Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

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Posts Tagged ‘The Zen Man’

Private Eye News: From Training Programs to Gadgets

Posted by Writing PIs on April 3, 2012


Some news items related to private eyes, both the real-life variety and those in fiction. Click on links below to read more:

Top 25 Private Investigation Training and Education programs from

Got a client who needs home security? Easy-to-install, night-vision home security video camera that requires no software installation. Plus it’s relatively cheap. Check out Dropcam.

The Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PIs will be teaching “Surveillance 101” and “Finding Missing Persons 101” at the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference April 20-22.

News item about former PI-turned-chef who claims O.J. really didn’t do it: “Private investigator releases book claiming he has evidence O.J. Simpson didn’t do it”

April 3 news blurb about our own Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Colleen Collins: Kindle Nation Daily Bargain Book Alert: Colleen Collins’ THE ZEN MAN is Our eBook of the Day at just 99 Cents, with 4.2 Stars on 8 Reviews, and Here’s a Free Sample! 

A guide to what data mining is, how it works, and why it’s important: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Data Mining But Were Afraid to Ask”

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Answering Writers’ Questions: What Records Can PIs Legally Obtain?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 12, 2012

Today we answer writers’ questions about PIs obtaining people’s records, such as drivers’ records and court records.

Writer’s Question: What are the legal reasons for a PI to request and obtain public records? What would be some “illegal” reasons?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ Answer: Statutes provide these permissible uses, or as you said “legal reasons.” For example, the Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) is a federal law that regulates how information is disseminated (which includes who can access this information) for drivers’ licenses, auto registrations, auto titles, motor vehicle emissions, motor vehicle recalls (and other objects of governmental purposes). Here’s a partial list of who can access DPPA-type information for others: federal, state or local courts and law enforcement in connection with driver safety, theft, emission and product recalls; licensed private investigation or security services; civil, criminal or administrative court proceedings; collection agencies; anyone in possession of written permission from the subject.

In our state private investigators are not required to be licensed — when we go to the DMV to obtain others’ driving records, we must provide the court case number and Colorado jurisdiction for which the search is being conducted.

There are also various restrictions in different states for the public, including private investigators, in accessing court files. In Colorado, private investigators can legally request any court file except for sexual assault, juvenile and probate. We don’t know the statutes for other states, but it’s possible a PI in another state might have to show his/her license (similar to law enforcement) to access court files containing sensitive information (such as probate, financial statements in divorce cases, proprietary and trade secret information, sexual assault).

As to “illegal reasons” to access records, you can also think of these as the non-permissible reasons. For example, a PI can’t access a driver’s history to find that person’s residence so the PI can stalk, intimidate or harass that person. Those are obviously non-permissible reasons and the PI could end up answering to federal charges for violating the DPPA and state charges for participating in stalking. Similarly, a PI cannot obtain other records that are governed by permissible reasons (such as police records, water district records, fire district records) for personal use (for example, to solicit clients for himself or for a lawyer, or to resale the information for profit).

Writer’s Question: My character isn’t a PI; she’s an investigative journalist, but I figured she’d use a lot of the same techniques and methods as a PI. Another character in my story, actually the romantic interest of the PI, is a sheriff. Would he, too, use some of the same resources as the PI?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ Answer: Regarding techniques and methods, an investigative journalist is similar to a PI. A fair number of investigative journalists who lost their jobs during this recession (as newspapers have downsized) have become PIs in our state. One of our best friends is a former Los Angeles paper crime reporter who became a PI. As to your hero sheriff, he’d have access to a lot more resources than a PI. For example, he can tap into the FBI’s NCIC, the National Crime Information Center. He can also access national databases of motor vehicle registrations, certain military information, and immigration records.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Private Investigators and Murder Cases

Posted by Writing PIs on February 27, 2012

At Elizabeth A. White’s blog, Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PI Colleen Collins posted a guest article that responds to novelist Ed McBain‘s comment “The last time a private eye solved a murder was never.” An excerpt from the post “Do Private Eyes Solve Murders?” is below; to read the full article, click here.

Do Private Eyes Solve Murders?

The last time a private eye solved a murder was never.” -Ed McBain *

Like many of you, I love a gritty, fast-paced private eye story where the shamus solves a grisly murder or two. Investigating death makes for compelling storytelling rift with bodies, suspects and clues. In my current novel The Zen Man, the private-eye protagonist must solve a murder in thirty days or face a life sentence behind bars.

But how true is it in real life that private investigators solve murders? Is Ed McBain right that the answer is never? I compiled a few popular theories on this topic — some from the Internet, others my PI-partner-husband and I have heard over the years – with analysis for each.

Theory #1: In stories, private eyes are often effective because they are less constrained by government rules than law enforcement. But in reality, law enforcement must be wary about endorsing a PI’s evidence because 1) it’s unknown what methods the PI used in obtaining that evidence (if the PI obtained the evidence through illegal means, it would be thrown out at trial), and 2) by accepting a PI’s evidence, the police could be seen as using the PI as a state agent (“acting under color of law”) and any improper behavior by the PI could be imputed to the police department.

Analysis: It’s true that PIs, who are civilians, are less constrained by government rules — for example, PIs are not bound to the same evidentiary laws as law enforcement. It’s an assumption, however, that an experienced PI, especially one who specializes in legal investigations, would use “unknown” methods for obtaining evidence. In our investigations agency, we’ve gathered evidence using established rules and procedures to establish chain of custody (documented procedures demonstrating how we got evidence from where it was to our evidence locker). These procedures guarantee reliability and have resulted in courtroom admissibility and victory for the lawyers who employed us.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Examples of Private Investigators Investigating Murder Cases

Below are links to several articles written by and/or about private investigators and murder, attempted murder, and cold case investigations.

