Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Posts Tagged ‘Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye’

Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye: The Violent Side of Process Services

Posted by Writing PIs on October 27, 2013

A few years back, we were reading one of Sean Chercover’s novels featuring the P.I. Ray Dudgeon, where Dudgeon recalls a violent encounter with a process server.  It’s been a while since we read the book, so we can’t exactly recall the scene, but at the time we were both hit with how true it is that a task such as serving legal papers — which seems so basic, so benign — can also be deadly.


Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins wrote about some of the dangerous aspects of process services in her nonfiction book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye.  Below is an excerpt.

The Violent Side of Process Services

A few years ago in my state, a local P.I. was murdered in the course of serving legal papers for a divorce.  Police have long known that domestic violence cases can be the most threatening — passions are heated, and too often drugs and alcohol are involved.  I once served divorce papers to a husband, accused of regularly beating his wife who managed to escape the house and file for divorce.  Minutes after I drove away, he fatally shot himself.  I didn’t know this until a week later when the lawyer, on whose behalf I served the papers, informed me.  How did I feel?  Horribly sad that a person took his life.  Even sadder for the children of the marriage.

I wish I could say that was the extent of violent episodes while my partner and I served legal papers, but it’s not.  Once a public government official got so furious, she shoved the papers back into my partner’s face. That official was reassigned to a basement office where she has little contact with the public.  Another time, a woman pounded her fists on my partner’s back as he walked away after serving her papers, and another time two guys tried to run my partner and I over with their truck after we served them papers.

And then there was the local process server who was attacked by a professional businessman who was furious at being served legal papers.  The process server had to spray the businessman with pepper spray to halt the attack, after which the process server ran away to safety.  He then sold his process service business, saying “No job is worth losing your life over.”

In this section are several stories of violent episodes I experienced while serving legal papers.  But first, let’s take a moment and talk about some of the myths of process service.  First, that the server is stoned like Seth Rogen in the film Pineapple Express.  Second, the psychology of the people who have been working hard, and sometimes rather creatively, to avoid being served legal papers.

We’ll start with the stoner-process server, who in reality would never make it in the business.

Pineapple Express: Dude, It’s Fiction, Not Reality

Pineapple Express: Dont'Serve Stoned, Dude

Pineapple Express: Dont’Serve Stoned, Dude

This movie featured a stoned process server — make that a very stoned process server — who runs into all kinds trouble while serving papers, including a run-in with a nasty mob character.  Funny as a story, but not realistic in real life.

Process servers need to be clear-headed and educated about the statutes that affect the service.  No way he or she could roll up to a house or business, their car and lungs filled with ganja smoke, and expect to fulfill a proper service of legal papers.  Here’s some reasons why:

  • The process server might be delivering papers to someone who’s actively avoiding service, so it is critical that the server is clear-headed and reading the signs to the person’s whereabouts.
  • Sometimes the person being served pretends they’re not that person, so the process server must be relying on research to accurately, and immediately, identify that person’s identity.
  • A business might think it’s protecting an employee by pretending the employee doesn’t work there, or that a manager isn’t legally required to accept the service on behalf of that employee, or someone at the business falsely recites some non-existing legality that forbids the process service from completing the service (we’ve even had lawyers do this — and guess what, they were making it up).  A process server must again rely on her research and know the laws affecting that type of service.

I’ve had all of the above scenarios occur while serving legal papers, which means it’s critical for me to be knowledgeable about state statutes regarding process service while quickly assimilating the signals and clues to the person’s identity and location.

Now let’s look at something less funny than a stoner trying to serve legal papers: Subjects turning violent when served legal papers.

When Subjects Go Ballistic

Confronting violent situations when serving legal papers isn’t always a random, out-of-the blue event.  Meaning, when the subject gets violent about being served legal papers, this rage has often been building over the days, weeks, months that they’ve been hiding, or perhaps attempting to stop the process, or maybe trying to outwit the process server.  All of which means the subject has grown increasingly anxious and angry.

