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 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.

  • Writing PIs on Twitter

  • Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes

Posts Tagged ‘detective fiction’

Answering a Writer’s Question: Has a Bad Guy Ever Tried to Hire You?

Posted by Writing PIs on October 15, 2016

This was a question that came up several times in our workshops with writers. It’s a good question, as too often in books and film, a PI-character blithely hands over sensitive information to a “client” who has a dark agenda. Writers, just because you see/read this in stories doesn’t mean it’s how PIs operate in real life; in fact, naively handing over potentially damaging information to a client just because he/she asked for it is becoming a cliche.

Read on to learn how we, and other PIs, screen their clients…

(Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Do “Bad Guys” Sometimes Try to Hire PIs? (Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

WRITER’S QUESTION: Have you ever had a “bad guy” try to hire you to find someone? What if you didn’t realized it was a bad guy—after you found the person, what would you do?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: Yes, we’ve had “bad guys” ask us to find someone. What triggered us to think this potential client might have bad reasons/aren’t being honest?

  1. We always run a criminal background check on any non-attorney clients (right there we can find nefarious reasons, such as restraining orders, divorces in progress, domestic violence convictions, etc.)
  2. If the person requesting the skiptrace (search for someone) omits certain information, or makes inflated claims as to why they want to locate another person, we’ll generally refuse the case. And if we do accept a skiptrace, we never hand over the sought-person’s personal contact information (street address, phone number, etc.). Instead, we provide our client’s contact information to the individual (sometimes the client will write a letter explaining his/her reasons for wishing to make contact). At that point, it is solely the found-person’s decision whether or not he/she wishes to make contact.
  3. Sometimes we’ll hear signs of intoxication/mental illness in a requestor’s speech, and we refuse the work
  4. Suspicious emails—be they directed from a bogus-sounding account or the request is stated in such a way it’s obvious they’re wanting us to break the law. We delete the requestor’s email and that’s that.

To clarify our response to the second part of your question, when we smell a bad situation, we simply don’t take the case. If we were to take the case, and then realize it’s a bad situation, we refund the client’s money and terminate our work without relaying any information we might have learned in our investigation. Using such filters, we have never been in the position of finding out something that might harm a third party. If we were ever in that position, we would contact law enforcement with what we’d discovered.

Writing PIs, a Couple of PIs Who Also Write

Advertisements

Posted in Q&As | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Answering a Writer’s Question: Has a Bad Guy Ever Tried to Hire You?

Do All PIs Carry Concealed Handguns?

Posted by Writing PIs on August 22, 2015

In movies and books, private eyes often carry handguns (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

In the writers’ classes we’ve taught on private investigations, this question has come up a lot. In those great old noir films, seems every shamus carried one and used it freely. Then along came Jim Rockford from the TV show The RockFord Files, and that easy-going, beach-loving PI preferred to keep his gun in a cookie jar rather than carry it.

We used to stash a stun gun under the front seat of our car, otherwise we don’t own or use any guns, and we know many PIs who don’t carry as well.

Private Eye Characters and Guns

A few years ago, there was a best-selling novel starring a junior PI (she’d just started work in her relative’s PI agency) and she carried a Glock in her glove compartment. The premise of the story was that her relative couldn’t trust her to take on any serious investigative jobs, so she’d been relegated to background checks and hunting down an occasional cheating spouse — and for those jobs, she carried a Glock? For us, that seriously stretched the story’s believability.

Making It Realistic

But many fictional PIs do carry firearms, and if the author makes it credible, it makes for a great read. There was a book out a few years back that starred a PI who had lost her license, and on top of that, she had a felony rap in her background. She carried a gun, but she knew she’d be in deep you-know if that became common knowledge, so she took great care to hide the fact (of course, she got caught and tossed into jail when it was found). The story was plausible because it reflected reality.

Another female fictional PI who carried a gun: Robert Parker’s female PI Sunny Randall. A former cop with grit and smarts, it’s plausible and nail-biting when Sunny pulls out a rifle and blasts the bad-guy as he trespasses her front door, leaving a bloody crime scene in her own living room.

