Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

PostHeaderIcon 8 Facts About Detectives You’re Probably Not Getting Right

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Have you ever wondered what real-life investigators think about your detective characters? Well…

1. On their days off, fictional detectives enjoy…wait, those guys never have any down time. None.

In the world, the one on the outside of your book covers, all cops have regularly scheduled days off. Sure, they’re sometimes forced to work during their weekends, especially when emergency situations arise, but not for 300 straight pages days.

2. Make-believe investigators are suspended from duty at least once per story, yet they continue to work their cases. Is there a writer anywhere in this world who truly understands the definition of suspension? I’m kidding, of course. However, just in case… Suspension: to force someone to leave their job temporarily as a form of punishment. A police officer may not carry out/perform the duties of a police officer while on suspension.

The punishment (suspension) is typically ordered because the detective did something severely wrong, which, by the way, is a rare occurrence. Therefore, continuing to work a case while suspended certainly will not win him/her any favors with the higher-ups. In fact, to do so is the equivalent of disobeying a direct order, a cause for termination.

3. Imaginary detectives, and bad guys, have the remarkable ability to render someone unconscious by striking them on the back of the head with any handy object, such as books, candlesticks, sticks, rocks, heel of the hand, fists, pillows, marshmallows, feathers, and/or guns of any type.

People, it’s time to come up with a new tactic, because this one is old, stale, and dusty. Besides, a “hit to the back of the head” rarely works in real life. I’ve seen people, me included, struck with baseball bats and they never lost consciousness. And, to add insult to injury, the blow merely makes those folks as mad as wet hens (whatever that means). If the whack is hard enough to get the job done the injury it caused would truly be a serious one. Therefore your hero won’t be popping back up right away to handcuff anyone. Instead, a visit to the hospital would be in order.

4. Marriage is practically taboo in crime fiction. Rarely do fictional law enforcement officers enjoy the company of live spouses. Yes, some are haunted by the tormented spirits of dead husbands or wives, but not living, breathing people. I suppose it’s easier to write a tale about a person who’s single, but cops in the real world do indeed marry, and some do so four or five times since the job truly can wreak havoc on married life.

5. Pretend cops are the straightest shootin’ folks on the planet. Why, they can use their sidearms to part the hair on a gnat from a distance of a hundred yards or more. The embarrassing reality, though, is that many cops barely shoot well enough to earn a qualifying score on the range. And the business of shooting a gun or knife from the hands of bad guys? Forget it. Doesn’t happen. Not today and not tomorrow. Even if the officer could hit such a small target, especially while it’s moving, is not what they’re trained to do, which is to shoot center mass.

6. A popular theme in Fictionland is to have a detective going off on his own to do something that’s totally against the orders of the chief or sheriff. In reality? Nope. To do disobey the orders of a chief or sheriff (especially a sheriff), well, the detective would quickly find himself filling out job applications for a new line of work. Simply put, cops follow the orders of their superiors.

7. After a quick look at the body of a murder victim the pretend gumshoe is often able to determine the caliber of bullet that ended the poor guy’s life. No. It is not possible to know the bullet size based on a glance at a wound. Many factors could affect the wound size and shape—angle of impact, velocity, etc. Even when spent casings are found nearby it’s still not safe to assume those were the rounds that killed the victim. A really good guess, yes. Without a doubt, no.

8. Fictional detective I. M. Thebest decides to change jobs so he has drinks with the chief from a city 300 miles away, where the action is greater and the liquor is cheaper, to discuss the opportunity. The two agree on the move and Det. Thebest is immediately scheduled start work as top detective in the new city. Two weeks later he begins his new career and fits in perfectly. Magically, he knows the area, all the usual suspects and their hangouts…

Stop. This is just too silly. No, this sort of thing does not happen in the real world. As a rule, detectives do not transfer as detectives to another department, especially as the head person in charge. Instead, if, for some reason they elect to switch departments they’d need to start over again as patrol officers. And, in most places they’d need to attend at least some training before hitting the streets. To vary from this would be unfair to the officers who’ve paid their dues and have been waiting for the promotion or move to the detective division.

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There you go, eight pet peeves of many cops who read used to read your books. Remember, though, you’re writing fiction and that means you can make up stuff. Therefore, when deviating from the reality of police work it’s a must that you give the reader a proper reason to suspend what they know is the truth. This is especially so if you want cops to enjoy your work along with your other fans.

So, if you want your make-believe, specially-skilled detective to transfer from one department to another as their chief of detectives, then a quick meeting of city council to approve the move would be all that’s needed to make it so. See how easy it is?

Oh yeah…NO cordite, unless you’re writing historical fiction.

 

PostHeaderIcon How To Properly Rot Your Corpses: Postmortem Decomposition

Putrefaction is the destruction of the soft tissue caused by two things, bacteria and enzymes.

As bacteria and enzymes do their jobs, the body immediately begins to discolor and transform into liquids and gases. The odd thing about the bacteria that destroys the tissue at death is that much of it has been living in the respiratory and intestinal tracts all along. Of course, if the deceased had contracted a bacterial infection prior to death, bacteria, such as septicemia (blood poisoning), would aid in increasing the rate of decomposition.

Temperature also plays an important part in decomposition. 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal range for bacteria and enzymes to do what they do best, while lower temperatures slow the process. Therefore, and obviously, a body will decompose faster during the sweltering days of summertime.

A blood-filled circulatory system acts as a super-highway for those organisms that destroy the body after death. Without blood the process of putrefaction is slowed.

Therefore, a murder victim whose body bled out will decompose at a slower rate than someone who died of natural causes.

People who were overweight at the time of their deaths decompose faster than skinny people. People who suffered from excessive fluid build up decompose faster than those who were dehydrated. And people with massive infections and congestive heart failure will also decompose at a more rapid rate than those without those conditions.

Bodies adorned in thick, heavy clothing (the material retains heat) decompose more rapidly than the norm. Electric blankets also speed up decomposition.

A body that’s buried in warm soil may decompose faster than one that’s buried during the dead of winter.

The type of soil that surrounds the body also has an effect on the rate of decomposition. For example, the soil in North Carolina is normally a reddish type of clay. The density of that clay can greatly retard the decomposition process because it reduces the circulation of air that’s found in a less dense, more sandy-type of earth.

Adult bodies buried in a well drained soil will become skeletonized in approximately 10 years. A child’s body in about five years.

The rule of thumb for the decomposition of a body is, (if at the same temperature) 8 weeks in well-drained soil equals two weeks in the water, or one week exposed to the air.

Now, hold on to your breakfast…

The first sign of decomposition under average conditions is a greenish discoloration of the skin at the abdomen. This is apparent at 36-72 hours.

Next – Small vessels in the skin become visible (marbling).

Marbling is followed by glistening skin, skin slippage, purplish skin, blisters, distended abdomen (after one week—caused by gases), blood-stained fluid oozing from body openings (nose, mouth, etc.), swelling of tissue and the presence of foul gaseous odor, greenish-purple face, swollen eyelids and pouting lips, swollen face, protruding tongue, hair pulls out easily, fingernails come off easily, skin from hands pulls off (gloving), body swells and appears greatly obese.

Internally, the body is decomposing and breaking down. The heart has become flabby and soft. The liver has honeycombed, and the kidneys are like wet sponges. The brain is nearly liquid, and the lungs may be a bit brittle.

Hmm… Flabby hearts and liquid brains. Sounds like the internal workings of quite a few living and currently-working (well, they call it working) politicians in this country…

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