This year, the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) spread its wings a bit with the introduction of our first publication, an anthology titled AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT.
The curtain rises on this collection of twisted tales, revealing the words of bestselling thriller author Lee Child. Child sets the stage for a series of mysterious and strange goings-on that occur between the hours of midnight and dawn … the graveyard shift.
Contributing authors in this first anthology produced by the Writers’ Police Academy, include bestselling mystery and crime authors, top television writers, true crime experts, and more.
In addition to the stellar lineup of top authors, the WPA announced an exciting contest, a chance for two talented writers to have their stories included in this “killer” book.
Once the contest closed the task of judging the entries began. To give you an idea of the process and superb quality of stories received, here’s a statement from the publisher, Level Best Books.
“A large number of very good stories were submitted for the two available spots. We certainly could have filled another whole anthology considering the quality of stories we received. All of the submissions were read blindly by a panel of three judges, who were anonymous to each other during the process.”
While all stories were exceedingly good, the judges selected two to include in the AFTER MIDNIGHT anthology.
And the winners are …
A Confluence in Stow
After Midnight Anthology Details
- Title: AFTER MIDNIGHT: TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT
- Publisher – Level Best Books
- ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-947915-11-4
- Publication Date: August 1, 2019
- Edited by Phoef Sutton
- Foreword by #1 Internationally best selling author Lee Child
About the Editor
Phoef Sutton is a New York Times Bestselling author and winner of two Emmy Awards for his work on the classic television comedy CHEERS. Phoef also won a Peabody Award for the popular legal drama BOSTON LEGAL starring James Spader, William Shatner, and Candice Bergen. Lately, he’s been writing television movies for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.
The Authors and Their Twisted Tales
Lucky Cop by RJ Beam (bloodstain pattern expert, WPA and police academy instructor, author)
The Brass Ring by Michael A. Black (author, retired law enforcement expert)
Sunshine Berkman by Joseph S Bonsall (singer with the Oak Ridge Boys – the voice on the hit song Elvira, and more – author, banjo picker, and longtime support of the WPA)
Ride Along by Allison Brennan (Bestselling author)
Neighborhood Watch by Ry Brooks (AFTER MIDNIGHT contest winner)
The Bookends Murder by Robin Burcell (retired law enforcement and bestselling author)
Gentrified Homicide by Marco Conelli (retired undercover detective, author, WPA instructor)
Prime Rib from Brahma by Les Edgerton (Bestselling author and writing teacher/coach)
The Devil in the Flesh by Heather Graham (international bestselling author and 2019 MurderCon Guest of Honor)
Justifiable Homicide by Lisa Klink (television writer – Star Trek Deep Space Nine)
Rookies by Howard Lewis (WPA staff, martial arts expert, author)
LeishMANIA by Denene Lofland (Bioterrorism and microbiology expert, author, founder and host of the WPA)
The Sheriff of Macabre County by Lee Lofland (retired law enforcement, author of Police Procedure and Investigation, founder and host of the WPA)
Code Murder by Linda Lovely (Author, editor, WPA staff)
Baddest Outlaws by Rick McMahan (retired ATF Special Agent, law enforcement instructor, WPA instructor)
A Confluence in Stow by Emilya Naymark (AFTER MIDNIGHT contest winner)
Shared Secrets by Carrie Stuart Parks (forensic artist, former WPA special guest presenter, author)
The Case of the Staring Man by Katherine Ramsland (author of over 1,000 books, professor of forensic psychology, TV consultant and on-air personality, longtime WPA presenter and expert)
Panther Bait by Mike Roche (Secret Serve Special Agent, author)
Disco Fries and Homicide by Shawn Reilly Simmons (publisher/editor Level Best Books, author)
3:45 in the Peacock Room of the Channel Grill on 6th Street
by Phoef Sutton (bestselling author, renowned and award-winning television writer, editor of AFTER MIDNIGHT anthology)
Hostage (A Love Story) by Cheryl Yeko (author, WPA staff)
With a Foreword by Lee Child (author of the internationally bestselling Jack Reacher series, longtime WPA supporter)
Book Launch Party and You’re Invited!
Please join Level Best Books and the Writers’ Police Academy to help celebrate the launch of this thrilling new book, AFTER MIDNIGHT.
The launch party takes place at the Friday night reception at MurderCon, and books will be available for purchase at the event and soon by preorder. This will be the first of the Writers’ Police Academy’s new series of books. Stay tuned for more!
BIG NEWS on the WAY!
Also, here’s an important BOLO. Be On the Lookout for an exciting announcement coming from the Writers’ Police Academy and Level Best Books. There’s something very extremely cool brewing behind the scenes!
No, I’m not talking about the spirit world, or of zombies. I’m talking about how the living use a victim’s body to help determine the time and cause of death.
First, what happens when a person stops breathing and their heart ceases to beat? The skin begins to pale (pallor) and the muscles immediately begin to relax—all of them, which can produce some pretty unpleasant effects around the south end of the body.
Then come the Mortis brothers, all three of them—Livor, Algor, and Rigor. These guys show up to the party, one at a time, and when they arrive … well, let’s just say the host is the center of their attention. And boy do they ever “spoil” him.
Algor mortis is simply the cooling down of the body after death. A pretty good
rule of thumb method to determine the time of death is to take the rectal temperature of the deceased (#neverusethethumb, for obvious reasons—say NO to the rule of thumb!), subtract that number from 98.6 (average, normal human body temp), and then divide that number by 1.5 (the average cooling rate of a body per hour under average conditions). The result is the approximate number of hours that have passed since the victim kicked the bucket.
