Conflict lies at the heart of every great story but writers often get important details wrong when it comes to criminal investigation. You'll get some great tips from this conversation with Detective Adam Richardson.
I also mention a fantastic audiobook if you're interested in voice tech: Talk to Me: Apple, Google, Amazon, and the Race for Voice-Controlled AI.
If you're interested in Audio for Authors – Podcasting, Audiobooks and Voice Tech, please complete this short questionnaire as I am building a new course and writing a book on this topic and I want it to be super helpful! Just go to www.TheCreativePenn.com/audioq
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Adam Richardson is a California police detective and host of the weekly Writer's Detective Bureau Podcast where he answers questions about criminal investigation and police work posed by crime fiction authors and screenwriters.
- What writers get right (and wrong) about police work
- How police detectives and writers are similar
- Where the line is drawn between police detectives and private investigators
- How different personalities serve different roles in law enforcement
- On the generational differences in law enforcement
- Important points about jurisdiction and how they affect crimes
- Tips for interrogation room scenes
- Movies and books that depict police work accurately
Transcript of Interview with Adam Richardson
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today, I'm here with Adam Richardson. Hi, Adam.
Adam: Hello, thank you so much for having me.
Joanna: Oh, it's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Adam is a California police detective and host of the weekly “Writer's Detective Bureau” podcast where he answers questions about criminal investigation and police work posed by crime fiction authors and screenwriters. Everyone's super excited to have you on the show.
Start by telling us a bit more about your career in law enforcement and also why you wanted to help writers because I'm sure you're busy enough.
Adam: I definitely am. So I've been a cop for the last 23 years or so and 17 of those were spent as detective, everything from property crimes like working burglary and fraud to homicide, sexual assault, and robbery.
And then being emotionally wrenched out after working all the sexual assault crimes, then I went to narcotics, started having fun again, and then into Vice Intelligence Unit that I spent over a decade in and really loved.
I'm also a college faculty member. By being a teacher as well as a cop, when my friends here in Southern California that do screenwriting ask a few questions, it was a little bit of an aha moment to do this as a little side project and try to help as many writers as I can.
Joanna: I know lots of people have questions and I've been listening to your show, the “Writer's Detective Bureau” podcast and I highly recommend people go over there because you answer lots of different questions in detail. So we're going to try and get a few questions in today. I just wanted to direct people over there for a lot more detail.
What are the things that annoy you most? The common things that people or authors particularly get wrong about police work and criminal investigation.
Adam: There are a few things, but I want to start with what writers get right. Writers are phenomenal about observing human behavior. Most people are so busy trying to project their own image and they're so in their head about what they're putting out there.
I think especially the more introverted writers are really good about observing human behavior. They are constantly writing and they're obsessed with the story at hand. And the reason why I think those are great things is because they actually translate really well into what we do as detectives.
I see a very a lot of similarity between writers and detectives. I think at the very least, that paves a great parallel between the two.
The things that writers do that are kind of…I don't want to say they get them wrong so much as it is they fall into the trap of a trope that we see time and time again. And so we just assume that they're the truth.
Like the maverick that breaks all the rules to get the job done. It's like a great detective, or a great cop is somebody who plays by the rules. I mean, literally, law enforcement means enforcing the rules. So to be great at that job, you have to be able to play by the rules, which goes right to search warrants writers.
It's always like, “Is this a favor that they have to ask a judge, or is this something we just…?” You know, it slows down the process in the story to have them go seek a warrant. If you don't get a warrant, you're going to lose that court case later on, you're not going to be able to prove it because you violated that person's rights.
There are some great ways to convey that in a story that are pretty realistic, that are not going to bog down the storyline. Being a great detective means knocking out search warrants day in and day out. You can even do it over the phone, like a three-way phone call with a judge or district attorney and your detective. You lay out the story and you can go forth and conquer.
Those small details are the things that will turn off people that are real big fans of the genre, but you shouldn't view it as a big slog or a bottleneck to the story because you can just pay a little bit of lip service and keep going.
Interrogations, the interrogation scene, especially episodic television, isn't about actually doing an interrogation so much as it is a whole bunch of exposition that the protagonist gives. These are all the things that we've figured out and so I'm summing it up for the audience because I hope you are following along and didn't come back from a bathroom break too late.
To excel with an interrogation scene, which we'll probably talk about a little later, is understanding the why of everybody that's in that room, not just the detective but then also the suspect, or the attorney, or whatever.
And then finally, my last pet peeve is the rank of your characters. We all have this tendency to want to have our hero be the most important person. So they're the Detective Sergeant This or the Detective Lieutenant That or in the UK especially DS So and So or DCI So and So, a Detective Sergeant or a Detective Chief Inspector.
