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 ‘mystery writers’

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 »

Answering Writer’s Question About Police Detectives, PIs and Crime Scenes

Posted by Writing PIs on December 14, 2011

Today we’re answering a writer’s question about private investigators, police detectives and crime scenes.

Writer’s Question: Who has the authority to authorize a PI to work with a detective on a crime scene? What is the procedure to do this?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Cops are very territorial about crime scenes. This is cross-examination they do not want to hear: “Detective, you let an amateur who is not certified as a peace officer traipse through the crime scene, touch evidence, disturb clues…all under minimal supervision?” In other words, a defense attorney would have a field day learning a cop/s allowed a PI onto an active crime scene to work with the police.

However, saying that, there could be extraordinary circumstances where law enforcement would allow a PI to work alongside detectives in an active crime scene. For example, if the PI was working for the victim’s family, or if the PI had some special technical skill or forensics knowledge that would benefit the police investigation. Most certainly, under these special circumstances, the PI would be more likely allowed to work with the police if the PI had been previously employed as law enforcement.

What might the procedure be? It’s really the PI obtaining permission from law enforcement personnel or their supervisor, depending on that law enforcement department’s procedures.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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

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

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 »

Tips and Techniques for Interviewing Witnesses

Posted by Writing PIs on August 25, 2011

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

Today we’re guests at mystery writer Pat Stoltey’s blog, where we offer a few tips and techniques for interviewing witnesses. Because so many readers of Pat’s blog are mystery writers, we slanted the blog toward writers writing fiction, but there’s handy info there for investigators and others.

We’re also giving away a free Kindle version of How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths to one of today’s visitors at Pat’s blog. We’ll pick a name at random from one of the comments/questions posted today at her blog — winner’s name will be announced later this evening.

To read the blog, click on below link:

Pat Stoltey’s blog: Tips and Techniques for Interviewing Witnesses

Have a great day, Writing PIs

 

 

 

Posted in PI Topics, Tips and Techniques for Interviewing Witnesses | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Missing Person Case That Still Haunts Us

Posted by Writing PIs on August 11, 2011

Today we’re guests at Defrosting Cold Cases, a blog that specializes in articles/discussions about unsolved homicides, missing persons, unidentified persons, forensics, wrongful convictions, prosecutorial misconduct, and books related to these subjects. If you’re a writer, bookmark this blog — you’ll learn a lot here about cold cases, forensics,  investigations and much more.

Our guest article (“My Son Is Missing”) is about a missing person case several years ago that led us to the strange, sometimes frightening, inner-circle of a cult. We were more than “PIs” on this case — as parents, we also experienced the sorrow, desperation and grief of the parents whose son we were working hard to find.

Click on the link below to read the article:

Defrosting Cold Cases: “My Son Is Missing”

Have a good week, Writing PIs

 

 

Posted in PI Topics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 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 »

Health Care Fraud and Organized Crime

Posted by Writing PIs on June 25, 2011

This article now available in How Do Private Eyes Do That? available on Kindle and Nook.

Posted in Organized Crime and Health Care Fraud, PI Topics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Health Care Fraud and Organized Crime

Infidelity Investigations: Tips for Writers Writing Sleuths

Posted by Writing PIs on May 3, 2011

Article is now available in How Do Private Eyes Do That?

 


Posted in Writing About PIs, Writing Mysteries | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Infidelity Investigations: Tips for Writers Writing Sleuths

 
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