Maybe they’re no longer driving their own car, or they’re crawling in and out of a back window every day to go to work instead of walking out their front door, or they’re no longer answering their phone or turning on certain lights at night in their home so it appears no one is home.  We knew a couple who left their and moved several hundred miles away, where they rented a guest house on someone else’s property.

The stress of hiding and avoiding service can affect spouses, significant others, children, bosses, coworkers, friends, even neighbors who are drawn into this web of deceit and avoidance.

In a recent article in the online magazine Psychology Today, Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist, states that violent behaviors can be triggered by frustration, anger or perceived humiliation.  Those are certainly responses I’ve witnessed in the course of serving legal papers.  Firestone states that often when people turn violent, they are attempting to retaliate, intimidate or exert control — motivations I’ve witnessed when violence erupts in the course of a service.

The following accounts describe violent incidences I’ve encountered or observed in the course of serving legal papers.

Stopping a Pit Bull Attack

Three years ago, I accompanied my business partner as he served legal papers to a residence.  I stayed in our vehicle so I could snap a photo of his serving the papers (having a photo of the actual service prevents people from claiming they were never served.) it’s good for people to see their actions are being monitored, and I can also quickly call nine-one-one if there’s a problem.

This particular morning, we identified one of the vehicles in the driveway as belonging to a twenty-one-year-old who lived with her parents, which indicated she was at home.  In our research, we knew the ages of her parents and their general physical description.

I watched my partner knock on the screen door of the home (the front door was wide open).  When a man fitting the description of the father came to the screen door, my partner first asked for so-and-so (the person to whom we were serving papers).

The man didn’t answer.  Instead he opened the screen door and yelled for his dog.  A barking pit bull appeared.  My partner thought quickly and jammed his foot against the screen door, blocking the dog’s exit.

Mind you, my partner loves dogs.  He’s trained German Shepherds as show dogs in the past.  We have two Rottweilers (but we never send them to an open door to greet strangers.  Although they’re well-behaved dogs, we’re aware their looks alone might scare people, so we put them into a separate room if strangers are coming to the house).

Because it is legal to serve adult members of a household where the subject of a process service resides, my partner announced he was serving papers to the father for [subject’s name], placed the papers on the porch and left.  Perhaps the man saw someone was in the car documenting his every move, so he had the good sense to not attempt further retaliation via his dog.

Several years back, in an episode of the former TV series Dog the Bounty Hunter, a person released an aggressive pit bull (dog on “Dog”), and Dog shot some kind of pellet (not ammunition) at the dog to scare it away.

We have a process server acquaintance who says he always carries a bag of doggie treats to win over dogs.  If that fails, he uses pepper spray.

-End of Excerpt-

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To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

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P.I. Tips: Answering Writers’ Questions About Fraud Investigations

Posted by Writing PIs on September 19, 2013

woman looking thru mag glass black and white2

Writer’s Question: What makes fraud different from an average garden-variety argument over a broken-down business deal?

Answer: We look for signs of one person (or several persons) who hide important information or who abuses his/her position in a business relationship.  An example of this would be an accountant who knowingly misrepresents the financial condition of a company.  Another example is a business manager who willingly hides lawsuits against his/her company from a potential purchaser.

Writer’s Question: Can someone be guilty of fraud in a divorce proceeding? fedora black and white

Answer: Yes.  When one partner hides income or assets, or even hides the fact of remarriage (when that remarried partner is still receiving maintenance from the former spouse), you find fraudulent misrepresentations that can be the subject of a separate civil lawsuit for fraud.  Keep in mind that any divorce proceeding is the dissolution of a marriage partnership that mimics a business partnership.  In both instances, you can have misrepresentation and reliance on those misrepresentations.

Writer’s Question: As investigators, what do you look for when you are asked to find fraud?