Those are supervisory positions. If you're a Detective Sergeant, your real job is you're running a group of somewhere between three and seven detectives. You're approving overtime. Obviously, you are honestly kind of in charge over to a certain extent the investigation but it's really the detective that is one that's responsible and the one doing all the legwork.
When we're talking about a Detective Lieutenant or a DCI, I mean, they're almost middle management. If you picture somebody obsessed about the overtime stats and spreadsheets, that is a lot of time the reality of their day-to-day job.
They may actually be the ranking person in the unit, but a lot of their work is going to be administrative, not necessarily the ones that are actually in the interview rooms or at the crime scenes. For major crimes, they will go to the crime scenes, but they aren't necessarily the ones doing all of the work.
So with all of that said, these details I know make it really, really daunting for a writer because to write fiction, the great thing about fiction is you can make up everything, but when you start talking about crime fiction, there's this other set of rules that are pretty foreign, potentially, and you don't want to let down an audience.
A lot of people are really reluctant to get into the genre. But if there's anything you take away from this episode of the podcast, it's that there's a support network out there of cops and lawyers and other writers and cops turned writers. We want to see you succeed and we're out there to really help you and to do it for free.
Joanna: It's so funny you say that because I did “A Day at the FBI” in New York as part of ThrillerFest and they were so great. There were a few stereotypes there obviously, the guys in the suits and stuff, but it was lovely because they said the same thing.
They were like, “We really want you writers to write the best most correct type of story possible, so we really want to help, so do ask.”
I want to come back also on the police procedural thing, because I thought I was going to write crime thrillers and I wrote one “Desecration” and then I realized that police procedural is super hard because of all these reasons. So I then had my detective leave and become a private investigator because of the maverick trope. I wanted her to be a rebel.
Where's the line between a private investigator and a cop?
Adam: That's actually quite common. And a lot of times, it's because the writer is investigating that whole field, that whole career alongside their private investigator or protagonist.
Many real PIs are former cops. There are a lot that aren't, but it's similar in the sense that they're working in investigation and simply put, there's a lot in a former assignment I worked in intelligence work. And so a lot of the time, it was, well, what is intelligence or what is…? Everyone knows what an investigation is.
So first is understanding what your goal is. And this goes back to the private eye thing as well as the police thing. And investigation is we're standing here on our timeline, and I'm looking backward into the past and trying to figure out what happened.
I'm looking at the evidence. I'm talking to witnesses. I'm piecing together this puzzle of what happened in the past, that's really all that I'm doing, and I'm plotting it on a timeline.
Intelligence is the exact same thing only we're looking at the future, we're looking at evidence, we're looking at what people saw, all those things to try to predict what's going to happen. So it's really the difference on the timeline of which way you're facing.
A Private Investigator, you're doing the same thing, but it is for a client as opposed to the police. So it may be the client might be a spouse who thinks that their partner is cheating, which is pretty common, or it could be defense attorney that is hiring, essentially, the equivalent of a law enforcement detective to try to find evidence to exonerate their client.
It's the same concept of looking backward on a timeline and piecing things together, it's just who you're doing it for.
Joanna: Coming back to the kind of trope of the cop character. We've had the maverick, and of course, you worked in narcotics and everyone's got the trope of the bad narcotics cop with the drugs in the boot of the car, taking all the money from the drug kingpin, whatever. Another trope.
How do we make our cop characters richer and more three-dimensional without making them alcoholics or dirty cops?
Adam: Alcoholism, PTSD, divorce, blown out vertebrae. I like to think that you're a rookie until you have one of these, two of them make you a detective.
Joanna: Wait. What is the blown out vertebrae? Where does that come from?
Adam: We wear those big heavy gun belts. If you wear that for 30 years, you're going to end up with some sort of spinal damage or you're wearing a helmet or something.
Joanna: Oh no, that's awful.
Adam: Exactly. So bad backs divorce, PTSD, and alcoholism. You're a rookie until you have at least one, you're a detective if you have two, three makes you a veteran, and then four is a cliché.
What it comes down to is that in reality, cops come in all shapes and sizes, ethnicities, gender identities, they're real people and we all have different strengths and interests and personalities. To use a sports metaphor, our heroes want to be the captain of the team, but in reality, all of those positions on the team need to be played.
So the way to write more rich characters would be to just as a writing exercise. Wherever you are right now listening to this podcast, if you're sitting across from you on a bus or a train right now or you're in a coffee shop or stuck in traffic and the next car over, look at the person nearest you and start thinking about what kind of cop would they be?
