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

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Posts Tagged ‘fiction writing’

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

Posted by Writing PIs on December 29, 2019

Today is part 2 of our interview with former FBI agent, private investigator and author Steven Kerry Brown where we discuss the world of real-life private eyes and their fictional counterparts.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES: Some people view private investigations as a “recession-proof” business.  Do you agree?  If not, how has the economy affected private investigation businesses, and in what areas of investigative work?

STEVEN: All of the private investigators I know are suffering from loss of business. I would guess there are some that might be prospering, those doing process service with mortgage related clients perhaps. But while we too, do serve process, I don’t consider process serving as “real PI work.” It doesn’t require a PI license to serve process.

My criminal defense workload is up, so maybe there’s an upside to the downturn in the economy. More crime, more criminal defense cases. A lot of those are “indigent for expenses” so I get paid, but less than my normal rate. Generally my family law clients have less money to spend. I’ve had several that wanted to continue with their cases but were forced to stop because their own businesses were losing money and they couldn’t afford us. The pre-employment background screening business is way down as you can imagine. Fewer people being hired so there’s less need for background screening. So if there are some PIs whose business profits are up, I’d like to know their secrets.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES: You’re also a “writing PI.” How long have you been writing fiction? And please tell us about your PI fiction novel that’s currently being shopped to publishers.

STEVEN: Just because I enjoy listening to classical music doesn’t mean I can write a concerto. Likewise, because I can read and write English, it doesn’t mean I can craft a novel. There is a craft to writing fiction that must be learned before your writing is going to be publishable. I’m a slow learner. I’ve been writing fiction for 15 years and haven’t made the grade yet. I have a mentor that says you have to write at least a million words before you can produce a well-worked novel.

People ask me how long it took me to write The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating. With tongue in cheek I tell them 20 years. Non-fiction I find much easier to write. I wrote the CIG to PI in about 3 months. The Second Edition (which you said you don’t have and you need to buy it) took me less time. It has about 40 percent new and different material than the first edition.

My first novel was about an ex-FBI agent working a one-sailboat charter business in the Bahamas. It was pretty damn good if I say so myself and it was good enough to land me a fine literary agent. We’re both surprised that book didn’t sell. It took me eight years to write it.

The second novel, a Mormon PI murder mystery set in St. Augustine, Florida is being shopped now by my agent. It took me about three years to write it so I guess I’m getting faster. In this novel, the PI, Winchester Young, risks jail time, fights though a midnight tropical storm, and explores ancient Timucuan ruins to expose the genesis behind multiple murders. We’ll just have to wait and see if it sells. Winchester, by the way was one of the few “gun” names I could come up with that hadn’t been used already. Magnum, Beretta, Cannon, Remington.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES:  In your fiction writing, do you feel it’s necessary to portray, down to the “last scrap” so to speak, the work of private investigators?

STEVEN: I had a fellow PI call me yesterday and wanted to know if it was difficult to find a publisher. I asked him if he was writing fiction or non-fiction. The book he had in mind was really a novel but with “actual details” of how he went about working his cases. But he said it was both fiction and non-fiction. I told him he had to choose unless it was a memoir which is really a bit of both. Bottom line was he didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing.

In the PI novel that is being shopped now, I tried to include as many “real life” PI details as possible. I think one of the joys of reading is entering and learning about a world that the reader knows nothing about. So I tried to let my readers enter the PI world. One of the great things about writing is you can condense time, so it doesn’t take four hours to read about a four hour surveillance. But other than that, I think it pretty well immerses the reader in the world of this PI who has to solve a present day murder in order to solve one from twenty-five years ago.

I also tried to stay away from the stereotypic PIs, ex-cops, ex-military etc. My guy is ex-nothing and inherited the agency from his uncle. He is smart and resourceful but he’s not ex-CIA. I also tried to stay away from a lot of gunplay in the book. This PI doesn’t shoot anyone. There is a lot of action and the body count is pretty high but he is not directly responsible for any deaths. Really, how many real-life PIs do you know that have shot someone? I’ve been in the PI business for 25 years and I don’t know any. I do have some real-life clients that have committed multiple murders though. I’m a frequent visitor to death row at the Florida State Prison so I think I have a pretty good idea of how to portray crime and those who commit it. I guess we’ll see if any publishers agree.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES: We look forward to reading about Winchester Young in your to-be-published novel because some smart publisher will snap it up. Thank you, Steven, for being part of Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes.

Amazon link to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating: http://tinyurl.com/guide2privateinvestigating

 

Posted in Interviews, Steven Kerry Brown | 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 »

Motivations and Power Plays in Murder

Posted by Writing PIs on August 17, 2011

 

On Thursday, August 18, we’re guests at Handcuffed to the Ocean, a blog about “crime, mysteries and adventures on the high seas.” One of the blog authors is our friend and peer, Steven K. Brown, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating. Steven Kerry Brown began his investigative career as a special agent for the FBI. For the past 18 years, he has successfully managed his own private investigation firm, Millennial Investigative Agency. He’s also appeared on such television programs as Hard Copy and 60 Minutes, and speaks frequently before civic and professional groups.