Livor Mortis, or lividity, is the pooling of blood in the lowest portions of the body. Lividity is caused by gravity and begins immediately after death. The telltale signs of livor mortis, the purplish discoloration of the skin, begins the moment the heart stops pumping. This process continues for approximately 6-12 hours, depending upon surrounding conditions, until it becomes fixed, permanently staining the tissue in the lowest parts of the body. When large areas become engorged with lividity, the capillaries in those areas sometimes rupture causing what’s known as Tardieu spots. Tardieu spots present as round, brownish blacks spots.
Rigor Mortis, the contracting and stiffening of the muscles after death, takes a couple of hours to begin and completes in approximately 8-12 hours. The process starts in the smaller muscles of the head and face and moves downward to the larger muscles. When rigor is complete, the process reverses itself starting with the lower large muscles and ending with the smaller face and head muscles. The entire process can last for approximately 48 hours. The body will quickly begin to decompose after rigor is complete.
A person’s body goes stiff in the position they were in at the time of death.
Therefore, if a person died while lying on his back with one arm held straight up and the other straight out to the side, and the police discovered that same body in a bathtub, they’d probably conclude that someone moved the victim after death had occurred. After all, no one sits in a bathtub with their arms in those types of positions … do they? By the way, cops should not automatically rule out things simply because they’re different. Still, in the bathtub with one hand aimed skyward and the other pointing to a tube of Preparation H, a clump of tangled bobby pins, and a tin of ear wax remover. Yeah, somebody moved this one.
– Rigor mortis can cause contraction of the muscles in the epidermis, which also causes goose bumps to appear.
– Hair and fingernails do not continue to grow after someone dies. The skin around them begins to recede after death, which gives the appearance that they’re still growing.
– Age, illness, ambient temperature, fat distribution, and physical exertion just prior to death can all affect the rate of rigor mortis.
MurderCon’s focus is homicide investigations!
The Writers’ Police Academy’s super-special event, MurderCon, features actual homicide investigation sessions in a first-ever, rare opportunity offered to writers. The material and venue are typically for law enforcement eyes only! For example …
David Pauly’s class:
This workshop deeply delves into Cause, Manner, and Mechanisms of death, Coroner vs. Medical Examiner systems, differences in legal terminology for murder, homicide, and manslaughter, as well as, the realities in death investigations that are equivocal in nature.
Physical, testimonial, and circumstantial evidence as introduced into the courtroom will be applied to death investigations. A case study of a very unique and rarely-seen murder by hanging, and the forensic evidence obtained from the physical autopsy will be presented during this detailed workshop. This presentation is a rare behind the scenes look and discussion of psychological autopsies, and when they are utilized in criminal investigations.
David Pauly retired from The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command as a Special Agent-in-Charge/Commander and Forensic Science Officer. He performed duties in over a dozen states, and frequently worked with local, state, and federal agencies. He also performed duties in Panama, South Korea, Afghanistan, Haiti, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Sinai, Egypt, Canada, Guam, and Nigeria. He holds a Master of Forensic Science degree from The George Washington University and is currently the Director of Applied Forensic Science at Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC.
David graduated the FBI National Academy (Session 195), Canadian Police College – Major Crimes Course, Miami-Dade Police Department – Bloodstain Interpretation Course, and National Fire Academy – Arson Investigation Course. He is a Fellow of The American Academy of Forensic Science, and is a current, or past member of the International Association of Identification, North Carolina Chapters of the IAI and FBINAA, International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, North Carolina Homicide Investigator’s Association, The Vidocq Society, American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC), and various other professional law enforcement and/or forensic science associations.
MurderCon’s 2019 Special Guest Speaker, Graham Hetrick, is the
star and host of the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel’s TV series, THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, now in its second season.
Graham Hetrick is a subject matter expert on drug abuse, child death and child abuse, organ tissue donation, violent crimes, medical legal death investigation, forensic methodology, and the grieving process. He has advanced training in blood pattern analysis, crime scene management, forensic sculpting, and shallow grave recovery.
Graham advises the news media and consults attorneys on the investigative process for cases facing litigation. He lectures widely on forensic autopsy, crime scene management, and critical thinking within the investigative process. He is an adjunct professor of forensics and human anatomy at Harrisburg University School of Science and Technology.
Over the last 35 years Graham has written and lectured on grief and loss recovery to the medical community, hospice groups and loss recovery organizations. He is also a motivational speaker for students and troubled youth who are trying to get control of their lives through a speech entitled “Doors.” Graham’s upcoming book explores improving the relationship between forensic evidence collection and organ tissue donation. His case studies are featured on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel in THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, now in its second season.
Graham has served as the Dauphin County Pennsylvania Coroner since 1990. During his time there, he has supervised investigations of over 600 homicide cases, supervised the certification of over 13,000 deaths. He has also supervised the Forensic Science Internship Program for over six colleges and universities.
Since 2005, Graham, as an adjunct Professor of Forensics, teaches Crime Scene Investigation, Medical Legal Investigation, Introduction to Forensic Science, Forensic Case Studies, Human Anatomy, and Forensic Taphonomy & Human Identification.
Graham is the president of the La Voz Latina Central, a bilingual newspaper serving six Central PA counties. He has been the president for the past seventeen years.
He grew up above a funeral home, with his father being the founder and owner of the Hetrick Funeral home in Harrisburg, Pa. and, from 1975 – 2003, Graham held the position of President and CEO of the family business, where he managed operations and developed after-care programs. The Hetrick Funeral Home is one of the first funeral establishments in Pennsylvania to introduce funeral prearrangement.
In 2013, Graham was co-developer and consultant for Graham of Evidence, a TV pilot produced by A&E.
Reserve your spot today!
