24 September 2016

Things that drive Crime Writers CRAAAZY

I’m a crime writer. Hell, I’ll put on my other hat (the one with the pointy top) and say it. I’m even a fantasy writer (my corvette reminds me every day, as those are the books that bought it.)

So I know about suspension of disbelief. I’m willing to admit that as an audience, we might agree to ‘suspend belief’ for a little while.

But enough is enough. Television, you go too far. CSI Hoboken, or wherever you are, take note. Here are some things that drive otherwise fairly normal crime writers (oxymoron alert) crazy:

1. Crime scene people in high heels and raw cleavage.

Of all the !@#$%^&* things that television distorts, this is the one that bugs us the most. Ever been on a crime scene? Ever been in a LAB?

For six years, I was Director of Marketing for the Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Science. I’ve been in a friggin’ lab or two. Take it from me: it ain’t a place for fuck-me shoes and long loose hair. You want my DNA messing with your crime results?

Network producers, stop treating us like ignorant adolescents who need to be sexually charged every single moment. Stop. Just stop. It’s insulting.

2. Gunshot victims who give their last speech and then die, Kerplunk.

Full disclosure: I was also a hospital director. People who get hit with a bullet to the heart die, kerplunk. They aren’t hanging around to give their last words. People who get hit in the gut may take many hours to die. It’s not a pretty sight. Take it from me. They usually aren’t thinking sentimental thoughts.

3. Where’s the blood spatter?

If you stab someone while they are still living and breathing, there is going to be blood spatter. Usually, that spatter will go all over the stabber. So sorry, producers: your bad guy is not going to walk away immaculate from a crime scene in which he just offed somebody with a stiletto. You won’t need Lassie to find him in a crowd, believe me.

4. Villains who do their ‘Fat Lady Sings’ pontification.

Why does every villain in boob-tube-town delay killing the good guy so he can tell the soon-to-be-dead schmuck his life story? I mean, the schmuck is going to be offed in two minutes, right? You’re going to plug him. So why is it important that he know why you hate your mother and the universe in general?

Someday, I am going to write a book/script where one guy gets cornered and before he can say a word, this happens:

<INT. A dark warehouse or some other cliché. >


The smoking gun fell to my side as Snidely dropped to the floor.

“Dudley!” gasped Nell. “You didn’t give him a chance to explain!”

I yawned. “Bor-ing. All these villains go to the same school. You heard one, you’ve heard them all.”

“Isn’t that against the law?” said Nell, stomping her little foot. “Don’t you have to let the bad guy have his final scene?”


The smoking gun fell to my side as Nell dropped to the floor.

Melodie Campbell writes silly stuff for newspapers and comedians, and usually they even pay her. You can catch more of her comedy on www.melodiecampbell.com, or better still, buy her books.


  1. Funny stuff, Melodie! One of my pet peeves is that on shows like CSI the crime scene techs seem to do all the stuff detectives should be doing and the detectives are sort of window dressing. It seems the CSIs do a lot more than they would in real life. And then...kerplunk!

  2. Maybe TV writers are really all opera buffs!

  3. This is great Melodie — I really enjoyed reading it and you made some good points.

    Have you ever read Allison Leotta's blog, the Prime Time Crime Review? I don't know how regularly she does it now (the latest posts cover a variety of topics) but she used to respond regularly to the CSI and Law & Order style shows to point out, episode by episode, where they'd misstepped. It was really cool, and I think you'd enjoy.

    Her website is here: http://allisonleotta.com/blog/

    In the meantime, much fun here!

  4. Paul, that's a really good point about who is doing the detecting. And not only are the lab techs glam, but the labs are futuristic dreams!

  5. Art, no I haven't read the Prime Time Crime Review - will check it out. Thanks for this, and your comment.

  6. This made my morning, Melodie! I agree 100%!
    Other things that make me go absolutely bat-shit crazy:
    (1) An attorney (defense, prosecution, etc.) starts yelling at the judge about how unfair s/he is.
    THIS NEVER EVER HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE. Mainly, because it's a really good way to get to spend the night in jail or disbarred. Secondly, because you're gonna have to work with that judge again, and that judge will never ever ever forget it and WILL hold it against you in a court of law.
    (2) Jurors and attorneys and/or defendant(s) flirt.
    The judge will toss you out on your keister so fast you won't notice the trip.
    (3) Loose evidence lying around the courtroom and/or the clerk of court's office where anyone can stop and get a look at it.
    No, no, no and NO.
    (4) All this juror profiling by some expert who comes in and tells the prosecutor/defense attorney who to accept/reject based on endless wads of data they got from somewhere on these high-falutin' computers with transparent screens that cover walls.
    Maybe in LA or NY or some mega-city. BUT - in the rest of the country? For the normal boring civil or criminal murder trial? No. For one thing, NOBODY has that much information on anyone, unless you live in my small town, in which case you go down to the local laundromat and/or cafe downtown and ask a couple of people (names provided on request by private e-mail) who will be able to tell you their history from the time they were a gleam in their granddaddy's eye. Still doesn't mean you can figure out how they'd rule...

  7. Great stuff, Melodie!! I couldn't agree more.

    I also love Eve's comment. More good points.

  8. I enjoyed your post, Melodie. I've gone to a couple of conference panels featuring real police officers or technicians who ripped CSI-type shows to shreds. It's ironic that the appeal of these shows probably rests partly (mostly?) on the idea that they're realistic--viewers think they're getting a behind-the-scenes look at what police work is really like. Most of the cozy writers I know are probably more careful about such matters than these television writers seem to be.

  9. I saw an episode of, I think, Poirot in which a lady was poisoned at a dinner table of 10 or 12 people & immediately fell backwards in her chair, dead as could be. Sorry, but poison doesn't work that fast!

    I was called for jury duty several years ago but was rejected for knowing too much medicine ... I used to work in pathology in a couple of different hospitals & did medical transcription for years. The case was about a patient, who did everything his doctor told him not to do, trying to sue for malpractice. I wouldn't have sympathized with the patient & I guess the lawyer could tell that pretty easily. A month or two later I read in the paper where the guy died. He should have followed his doctor's orders.

  10. You would have appreciated General Hospital this week. Now, I love the show (I do!), but sometimes they stretch the truth. This week's example: In the middle of a murder trial, a witness is murdered (before she testifies, of course). The prosecutor (who happened to have murdered the witness, but that's neither here nor there for this example), wants to introduce the witness's deposition as her testimony since she is no longer available to testify. The defense objects. The judge says that a situation like this is one reason we have depositions. (True!) The defense complains that he doesn't think that's fair. And the judge turns on a dime and says, "I agree. The deposition is excluded." Come on. The prosecutor doesn't fight this ruling since he's being blackmailed to throw the case. (Things are always interesting on GH.)

    Impossible travel also bothers me. I remember one episode of GH where in the time two characters were having lunch (so an hour or so), another character drove to the airport, flew across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris, and found the person he was looking for. Characters regularly drive from Port Charles (Upstate New York, near Canada) to NYC in no time at all. I wonder if the writers don't realize these mistakes, or if they just don't care, expecting viewers to suspend disbelief. I wish I could let things like this slide, but as you can see, I obviously can't. Sigh.

  11. Eve, what a great comment! I'm not fond of courtroom scenes on TV or in books, and I suspect what you state is the reason why: you can't trust them to be realistic. Thanks for these additions to the list!

  12. B.K., I know that if we blow a scene like this in a cozy mystery, our publishers get overwhelmed with reader email blasting us about getting it wrong! It's bizarre that people watching television don't hold shows to account in the same way. Thanks for commenting!

  13. Elizabeth, that show was from the book called Sparkling Cyanide, and you think Agatha would know better, as she was a pharmacist assistant during the war. Sigh. I guess the producers don't want to spend the time it would take to show the real thing realistically. Found your jury duty experience really interesting. Thanks for leaving that comment!

  14. Oh,those CSI shows are ripe for parody!

  15. Barb, you just can't get away with those things in a book, can you? I remember when my first Goddaughter was in substantive edit, and I changed the flight from Orlando to Phoenix. Messed up the whole story timeline because the flight from Toronto to Phoenix is one hour longer. (These are fast-moving books that take place over a few days.) Publisher and I drew up an hour by hour timeline on the entire book, to make sure it fit with flights and reality.
    p.s. - I had to stop watching GH when I became a hospital director - grin. I kept wanting to work at GH instead of my boring place.

  16. 5. Defy-the-laws-of-physics stunts and explosions. That and heroes landing on their feet after jumping from a 12-storey building.

    6. Defy-the-laws-of-gravity cleavage in superheroines. I think it's a ruse so guys don't notice (5) above.

  17. snort. Leigh, as always, you leave me grinning from ear to ear.


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>