,” says David.  “When you respond to a scene that is related to a violent crime, especially homicide, even the smallest mistake can ruin the outcome of the case. I’m especially tough on some authors who write crime fiction — it’s what we in law enforcement call an ‘Aw c’mon, man’ moment.’”

Let’s look at the top five mistakes, or “Aw c’mon, man” blunders, in no particular order, that writers make at crime scenes.

Using incorrect terminology. One popular misconception is that the words cartridges and bullets are synonymous. A bullet, the projectile that fires from a rifle, revolver or other small firearm, is one part of a cartridge. Two other words that writers sometimes use interchangeably: spent bullets and spent casings. A spent bullet, sometimes called a slug, is one that has stopped moving after being fired. Spent bullets are often pretty distorted after hitting objects on their way to a resting place. A spent casing is one from which a bullet has been fired. Although spent bullets and casings might be found at a crime scene, casings are more likely to be lying in plain sight.

Mishandling evidence. “First rule of any crime scene investigation,” says Swinson, “is when you observe what is obviously evidence, leave it where it is. Don’t move it!”  An “Aw c’mon, man” crime scene scenario for Swinson: “Spent casings are visible on the floor beside the body, a semi auto is a few feet away, and a little baggy that contains what appears to be a white powdery substance is near the weapon. The detective picks up the gun and inspects it and then picks up the baggy, opens it and smells or takes a taste using his finger. This makes me crazy! A detective would never pick up crucial evidence before it is photographed or, if necessary, dusted for prints. This contaminates evidence and can jeopardize the prosecutor’s case. And a detective would never, ever pick up what might be illegal narcotics and taste it!”

To read the full article, click here

Related articles

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Private Eye News: From Training Programs to Gadgets

Posted by Writing PIs on April 3, 2012

 

Some news items related to private eyes, both the real-life variety and those in fiction. Click on links below to read more:

Top 25 Private Investigation Training and Education programs from PINow.com:  http://www.pinow.com/articles/1115/top-25-private-investigator-training-education-2012

Got a client who needs home security? Easy-to-install, night-vision home security video camera that requires no software installation. Plus it’s relatively cheap. Check out Dropcam.

The Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PIs will be teaching “Surveillance 101” and “Finding Missing Persons 101” at the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference April 20-22.

News item about former PI-turned-chef who claims O.J. really didn’t do it: “Private investigator releases book claiming he has evidence O.J. Simpson didn’t do it”

April 3 news blurb about our own Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Colleen Collins: Kindle Nation Daily Bargain Book Alert: Colleen Collins’ THE ZEN MAN is Our eBook of the Day at just 99 Cents, with 4.2 Stars on 8 Reviews, and Here’s a Free Sample! http://bit.ly/HbFZvX 

A guide to what data mining is, how it works, and why it’s important: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Data Mining But Were Afraid to Ask”

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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

Posted by Writing PIs on March 12, 2012

Today we answer writers’ questions about PIs obtaining people’s records, such as drivers’ records and court records.

Writer’s Question: What are the legal reasons for a PI to request and obtain public records? What would be some “illegal” reasons?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ Answer: Statutes provide these permissible uses, or as you said “legal reasons.” For example, the Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) is a federal law that regulates how information is disseminated (which includes who can access this information) for drivers’ licenses, auto registrations, auto titles, motor vehicle emissions, motor vehicle recalls (and other objects of governmental purposes). Here’s a partial list of who can access DPPA-type information for others: federal, state or local courts and law enforcement in connection with driver safety, theft, emission and product recalls; licensed private investigation or security services; civil, criminal or administrative court proceedings; collection agencies; anyone in possession of written permission from the subject.

In our state private investigators are not required to be licensed — when we go to the DMV to obtain others’ driving records, we must provide the court case number and Colorado jurisdiction for which the search is being conducted.

There are also various restrictions in different states for the public, including private investigators, in accessing court files. In Colorado, private investigators can legally request any court file except for sexual assault, juvenile and probate. We don’t know the statutes for other states, but it’s possible a PI in another state might have to show his/her license (similar to law enforcement) to access court files containing sensitive information (such as probate, financial statements in divorce cases, proprietary and trade secret information, sexual assault).

As to “illegal reasons” to access records, you can also think of these as the non-permissible reasons. For example, a PI can’t access a driver’s history to find that person’s residence so the PI can stalk, intimidate or harass that person. Those are obviously non-permissible reasons and the PI could end up answering to federal charges for violating the DPPA and state charges for participating in stalking. Similarly, a PI cannot obtain other records that are governed by permissible reasons (such as police records, water district records, fire district records) for personal use (for example, to solicit clients for himself or for a lawyer, or to resale the information for profit).