Regarding DNA and saliva, I’d like to note that it is indeed possible to expel DNA when coughing or sneezing. However, the fact that it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s always found, just that it could be. And, if found, it could be the DNA of someone other than than a suspect or victim, such as cop or lab scientist who was involved in the collection or testing of the evidence. Here’s why …
First, in the lab, to tell the difference between saliva and sputum, scientists look for epithelial cells. These cells have a nucleus, and within a nucleus DNA is found. Saliva is almost always present in the mouth, especially when we are awake. When we sneeze saliva and the DNA contained within is expelled.
FYI – Lab scientist/techs scan collected sputum samples for the presence or absence of white blood cells. White blood cells, not red, indicate infection. The presence of epithelial cells from saliva indicates the sample is contaminated with saliva, which would result in improper test results. Sputum is tested for respiratory tract infections.
By the way, red blood cells (erythrocytes) have/contain no nucleus nor do they contain mitochondria. Therefore, red blood cells do not contain DNA because there’s no nucleus in the cells.
Those of you who attended the WPA when world-renowned DNA expert Dr. Dan Krane presented a fantastic session on DNA evidence, may remember when he mentioned how DNA evidence is sometimes contaminated, such as using fingerprint brushes or gloves from one scene to process evidence in an entirely different location. DNA could be transferred using those items. He also pointed out instances where coughing or sneezing could distribute DNA to the surface of an item being processed. (Dr. Krane is a former colleague of my wife, Denene)
On with DNA and Sneezing
As an example of evidence contamination via sneezing, when discussing the Jon Benet Ramsey case, Dr. Krane says, “The DNA in tests could be there because of a contact that was weeks, months, even years before the crime occurred. It’s not possible to make inferences about the tissue source here. We can’t say that it came from semen or saliva or blood or anything. What if one of the medical examiners sneezed on one of these articles of clothing and it came into contact with the other one? There are just so many possibilities.”
Additionally, from another source, “It is extremely easy to contaminate biological samples; this can occur by failing to change gloves or clean instruments properly, failing to wipe down benches properly between testing, or by sneezing or even talking over a sample (Buckleton et al 2005:277).”
And, from the National Institute of Justice:
Because extremely small samples of DNA can be used as evidence, greater attention to contamination issues is necessary when identifying, collecting, and preserving DNA evidence. DNA evidence can be contaminated when DNA from another source gets mixed with DNA relevant to the case. This can happen when someone sneezes or coughs over the evidence or touches his/her mouth, nose, or other part of the face and then touches the area that may contain the DNA to be tested.
To avoid contamination of evidence that may contain DNA, always take the following precautions:
- Wear gloves. Change them often.
- Use disposable instruments or clean them thoroughly before and after handling each sample.
- Avoid touching the area where you believe DNA may exist.
- Avoid talking, sneezing, and coughing over evidence.
- Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth when collecting and packaging evidence.
- Air-dry evidence thoroughly before packaging.
- Put evidence into new paper bags or envelopes, not into plastic bags. Do not use staples.
From the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Heath/The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):
For DNA studies, one of the greatest laboratory barriers is the contamination of genetic material from other sources (e.g., from the examiner and other biological evidence). Contamination may occur during the sexual contact (e.g., if there is more than one perpetrator), during the period between the sexual contact and the FME, during the FME, and in the laboratory. In order to avoid it, examiners should take special precautions to prevent cross-contamination between evidences. For this purpose, it is important:
- to work under aseptic conditions to avoid microbial contamination;
- to always use disposable supplies to ensure individual protection (e.g., gowns, powder-free gloves, mask, or other protective clothing) and to avoid direct contact with the samples;
- to ensure that the room where FME takes place is regularly cleaned before and after patient use;
- to avoid sneezing, coughing, or talking over the samples;
Dr. Krane is one of the world’s foremost DNA experts, testifying worldwide as an expert witness in well over 100 criminal trials, in which DNA evidence was presented, such as the Jon Benet Ramsey case. He’s been involved as a top expert in other high-profile cases such as the DC Snipers, OJ Simpson case, and the infamous Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton “blue dress,” to name only a few. Dan also developed software that’s used in genetic analyzers, the devices used by scientists who conduct DNA tests.
My other source, in addition to our good friend Dr. Dan Krane, is, of course, my resident renowned expert, Dr. Denene Lofland.
Denene received a Ph.D. in Pathology, with an emphasis in microbiology, from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. As a former biotech company director, Denene managed successful clinical projects that resulted in regulatory filings of four compounds and FDA approval for two new antimicrobial drugs for the treatment of pneumonia and cystic fibrosis. The drugs are currently on the market.
Denene supervised several projects, including government-sponsored research which required her to maintain a secret security clearance. Her areas of expertise include medical microbiology, bioterrorism, and new drug discovery development. She has published numerous articles in a variety of peer reviewed scientific journals, contributed to the thirteenth edition of Bailey and Scott’s Diagnostic Microbiology, a textbook standard used in colleges and universities, published an article about anthrax in Police One magazine, and she has an upcoming tale in the Writers’ Police Academy’s anthology, After Midnight, Tales From the Graveyard Shift (edited by Phoef Sutton with foreword by Lee Child) ~ Level Best Books, publisher
Currently, Denene is an Associate Professor of Medical and Molecular Sciences at the University of Delaware. She also taught medical microbiology to medical students at a medical college in California. In her early days, prior to becoming a mad scientist, she managed the lab in a large, major hospital.
Over the years, I was fortunate to have the experience of witnessing Denene and her teams, and Dr. Krane’s team, perform numerous DNA testings using both gel electrophoresis and DNA Sequencers/Genetic Analyzers. I was once treated to conducting a test of my own in one of Dr. Dan Krane’s labs, an entire DNA test from extraction of sample to final result. I ran the test on the DNA of a strawberry, but hey, the process is the same as when using human samples. The strawberry was innocent, by the way.
