Showing posts with label police procedural. Show all posts
Showing posts with label police procedural. Show all posts

08 February 2019

The Writer Cop

The Writer Cop
by O'Neil De Noux

I do not write non-fiction often. The current issue of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, BLUE REVIEW (Issue 12) has my article THE WRITER COP. Thought I would share a portion of it here.


THE WRITER COP

There are advantages and disadvantages of being a cop-turned-writer

Advantages

We know the life. We know how a police officer thinks, how a cop talks, what a cop will do and we write from there. We are eye-witnesses who must learn how to write good fiction to get the stories out there. So, we start a little ahead but until we learn how to write, all we have are anecdotes.

Disadvantages
It is hard for us to cut corners in our fiction, just as in real life. We have to solve the crimes as real cops do and sometimes it isn't interesting. That's why learning to be a good fiction writer is paramount. We have to know how to add excitement to mundane procedures. The dean of our field, Joseph Wambaugh, taught us this lesson we should never forget.

Another disadvantage is publishing's perception of police officers in fiction. Some agents and editors think television cops are real, that cops beat up prisoners all the time, violate people's rights, shoot everyone they can. Real cops like that end up in a penitentiary. Then again, a good story outranks reality. We are writing fiction, so when I read about a cop who is over the top, well that's fiction. It's just a little harder for us to write that way. We need to learn how to do this effectively. My recurring character John Raven Beau is larger than life and has shot far too many people in my fiction. It took a while, but I learned.

We cop writers must remember the basics

A Good Plot is the backbone of the police story
A well-plotted scenario will allow the writer to create memorable characters, unforgettable scenes, uniquely described settings; so long as the writer does not forget normal police procedures. Deviation from the norm removes credibility from your story. Strive for believability.

Keep it Action Oriented
Although real police investigations include long, sometimes grueling days of unending canvasses, surveillances, and dead-end leads, you should be selective in what you present the reader in order to keep your story moving forward. Short scenes featuring crisp dialogue can streamline the most mundane parts of an investigation. Leave out the boring parts.

Create well-rounded characters
As in almost all fiction, character is the heart of the story. Although the hero of the police procedural is usually a police officer, they are real people existing in a familiar world. What happens to them can be extraordinary.

Create a distinctive setting
The setting is the skeleton your story is built around. It is more than just the description of a place or time period. It is the feeling of the place and time. Give the reader a distinct, well-rounded setting stressing sensory details – the sharp smell of gunpowder, the coppery taste of blood, the tacky feel of rubber grips on a weapon when the hero's hand are sweaty.

Accurate language adds credibility
Through dialogue, you have an excellent opportunity to create emotion, from scintillating nails-on-a-blackboard passes uttered by creepy villians to hard-nosed talk between overworked detectives. Use what you know. You know how a cop talks.

Be Realistic
Make sure of your facts. We all know revolvers do not have safeties nor can a silencer be effective with a revolver or any open-breech weapon. Detectives take notes. How many times have you seen a movie or read a book showing detectives taking notes? Not many. I've been a detective most of my career. I never shot anyone but I killed a lot of pens. A pen is a detective's most useful took and mightiest weapon. Every killer on death row began his or her long trek through the criminal justice system with a detective taking notes at a crime scene.

A definite resolution helps
Don't cheat the reader out of an ending to your story. Police cases end, usually with an arrest and trial, sometimes with a shootout. This is a natural, climactic event. Even cases that are suspended or closed without a solution have a climactic moment, when the investigators face the nightmare of someone getting away with murder. In your resolution, you should remember something is usually affirmed. Good triumphs over evil, or at least goes the distance.

www.oneildenoux.com

05 June 2018

Getting the Details Right in a Police Procedural

by Barb Goffman

Police officers' guns are always loaded because they never know when they're going to need them.

This was one of the great tidbits I picked up this past Saturday at my local Sisters in Crime meeting. Our speaker was Mark Bergin, who served on the Alexandria, Virginia, police force for twenty-eight years, retiring in 2014. While on the force, he was twice named his department's officer of the year for drug and robbery investigations. Bergin shared stories and answered questions for over an hour to help us authors get our police details right. Here's some of what he told us. (Any mistakes are mine.) Some of this information I already knew, and maybe you do too, but it's always good to get a refresher:
  • Police work involves a ton of paperwork that you often don't see in novels and short stories.
  • Patrol officers wear twenty-three pounds of gear, such as a radio, gun, extra bullets, a bullet-proof vest.
  • Every cop has extra bullets, handcuffs, radios, pens, and more on them while on duty. 
  • While fictional officers seem to work on one case at a time, real cops are always juggling cases. In the Alexandria police force, the average was six to eight cases at a time, and the officers work each of them as much as they can.
  • Officers always like to sit with their back to the wall, especially when on duty. They want to see the whole room. Bergin called this "hyper-vigilance," and said it especially comes into play when you are in uniform.
  • Cops have a presence that's different from that of other people. Cops look at other people's faces. They give off the impression of being knowledgeable, which is why people often ask them for information such as directions.
  • Ninety percent of an officer's job is maintaining control of a situation. That's done mostly by walking in and being "a presence." Officers also gain control of situations through using a commanding voice, which they're taught, as well as through control holds.
  • Police officers have short hair, look bulky, and are strong. They're not always physically fit because so much of the job is sitting and driving. While on the force, Bergin worked out a lot to have big arms so he'd look like he could win a fight, which was designed to make people not try to fight him.
    Mark Bergin
  • Officers receive extensive training so that they get "muscle memory." In times of crisis, this memory kicks in so they will automatically do things the right way without having to think about it.
  • Cops typically stay in the same police department throughout their career because--unless you are a chief or deputy chief--if you switch departments, you always have to start at the bottom. This is true even of homicide detectives. If an officer moves to a new city and thus a new place of employment, the officer starts out on patrol and has to work his/her way up the ladder again. 
  • Ninety-five percent of the time, prosecutors don't get involved in police cases before an arrest. The exceptions can be for homicides, bank robberies, and when there is a series of crimes that seem to be by the same perpetrator. 
  • Preliminary investigations of most crimes are done by patrol officers. The exceptions are rape and homicide cases, which go to detectives right away.
  • Police investigate missing-person cases immediately; the twenty-four-hour waiting period often portrayed in TV and movies is a myth. However extensive resources may not be immediately available for a search.
  • Patrol officers are strictly controlled in what they are allowed to do. For instance, they must ask for permission to do follow-up work on cases they're interested in that have already been handed off to detectives. 
  • Most cops don't worry about fear interfering with their ability to do their jobs because the hiring process/training program weeds out potential officers with this problem. Potential officers with fear issues either are trained to overcome them or they leave the program.
  • While fear isn't a problem for most officers, stress is. They think they could be attacked at any moment, and thus are always on guard.
  • Ninety to ninety-five percent of police officers never fire their gun at another person.
  • In Alexandria, Virginia, the police department has three shifts of officers working each day. Officers work ten-hour shifts. Eighty-five to ninety percent of each shift is spent on the street. (I didn't get the chance to ask if this information is representative for most departments.) 
I hope I got all these details right. I asked Bergin to drop by today, so if I made any errors, he hopefully will weigh in in the comments. And if you have any questions, please pose them in the comments. I hope he will be able to answer them.

Now that he's retired from police work, Bergin has turned to writing fiction. His first novel, a police procedural titled Apprehension, is scheduled to be published this fall by Inkshares/Quill. More information about the book is available here.

Thanks very much, Mark Bergin!
 

24 April 2018

When an Amateur Writes a Police Procedural

by Barb Goffman

I'm not a sheriff, and I've never played one on TV. So when it came to writing mystery short stories, for a long time I avoided writing police procedurals. There were too many ways I could screw things up. Too many important details I'd need to research, and more important, things I might not even realize I was getting wrong. And that's still the case today.

But a few years ago, I heard a fictional sheriff talking to me in my head. So, with misgivings, I started writing her story. To try to ensure I didn't make any mistakes, I imposed some rules on myself. The most important: the story had to be solved quickly through interviews and observation, not using blood work or DNA or other modern investigative methods with which I could easily make mistakes. In this way, my sheriff would operate kind of like an amateur sleuth, relying on her wits, but with the benefit of knowledge the sheriff would have and the power of her badge to induce folks to speak with her and to get warrants when needed.

This approach worked well and resulted in my first story about Sheriff Ellen Wescott. "Suffer the Little Children" was published in 2013 in my collection, Don't Get Mad, Get Even. I've now brought Sheriff Wescott back for a second case in "Till Murder Do Us Part," which was recently published by Wildside Press in the new anthology Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies.

In this new story, a man who runs a business putting on weddings in a converted barn on his farm is murdered. The body is discovered on a Sunday morning. The day is important. I didn't want to have to deal with the sheriff getting phone records and other CSI-type evidence to help solve the case. While a judge's warrant could be secured on the weekend, I figured it would be harder to get a phone company to act quickly on a Sunday. I also wanted all the characters I needed to be believably and easily available. On a weekday, some of them would be at work, but on a Sunday, it would be much easier for them to gather.

So my story is set on a Sunday, and my sheriff and her deputy--through interviews and investigation of items found at the crime scene--try to piece together what happened. That's the basics. I don't want to reveal any more for fear I'll give away too much, but I will address one point: Does this tale sound a little dry to you? It does to me, just explaining it. I don't like dry stories. I like to introduce pathos or fun (maybe both) into my stories to make the reader want to turn the pages. So it helps that law enforcement officers often enjoy black humor, as I do.

That's where the cows come in. You see, every story in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies involves crime and critters. We have several stories involving dogs. They were the most popular animal in the submitted stories and in those accepted. But we also have animal diversity. We have stories with crows, cows, crickets, and cats; rabbits, ferrets, an octopus, and rats. And fish. Mustn’t forget the fish. My story is the one with the cows.

As I said above, "Till Murder Do Us Part" involves murder in farm country. It also takes place during the worst heat wave since the state began keeping records. What happens when it's really hot and there are cows around? Yep, they explode. Or they can. But don't worry. I don't just use the cows for black humor. They play a role in the plot. I won't say more because I don't want to give things away, but I will add with delight that New York Times bestselling author Chris Grabenstein--who kindly wrote the introduction to the book--called my story "extremely clever," and I think it's because of how I used the cows.

To read my new story, and the twelve other great stories in the book, pick up a copy of Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies. It's available in trade paperback or e-format directly from the publisher by clicking here or through Amazon or independent bookstores.

If you'll be at the Malice Domestic mystery convention later this week, the book will be available in the book room. In fact, most of the authors with stories in the book will be at the Wildside Press table in the convention's book room at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday to sign books. And if you'll be in the Washington, DC, area on Sunday, May 20th, please come to our launch party from 2 - 4 p.m. at the Central Library in Arlington, Virginia. But you don't have to wait until then to get some goodies. If you see me at Malice, ask me about my cow tails. I might just have some candy on hand for you.

And speaking of Malice Domestic, let me get in one last plug for the five short stories nominated for this year's Agatha Award. I'm honored to have my story "Whose Wine Is It Anyway?" from the anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet up for the award. You can read it here. The other finalists include my friend and fellow SleuthSayer Art Taylor, who is always stiff competition, and three other authors I'm proud to call my friends: Gretchen Archer, Debra H. Goldstein, and Gigi Pandian. You can read all their nominated stories here through the Malice Domestic website. Just scroll down to their story titles. Each one is a link. You may not be able to get a lot of reading done before the voting deadline this Saturday, but I hope you can read all the short stories.

I'm looking forward to seeing many of you writers and readers at the convention, which starts in just two days. Malice or bust! But in the meanwhile, getting back to police procedurals, I'd love to hear about your favorite authors writing police procedurals today, especially ones who don't have law-enforcement background but still get the details right. Please share in the comments.

27 December 2017

Book of the Year

David Edgerley Gates

Guy's name is Don Winslow, his novel's called The Force.


North Manhattan Task Force. They target the drugs, the guns, the money. They work the barrio, the projects. They like to call themselves the Kings.

Denny Malone. Detective sergeant, gold badge, rock-star cop. The man. Top of the food chain. Malone's team gives good weight. They make cases, they make headlines. They make the suits look good. Malone delivers on his promises, puts meat on the table.

Here's the thing. Denny Malone is dirty. Do the numbers. 4th of July, his crew takes down a Dominican heroin mill, score a hundred keys and five million cash, waste the kingpin. Fifty kilos go in evidence, two million of the money. Malone's crew splits the difference. Call it the 401K. Something happens, on or off The Job, they've got extra benefits, cover your family in case of need. Malone and his partners have each other's back. Can't be otherwise, line of work they're in.

Short declarative sentences. Not a lot of wasted motion. Not a lot of adjectives, either. Skip unnecessary verbs, too. Keep it propulsive, present tense. Might put you in mind of early Lehane, a little, maybe Ed Dee. Not that this guy doesn't have a singular voice of his own. But the story, and the voice, belong to Malone.

All he ever wanted to be was a good cop. This is Denny's ambition, and his doom. It could stand as his epitaph. The Force is tragedy, in the classic sense - not an accident, but a fated choice. There's nothing hesitant or peripheral about it, it's front and center. Denny can feel the darkness closing in. At the same time, he can't help but try and work some angle, he's still thinking there's a way to save something of himself. Not because he's bad, either. He's basically good, or like most of us, he'd like to think so. He's just run out of moral collateral.

This is what gives The Force its center of gravity, but don't mistake it for ponderous. The book is a sheer, headlong adrenaline rush. (Malone's team suits up for a raid, and Dexedrine is part of the mix.) The dialogue, the human dynamics, the corrupt politics, the combat gear and the technical specs, the neighborhoods, the urban landscape and its discontents, is all convincing, and made familiar, but the brutally compelling action scenes are something entirely apart. Winslow makes it look effortless. Trust me, it ain't. The most basic principles of physical geography apply. Where is everybody, and where are they in relation to everybody else in the stairwell when all the lights go out? You can't leave it to chance. If you don't block out your fight scenes, they're incoherent.

I think the book delivers the knockdown punch it does because Winslow shows the emotional detail and human costs of The Job so effectively. The fierce loyalties and savage betrayals, the gallows humor, the scabrous vocabulary, the locker-room jive, the brittle tensions, the presence of death. There's this reflection. "Malone isn't a big fan of God and figures the feeling is mutual. He has a lot of questions he'd like to ask him, but if he ever got him in the room, God'd probably shut his mouth, lawyer up, let his own kid take the jolt."

Hard-boiled, and heartbreaking.


My suggestion for best mystery or crime thriller of 2017.

15 October 2012

The Thirteenth Child


A Review by Fran Rizer

Okay, I confess I don't like writing reviews. For one thing, while I lie for a living, I refuse to mislead readers by glorifying books that, to me, don't cut it.

David Dean checks out his new novel.
The title of David Dean's new novel could have made me afraid this was an out-of-date story about The Dugger Family, but knowing the genre, I assumed The Thirteenth Child referred to the number of children who disappeared, were kidnapped, or murdered. Not so, but I won't clue you in on the meaning of the title, and I won't give away any of the secrets of the novel in this review. Read this book for yourself. You'll definitely be glad you did.

If you enjoy being scared to go to bed alone, this is your kind of read. With a well-written, well-paced, yet steadily climbing, plot, The Thirteenth Child is a terrifying journey that will make the reader crazy with intrigue that turns to fear and then crashes into sheer horror at the end. It's not the customary roller coaster ride mentioned in many reviews. Instead, it's a fast uphill trip in a
police cruiser.

David Dean doesn't bog the reader down with info dumps or excessive backstory. The characters come alive on the pages through their actions, thoughts, and feelings. As the main storyline progresses, they grow to be so captivating that the reader fears for them and shares their pains and apprehensions.

Preston Howard, a former English Literature professor, isn't interested in anyone or anything as much as his bottle of high quality scotch or rotgut whiskey, depending on how much money he's swiped from his daughter Fanny that day. Preston doesn't grow inebriated--he gets stinking drunk. In that condition, he prefers to sleep in a shanty hidden in the woods near an elementary school instead of in the comfortable bed his daughter provides. He befriends a feral boy named Gabriel who is dangerous as well as spooky. This lands Preston smack in the middle of the cases of a missing seven-year-old girl and two teenaged boys.
13th Child
Nick (Police Chief Nicholas Catesby) has more than his share of problems. Single since his wife stepped out on their marriage and then left him, he's attracted to Preston's daughter Fanny, but how will that work when her father becomes a person of interest and then a suspect? A leak in the police department further complicates his life while deceitful betrayal by one of his officers looks as though it might cost Nick his job as well as control of the investigation of the youngsters who have disappeared.

Fanny Howard, Preston's daughter, is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of supporting her father financially and worrying what kind of new troubles his drinking will bring them. About the time that the chemistry she shares with Nick Catesby fires up the pages as well as Fanny's bed, the relationship is forbidden because her father's situation creates a conflict of duty for Nick. Even more chilling, though Fanny is a grown woman, she becomes the monster's next target.

Tension begins on page one and rises constantly with characters and action that pull the reader in. There's a monster to be vanquished, and identifying who (or what) he is creates an urgency that makes it impossible to stop reading until the explosive final confrontation.

Author David Dean describes the book as a horror story with "a bit of police procredural woven into it. It's not a gore-fest, but it is scary."


Available from Genius Book Publishing as paperback or eBook, David Dean's The Thirteenth Child delivers in all areas. How many stars? On a scale of one to five, I give it six stars, and I'll read it again.

Here are links for your convenience:

Until we meet again...take care of you and treat yourself to a good scare with David's new book.