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 ‘real-life stories by private detectives’

Book Giveaway for Gums Gams Gumshoes 8-year-blogiversary

Posted by Writing PIs on June 9, 2017

Thank you, readers, for visiting us over the last 8 years!

A lot’s happened since 2009, from Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes getting tapped twice by the American Library Association’s Booklist site as its “Web Crush of the Week” during Mystery Month (2011 & 2014), to teaching courses to fiction writers at national conferences, to writing a handful of nonfiction books about private investigations and the law.

Blogiversary Book Giveaway

Click on book cover to go to Amazon page

To celebrate our 8-year blogiversary, we’re giving away 8 copies of How Do Private Eyes Do That?, a nonfiction book written by one of the Writing PIs, Colleen Collins.

Click Here to Enter

“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

It’s an Amazon ebook, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Amazon provides a free, easy-to-download app that makes the book readable on a variety of platforms, from your browser to your computer (PC or MAC), even your smartphone.

Giveaway ends Jun 24, 2017 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. No purchase necessary.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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What’s Easier: Getting a Difficult Interview or Pulling Teeth?

Posted by Writing PIs on September 5, 2009



Answer: Pulling teeth.


As legal investigators, it’s the difficult interview that most often makes or breaks a case.  What’s a difficult interview?  A witness who’s entrenched on the other side of the case, has something to hide, or doesn’t want to get involved.

First Step: Typically, in getting an interview, we first proceed with the witness’s phone number and address.  Our first step is to call the witness and make an appointment for an interview.  If we find we’re calling repeatedly and leaving voice message after voice message, and the person never calls us back…we get the hint this will be a difficult interview.

Second Step:  Next is the on-site visit.  We’ll show up at the witness’s home at a time when most people are likely to be home (or, if we happen to know the witness’s work schedule, we show up when he/she is off work).  If random people answer the door and say the person isn’t home, or if nobody ever answers the door, we’re pretty darn certain this is a difficult interview.  By the way, during these home visits, we’ll have left our business card (with a note on the back that we’d like to speak to so-and-so).

Now we’re dealing with a difficult interview.  What’s next?

Third Step:  Being the persevering sort, we’ll repeat the home visit.  At this point, we’ve identified the kind of car the person drives, so we have a pretty good idea if they’re really at home despite what anybody who answers the door says.   Sometimes the witness realizes it’s easier to agree to an interview than never know when we’re showing up again.

During one of our home visits, we might leave a letter explaining to the witness that our intention is not to bring them to the court house or serve them a subpoena, but merely to obtain information from them in a statement.  Sometimes this alleviates the witness’s worries that he/she is being dragged into court or that they might be charged with a crime for their involvement in the concerned offense.

Fourth Step:  (Actually, this might be step two or three, depending on the circumstances.)  If our client has a personal relationship with this difficult witness (for example, our client might be a relative or a coworker of the witness), we’ll contact our client and ask them to help pave the way to an interview.  Sometimes the client can convince the witness that they’re doing the right thing by agreeing to speak to us.

Fifth Step:  If all else fails, we’ll travel to another destination where we’ve learned the witness is staying…as in jail, which is our case example.

Case Example

Witness G was present in a car at a the scene of a fight between our client and a much larger man.  Obviously, self defense was an issue, but Witness G did not want to come forward because (more than likely) he was involved in a drug deal at the scene of this fight.   Witness G was ostensibly unemployed, homeless, and appeared to be frequently sleeping/eating at another witness’s home.

We started with the usual means of knocking on the residence of the place he frequently stayed at (people who answered the door claimed to never see him, and although we left our card, we never got a return call).  Next, we researched where his mother lived and left a letter at her house, written to both her and her son (Witness G), explaining the reason why we wanted to interview Witness G and that we had no intention of involving him in another activity other than being a witness to the assault on our client.

This got no response from Witness G.

Next, we began researching Witness G through court records and discovered that he had outstanding warrants for his arrest from three different courts in the same county.  Ah-ha!  Chances were our fleet-footed friend would find himself foiled by the flat feet and justifiably jailed.  Meaning, we called the county jail almost daily…and lo and behold, within two weeks Witness G had been incarcerated on his warrants (and for a new drug crime).

So we made a surprise visit to the county jail and got our interview with a docile and contrite Witness G.

jail cell

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