Again, the fact that DNA is present in saliva, it doesn’t mean DNA is always found when someone sneezes or coughs, or talks over evidence (it’s even been found in traces of saliva found on a public phone receiver), just that it’s possible and that it does occur.
DNA Testing: The Process
The first step in the testing process is to extract DNA from the evidence sample. To do so, the scientist adds chemicals to the sample, a process that ruptures cells. When the cells open up DNA is released and is ready for examination.
DNA is actually visible to the naked eye. The slimy glob in the center of the circle below is DNA.
DNA is tested in devices like the one below. They’re called genetic analyzers. This particular device is located in one of Dr. Dan Krane’s laboratories.
DNA is loaded into wells inside the genetic analyzer. There are 96 wells in the gray, rectangular block shown below (inside the analyzer).
An electric current separates the DNA, sending it from the wells through narrow straw-like tubes called capillaries. During its journey through the analyzer, DNA passes by a laser. The laser causes the DNA loci (a gene’s position on a chromosome) to fluoresce as they pass by, which allows a tiny camera to capture their images.
The image below shows DNA’s path through the genetic analyzer (wells are on the left; capillaries are the arcing lines leading to laser and camera on the right).
Doctor Stephanie Smith points to the row of eight capillaries, one for each well in the corresponding line of wells (12 rows of 8 wells).
At the end of the testing, the equipment produces a graph/chart called an electropherogram.
Peaks on the graph depict the amount of DNA strands at each location. It is this unique pattern of peaks and valleys that scientist use to match or exclude suspects.
Or, in the case of paternity testing, to include or exclude someone as a parent.
The image below is an electropheragram showing the DNA of a strawberry.
Electropheragams are printed and it is this document that’s examined by experts for use in the ID/comparisons of sample contributors, such as suspects and victims.
Remember above when we discusses sneezing, coughing, and/or talking over DNA evidence? Well, here’s a DNA test result (electropheragram) of a contaminated sample, a mixture of DNA found on the body of a rape victim. The evidence was contaminated to the point that it was impossible to tell/prove whether or not Contributors 1 or 2 were involved in the assault. Notice that the peaks in the mixture do not quite match either suspect’s DNA.
The image below shows a clear match between the DNA of the victim and suspect. The suspect was clearly in contact, in some way, with the victim.
Identical twins have identical DNA.
Humans are genetically 99.9% identical. Only 0.1% of our genetic makeup is different.
It takes about eight hours for one cell to copy its own DNA.
Red blood cells do not contain DNA.
DNA is used to determine pedigree in livestock.
DNA is used to authenticate wine and caviar.
Detergent and Alcohol will not destroy DNA.
DNA can be transferred from article of clothing to another, even in a washing machine. This is called secondary and tertiary transfer.
DNA testing is not 100% accurate.
*My thanks to Dr. Stephanie Smith and Dr. Dan Krane for allowing me to hang out in their labs to take the above photos.
*Thanks, too, to the good folks at crimescenewriter for the idea for this post.
Have you reserved your spot at MurderCon? If not, there’s still time to do. Sign up today to attend this rare hands-on training event!
In the meantime, here’s a peek at the 2019 MurderCon instructors and speakers. The lineup is stellar!
Does your latest tall tale feature a beginning, middle, and end? How about characters, setting, and dialog? Have you been especially creative by inserting lots of sentences composed of various words with various meanings? Do you know the difference between a police chief and a sheriff? Are you aware that the FBI does not typically investigate local murder cases, that it is the duty of local police to solve those crimes?
If you answered yes to each of the above questions, well, you’ve taken a few of the appropriate first steps toward accurately writing about cops, crime, and crooks.
So, you conduct tons of research by visiting online websites and by participating in your local citizen’s police academy, and those are fantastic resources. But, have you considered going the extra mile by spending a bit of extra research time to develop ways to activate the senses of your readers? After all, using the senses is a huge key to the success of showing, not telling. And the use of the senses creates an important emotional connection between the story and the reader.
How does a writer create scenes that ignite a reader’s senses of touch, taste, hearing, smell, and sight? Well, for starters, they should call on past life experiences.
For example, Patricia Cornwall didn’t invent rain, leaves, or playing fields, but she obviously drew on her memories to create the passage below. It’s a simple scene, but it’s a scene I can easily picture in my mind as I read. I hear the rain and I feel the cool dampness of the asphalt, grass, and tile roof. The writing also conjures up images of raindrops slaloming down windowpanes, and rushing water sweeping the streets clean of debris. The splashing and buzzing sound of car tires pushing across water-covered roadways.
“It was raining in Richmond on Friday, June 6. The relentless downpour, which began at dawn, beat the lilies to naked stalks, and blacktop and sidewalks were littered with leaves. There were small rivers in the streets, and newborn ponds on playing fields and lawns. I went to sleep to the sound of water drumming on the slate roof…” ~ Patricia Cornwell, Post Mortem.
Sandra Brown takes us on brief journey through a pasture on a hot day. We know it’s hot because of the insect activity. We also know the heat of the day increases the intensity of the odor of horse manure. And, Brown effectively makes us all want to help Jack watch where he steps.
“Jack crossed the yard and went through a gate, then walked past a large barn and a corral where several horses were eating hay from a trough and whisking flies with their tails. Beyond the corral he opened the gate into a pasture, where he kept on the lookout for cow chips as he moved through the grass.” ~ Sandra Brown, Unspeakable.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture yourself walking into a bar, or restaurant. What do you see? Can you transform those images into a few simple words? How do you choose which words to use? Which words will effectively paint the picture and take the reader with you on your visit to the bar?