Answer: Like most investigations, a fraud investigation begins in public records, where we look to uncover business acquisitions and acquisitions of personal property that show an unusual amount of income that the partner investigated is otherwise unable to access.  For example, if a business owner who is selling a corporation that’s in financial trouble, has recently purchased a new car, a new house, and a boat — information we’ve dug up through property, vehicle and boat ownership records — we know that he/she is likely to have emptied corporate assets to make these purchases in his/her name.  What did the owner think h/she was accomplishing by purchasing these personal property items?  Hiding money.  Why didn’t h/she think they’d be caught?  Well, sad to say this, but often people just do dumb things, probably because they’ve gotten away with such acts in the past, too.  The flip side is people often don’t think someone else, such as a law firm/investigator, is going to dig for this information.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

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Answering Writers’ Questions: Finding Evidence Long After a Crime and A Cheating Spouse Case

Posted by Writing PIs on September 8, 2013

Below we’ve posted several writer’s questions and our answers about evidence and cheating spouses.  We provide background to some of the questions in brackets.

Finding Evidence Months After a Crime

[This first question was in response to our describing how PIs might find evidence months after a crime has occurred.  In this instance, Shaun, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PIs, had found a .44 casing outside our client’s residence]

WRITER’S  QUESTION: In the case where Shaun found the .44 casing … did he leave it alone and call the police so they could photograph it in place? Or did he take pictures of it and put it in a bag and take it to the police? What happened?

The casings proved that the neighborhood was crime-ridden

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: The .44 casing was found months after the charged crime and it was not material evidence in our case. However, the casing was proof that the neighborhood where this occurred was extremely crime-ridden, and that our client had a reasonable belief that he had to resort to deadly force to protect himself and his son.

Had the casing been found the morning after the confrontation where our client shot his .357, Shaun would have done the following:

  • Not touched it
  • Left the casing exactly where he found it
  • Contacted the police
  • Taken a photo of it for our client’s attorney

To bring this story up to date, the photograph Shaun took was listed as evidence at the trial, at which he also testified about the nature of the neighborhood (it being crime-ridden, which was backed by data from various interactive crime maps), and how he found the casing.  Our client was found not guilty.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Couldn’t the defense (or prosecution depending which side your client was on) claim that the casing had been placed there later? Or was from a different incident at another time?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: In this case, our client was the defense attorney, and it didn’t matter how the casing got there months later–what mattered in this particular case is that it showed how reasonable our client was in pulling his gun in self-defense.

Answering Writers’ Questions: Cheating Spouses

[This next question pertains to our sharing a story how we interviewed the “other woman” in a cheating spouse case]

WRITER’S QUESTION: And about interviewing the woman in the cheating husband case – I take it there’s no concern about tipping off the cheating husband that he’s being investigated?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: For this case, no, as he’d already seen the photographs (because his wife had filed for divorce and her attorney had the photographs) by the time we’d interviewed the “other woman.” Generally speaking, however, we wouldn’t want to tip off the cheating spouse that they’re being investigated.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Have either of you ever been threatened by a spouse who has been caught? Or by the person they’ve caught them with? Without wanting to give away too much from my WIP, I’m thinking that might be a possible threat to my guys. I’m just wondering if it’s a credible storyline that the cheater might go after the private investigators for destroying their marriage.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: In the “other woman” case we’ve been discussing, she was also married.  A week or so after we interviewed the other woman, she contacted us saying she’d hired an attorney and we were to not contact her again for any reason. We didn’t believe she’d hired an attorney, and figured she was bluffing because she was scared, but we had no reason to contact her again (after interviewing her).  In fact, we felt sorry for her (she had two young children, and her husband was devastated that his wife had fooled around).

To answer your question whether we think it’s  credible in a storyline that the other woman or other man might get so freaked out, have so much to protect, that they’d go after the PI?  Yes, that’s credible.  We’ve been threatened in other situations that weren’t cheating spouse cases (we’ve had dogs sic’d on us during process services, and Shaun once had a woman follow him, pounding her fists on his back, after he served her legal papers). The worst threat by far was a case where the woman to whom we served a restraining order mounted a full-on cyber-stalking attack on our business/reputations.  This woman had a lot to protect–five million dollars she’d stolen, and which by the way has never been found.  Colleen wrote about this case in her nonfiction book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye.

