Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Posts Tagged ‘The Rockford Files’

2015: Readers Favorite Posts at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes

Posted by Writing PIs on December 27, 2015

Since 2009, Guns, Gams and Gumshoes has been blogging about private investigations. At the end of each year we summarize readers’ favorite 10 posts. Sometimes posts from previous years crop up again in current favorites. For the first time since 2009, an old-time favorite, “Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference?,” fell off the top 10 annual list.

Below is our tally for 2015, starting with #10. Thank you to our readers for dropping by!

10. Private Detective Couples in Fiction and Real Life

The Thin Man movie trailer (image is in public domain)

The Thin Man movie trailer (image is in public domain)

9. No Cease and Desist Letters: Four Copyright-Free Image Sites

Photo by Ryan McGuire, Gratisography (image in public domain, attribution requested(

Photo by Ryan McGuire, Gratisography (image in public domain, attribution requested)

8. Private Eye Writers of America 2015 Shamus Award Finalists

Fedora (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Fedora (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

7. Realistically Portrayed Private Eye Characters in Books and Film

James Garner as Jim Rockford (L) in THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

James Garner as Jim Rockford (L) in THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

6. History of the P.I. from Vidocq to Pinkerton

Eugene Francois Vidocq, Recognized as the First P.I. (image is in public domain)

Eugene Francois Vidocq, Recognized as the First P.I. (image is in public domain)

5. International Women’s Day: Honoring Female Investigators

Female PI (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Female PI (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

4. When Is a Private Investigator’s Evidence Admissible in Court?

Theodore Levin US Courthouse, Detroit Federal Building, Detroit, MI by Carol Highsmith (image is in pubic domain)

Theodore Levin US Courthouse, Detroit Federal Building, Detroit, MI by Carol Highsmith (image is in pubic domain)

3. Free Social Media Search Engines

Fedora and Magnifying Glass on Computer (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

2. How to Conduct a Trash Hit: A Private Investigator’s Dumpster Secrets

The Dirty Business of Trash Hits (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

The Dirty Business of Trash Hits (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

1. Investigating Crime Scenes: Police vs. Private Investigators

Crime Scene Tape (image licensed by Colleen Collins

Crime Scene Tape (image licensed by Colleen Collins

 

Have a great week, Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Please do not copy or distribute any images noted as licensed; any images noted as being in the public domain are yours to steal.

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A Tribute to James Garner’s Iconic Private Eye Jim Rockford

Posted by Writing PIs on September 13, 2015

James Garner as Jim Rockford (L) in THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

James Garner as Jim Rockford (L) in THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

Below is a post I wrote a year ago, July 2014, after learning that James Garner had passed away. What a terrific actor, often playing the cool, good-natured, witty anti-hero. Funny that he played the anti-hero so well, when in real life he was a hero. Two Purple Hearts after being wounded, twice, during the Korean War.

The below article contains links to my/our various articles over the years either about, or containing references to, James Garner’s one-and-only Jim Rockford, private eye, in The Rockford Files. (I’ve corrected links to articles that were updated since initial postings.)

James Garner as PI Rockford (R) in photo still from THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

James Garner as PI Rockford (R) in photo still from THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

Remembering James Garner’s Jim Rockford

July 2014

Today we’re sharing some articles in which we referenced one of our favorite private eye characters, Jim Rockford, from the ’74-’80 TV show The Rockford Files. Below are those posts, along with excerpts:

The Rockford Files: Magical Surveillances In A Gold ’78 Firebird (from colleencollinsbooks.com)

I’m a huge fan of the old TV series The Rockford Files, staring one of my all-time favorite actors James Garner — in fact, my husband and I own the entire series on DVD.  But gotta say, how’d he pull off all those surveillances in a shiny gold Firebird?

Magic.

Pretexting: Okay for Jim Rockford, But Not Always for Real-Life P.I.s (from Guns, Gams and Gumshoes)

We own the complete DVD set of the The Rockford Files TV show that ran from 1974-1980.  Love James Garner in that show as the droll, I’d-rather-be-fishing private eye Jim Rockford.  He kept his gun in a cookie jar and carried around a printing device so he could quickly imprint a business card with a bogus ID whenever necessary…

James Garner, 1959, as Bret Maverick, the role that made him famous (image is in public domain)

James Garner, 1959, as Bret Maverick, the role that made him famous (image is in public domain)

Realistically Portrayed Private Eyes in Books and Film (from Guns, Gams and Gumshoes)

(Among our answers was Jim Rockford)

We love a lot of PI genre fiction, both in books and other media, although too often books, TV shows and films add flash and drama to make the PI protagonist seem bigger and badder than how he/she might really be in the real world. For example, searching public records is a cornerstone of a private investigator’s skill set, but it’s pretty tedious work, hardly worthy of a TV show.

Do All Private Eyes Carry Concealed Handguns? (from Guns, Gams and Gumshoes)

In the writers’ classes we’ve taught on private investigations, this question has come up a lot. In those great old noir films, seems every shamus carried one and used it freely. Then along came Jim Rockford from the TV show The RockFord Files), and that easy-going, beach-loving PI preferred to keep his gun in a cookie jar rather than carry it.