Private Investigator’s Investigation Re-Opens Murder Case (Private Investigators in Virginia)

Attempted Murder, 4 Bullet Slugs, and a Dog Named Gus (The Zen Man)

Private Investigator Takes On 2013 Controversial Cold Case Murder (WHNT News)

Have a good day, Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy/distribute any images as they are either copyrighted or licensed by the author, who does not have the legal authority to share with others.

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PIs and Cases: Attempted Murder, Smalltown Cop, Infidelity

Posted by Writing PIs on February 11, 2012

Solving an Attempted Murder Case

Today we’re highlighting some investigations cases, from one of ours to a small down in Wisconsin to an impressive infographic that offers stats from dozens of PIs on infidelity cases.

Solving an Attempted Murder Case

At The Zen Man site, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes PIs describes one of the more challenging cases we’ve ever worked…and thankfully solved: Attempted Murder, 4 Bullet Slugs, and a Dog Named Gus

A Small Town Hires a PI to Investigate the Town’s Only Cop

It almost seems like a Mayberry sitcom plot, but it’s real. A small town in Wisconsin has hired a PI to investigate its one and only cop — who’s afraid to leave his house because of death threats:

Village Hires Private Investigator to Investigate Its Only Police Officer

Signs of a Cheating Spouse details signs of a cheating spouse, based on interviews with dozens of private investigators, in an impressive infographic. To view, click here.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes Listed in Top PI Blogs!

Posted by Writing PIs on February 2, 2012’s Top 44 PI Blogs

We just dragged ourselves back into our office after wrapping up 7 process services in anticipation of Denver’s incoming snowstorm (reports say it’ll be the worst snowstorm this year, with warnings of a blizzard later this evening). So it felt great to get those services out of the way (everything notarized, papers delivered to law firms). After putting the dogs outside, we checked our email and saw that has listed its top 44 PI blogs…ranking Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes as #8 on the list! Cool. Thanks for the tribute,

We recognized others on that list, some are friends and others, professional acquaintances. One of our favorite blogs is #1, PIBuzz, authored by California PI Tamara Thompson. Since we opened our investigations agency 8 years ago, that’s been one of our go-to blogs to read about research tips, legislative issues, records research and more.

The #2 blog, Diligentia Group, actually listed Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes on its recent list of “15 Fraud and Investigation Blogs You Need to Follow in 2012.”  Diligentia, in turn, is a great site for reading in-depth articles in such areas as due diligence, legal investigations and background investigations. You can also subscribe to their free newsletter.

Then there’s one of our favorite PIs, a gentleman and an expert in bug/wiretap detection, Skipp Porteous. His #15 blog Sherlock’s Case Files covers “investigative tips, testimonials, and tantalizing topics.” Skipp is also the co-author of Into The Blast: The True Story of D.B. Cooper.

We’ll be checking out the other blogs as time permits…considering we might be snowed in, we might have plenty of time to do some reading over the next few days.

Have a great Friday, Writing PIs

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

“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

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THE ZEN MAN, 21st Century Nick and Nora mystery book, available on Kindle and Nook

Posted by Writing PIs on November 21, 2011

“I loved every word of THE ZEN MAN!” – USA Today Bestselling Author Delores Fossen

“Move over Sam Spade, Nick and Nora; make room for a Denver who-dun-it, Colleen Collins’s The Zen Man. Brilliant and fast-paced writing. I couldn’t put it down.”
~ Donnell Ann Bell,
 Award-Winning Author of The Past Came Hunting

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes PI and author Colleen Collins’s eBook, THE ZEN MAN, is available on Kindle and Nook for only .99!

Book blurb

Just as washed-up criminal defense attorney, live-long Deadhead (nickname “The Zen Man”), and current private eye Rick Levine  decides to get relicensed as a lawyer, he’s charged with killing one — who just happens to be his ex-wife — and ends up in the slammer with a half-mil bail.

Out on bond, and with thirty days to find the real killer, Rick and his girlfriend Laura dig for dirt among Denver’s shady legal back rooms, criminals’ haunts and the city’s tony corporate centers. Flying bullets, trumped-up drug charges, and the FBI’s unwanted intervention doesn’t stop Rick and Laura from tracking key suspects…and eventually learning that true redemption begins at home.

Praise for Colleen Collins’s books

The suspense is taut and will have the audience wanting more tales like this (DARK ANGEL)
by clever Cassandra Collins, who already has a growing reputation for her romantic romps (under the name of Colleen Collins).”
~Harriet Klausner

“Colleen’s books never disappoint–they’re sizzling, snappy, and very sexy!” — Nancy Warren, USA Today Bestselling Author

“I do have a few must-buy authors in my list, including Colleen Collins who writes the best screwball comedy around.”
~ Mrs. Giggles

Author Bio

Colleen Collins is an award-winning author who’s written twenty novels and anthologies for Harlequin and Dorchester, as well as two nonfiction books about private investigations (How to Write a Dick, co-authored with Shaun Kaufman, and How Do Private Eyes Do That?).  Her novels have placed first in the Colorado Gold and Top of the Peak contests, and placed in the finals for the Holt Medallion, Coeur de Bois Readers Choice, Award of Excellence and the Romance Writers of America RITA contests.

After graduating with honors from the University of California Santa Barbara, Colleen worked as a film production assistant in Hollywood, improv comic, telecommunications manager at the RAND Corporation, technical writer and editor, and private investigator. All these experiences play into her writing.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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