Writer’s Question: My character isn’t a PI; she’s an investigative journalist, but I figured she’d use a lot of the same techniques and methods as a PI. Another character in my story, actually the romantic interest of the PI, is a sheriff. Would he, too, use some of the same resources as the PI?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ Answer: Regarding techniques and methods, an investigative journalist is similar to a PI. A fair number of investigative journalists who lost their jobs during this recession (as newspapers have downsized) have become PIs in our state. One of our best friends is a former Los Angeles paper crime reporter who became a PI. As to your hero sheriff, he’d have access to a lot more resources than a PI. For example, he can tap into the FBI’s NCIC, the National Crime Information Center. He can also access national databases of motor vehicle registrations, certain military information, and immigration records.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Private Investigators and Murder Cases

Posted by Writing PIs on February 27, 2012

At Elizabeth A. White’s blog, Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PI Colleen Collins posted a guest article that responds to novelist Ed McBain‘s comment “The last time a private eye solved a murder was never.” An excerpt from the post “Do Private Eyes Solve Murders?” is below; to read the full article, click here.

Do Private Eyes Solve Murders?

The last time a private eye solved a murder was never.” -Ed McBain *

Like many of you, I love a gritty, fast-paced private eye story where the shamus solves a grisly murder or two. Investigating death makes for compelling storytelling rift with bodies, suspects and clues. In my current novel The Zen Man, the private-eye protagonist must solve a murder in thirty days or face a life sentence behind bars.

But how true is it in real life that private investigators solve murders? Is Ed McBain right that the answer is never? I compiled a few popular theories on this topic — some from the Internet, others my PI-partner-husband and I have heard over the years – with analysis for each.

Theory #1: In stories, private eyes are often effective because they are less constrained by government rules than law enforcement. But in reality, law enforcement must be wary about endorsing a PI’s evidence because 1) it’s unknown what methods the PI used in obtaining that evidence (if the PI obtained the evidence through illegal means, it would be thrown out at trial), and 2) by accepting a PI’s evidence, the police could be seen as using the PI as a state agent (“acting under color of law”) and any improper behavior by the PI could be imputed to the police department.

Analysis: It’s true that PIs, who are civilians, are less constrained by government rules — for example, PIs are not bound to the same evidentiary laws as law enforcement. It’s an assumption, however, that an experienced PI, especially one who specializes in legal investigations, would use “unknown” methods for obtaining evidence. In our investigations agency, we’ve gathered evidence using established rules and procedures to establish chain of custody (documented procedures demonstrating how we got evidence from where it was to our evidence locker). These procedures guarantee reliability and have resulted in courtroom admissibility and victory for the lawyers who employed us.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Examples of Private Investigators Investigating Murder Cases

Below are links to several more articles written by private investigators about their murder investigations or how they went about conducting such investigations. Also included is a recent news article about three murder suspects who’ve requested a private investigator to clear their names. Click on link to read article.

The Kurt Cobain Murder Investigation by PI Tom Grant

Private Investigators Research Murder Cases (P.I. Stories.com)

Private Investigator’s Investigation Re-Opens Murder Case (Private Investigators in Virginia)

Attempted Murder, 4 Bullet Slugs, and a Dog Named Gus (The Zen Man)

3 Suspects in Covington Dismemberment Case Request Private Investigator

Have a good day, Writing PIs

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Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes Listed in Top PI Blogs!

Posted by Writing PIs on February 2, 2012

PINow.com’s Top 44 PI Blogs

We just dragged ourselves back into our office after wrapping up 7 process services in anticipation of Denver’s incoming snowstorm (reports say it’ll be the worst snowstorm this year, with warnings of a blizzard later this evening). So it felt great to get those services out of the way (everything notarized, papers delivered to law firms). After putting the dogs outside, we checked our email and saw that PINow.com has listed its top 44 PI blogs…ranking Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes as #8 on the list! Cool. Thanks for the tribute, PINow.com.

We recognized others on that list, some are friends and others, professional acquaintances. One of our favorite blogs is #1, PIBuzz, authored by California PI Tamara Thompson. Since we opened our investigations agency 8 years ago, that’s been one of our go-to blogs to read about research tips, legislative issues, records research and more.

The #2 blog, Diligentia Group, actually listed Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes on its recent list of “15 Fraud and Investigation Blogs You Need to Follow in 2012.”  Diligentia, in turn, is a great site for reading in-depth articles in such areas as due diligence, legal investigations and background investigations. You can also subscribe to their free newsletter.

Then there’s one of our favorite PIs, a gentleman and an expert in bug/wiretap detection, Skipp Porteous. His #15 blog Sherlock’s Case Files covers “investigative tips, testimonials, and tantalizing topics.” Skipp is also the co-author of Into The Blast: The True Story of D.B. Cooper.

We’ll be checking out the other blogs as time permits…considering we might be snowed in, we might have plenty of time to do some reading over the next few days.

Have a great Friday, Writing PIs

How Do Private Eyes Do That? available on Kindle and Nook

“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

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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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