Here’s a decent rule of thumb – Write the scene and then remove all of those unnecessary flowery words, especially those that end in “ly.”
Too many “ly” words are often difficult for readers to take in. Besides, they can slow the story and do nothing to further it.
Lee Child is a master when it comes to describing a scene with few words. Here’s a fun exercise. Count the number of times Child uses an “ly” word in the text below. Then consider whether or not you would have used unnecessary “ly” words had you written this scene? Think maybe it’s time to step away from them?
“The bar was a token affair built across the corner of the room. It made a neat sharp triangle about seven or eight feet on a side. It was not really a bar in the sense that anybody was going to sit there and drink anything. It was just a focal point. It was somewhere to keep the liquor bottles. They were crowded three-deep on glass shelves in front of sandblasted mirrors. The register and credit card machine were on the bottom shelf.” ~ Lee Child, Running Blind.
Another example of effectively and masterfully projecting an image into a reader’s mind comes from James Lee Burke. Short. Sweet. And tremendously effective.
“Ida wore a pink skirt and a white blouse with lace on the collar; her arms and the top of her chest were powdered with strawberry freckles.” ~ James Lee Burke, Crusader’s Cross.
Okay, what does all of this have to do with writing about cops, you ask? Well, in the passages above, the authors created a micro world by using a few, but extremely powerful and carefully chosen words. And it’s obvious to the reader that each of the writers called upon their own experiences to write those scenes. They’ve been there and done that, and their imaginations have conjured up memories of things they’ve seen, touched, tasted, heard, and smelled.
Cops live and work in a unique world that’s generally not accessible to the average person, including writers. They experience things that most only read about or see on TV news reports. And that brings us full circle. How can a writer effectively write, and activate a reader’s senses, about something they’ve only read about or heard second and third hand from someone reading to them, word-for-word from a teleprompter?
I think Joseph Wambaugh, one of the best cop-writers of our time, offers a brilliant guideline to follow when writing cops. Wambaugh said, “The best crime stories are not about how cops work on cases. They’re about how cases work on cops.”
Paste Wambaugh’s quote near your computer. Glance it as you write. Keep it in mind while developing law enforcement characters and scenes.
Next, I encourage you to attend local citizen’s police academies and ride-alongs with officers Hang out with cops, interview them, listen to them, watch their mannerisms, etc. Trust me, it’s a world that’s entirely different than the life of someone outside the profession.
Naturally, I highly recommend attending the Writers’ Police Academy. The WPA is an event that’s carefully and meticulously (hmm … I used “ly” words) designed to offer writers the inside experience of what it’s like to be a police officer, investigator, firefighter, EMS personnel, K-9 handler, etc. We do not mix writing craft with hands-on experiences. We feel you can attend any number of excellent writers conferences to soak up that sort of information. Instead, our focus is on providing writers with the best hands-on academy training available anywhere.
We burn things so you can experience the heat and smoke of structure and car fires. We put you, the writer, in positions where you must make the life and death decisions faced by officers. You’ll feel the rush of adrenaline that comes with car chases and shootouts (you’ll participate in both). You’ll see and experience the emotions felt by officers during stressful situations.
We’ve provided the smell of gunpowder and gun oil by teaching writers how to shoot various firearms used by police. They’ve felt the texture, weight, and recoil of an AR-15 as they fired those rifles at the range. We’ve taken writers inside jails and prisons, into the sections that house the worst of the worst inmates, where they experienced the physical sensations of what it’s like to serve time.
At the Writers’ Police Academy, attendees see the flashing police lights, hear the sirens, see and hear helicopters landing. The hear the yells of entry teams (you’re a member of the team, by the way) as they storm a building to search for an armed bad guy. When you attend, you’ll feel your heart thumping against the inside of your chests when you’re placed in situatiosn where you must instantly decide whether or not to use deadly force.
This year we’ve gone far outside the typical WPA box by hosting the 2019 event at the headquarters of Sirchie, “the Global Leader in Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science Solutions. Sirchie provides quality Products, Vehicles, and Training to the global law enforcement and forensic science communities.”
That’s right, we’re taking writers to the source of crime scene investigation technology. It’s a rare opportunity for writers, one that’s not been done before. The focus of the 2019 WPA, called MurderCon, is homicide investigations, with hands-on classes and workshops taught by some of the top instructors in the world.
Hands-on events such as the Writers’ Police Academy, as well as local citizens’ academies and police ride-alongs, combined with using a real-life experience such as the WPA, or walking through a cow-chip-spattered pasture, is what breathes life into a story.
To sum up:
– Use your experiences to activate the senses of your readers. Let them enjoy tasting, touching, seeing, smelling, and hearing the words on each of your pages.
– Attend the Writers’ Police Academy. It’s the gold standard of providing writers with the absolute best hands-on training available. If attending the WPA is not possible, consider participating in a local citizen’s police academy and/or ride-alongs with on-duty police officers.
– Read books by established authors who write about police officers and investigations. See how they do it.
– Take advantage of your personal life experiences to help transform flat text into a vivid 3D picture or painting.
– Avoid the use of too many “ly” words. Editor Jodie Renner addressed this and other problem areas in an article she wrote for Doug Lyle’s blog. Jodie’s article is titled, Style Blunders in Fiction.
– Interview and/or chat with cops. Listen to what they have to say, and watch their mannerisms. Does Officer G. R. Done hitch up his pants each time he stands? Ask him if the habit is due to gravity tugging on the weight of his gun belt? Does his wince when he slides into his car seat? The slight moment of pain could be caused by a bit of skin caught between the bottom of his vest and gun belt. Yes, it happens and it hurts. But you have to watch for the little things and you have to ask. Those sorts of things are second nature to cops, so they won’t think to tell you about them.