Have a great week, Writing PIs


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To go to book’s Amazon page, click on banner


Posted in Importance of Crime Scenes, Infidelity Investigations, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Answering Writers’ Questions: Finding Evidence Long After a Crime and A Cheating Spouse Case

Digging for Dirt: Private Investigators, Databases and Going to the Source

Posted by Writing PIs on August 25, 2013

A smart PI digs for dirt through multiple means

A smart PI digs for dirt through multiple means

It’s interesting how many people think private investigators rely solely on databases for information. I just read an online article where the writer, obviously not a P.I., kicked off her article with the sweeping statement that P.I.s mostly get their information from database searches.

Actually, databases are a starting point for gathering information. The tip of the iceberg, if you will. A smart PI never relies solely on the results from a database search, but verifies that information through additional checks and hands-on research.

Double-Checking Database Search Results

Whenever we run a database search, we always double-check the results before forwarding them to the client.  For example, we do a lot of witness locates for attorneys.  After we (typically) start with a few Internet/proprietary database searches, we’ll double-check whatever information we’ve retrieved (name, address, phone, etc.) with first-hand research (such as running an address in a county assessor’s database).

The last thing a PI wants to do is forward a list of witness names/address to an attorney who then prepares a stack of subpoenas to be served by a certain date…and in the course of serving the papers, the attorney discovers the PI provided incorrect names and old, outdated addresses!

Going to the Source

In our office we have a saying when we want to know the facts:  “Go to the source.”  That means heading to a courthouse, clerk and recorder’s office, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the assessor’s office, or other institutions that house public records.  We typically travel to a courthouse or the DMV several times a week.

“Go to the Source” Tip to Writers: Visit your local courthouse for some real inspiration (when we started our investigative business, Colleen visited courthouses and sat in on random hearings and trials, as a private investigator, to better understand the court system).

law judgeIf a court clerk approaches you, say you’re there as a citizen to observe—you’ll be welcomed to stay because it is your right to watch court proceedings.  Combined with looking at a criminal file or two, you can learn an immeasurable amount in a short period of time–and most probably gather a great deal of material for your fictional efforts.

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

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Finding Missing Persons: Some Internet Resources

Posted by Writing PIs on August 18, 2013

Here are some useful online databases that can be helpful in finding people.private eye guy

Keep in mind the importance of the correct spelling of the name (there can be a world of difference between Katheryn and Cathie), the correct order of the first and last name (is it Anthony James or James Anthony?), and if a nickname might be helpful to search.

Some useful, and for the most part free, online searches

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs): The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records.

Wedding Channel: Search for weddings by name and state.

Zoom Info: Comprehensive source of information on 5 million businesses and 50 million professionals, geared to marketers. Offers free trial.

VitalCheck: Official source for government-issued vital records: birth, death, marriage and divorce. Not a government agency, but a resource to purchase government-certified vital records.

State and Local Governments: Links to websites of thousands of state agencies and city and county governments

Service Members Civil Relief Act website: Department of Defense’s official source of service members’ active duty status.

National Obituary Archive:  Obituaries by city and state.

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To go to book’s Amazon page, click on banner

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Answering Writers’ Questions About Private Detectives: Stalking Charges and Credit Card Records

Posted by Writing PIs on August 15, 2013

The Writing PIs

The Writing PIs

Today we’re answering writers’ questions about tracking credit cards and what happens when law enforcement is called on a PI.

English: First 4 digits of a credit card

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WRITER’S QUESTION: We often see in police shows that the cops or feds are keeping tabs on someone’s credit card and as soon as it’s used somewhere they’re alerted and close in on that location. First of all, would they get the info that quickly or would it be hours/days delay? Secondly, could a licensed PI access that information?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOE’S S ANSWER: No, PIs don’t have access to credit card transactions. Cops and feds would have pretty quick access (probably within approx. 30 minutes) to credit card transaction data because they would be working closely with investigators in the credit card fraud/security department.

