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

    "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."

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Posts Tagged ‘skiptracing’

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a certain date…and in the course of serving the papers, the attorney discovers the PI provided incorrect names and old, outdated addresses!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

Posted in Going to the Source, PI Topics | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Digging for Dirt: Private Investigators, Databases and Going to the Source

Free Online Searches

Posted by Writing PIs on January 25, 2010

We’re like anybody else when it comes to spending money–we prefer the free stuff before we start shelling out the bucks.  Time to revisit some of our favorite, free public online searches.

Google.  Let’s face it, it’s becoming a Google World. It’s become the most comprehensive public search engine around, so we always go to it first when starting searches.  Enter information in the Google browser window, press the “Search Google” button and review the results. We once found a person who’d been “on the run” by an ad they placed in craigslist–they listed their location and phone number in the ad! And we found them by running the phone number in Google. If you want to read more about Google and its many search features, check out

Pipl.  This search engines prides itself on being a deep web search engine.  We like it ’cause it’s free and comprehensive and checks all kinds of places (archives, photographs, blog posts, etc.). Maybe someday Pipl will charge for its searches, but for now it’s still free.

123people. Another deep web search engine. After you enter a person’s name and city, all kinds of search results display. Side-step the ads that want to charge you money for additional searches and check the actual search results, such as the email addresses found for the person, phone number listings, web links, even where the person has registered their “wish lists” with amazon. 

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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