On our guest blog at Handcuffed to the Ocean we’ll be discussing several real-world examples of motivations for murder, along with our lessons learned as PIs. Because mystery writers sometimes use organized crime as a tool for creating compelling plots, characters and conflicts, our case examples focus on organized crime and how it employs power plays in murder.  Click below link to read the article:

Handcuffed to the Ocean: Motivations for Murder

 

Have a good week, Writing PIs

Posted in Writing About PIs | 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.

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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 »

How a Private Investigator Conducts Surveillances in the Country

Posted by Writing PIs on August 2, 2011

Today we’re guests at Terry’s Place, writer Terry Odell’s blog, where she’s posted our article “Writing Rural Surveillances.”  Writing a sleuth who needs to conduct a stakeout in the country?  Curious how a private investigator might prepare for such a surveillance? Drop by and check out the article.  We’re also giving away a Kindle version of How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths.”  If you don’t have a Kindle, no problem.  You can download a free Kindle app for your PC or Mac.

Terry’s Place “Writing Rural Surveillances”

 

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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

Chasing Cheaters in Fiction: Electronic Investigations or E-Catching

Posted by Writing PIs on July 22, 2011

We’re guests today at the mystery writers’ blog Stiletto Gang, where we’re talking about chasing cheaters in fiction (“Infidelity Investigations: E-Catching the Cheater”). What’s “e-catching”? Loosely, it’s an abbreviation that encompasses various means of electronic investigations. In our post, we address requests we commonly receive from prospective clients, such as:

“I see a new cell phone number on my husband’s cell phone history. I think it’s this woman he’s seeing. I want her name and address.”

“I think my fiancée is fooling around. I want to download spyware on her phone, listen in on her conversations.”

Drop by the blog and see our answers.  Today, July 22, we’re also answering questions about infidelity investigations, so ask and we’ll answer!  Plus at the end of the day we’re picking a visitor’s name to be gifted a free Kindle version of How to Write a Dick: A Guide to Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths.

Stiletto Gang post: Infidelity Investigations: E-Catching the Cheater

Have a great Friday, Writing PIs

 

Posted in Chasing Cheaters in Fiction | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Historical Investigations: Handy Links for Researching Family Histories

Posted by Writing PIs on June 21, 2011

Private investigators sometimes conduct historical research, often for cases involving genealogy research. Such research might include meticulous reviews of such documents as census records, archives of newspapers, obituaries, birth and death certificates, many of which can be found online. The following websites offer comprehensive research into family histories.

Ancestry.com offers links to census records, immigration records, photos, maps, old school yearbooks and more.  Ancestry.com claims it has the largest repository of military records, including draft registrations, pension records and service records. It offers a free 14-day trial membership.

Obitsarchives.com provides offers links to newspaper and obituary archives, death notices, funeral arrangements and more.  Some libraries also contain hard copies of obituaries.

Familysearch.org is a service provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and offers a network of nearly 5 thousand facilities all over the world that offer public access to genealogical records.

Legacy.com collaborates with hundreds of newspapers in North America, Europe and Australia and features obituaries and guest books for more than two-thirds of the people who die in the U.S.

Usgenweb.org is a volunteer-driven site that lists free genealogical websites throughout counties and states in the U.S.

Some genealogists also work as private investigators. Writers, if your story involves extensive historical research, consider contacting The Association of Professional Genealogists at Apgen.org. Look up a genealogist in your region who specializes in the era you’re writing about and request an interview to help you flesh out your story.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

 

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

Coming in July on Kindle and Nook

Posted in Finding Family Histories | 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 »

Answering Writers’ Questions: How Long Does an Area Remain a Crime Scene?

Posted by Writing PIs on April 9, 2011

Writer’s Question: Is there a time frame that an area remains a crime scene? I’m picturing the yellow caution tape in a public place and wondering how long that remains up.  What kind of time frame might apply to a crime scene in a residence (for example, if someone is found dead in a family room, how long do the residents of the house need to stay out of the room?) I’m thinking that from the time the police leave to when a PI shows up, a lot could happen in that room if a family member so desires.

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: A police crime scene excludes all but those who are trained to respect procedures for preservation and collection of evidence.  Generally speaking, after a period of approximately 1-24 hours, the area is returned to normal use.

Regarding a crime scene in a residence, specifically (per your question) a dead body found therein: Be mindful that police will remove those parts of the family room that they consider important evidence (for example, blood-stained carpeting and drywall spattered with blood).  Also, police will photograph/videotape the family room in the exact state in which they found it.  In other words, by the time the family returns and changes anything, the PI will have copies of police photographs as well as access to physical evidence that’s within police custody.  There are certainly instances where PIs would still seek access to the home (for example, to photograph the layout, measurements, etc.) but that is accomplished through court order or consent of the victim’s family.

Writing PIs

Posted in Q&As | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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