– Finally, remember to refer to Joseph Wambaugh’s words of wisdom.
“The best crime stories are not about how cops work on cases. They’re about how cases work on cops.”
There are now additional spots available at the extremely rare and exciting event, MurderCon. You owe it to yourself and to your readers to attend. There’s nothing else like it in the entire world, and there may never be another!
Sign up today at …
We’ve had requests from folks who’re hoping to share hotel rooms at the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy’s exciting new event, MurderCon. If you are interested in doing so, please post your roommate preference (male or female)in the comment section below.
By the way, slots are available to attend MurderCon. We’ve made extra room and, we’ve increased the room block at our event hotel.
Sign up today to attend this rare, one-of-a-kind, hands-on training event taking place at the headquarters of Sirchie, the global leader in crime scene products and technology. This year our sole focus is homicide investigations.
Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop is a nationally recognized behaviorist and expert in deception detection. He spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department where his high-profile Special Assault Units regularly produced the highest number of detective initiated arrests and highest crime clearance rates in the city. Twice selected as LAPD’s Detective of the Year, he currently conducts law enforcement related seminars for city, state, and private agencies. Paul has written numerous scripts for episodic television and is the author of fifteen novels, including the award-winning Lie Catchers and five books in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series.
Q. What’s the most common mistake made in books, movies or TV regarding interview & interrogation techniques?
A. Where to start … They do so much wrong. How about the most egregious and most common misconception- good cop, bad cop. You’ve seen it enacted over and over on every TV cop show ad infinitum. One detective is the out of control violent bad cop while his partner is the sympathetic good cop who is trying to help the suspect. However, the good cop can only control the rabid bad cop if the suspect confesses or gives up whatever information he’s hiding.
This is a straight-up violation of an individual’s 5th Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. Not only would any evidence or admissions obtained through this method be thrown out of court, the cops who participated would themselves be arrested, prosecuted, and sent to jail for civil rights violations.
Q. What is your favorite method of interrogation? What works best for you?
A. Interrogation is a very intimate art, so when you see fictional TV cops, or even real cops on shows like 48 Hours, sitting on the opposite side of the interrogation room table from the suspect, you have to ask how the interaction between the suspect and the detective be construed as intimate.
I’m different, very low key. I rarely raise my voice in an interrogation, but I do vary the tone and intonation of my voice depending on what I’m trying to achieve.
I also rarely conduct interrogations in the classic interrogation room, as the room itself carries so much negative baggage. I’ll chose where to interrogate a suspect (house, work, a park, Starbucks) based on what I’m trying to achieve. If I do use the interrogation room, I have the table removed and I sit directly across from the suspect, operating in the zero to twelve-inch personal zone we reserve for those people we are most intimate with. I have a relatively short period of time to get a suspect to tell me their deepest darkest secrets, things that can get them sent to jail for a very long time. You are not going to tell those things to somebody you aren’t in an intimate relationship with, so I have to establish a believable false intimacy in order to coax out the truth.
Q. Are interrogation methods, such as the Reid Technique, susceptible to eliciting false confessions?
A. While the Reid Technique is an accusatory, confrontational process it isn’t any more prone to eliciting false confessions than any other legal technique. The biggest factor in false confessions is fatigue. In over 90% of cases where false confessions have been obtained, the interrogations have lasted over 10 hours-fatigue sets in on both the interrogator and the subject and mistakes get made. There are however, numerous ways to avoid false confessions and bulletproof your interrogation.
Q. Why is it important that writers learn proper interrogation methods?
A. Because being able to capture the essence of a real interrogation can be a hugely dramatic process that can deepen character, motivation, and story exponentially. Interrogation strips down the facades, and a writer who understands the process and how it works can make the scenes riveting.
Q. Can anyone be trained to be an effective interrogator or are certain inherent personality traits and talents essential for success?
A. I can teach anyone who is interested to be a skilled interrogator. Good interrogators take those skills and apply their own inherent personality in how they use them. Great interrogators, however, have to make a choice, because greatness involves empathy and that is a dark and dangerous path to tread, especially when it leads to the truth.
Q. Are any of the characters in your novels created in your own image?
A. Almost all my main characters have some part of me in them. It’s what I use to bring them alive. In my latest book, Lie Catchers, there is a great deal of me in both interrogators, Ray Pagan and Jane Randall, but there are also those things the characters channel through the creative process.
Q. Given your background, what is the hardest part of authoring a work of fiction?
A. The same as any other writer-putting my butt in the chair every day and coaxing words out of a cold, unfriendly keyboard.
Q. Are there any commonalities between the challenges an interrogator faces and those an author faces?
A. To be successful both involve getting to the truth. The truth is a movable point. It is always about perspective. As an interrogator, I will never get The Truth, but I must try to get as objectively close as I can even if I don’t like it. As a writer, I strive for a different type of truth-I want the truth in a correct sequence of words, I want truth of character and motivations, I want to expose the truth of our world and in our lives through the window of fictional truth. I write fiction. My job is to entertain, but my goal is to make readers think. If a reader can find the truth of themselves and their real-world challenges in my world of fictional truths, hopefully they will come away being both entertained and, perhaps, understanding themselves better.
* Interview conducted by author Linda Lovely, Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon coordinator. LindaLovely.com
‘Truth or Lies: The Art of Interrogation’ to be presented by master interrogator Paul Bishop at …
Do you know the truth when you hear it or see it? Join nationally recognized behaviorist, interrogation expert, and experience LAPD detective Paul Bishop as he guides you into the intimate world of interrogation—where success or failure is determined before the first question is asked.
