Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Police Procedure & Investigation - A Must-Read Handbook for Mystery Writers


This book is part of the
Writer's Digest Howdunit
Series.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve joined Sisters in Crime and the local chapter, Capitol Crimes. The local chapter meets monthly, and each month guest speakers share their expertise in either writing mysteries or being connected in some way to concerns of the mystery writer. One such concern is always whether a writer is presenting crime scenes or police procedures that are accurate. Last month we were fortunate to have Lee Lofland, the author of Police Procedure & Investigation, as our guest speaker, and he addressed those very concerns. 

Lee Lofland is a former police detective, and the bad news is that much of what you see on your favorite crime show is misleading and/or inaccurate. His book, on the other hand, is a very thorough coverage of everything an author would want to ask their local police department. Blurbs by best-selling mystery writers (including two of my favorites, Rhys Bowen and Hallie Ephron) give his book high praise, and I was pleased to find that the writing – entertaining and sobering by turns – is always a good read. He presents facts that you really want to know in a way that don’t make your eyes glaze over. A few examples:
The difference between police officers and detectives; how they’re trained; what they do.  
Arrest and search procedures.
The differences between homicide, murder, and manslaughter.
The difference between a crime scene and the scene of the crime.
DNA and fingerprinting
What can send you to prison and what can send you to jail.
A section on different drugs and the effects of each one.
Differences in weapons (with photos) and how they work

The book’s appendices include a glossary of terms, police 10 codes, a drug quantity table, and a federal sentencing table. It isn’t necessary to read this book straight through, chapter by chapter. There’s a thorough index that helps when you just want to look up something useful at that moment in your writing, along with good visual aids (charts, diagrams, photos of tools, etc.) throughout the book. This is a must read for any mystery writer who wants their police procedural scenes to ring with accuracy.

Lee also shared with us the Writers’ Police Academy, held in August in Appleton, Wisconsin. Yes, there really is such a thing. You can register now and have hands on experiences that will enhance your scenes. For more information about what is covered, check out their website HERE  .

Lee’s book is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon HERE .

You can contact the Lee Lowland at his website, The Graveyard Shift, HERE, and learn even more about police work to enrich your mysteries from his frequent blog posts.  
The author and friendly officer.

A must have book.

20 comments:

Lydia Kang said...

What a great resource for mystery writers! I wonder if there's such a thing in my town. :)

L.G. Smith said...

Oh, fantastic. I wish more writers of television shows would check out his book. :P

Yeah, I spent three years working as a deputy sheriff in a jail. I know all about that side of the arrest, so I notice when shows get it wrong, which is all the time.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Wow, with your background, you must really appreciate his advice. Do you ever write mysteries? Your experience would be so helpful.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Lydia, I'm thinking you must be referring to the police academy. We don't have one in Sacramento, either. It's a shame the event is so far away. But his book is the next best thing.

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

I've been waiting for such a book all my life!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Tanya, yes, I was so glad to hear about this and get a copy. It's not very expensive either. You really get a lot for your money.

Rosi said...

Thanks for telling me about this. I will definitely be buying a copy. This is something every writer of any kind of police-related scenes should have. I wish I had seen his talk.

Kenda Turner said...

Sounds like a great resource--thanks for sharing! Even though my research needs don't go in this direction, I'm glad to know it's there just in case... :-)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Rosi, you should join Sisters in Crime. We get some good speakers and learn so much that's relevant to mystery writing.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Kenda, yes, some of these resources come in handy down the road. You never know what you might write next. thanks for stopping by.

Rachna Chhabria said...

What a great resource for mystery writers. I wish there was something like this in my city as I am planning to write a mystery.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Rachna, yes, the SiC organization seems to be only in the US, although there are mystery writer organizations in England, too. But The book would be useful -- although, if your mystery is based in India, you'd still have to check with police departments there, as their procedures may be different.

Mark Noce said...

Nice! My good friend is a cop, so I usually just listen to his thoughts about the daily grind, but this is a good resource:)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Mark, yes it is a good resource, although it sounds like you have a good resource already.

Editors At Work said...

Sounds interesting and intriguing! Great for research.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Editors, yes. I real must for research if you are writing mysteries or crime fiction.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Wow! I could have used this book three years ago when I was writing a middle-grade mystery. Thanks for telling us about this, Elizabeth.

Carol Riggs said...

Wow, that sounds like a really great resource!! Not just for crime or mystery writers, either. :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Joanne, thanks for stopping by. Was this a stand-alone mystery, or part of a series? You still might find his book useful.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Carol, I agree, it's useful to know how things work even when writing a book that isn't necessarily a mystery or thriller.