WRITER’S QUESTION: If a PI is watching a person and that person clues in that they’re being

Can the law charge a P.I. with stalking?

watched/followed and calls the police. If the police figure out it’s a PI, could the PI still be charged with stalking or something?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOE’S S ANSWER: We’ve had people call the police on several occasions, and our experience has been that as long as our communication with law enforcement is professional, there’s no problem. Steven Brown in his book THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PRIVATE INVESTIGATING suggests a PI to be upfront when working a case, but to never give away the identity of who’s being surveilled (in fact, in the book he suggests saying it’s a totally different address being surveilled).

Stalking is when a person who is prohibited by a court order violates that court order. A PI who is acting lawfully and/or is working under the supervision of an attorney is specifically excluded from stalking. Saying that, this does not mean that the PI can burglarize, trespass, wiretap or eavesdrop the person they’re surveilling.  Below is an article Colleen, one of the Gums, Gams, and Gumshoes PIs,  wrote a few years back about PIs and stalking:

Pursuit Magazine: “When Does Surveillance Become Stalking?”

Related article on Guns, Gams and Gumshoes:
What to Do If You’re Stalked on Amazon or Anywhere on the Internet

Click on image to go to book's Amazon page

Click on image to go to book’s Amazon page

Posted in Hiring Private Investigators, Law Enforcement Arresting P.I.s, Q&As, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Answering Writers’ Questions About Private Detectives: Stalking Charges and Credit Card Records

The Day the Sheriffs Escorted Us to Another County

Posted by Writing PIs on August 8, 2013


To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

This true-story excerpt from Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins, Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eyeconcerns a divorce case seven or so years ago where the almost-ex-husband, in an enraged phone call to his vodka-and-cocaine-loving almost-ex-wife, spilled everything his attorney had told him in confidence about his private investigators (us) and our investigation plans. Another fitting title for this case story could be “A Lawyer’s Big Mouth Almost Landed Us in Jail” but instead Colleen titled it…

The Day The Sheriffs Escorted Us to Another County

One thing we’ve learned at our investigations agency is to never provide details about an investigative task to a client until after the task is completed. Unfortunately, years ago one of our lawyer-clients spilled the “investigation beans” to his/ our client, which caused all kinds of problems.

A Lawyer Hired Us for a Nasty Divorce Case

The husband had recently moved out of his mountain home, leaving his wife and two small children there. The problem was, the wife was overly fond of cocaine and vodka, staying up partying for long periods before crashing for day-long sleeps. The children, both under six years old, had told their dad that on “Mommy’s sleep days,” they were going outside to play by themselves.

The attorney asked us to conduct a trash hit, see what evidence there was of alcohol and drug use. In preparation to visit the home, we learned it was remotely located in the mountains (very dangerous for young children to be outside for long periods by themselves). We also learned the soon-to-be ex-wife had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. In preparation for a trash hit, we learned the day the trash was set out and where the trash cans would most likely be located. As the wife didn’t have a job, it was likely she’d be at home, so we planned to work quickly.

It was going to be a long drive to the mountains, so we decided to take our Rottweiler, Aretha

Investigator Aretha

Investigator Aretha

Franklin. Although on such cases, we like to call her Investigator Aretha.

Imagine Our Surprise When We Saw…

The home, located in the mountains, was only accessible by a single dirt road that snaked around hills, boulders, trees. When we finally hit the last stretch of road leading to the house, imagine our surprise to see several sheriff’s units, including a K-9 unit and a van. These dudes, and dog, were waiting for us. Our Rottweiler, Ms. Big Bad Herself, leapt into the front seat, all hundred-plus pounds of her knocking the wind out of me as she landed in my lap where she huddled, shivering with fear. I have never seen her behave like that before or since. Maybe it was all those sheriffs in uniforms, who knows.