Understand the psychology of deception; what constitutes a successful interrogation; how an interrogator controls and uses a suspect’s vocal cues and physical gestures to determine truth from lies; how false confessions are avoided; how to build rapport; how interrogators deal with multiple suspects, gang members, and other hardcore suspects. Discover how these techniques can be applied in your everyday life when dealing with salesmen, difficult co-workers, or even family members. Know the ‘truth’ when you hear it and see it—and what to do once you know it.
Sign up today to reserve your spot!
Yeah, well, don’t let those click-bait headlines get your unmentionables all bunched up, because ALL, and I repeat, ALL killings of human beings by other humans are homicides. And certain homicides are absolutely legal.
That’s right, L.E.G.A.L., legal.
Yes, each time prison officials pull the switch, inject “the stuff,” or whatever means they use to execute a condemned prisoner, they commit homicide. All people who kill attackers while saving a loved one from harm have committed homicide. And all cops who kill while defending their lives or the lives of others have committed homicide. These instances are not a crime.
It’s when a death is caused illegally—murder or manslaughter—that makes it a criminal offense.
Murder is an illegal homicide.
For example, in Virginia:
§ 18.2-32. First and second degree murder defined; punishment.
Murder, other than capital murder, by poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, or by any willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or in the commission of, or attempt to commit, arson, rape, forcible sodomy, inanimate or animate object sexual penetration, robbery, burglary or abduction, except as provided in § 18.2-31, is murder of the first degree, punishable as a Class 2 felony.
All murder other than capital murder and murder in the first degree is murder of the second degree and is punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than five nor more than forty years.
Therefore, those seemingly dramatic headlines that read “Shooting By Cop Ruled a Homicide,” well, they’re often nothing more than words used to affect people’s emotions, induce a reaction, or to encourage people to click over to their website, which, by the way, is how many “news” outlets pay the bills.
So please, un-wad those unmentionables and don’t be a victim of media sensationalism.
By the way, how many of you clicked over to this blog because of the headline/blog-post title? Gotcha …
There’s still time to register for this extremely rare opportunity where you will attend the same training offered to top homicide investigators from around the world! This course of instruction is typically for law enforcement eyes only, but the Writers’ Police Academy, in conjunction with Sirchie, the world leader in in Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science Solutions, has made it possible for to attend this, the only event of its kind in the world!
MurderCon takes place at Sirchie’s compound located just outside of Raleigh, N.C.
Please, do your readers a huge favor and sign up today while you still can.
All officers hear it, and it’s most likely said many, many times each and every day all across this great land of ours.
It’s a phrase that’s spoken by the wisest of the wise—the soothsayers of the legal world. The top legal minds of the entire universe..
That famous line is typically delivered in a sing-songish manner. Gently and soothingly. Almost like a lullaby.
I’ve heard it more times than I could possibly begin to count. And, I can still hear those kind, soothing words today, and they are …
“I. Know. My. Rights, you fat pig! You gotta let me go ’cause you didn’t read me my rights! Now take off these cuffs … NOW!!!!”
When is a police officer required to advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings?
I’ll give you a hint, it’s not like we see on television. Surprised?
Television shows often have officers spouting off Miranda warnings the second they have someone in cuffs. Not so. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I chased a suspect, caught him, he resisted, and then we wound up on the ground fighting like street thugs while I struggled to apply handcuffs to his wrists. And yes, words were spoken once I managed to get to my feet, but Miranda wasn’t one of them. Too many letters, if you know what I mean. Words consisting of only four letters seemed to flow quite easily at that point.
When Is Miranda Required?
Two elements must be in place for the Miranda warning requirement to apply. The suspect must be in custody and he must be undergoing interrogation.
Writers, this is an important detail – A suspect is in police custody if he’s under formal arrest or if his freedom has been restrained or denied to the extent that he feels as if he’s no longer free to leave.
The fellow wearing the handcuffs in the photo below is not free to leave. Therefore, should the officer wish to question him he must advise him of his right to remain silent, etc. However, if the officer decides to not ask questions/interrogate, then Miranda is not required.
I’ve arrested criminals, many of them, in fact, and never advised them of their rights. Not ever. And that’s because I didn’t ask them any questions.
Sometimes officers receive a stack of outstanding arrest warrants for a variety of cases and it’s their job that day to go out and round up those folks. Those officers have no clue as to the circumstances of the crime or case details, therefore they’d not know the appropriate questions to ask. All they know is that the boss handed them a pile of warrants and told them to fetch. This, by the way, is often one of the mundane duties assigned to rookie officers, along with directing traffic and writing parking tickets.
So, the warrant-serving officers locate the person named on the warrant and haul them to jail for processing. The officer who had the warrant issued may or may not question the arrested person at a later time. But the arresting officer, the one who played hide and seek with the crook for a few hours on a Monday morning is most likely out of the picture from that point onward. So no questioning = no Miranda.
Interrogation is not only asking questions, but any actions, words, or gestures used by an officer to elicit an incriminating response can be considered as an interrogation.
If these two elements are in place officers must advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings prior to questioning. If not, statements made by the suspect may not be used in court. Doesn’t mean the arrest isn’t good, just that his statements aren’t admissible.
Officers do not have to advise anyone of their rights if they’re not going to ask questions. Defendants are convicted all the time without ever hearing that sing-songy police officer’s poem, You have the right to …
Officers should repeat the Miranda warnings during each period of questioning. For example, during questioning officers decide to take a break for the night. They come back the next day to try again. They must advise the suspect of his rights again before resuming the questioning.
If an officer takes over questioning for another officer, she should repeat the warnings before asking her questions.
If a suspect asks for an attorney, officers may not ask any questions.
