Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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

  • Writing a Sleuth?

    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."

    Available on Kindle

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Posts Tagged ‘writers tips’

Answering Writers’ Questions about Human Trafficking and Exotic Animal Trafficking

Posted by Writing PIs on February 24, 2012

Writer’s Question: Could you please talk about the problem of human trafficking coming up in investigations? For example, does an investigation lead a PI there, maybe? Could you also direct me to resources addressing the issue from the point of view of an investigator?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: This isn’t an area we investigate, but we have a few resources for you (listed below). As to an investigation leading a PI to a human trafficking situation, Colleen has known PIs (from a group of women investigators that she belongs to) who successfully helped a young girl escape from a trafficking situation (the women PIs, from different states, coordinated a safe pick-up and travel arrangements for the girl). To the best of her recall of the situation, Colleen believes the girl had found her way to a phone, called a relative, who then called a local PI (that PI then coordinated the group-PI/multi-state effort).

Miscellaneous Resources on Trafficking

Dottie Lassiter trains organizations on the financial risks of human trafficking

Human Trafficking organization

FBI’s page on human trafficking (which has numerous resources & articles)

Ty Ritter, PI in California, who specializes in kidnap recovery in other countries (we’re heard praises about his work from other PIs)

PI’s DeClassified is an Internet radio show run by a well-respected PI, Francine Koehler. One of her past shows was on human trafficking. One of its past guests was Dottie Lassiter (see above) who talked about human trafficking.

Writer’s Question: What about illegal exotic animal trafficking? Can you provide me some background information on that?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, part of Homeland Security, oversees the enforcement of exotic animal importation restrictions.

Also, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which supervises enforcement of human trafficking laws, has a public affairs officer listed on their site, so that might be an excellent resource to ask further questions about human, as well as exotic animal, trafficking (Jenny Burke 202-344-1313).

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Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Loss Prevention/Industrial Security

Posted by Writing PIs on January 29, 2012

Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, available on Kindle and Nook

Basically, loss prevention refers to people hired to prevent theft and fraud in a retail establishment. An investigator who specializes in loss prevention might handle the following types of cases:

  • Credit frauds
  • Employee thefts (for example theft of money or merchandise)
  • Theft by store customers (for example, shoplifting, credit card scams, auto thefts)
  • Staged accidents.

A Deeper Look Into Employee Theft

The majority of bankruptcies in the United States are filed by organizations and are attributable to employee theft.  One study shows that the company loss per customer shoplifting incident is $207.18 whereas the loss per employee theft incident is $1,341.02!  Employee theft causes bonuses, promotions and raises to decrease as profits shrink and the company losses increase. This means there’s a big incentive for an organization to hire an in-house investigator or an outside investigator who specializes in investigation of embezzlement, staged robberies, “shrinkage” and computer frauds.  A ripe specialization for your fictional PI!

What signs of employee theft (specifically, cash money) might your fictional PI encounter?

  • No sales at register
  • Fictitious refunds and voided sales
  • Income from medical appointments paid with cash
  • Failure to record sales
  • Abundance of collections and donations
  • Passing to friends
  • Sales prior to opening the business
  • Refunds/Voids after the business closes
  • Questionable coupon redemption
  • Robbery with scanty identification information.

Signs of employee non-cash money theft:

  • Questionable credit card refunds
  • Phantom payroll
  • Fictitious vendor accounts
  • Bogus travel expenses
  • Kickback schemes
  • Credit card fraud with friends.

Signs of employee merchandise theft:

  • Direct theft
  • Fictitious mail order
  • Fraudulent receipts (free merchandise)
  • Fraudulent computer entries.

As of the writing of this book, the online Loss Prevention magazine is free and offers access to past issues as well.  Great resource for researching topics such as asset protection technology, shoplifting cases, retail investigations and more.

Writer’s Slant: If Your PI Specializes in Loss Prevention, Think About

  • His background — is he a former thief, or more likely, a former police officer?
  • How did she get her skills in developing and documenting a case against a target?  (Many times a PI must present a completed case file ready for prosecution to a Deputy D.A. or to a company official who can then legally fire an employee.)
  • What ambivalences might your PI have about going after someone without benefit of the tools that law enforcement agents have, such as search warrants and intelligence data?
  • On the other hand, your fictional PI also has an easier job than a police officer in this investigative field because employees in the workplace might waive many constitutional rights to privacy, the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney’s presence when questioning takes place (steps the average police officer must respect).
  • The relationship between this job and the kind of work done by other, similar investigators who assemble cases for submission to insurance companies so that a claim for loss is paid. After all, loss prevention investigators are frequently making a case for money from an insurance company, which is not all that different from how personal injury investigators work.

Praise for How to Write a Dick:

“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

“What every wanna-be sleuth needs: a revolver, a bottle of scotch, a trusty sidekick, and this book.” ~ Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown

“How to Write a Dick is a gift to crime fiction authors everywhere, a comprehensive and no-nonsense compendium of information, analysis and thought-provoking writing prompts that will help you create your own 21st century shamus with confidence and class. An absolute must for the library of any PI writer!” ~ Kelli Stanley, critically acclaimed author of City of Dragons and the Miranda Corbie series

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Answering Writers’ Questions: Tips for a Private Eye Doing a Winter Surveillance

Posted by Writing PIs on January 13, 2012

Writer’s Question: My PI is doing surveillance at night, in a vehicle, in the winter (temperature about 30 degrees). My research has turned up some inventive ways for him to keep warm and to keep the windows clear of fog. I’m wondering what you might suggest in addition to appropriate clothing, warm beverages, etc. One of the simplest things I read for warmth was an electric blanket, plugged into the lighter with an AC adapter. I saw mention of heat-generating packets, too.

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Well, we watch how much we drink (whether it’s water in hot weather or warm beverages in cold weather) because it can really hinder a surveillance if you need to go to the bathroom all the time. Yes, there are “wide-mouthed cups” that PIs often take with them on surveillances, but those can be a hassle to use (for women anyway) and what if you fill your cup and need another?  Sorry to be so graphic, but it’s the reality of longer surveillances, so think about this as you write your surveillance scenes.

What else about surveillances at night during the winter? Hunters’ hand-warmers and foot-warmers are handy (and they don’t cause moisture). We’ve tried not to turn on the heater unless it’s absolutely necessary (a dead giveaway if a sitting car suddenly starts running). Some PIs use portable heaters that plug into the AC adaptor. Some cars have heated seats (a turn of the ignition, without turning the engine on, can heat the seat from 85 degrees+).

Those are a few ideas.

Writer’s Question: I was wondering about the windows fogging during winter. One article I read said a small fan unit, also plugged into the lighter, can keep windows clear. Another said a very small electric heater will also keep the windshield from frosting over.

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Those sound good. Once, early in our business, we were conducting an all-night surveillance during a chilly spell in December and Colleen decided to talk about plotting a story…Shaun asked her to stop talking because she was fogging up the windows. True story! So if you’re with a PI partner, don’t talk too much 🙂 Or maybe use something along those lines for a humorous scene.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy or otherwise distribute any content without written permission from the author.

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