Have a good week, Writing PIs

fedora black and white

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority. Please do not copy/distribute any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. Images noted as in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

Posted in James Garner as Jim Rockford | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on A Tribute to James Garner’s Iconic Private Eye Jim Rockford

Do All PIs Carry Concealed Handguns?

Posted by Writing PIs on August 22, 2015

In movies and books, private eyes often carry handguns (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

In the writers’ classes we’ve taught on private investigations, this question has come up a lot. In those great old noir films, seems every shamus carried one and used it freely. Then along came Jim Rockford from the TV show The RockFord Files, and that easy-going, beach-loving PI preferred to keep his gun in a cookie jar rather than carry it.

We used to stash a stun gun under the front seat of our car, otherwise we don’t own or use any guns, and we know many PIs who don’t carry as well.

Private Eye Characters and Guns

A few years ago, there was a best-selling novel starring a junior PI (she’d just started work in her relative’s PI agency) and she carried a Glock in her glove compartment. The premise of the story was that her relative couldn’t trust her to take on any serious investigative jobs, so she’d been relegated to background checks and hunting down an occasional cheating spouse — and for those jobs, she carried a Glock? For us, that seriously stretched the story’s believability.

Making It Realistic

But many fictional PIs do carry firearms, and if the author makes it credible, it makes for a great read. There was a book out a few years back that starred a PI who had lost her license, and on top of that, she had a felony rap in her background. She carried a gun, but she knew she’d be in deep you-know if that became common knowledge, so she took great care to hide the fact (of course, she got caught and tossed into jail when it was found). The story was plausible because it reflected reality.

Another female fictional PI who carried a gun: Robert Parker’s female PI Sunny Randall. A former cop with grit and smarts, it’s plausible and nail-biting when Sunny pulls out a rifle and blasts the bad-guy as he trespasses her front door, leaving a bloody crime scene in her own living room.

Just keep in mind that under the conditions any real-life PI would legally carry a firearm, so would a fictional PI.

In The Rockford Files, Jim Rockford (R, played by James Garner) kept his gun in a cookie jar (image is in public domain)

Keep in mind, too, that in the real world armed PIs rarely (if ever) get into the kind of gunplay seen in fiction. Many PIs will tell you that if gunplay or a fight breaks out, it indicates an investigator isn’t doing her job well.  When a surprised client asked PI Jim Rockford why he wasn’t carrying a gun, he said, “Because I don’t want to shoot anybody.” After all, the primary guiding forces for any investigator are stealth and discretion.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned or licensed by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any photos noted as being in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

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Realistically Portrayed Private Eye Characters in Books and Film

Posted by Writing PIs on August 17, 2015

(image licensed by Colleen Collins)

(image licensed by Colleen Collins)

We love a lot of PI genre fiction, both in books and other media, although too often books, TV shows and films add flash and drama to make the PI protagonist seem bigger and badder than how he/she might really be in the real world. For example, searching public records is a cornerstone of a private investigator’s skill set, but it’s pretty tedious work, hardly worthy of a TV show.

Real-Life PIs Don’t Do Flash

Steve McQueen, international drivers license photo (image is in public domain)

Steve McQueen (image is in public domain)

Here’s an example of flash and drama that’s unrealistic: Rolling surveillances in a movie that resemble Steve McQueen’s legendary San Francisco car chase in Bullitt (if you don’t know this film, do yourself a favor and rent it — this 1968 film holds up well in the 21st century, worth watching for McQueen’s car chase scene alone).

However, real-life PIs don’t drive with tires burning and brakes squealing the way McQueen does. Or they shouldn’t — that’s for police units handling emergencies. Conducting a rolling surveillance is typically fairly tame and doesn’t last long. Not to say rolling surveillances aren’t nerve-wracking, because it can be intense following someone without losing them or their catching on that you’re following.

A Few PI Picks

But saying all that, below are several (not trying to be all-inclusive here) realistically portrayed fictional PIs. We’ve written other articles that mention even more right-on PIs in stories, but if we were to lump all of them into an article, it would turn into a novella.

Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes, 1974 (promo photo is in public domain)

Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes, 1974 (promo photo is in public domain)

Jake Gittes. We probably find Jake realistic because we know a current-day PI who makes Jake look second-string: This PI is handsome, an impeccable dresser, can outdo a marriage counselor when it comes to listening to wives & husbands in turmoil, runs an office with several minion PIs who gladly do his bidding, and has personally solved his share of government corruption cases. Previously we said too often fiction creates PIs who are bigger and badder than the real deal, but our real-life guy is just the other way around. Nobody is as big and bad and well-dressed as he is, although Jake comes close.

Jesse Stone.  This isn’t a PI, but both of us love the Jesse Stone character in the made-for-TV movies (starring Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone). He’s a police chief in a small town, and his crafty, persistent, insightful approach to investigations feels very “PI right-on” to us.