Just keep in mind that under the conditions any real-life PI would legally carry a firearm, so would a fictional PI.

In The Rockford Files, Jim Rockford (R, played by James Garner) kept his gun in a cookie jar (image is in public domain)

Keep in mind, too, that in the real world armed PIs rarely (if ever) get into the kind of gunplay seen in fiction. Many PIs will tell you that if gunplay or a fight breaks out, it indicates an investigator isn’t doing her job well.  When a surprised client asked PI Jim Rockford why he wasn’t carrying a gun, he said, “Because I don’t want to shoot anybody.” After all, the primary guiding forces for any investigator are stealth and discretion.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned or licensed by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any photos noted as being in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

Posted in Concealed Weapons | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Do All PIs Carry Concealed Handguns?

HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?: New Ebook for Writers, Researchers, Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on October 9, 2011

Writing a sleuth character? Want to know how to locate a cell phone number? Curious how a private investigator might investigate a homicide or crime scene?

How Do Private Eyes Do That? is a compilation of articles about private investigations written by Colleen Collins, a professional private investigator (and one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes blog authors). Its topics are geared to readers interested in the world of PIs, including fiction writers, researchers, investigators and those simply curious about the profession.

A supplement to the book is a chapter from How to Write a Dick: A Guide to Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, co-authored by Colleen Collins. This chapter describes numerous specializations in the field of private investigations, including legal investigations, infidelity investigations, pet detection, insurance investigations, personal injury investigations, executive protection and 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

How Do Private Eyes Do That? on Kindle: Click here

How Do Private Eyes Do That? on Nook: Click here

Posted in Nonfiction book: HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Denver’s Nick and Nora: Real-Life Private Eyes in the News

Posted by Writing PIs on September 1, 2011

You know us as the Writing PIs. In this week’s Westword, Denver’s weekly independent newspaper, we’re also “these married Denver detectives” in the paper’s cover story:

That cover is pretty cool (see above). They made it look like a beat-up dime novel with a tough, noir-ish private eye in a fedora and trenchcoat, holding a gun. The top right “page” corner is folded over, like you’re keeping your place in the paperback story. The reporter, Melanie Asmar, met with us between three and four times for interviews…toward the end she told us of her vision for the story (layering a writer’s PI story, based on one of our cases with us as the story’s protagonists, with interviews with us). She did a fantastic job.

To read about our cases, how we became PIs, and more than you probably ever wanted to know about a couple of married Denver detectives, click on the below link:

Westword: The Plot Thickens

Have a great week, Writing PIs AKA Denver’s Nick and Nora

Posted in Westword: The Plot Thickens | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Story of a Private Eye: From Romance Writing to Private Investigating

Posted by Writing PIs on August 29, 2011

Before we started our investigations business nearly 8 years ago, one of us was a full-time writer (with 20 published novels to her credit) and the other a trial attorney turned legal researcher (who had trained many private investigators in his decades-long career in the criminal justice system). Today at New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde’s blog, the writer half  (Colleen Collins) tells the tale of how the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes team decided to start their own private investigations business.  Leave a comment & be eligible to win a Kindle version of How to Write a Dick.

Click the below link to read the article:

From the Desk of New York Times Bestselling Author Lori Wilde: From Romance to Surveillance

Have a great week, Writing PIs

 

Posted in From romance writing to private investigating | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

From Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Three Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations

Posted by Writing PIs on August 13, 2011

Hello readers,

Here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes we enjoy blogging about private investigations, many of our topics geared to writers writing sleuths/private investigators. We also walk the talk as we co-own a legal investigations firm. If in the near future one of us returns to also practicing law, we still plan for both of us to conduct investigative work, too.

How to Write a Dick

As our motto says, we also happen to be writers. A few months ago, we finally published an ebook that’s been in the works for years: How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths. This was truly, as they say, a labor of love. We’ve enjoyed answering writers’ questions over the years, presenting workshops at writers’ conferences, writing articles about investigations and crafting plausible PI scenarios…and all that and more went into How to Write a Dick.

Currently available on Kindle and Nook.

.

.

How Do Private Eyes Do That?