If a suspect agrees to answer questions, but decides to stop during the session and asks for an attorney, officers must stop the questioning.
Suspects who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not be questioned. Also, anyone who exhibits signs of withdrawl symptoms should not be questioned.
Officers should not question people who are seriously injured or ill.
People who are extremely upset or hysterical should not be questioned.
Officers may not threaten or make promises to elicit a confession.
Many officers carry a pre-printed Miranda warning card in their wallets. A National Sheriff’s Association membership card (same design and feel of a credit card) has the warnings printed on the reverse side.
Fact: The Miranda warning requirement stemmed from a case involving a man named Ernesto Miranda. Miranda killed a young woman in Arizona and was arrested for the crime. During questioning Miranda confessed to the slaying, but the police had failed to tell him he had the right to silence and that he could have an attorney present during the questioning. Miranda’s confession was ruled inadmissible; however, the court convicted him based on other evidence.
Miranda was released from prison after he served his sentence. Not long after his release he was killed during a bar fight.
His killer was advised of his rights according to the precedent setting case of Miranda v. Arizona. He chose to remain silent.
*Some individual department/location policies requires their officers to advise of Miranda at the point of arrest. However, the law does not require them to do so.
The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to present MurderCon, one of the most exciting opportunities ever made available to writers. In fact, the event is a rare one-of-a-kind event that’s never been offered before and may never be offered again.
MurderCon, presented by the Writers’ Police Academy, is a special hands-on training event for writers of all genres, with a specific focus on solving the crime of murder. It’s a unique juncture of fiction and fact at a major source of modern crime-scene investigation technology, Sirchie.
Attendees receive the same instruction that’s offered to, and attended by, top homicide detectives and investigators from around the world. First-hand experience will provide writers with the tools needed to portray crime scene details realistically, and to share with their readers the experience of what it’s like to investigate a murder.
Yes, MurderCon is a “Killer” event, and you’re invited to attend!
Sign up today! Not a single crime writer should miss this event. It is that important to your work!
Interrogation classes at MurderCon taught by renowned expert, Paul Bishop.
Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop is a nationally recognized behaviorist and expert in deception detection. He spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department where his high profile Special Assault Units regularly produced the highest number of detective initiated arrests and highest crime clearance rates in the city. Twice selected as LAPD’s Detective of the Year, he currently conducts law enforcement related seminars for city, state, and private agencies. Paul has written numerous scripts for episodic television and is the author of fifteen novels, including the award winning Lie Catchers and five books in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series.
* Paul’s appearance at the 2019 MurderCon event is sponsored by bestselling author Kendra Elliot.
The curtain rises on this collection of twisted tales, revealing the words of thriller author Lee Child. Child sets the stage for a series of mysterious and strange goings-on that occur between the hours of midnight and dawn … the graveyard shift.
After Midnighteditor Phoef Sutton guides readers through a riveting collection of stories written by bestselling mystery and crime authors, top television writers, a Nashville music legend, true crime experts and more.
Contributing authors in this first anthology produced by the Writers’ Police Academyinclude bestselling mystery and crime authors, top television writers, true crime experts, and more.
Lucky Cop by RJ Beam
The Brass Ringby Michael A. Black
Sunshine Berkmanby Joseph S Bonsall
Ride Alongby Allison Brennan
The Bookends Murderby Robin Burcell
Gentrified Homicideby Marco Conelli
Prime Rib from Brahmaby Les Edgerton
Justifiable Homicideby Lisa Klink
Rookiesby Howard Lewis
LeishMANIAby Denene Lofland
The Trapper of Macabre Countyby Lee Lofland
Code Murderby Linda Lovely
Baddest Outlawsby Rick McMahan
Shared Secretsby Carrie Stuart Parks
The Case of the Staring Manby Katherine Ramsland
Panther Baitby Mike Roche
Disco Fries and Homicideby Shawn Reilly Simmons
3:45 in the Peacock Room of the Channel Grill on 6th Street
by Phoef Sutton
Hostage (A Love Story)by Cheryl Yeko
With a Foreword by Lee Child
A 3500 to 5000 word short story contest that lands two lucky winners in this traditionally published book. Yes, your story could soon appear alongside those of the popular authors listed above, and with a foreword by #1 internally bestselling author Lee Child. How’s that for exciting! Contest begins now and deadline to submit stories is midnight EST on April 1, 2019.
This could be your one chance in a lifetime to have your writing appear in a traditionally published book with Lee’s Child’s name on its cover. Let that sink in for a minute … and then get busy writing your winning story!
About the Editor
Phoef Sutton is a New York Times Bestselling author and winner of two Emmy Awards for his work on the classic television comedy CHEERS. Phoef also won a Peabody Award for the popular legal drama BOSTON LEGAL starring James Spader, William Shatner, and Candice Bergen. Lately, he’s been writing television movies for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.
The Launch Party
Join the publisher of After Midnight, Level Best Books, and the Writers’ Police Academyto help celebrate the launch of this thrilling new book. Party takes place at the Friday reception at MurderConand books will be available for purchase at the event and by preorder, and later at all the usual book outlets, including Amazon.com.
Countdown to the WPA
The Writers’ Police Academy
Get to Know Lee Lofland
Lee Lofland is a nationally acclaimed expert on police procedure and crime-scene investigation, and is a popular conference, workshop, and motivational speaker.
Lee has consulted for many bestselling authors, television and film writers, and for online magazines. Lee has appeared as an expert on national television, BBC Television, and radio shows.
Lee is the host and founder of the Writers’ Police Academy, an exciting, one-of-a-kind, hands-on event where writers, readers, and fans learn and train at an actual police academy.
To schedule Lee for your event, contact him at email@example.com.