James Garner as PI Rockford (R) in photo still from THE ROCKFORD FILES (image is in public domain)

James Garner as PI Jim Rockford (R)  (image is in public domain)

Jim Rockford.  We’re both diehard Rockford fans, even though no PI in their right mind would do lengthy surveillances in a shiny gold muscle car (talk about sticking out!). Nor do PIs get embroiled in the quantity of violence and lengthy car chases Rockford does. But if you peel away the gold car, fights and squealing brakes, he’s a hard-working, blue-collar character who reminds us of many PIs. Btw, it’s no coincidence that both McQueen and Garner do brake-squealing scenes — both were avid race car drivers, which is probably why they were also good friends in real life.

Ray Dudgeon.  We’re big fans of author Sean Chercover’s PI Ray Dudgeon. Happy for Chercover that he’s moved on to writing mainstream thrillers, but we’re sorry to see his PI Ray Dudgeon fade away. We found Dudgeon to be a three-dimensional, compelling and realistic PI. Not such a surprise as Chercover is a former PI.

Milt Davis.  One of our favorite PI short stories (“Death Flight” by Ed McBain, 1954) stars a tough PI (Milt Davis) who’s filled with doubt about handling a particular case because he thinks he’s unqualified. And, in truth, he is (which also happens in real-life private investigative work). Milt Davis’s grit, native intelligence, determination, and self-doubt to see a job through make him a realistic PI.

Note:  Interestingly enough, Ed McBain didn’t create many private eye characters, claiming that he found it “difficult to justify a private citizen investigating murders.” He may have found it difficult to justify, but that didn’t stop him from developing a compelling, real-to-life PI character.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned or licensed by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any photos noted as being in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

Posted in Private Investigators and Murder Cases, Realistic Private Eye Characters | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Realistically Portrayed Private Eye Characters in Books and Film

Pretexting: Okay for Jim Rockford, But Not Always for Real-Life P.I.s

Posted by Writing PIs on July 26, 2013

We own the complete DVD set of the The Rockford Files TV show that ran from 1974-1980.  Love James Garner in that show as the droll, I’d-rather-be-fishing private eye Jim Rockford.  He kept his gun in a cookie jar and carried around a printing device so he could quickly imprint a business card with a bogus ID whenever necessary.

Ah, those bogus IDs.  Along with bogus stories.  The stuff of private eye fiction.

But when it comes to real-life private investigators, fabricating bogus IDs and stories can get the P.I. into a lot of trouble.   Below is an excerpt from “P.I.s, Pretexting, and the Law: Tips for Crime Writers,” an article by one of the Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s authors, Colleen, for Pursuit Magazine.  It outlines some illegal investigative pretexts, and gives tips to crime writers crafting P.I. characters who might use this technique.

“To Tell the Truth, I Lied a Little”
~Private eye Jake Gittes in Chinatown

by Colleen Collins

The private eye genre has long been a favorite for writers, from the novel The Maltese Falcon by Maltese Falcon book coverDashiell Hammett to the current hard-boiled hoax by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, who secretly penned a private-eye novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Besides having owned my own private detective agency for a decade, I’m also a multi-published fiction author. For the past three years I’ve also been a judge for the Private Eye Writers of America, in which capacity I’ve read over two hundred hardcover private eye novels. Sometimes writers have done their research and compose compellingly realistic investigative scenarios, from conducting witness interviews to what it’s like working for a defense attorney.

And sometimes, writers being writers, they make stuff up. Stuff that no real-world private investigator would do unless he or she liked the word “felon” tarnishing their reputation and deep-sixing their P.I. career.

In this article, I discuss the investigative practice of pretexting, with tips for writers on how their private eye characters can come across as realistic, not ridiculous, when using it.

What Is Pretexting?

Pretexting is, basically, using a phony script to obtain information from someone, often playing on people’s natural desire to talk and be helpful. The pretexter might pretend to be someone else, tell a white lie, or create some other deception to acquire this information. Although in recent years pretexting has gotten a bad rap, when used legally and with good judgment, it can be an indispensable investigative technique.

Private investigators might pretext via an email

Private investigators might pretext via an email

Often a P.I. will pretext over the phone, although it can also be done in person, by mail, email or phishing. However, fabricating stories to obtain information isn’t typically the first avenue of approach for an investigator. Often, the information a P.I. needs can be found in public records as well as through Internet and database searches. Sometimes, a P.I. can get the information you want by simply asking for it.

Whether a P.I. chooses to pretext, or a writer crafts a scene using this tactic, keep in mind that in certain situations, pretexting is against the law. I’ve outlined three of these situations below:

Illegal: Impersonating a Police Officer, Lawyer, or Doctor

A private investigator must never impersonate a police officer, lawyer, or doctor. Doing so sets the stage for the P.I. spending some quality time behind bars. In our state a few years ago, a P.I. was nailed for not only impersonating an officer, but threatening the subject with a firearm while assaulting the subject. (And this was for a process service!) The subject, after learning the guy wasn’t a law enforcement officer but a P.I., hired an attorney—who filed a lawsuit against the private investigator.

In your story, the fictional P.I. might pretend he’s an officer knowing full well he’s courting a felony charge by doing so (which cranks up the tension). But if your character does this without a second thought, as though pretending to be a cop or lawyer has no possible repercussions, your P.I character could look amateur at best, or just plain dumb.

To read the full article, click here.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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