As we’ve compiled dozens of articles here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, we imagined it’d be kinda cool to put “the best of Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes” into a book, too.  But we’re not going to call it “The Best of…” because maybe some of those “best” ones are still to be written. After we pondered what the title should be, we decided something straight-forward and to the point was best…something like How Do Private Eyes Do That?

How Do Private Eyes Do That? Articles on the Art of Private Investigations, available October 2011 on Kindle.

How to Be a Lawyer’s Dick

We have a third book we’re working on, geared to legal investigations which is our field of expertise. What do legal investigators do? We specialize in cases involving the courts and we’re typically employed by law firms or lawyers.  We frequently assist in preparing criminal defenses, locating witnesses, gathering and reviewing evidence, collecting information on the parties to the litigation, taking photographs, testifying in court and assembling evidence and reports for trials.

When it came to a title, How to Be a Legal Investigator was too boring, Legal Investigations 101 was too obvious. Then we decided to follow-up our first Dick book with a second one: How to Be a Lawyer’s Dick.  Definitely eye-catching.
How to Be a Lawyer’s Dick: Legal Investigations 101 will be available spring 2012 on Kindle and Nook.
Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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

Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Financial Investigations

Posted by Writing PIs on July 29, 2011

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

Financial Investigations

Financial investigators might be certified as financial investigators and fraud examiners and have clients who are commercial litigators and enforcement attorneys.  Many financial investigators also do background checks (which include verification of employment, residences, schools, credit, criminal history, and so forth) for such people as employers and landlords.  Financial investigators also perform asset checks (an examination of a business’s or individual’s assets) as well as conduct other information verification for domestic relations attorneys and others interested in performing “due diligence” assays. (Due diligence verification is done to confirm data relied on in securities offerings and in business acquisitions–translate this to big money, and the person doing the work better be right or be ready to be sued.)

A financial investigator’s services might include:

  • Finding and recovering money owed
  • Enforcing judgment and restitution in criminal and civil lawsuits
  • Recovering financial loss through fraud, embezzlement, non-performing loans/leases
  • Performing due diligence in pre-litigation, mergers and acquisitions, investments
  • Investigating bankruptcy fraud.

A financial investigator might have one or more of following background/credentials:

  • Certified Financial Investigator
  • Certified Fraud Examiner
  • Certified Protection Professional
  • Certified Public Accountant
  • Expertise in forensic accounting
  • Expertise in computer forensics
  • Expertise in health care billing and bill coding
  • Expertise in questionable documents
  • Expertise in banking
  • Expertise in the law of real and personal property, taxation, securities and trusts.

One financial investigator claims that only 20 percent of civil cases actually collect, and the other 80 percent go uncollected.  Of those who win restitution, only 3 percent collect.  Almost sounds like a financial investigator’s job is like shooting fish in a barrel, doesn’t it?  The field can be lucrative, but the work can be time-consuming and tedious.

Sample investigation methodology a financial investigator might use:

  • Computer research
  • Public records research
  • Confidential sources
  • Analysis of financial statements
  • Subpoenas
  • Interviews, witness statements
  • Affidavits, depositions, and careful review of legal pleadings and lawyer’s files.

Where might a financial investigator look to find where people have hidden money?

  • Corporations
  • Limited Partnership
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Trusts
  • Off shore accounts
  • Relatives
  • Combinations of the above (recently we discovered a man had created a corporation for his wife and had given her substantial property, which she then deeded to the corporation. She headed the corporation, which then sold the property, and she liquidated the assets, and returned them to her name)

What indicators of fraud might alert the financial investigator?

