Today homicide/narcotics detective and author of a new mystery is my guest. Please welcome C. L. Swinney.
|Author C. L. Swinney|
Author C. L. Swinney Is Keeping It Real:
I was a reader far before I became a writer. I read quickly and often finish a book in a day or two. My favorites are mystery, suspense, and thrillers. But, I’ve got a bone to pick with crime scenes portrayed in many of these books today. I see many people get poor reviews for their work because they make a crucial mistake when writing about a crime scene.
First, I’ll add my “expertise” in this topic. I’m currently a homicide/ narcotics detective, been so for five years, and I’ve been in law enforcement for almost fifteen years. I’ve investigated everything from street level drug dealers to cartel leaders. I’ve wiretapped people’s phones and listened to things that would make your blood boil. My point, I know what a cop, investigator, detective, fireman, coroner, evidence tech, and all other folks would or should do at a crime scene because I’ve been to hundreds of them and investigated most of them.
Here are my tips:
A) A clever girlfriend/reporter/significant other that happens to be dating your protagonist wouldn’t walk through a crime scene, manipulate evidence, then walk out without being handcuffed and stuffed in a patrol car. Crime scenes are sacred grounds, you do things like this in a novel and people who know what should really happen will find it hard to believe. This attacks your credibility. I get fiction “isn’t real,” but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be believable.
B) Every single element and angle of a crime scene is labeled, photographed, cataloged, processed, photographed again, and collected. In major scenes, evidence technicians will do this, not a beat cop. If you want to use the beat cop, you need to explain (or better yet, show) why s/he is doing it instead of the expert. Readers of suspense, thriller, and mystery novels are educated and find it misleading when an author cuts out some or most of these steps. If the evidence scene isn’t important, take it out all together.
C) Within the yellow lines of a crime scene, the atmosphere is somber and the people working are focused. Too many books have people smoking and joking next to a dead body. A real law enforcement official wouldn’t do that. Investigating tragedy and death is not a funny matter. We take it very seriously and owe it to the victim to remain professional.
D) When writing a crime scene, stick to common sense actions or feelings by your characters. For instance, don’t have a hardened detective whose “seen it all” pass out or freak out when s/he sees something bizarre at a crime scene. Most cops with any time on have “seen it all.” Experienced cops have been through hairy situations causing them to digest bizarre, gross, heinous, whatever you want to throw at them with ease. I don’t even blink when I see that kind of stuff. It’s sad really, but it’s also the truth. If you want to say your character is shocked or caught off guard, show why that is. Detective X’s faced turned white as the coroner lifted the sheet revealing his brother.
I am a fiction writer but I spend a lot of time trying to make the overwhelming majority of what I write realistic. I feel it adds to the story and I owe it to the reader to take pride in my craft. So please, when you want to include a crime scene in your novels, make an effort to avoid the pitfalls I’ve listed above. I think you will find your story will be better and people will talk about how you nailed it!
While on a fly fishing vacation to Andros Island in the Bahamas, narcotics detectives Dix and Peterson discover their fishing guides were killed when a sudden blast of gunfire fractured their speedboat, Gray Ghost. Local gossip has it that Gray Ghost went to the ocean floor with a hundred million dollars worth of cocaine in the hull. Dix and Peterson are drawn into helping their island friends, and chase down leads in Miami as well as the Bahamas until they identify the diabolical plot of the man known only as The Caller…and then the trouble really starts.
"When two Miami narcotic officers take a fishing trip to the Bahamas, they can't leave the drug world behind...Deftly told by the author, detective and avid fly fisher Chris Swinney, this book will hook any reader of mystery fiction." —Sunny Frazier, author of the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries
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