The sheriff approaching our vehicle had seen Ms. Big Bad clear the backseat and placed his hand on his holster. This was going to be one of those days.

My husband poked his head out the driver’s window and said loudly, calmly, “The Rottweiler is docile— she’s cowering in my wife’s lap.” I smiled at the sheriff as Investigator Aretha trembled and whined in my arms.

Wife Added Sinister Story Twists

sheriffFor the next hour or so, the sheriffs interviewed my husband and I about what we were doing there, who we were, who sent us, etc. etc. etc. From the questions, it became obvious that our chatty attorney-client had informed the almost-ex-husband that we were heading up the mountain to conduct a trash hit on his former residence. Later we learned that in a rage-fueled conversation with his estranged wife, hubby had blabbed everything the lawyer had said, down to the expected time of our arrival.

The almost-ex-wife, after hearing that a couple of P.I.s, on behalf of her husband’s divorce attorney, were on the way to the house, called the local sheriff and added all kinds of sinister twists to the tale, leading the sheriff’s office to believe we were everything from potential burglars to kidnappers.


The sheriffs, upon learning we were really working on behalf of a lawyer in a nasty divorce case, decided the best recourse was to escort us to another county, which was fine as that next county was the one in which we lived and worked.

Escorted in Style Down the Mountain

The sheriffs set up a caravan of their vehicles, in front and behind us, and our happy convoy proceeded down the mountain. Along the way we called our attorney-client, explained that his telling the client everything about the trash hit had resulted in this sheriff-fest.

“Are they putting you in jail?” he asked, “‘ cause if they are, call me. I’ll represent you, no charge.” He thought that was pretty funny.

We continued in our sheriff-P.I. caravan down the mountain, our steel-nerved Rottweiler refusing to leave my lap. As we crossed the county line, one of the sheriffs honked and waved good-bye. Friendly folks, those mountain sheriffs.

Since then, whenever we start working a case with a new lawyer, we insist that pertinent details of an investigation not be shared until after the task is completed. Most attorneys know this, but we’d prefer to err on the side of too much information than to be part of a law enforcement’s procession again.

Postscript: That attorney hired another investigator who safely conducted a trash hit. Significant amounts of drug evidence and alcohol were found (the wife, despite knowing her husband’s divorce attorney was keen on getting evidence of her drinking and drugging, continued to party and toss that evidence right into the trash). We’ve since heard she’s in a recovery program, so hopefully this story has a better ending for the kids.

Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye by Colleen Collins, a  nonfiction, no-holes-barred, modern-day story about life in the female PI fast lane.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

Posted in Excerpt: The Day the Sheriffs Escorted Us Down the Mountain, Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye, Writing Mysteries | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on The Day the Sheriffs Escorted Us to Another County

SECRETS OF A REAL-LIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE – P.I. blogs, magazines and websites

Posted by Writing PIs on July 12, 2013

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

“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

“This book does a great job bridging the gap between our country’s first private investigators to the state of the modern sleuth. I like that Colleen is thoughtful about her work and her cases and represents our profession well. This is a must-read for anyone remotely curious about what a private dick(ette?) really does.”
~Mike Spencer, PI, Partner, Spencer Elrod Services, Inc.

Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins’s  nonfiction ebook is Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye, a part-memoir, part-reference book whose topics include:

  • A history of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency
  • The hiring of the first women P.I. in the U.S., Kate Warne
  • The advantages and dangers of being a current-day female P.I.
  • Tools of the trade, from interactive crime maps to smartphone apps
  • A sampling of cases, from paranormal to criminal investigations
  • Investigative tips, including free online searches, finding lost pets and sending untraceable emails
  • An overview of popular fictional private eye counterparts
  • And much more!

Available on Amazon.

Excerpt from Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye

woman looking thru mag glass black and white2

Below is a partial excerpt from a book appendix that lists a variety of P.I. blogs, magazines and websites.  Enjoy!

Appendix A: Some Favorite Sites

Below are a few of my favorite blogs, websites and online magazines, authored by real-life P.I.s or people in associated fields.  I’ve added a few private-eye genre sites as well for those interested in reading about gumshoe writers and stories.

Defrosting Cold Cases: A blog by Alice de Sturler to explore why some homicide cases remain unsolved. Through blogging and innovative use of existing technology, she has been able to get those cases renewed media attention.  Excellent resource for articles, interviews, news and cold case investigations.

Diligentia Group: Run by private investigator Brian Willingham, CFE, who specializes in due diligence, background and legal investigations.  He writes informative articles about the art and business of private investigations.

Handcuffed to the Ocean: One of our favorite real-life private investigators, also a fiction writer, is Steven Kerry Brown who is one of the writers for this blog. To read Steve’s blogs, click on the “Crime” category. Also check out his nonfiction book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating. news: News and articles about private investigations. Authored by Tamara Thompson, a highly respected California private investigator known for her expertise in Internet data gathering, genealogical and adoption research, witness background development and locating people.

Professional Investigator Magazine: Owned by the P.I. team Jimmie and Rosemarie Mesis, two nationally recognized private investigators, this magazine offers articles, resources and products for professional private investigators. In both print and digital, subscribers can order only one magazine or a full subscription. Also check out their investigative products site PIGEAR and their books on investigations at

Pam Beason: Private investigator and writer. From her website: “My books include strong women characters, quirky sidekicks, animals, a dash of humor and big dose of suspense. I love the wilderness, so many of my stories feature wildlife and outdoor adventures.”

Private Eye digital comic book:  Artist Marcos Martin and writer Brian K. Vaughan call this a “forward-looking mystery” featuring a private detective in a futuristic world where privacy is considered a sacred right and everyone has a secret identity.  The price is pay-what-you-can, and they’re planning on publishing 10 issues total.

Pursuit Magazine: What began as an informal e-zine for professional investigators, bail bondsmen, process servers, attorneys, and other security and legal professionals has morphed this past year into “a clearinghouse of information for truth seekers of all stripes, from detectives to journalists.” Check it out.

End of excerpt – partial list in appendix

Posted in Secrets of a Real-Life Female Female Private Eye, Writing Mysteries, Writing PIs | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on SECRETS OF A REAL-LIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE – P.I. blogs, magazines and websites


Posted by Writing PIs on March 23, 2013

How to Write a Dick cover

To go book’s Amazon page, click on cover

by Colleen Collins & Shaun Kaufman

“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

Book Excerpts

How to Write a Dick: Catching the Cheater

How to Write a Dick: Financial Investigations

How to Write a Dick: Intellectual Property Investigations 

Book Blurb

To purchase HOW TO WRITE A DICK, click on Bogie

To purchase HOW TO WRITE A DICK, click on Bogie

The private eye genre has come a long way, baby, with new subgenres — from teenage PIs to vampire gumshoes to geriatric sleuths — attracting new readers every year. Unfortunately, most writers are not aware of the state-of-the-art developments that shape today’s professional private investigator, which sometimes leave writers floundering with impossible and antiquated devices, characters and methods in stories.

Which is why we wrote How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, whose material we culled from our combined 14 years as private investigators, as well as one partner’s 18 years as a trial attorney training private investigators, and our teaching online classes and conducting workshops at writers’ conferences about writing private investigators.  How to Write a Dick isn’t about how to write a novel, but what you need to know to write an authentic, compelling 21st-century sleuth character or story.


To go to book's Amazon page, click on banner

To go to Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye’s Amazon page, click on banner

Posted in How to Order Criminal Records, PI Topics, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories, Reverse Email Searches, Social Networking Search Engines, Training to be a PI | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Three Book Excerpts from HOW TO WRITE A DICK: A GUIDE FOR WRITING FICTIONAL SLEUTHS

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