  • Lack of reasonable consideration for the conveyance
  • Transfer of the debtor’s entire estate
  • Relationship between transferor and transferee
  • Pendency or threat of litigation
  • Secrecy or hurried transaction
  • Insolvency or indebtedness of transferor
  • Departure from the usual method of business
  • Retention by the debtor of possession
  • Reservation of benefit to the transferor

Writer’s Slant:  If Your PI Is a Financial Investigator, Think About:

  • Her background and education.  Most financial investigators have training, if not a degree or certification, in some facet of the financial field.
  • His tenacity
  • Her research abilities and skills
  • How well she knows and uses accounting, psychology, and related disciplines as a whole to uncover assets
  • His knowledge of real-world business matters
  • Her stake in the outcome, as many financial investigators work on a contingency, so they are often as motivated as the defrauding party.
  • How she uses her own past to give her an understanding of the present situation
  • Their understanding of when and how due diligence is performed or required.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

Posted in Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Financial Investigations

PIs Talk About Mistakes in Private Eye and Crime Fiction

Posted by Writing PIs on July 20, 2011

Below are a few blogs over the last few days where PIs talk about mistakes they’ve encountered in private eye and crime fiction.

Steven Kerry Brown (former FBI, current PI), author of Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating talked about “Mistakes Crime Fiction Writers Make” at Jungle Red Writers: Click here to read

Today the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes PIs talk about “Avoiding Mistakes in Private Eye Fiction” at Poe’s Deadly Daughters where we talk about mistakes we’ve encountered in recent private eye books and suggest fixes: Click here to read

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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

Upcoming Virtual Book Blog Tour for HOW TO WRITE A DICK

Posted by Writing PIs on June 16, 2011

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

eBook Available in July!

Upcoming Virtual Book Blog Tour Schedule

Below is our current schedule for HOW TO WRITE A DICK, with more blog stops coming. At each stop, we’ll be posting new articles on investigative tips and techniques (with the occasional true-crime PI story).  Mark the dates, baby.

BOOK BLOGGERS: If you have a blog geared to writers who write sleuths or readers who love reading about sleuths, crime and gumshoe techniques, and you have a spot for us in July or August, drop a comment and we’ll get back to you (be sure to leave an email address and your blog url).

Thursday, July 7: Jungle Red Writers

Thursday, July 14: Mystery Writing Is Murder

Wednesday, July 20: Poe’s Deadly Daughters

Thursday, July 21: Cold Case Squad

Friday, July 23: Stiletto Gang

Tuesday, August 2: Mystery/Romance Writer Terry Odell Terry’s Place

Thursday, August 11: Defrosting Cold Cases

Thursday, August 25: Mystery writer Patricia Stoltey’s blog

Date TBA: The Biting Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein

Posted in History of Trials, Writing About PIs, Writing Legal Characters/Stories, Writing Mysteries, Writing PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

How a Private Investigator Might Process a Crime Scene

Posted by Writing PIs on May 22, 2011


A criminal defense attorney might ask a private investigator to critique the processing of a crime scene, or a private investigator might conduct her own crime scene processing for a client. You’d be surprised the evidence that can be found days, weeks, even months after law enforcement has closed the crime scene for their investigations.

The basic steps an investigator follows, including law enforcement investigators, typically include the following:

  1. Check the condition of any victims and arrange medical treatment if necessary.
  2. Secure and protect the crime scene. Keep in mind the possibility this crime scene might be the first in a series of crime scenes.
  3. Determine if further search is legal. If yes, the private investigator must obtain consent from the investigating authority or property owner, such as law enforcement or a landlord. If the investigator is a law enforcement officer, he obtains a search warrant from a local judge.
  4. Search, sketch, and document. Precise measurements of the crime scene include an accurate sketch containing a key, a scale and a legend noting the day, time, location and weather conditions.  It is also useful to document compass directions on the sketch. Also, if documenting the crime scene via photographs or video, it is useful to film dimensions – height, width and length — with a measuring tape.
  5. Document the crime scene and its physical evidence. In law enforcement, a videographer typically accompanies an assigned officer on the initial walk-through of a crime scene. Similarly, a private investigator can document the crime scene layout with photographs or video. It is  important to take close-up photographs of important items of evidence, such as footwear or impressions of objects.
  6. Handle the evidence so as to not contaminate it. Such precautions include wearing latex gloves and inserting evidence into plastic baggies.
  7. Collect, mark and catalogue evidence.
  8. Preserve the evidence in a central, organized location, such as a locked closet. 
Have a good weekend, Writing PIs

Posted in Private Eyes Handling Crime Scenes | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: