The Real Detectives

For the sake of argument, I’ll say that mystery writers usually learn a little bit about policing. They interview detectives, visit labs, read about process and cases. They try to soak in what is necessary to help bring their story to life. I’ve the good fortune to know several writers who were also detectives. I’ve often wondered if that makes their job as mystery/crime writers easier or more difficult. Sure, they have the knowledge at their fingertips, but it must be difficult to distill this into what goes into the actual book. Writers of fiction aren’t recounting ‘fact’, we are creating it, and are allowed to bend the facts to suit the story (truthfully, expected to!). For a former detective that might be hard. I was reminded of these complexities today when reading my friend and fellow author, Brian Thiem’s, essay about returning from retirement to testify in a case that had been cold for 25 years. Brian talks about his time on the stand and dealing with the emotions of wondering if they could have done more all those years ago. In this case, there is one less killer walking the streets and that is success. He says that is what he will try to remember. For me, as I work on fine-tuning the emotions and actions of my own fictional detective inspector, Brian’s essay was a reminder that as writers we solve the crime neatly in 300 pages. (Our characters’ psyches should thank us for giving them these victories.) And I wonder…. What parts of the ‘old job’ play into the writing at the ‘new job’? Is there a part of policing that as a writer, a former detective says yep, that part of the reality gets left out? Or, I don’t worry about the process as much as the characters? I’d say there are as many response to this as there are writers, but I’m still curious…..    (To read more from the perspective of ‘real detectives’ writing about crime check out These guys are the real deal! And they write great mysteries.)

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