What assignment based on just the broad strokes that you're…and not stereotyping, but just, this person could never be a cop. Or could they be the most effective cop you've ever seen because you don't assume that they're a cop?
So then start thinking about, what kind of assignment would they work? Do they like their job, and are they good at it? What makes them good at it? Or if they don't like their job or they're not necessarily excelling, what other position could you move them to?
That's where the conflict would come from finding that perfect fit. I was talking about how I spent a decade in one specific position, it was after three or four different detective assignments where it was like I found what I love to do.
If you're really into science, you're obviously going to have a better time, and you're a left brain thinker and you're analytical and you may have some more of the real detail-oriented tendencies, you may not excel in a detective role as a narcotics officer because you're constantly on the run, you're dealing with nasty scenes because drug users and drug dealers tend not to live in the nicest communities or at least have the best housekeeping tendencies.
But you may be great as somebody in forensics or somebody that is working financial crimes where you're literally doing, you know, accounting or forensic auditing.
If you were to think about the types of people that would excel at these different positions, you can create pretty rich characters, but then challenge yourself.
Don't fall for the trope, think of what would be the most outlandish or the most, hmm, that's kind of interesting kind of position. And then just take the people around you that you observe and plop them down into a police career and see where that little writing exercise takes you.
Joanna: As you were talking there, I thought, okay, so who's done that? And then I thought “Lincoln Rhyme” by Jeffery Deaver is a black quadriplegic cop. I don't know if Jeff just did that, like you said, and went, “Who is the least likely person to be a cop?” And of course, he's a brilliant cop.
That's really interesting. Then I was thinking about the generational differences, because as we discussed before this, you and I are about the same age, Generation X. So we didn't have the internet when we were growing up.
Cybercrime was not really something that was necessarily around 25 years ago, but now you've got boomers who are presumably most senior people in the police force, and then you've got millennials who are coming in and younger people who are just brought up on tech.
What are some of the issues or some of the conflicts that might occur between a boomer character and a millennial character that might manifest?
Adam: In law enforcement, we tend to retire earlier just because we tend not to live as long working, or at least I shouldn't say live as long. We don't live as long post-retirement. But I mean, it is definitely a younger person's sport, if you will, when it comes to being effective out on the street.
Obviously, the higher up in rank where you're not in foot pursuits and that kind of stuff, it's easier to be a little on the older side. But at least from what I've seen in California, being in between the boomers and the millennials was one of the biggest defining moments was the Rodney King incident.
When Rodney King happened, I was still in high school. And then when the trial and the riots happened, I was in college. And so I came out of school and into law enforcement just as this big shift happened where it was not the old school.
There was this expectation for a new type of policing, community-oriented policing that was about getting out of your car and talking to people and making real connections, not just being the guy that showed up and beat somebody over the head with a baton.
I'm in the in-between group between the one extreme of the old school cop that didn't have time to do any kind of peacemaking stuff. And then on the younger side, because of not just Rodney King, but Ferguson and all of the other things where the negative side of policing really came to light when it came to modern media and social media.
We now have a generation of cops that are…well, first of all, I don't believe in the millennial stereotype. They are some of the hardest working people that I've seen. More so than a lot of the people that I've worked with my age and older.
But there is also being so plugged in, there is also a concern about overstepping their bounds. So they may be less likely to do what they need to do to end the situation. So that means they may be reliant upon the tech that's on their belt like a taser, or something that is going to solve the problem for them rather than actually being comfortable going hands-on with the person and putting them in handcuffs.
You don't get into an argument with a person after you've told them two or three times. After that, it's time to do your job, not continue to argue, not avoid the conflict.
So that's one of the little things but there's definitely a disconnect between the two generations, but we're getting to the point now where those Gen X officers are now becoming the bosses and the baby boomers are in retirement. There's still a few hanging on.
The millennials are definitely harder working. A lot of times, they have more education, but then they also may be too much in their head to put all the thinking aside and actually do what needs to get done.
That is a very broad stroke, and every person is different. We have a lot of millennials that are coming back from the military that have seen atrocities that I've never seen. It's another opportunity for you to create a great character and explore that and see what their take on the world is.
Joanna: I keep bringing it back to conflict because another kind of trope is the cop versus the criminal whereas actually, there's a lot more layers of potential conflict even within law enforcement itself or even internal conflict with again, the dirty cop taking the drug money is one thing.
But one thing that millennials, I think, have brought into play as well is that they do think differently about some issues and presumably, a lot of the laws. For example, and again, this is not a political show, but an example of a law, say, your immigration policy in your southern states where law enforcement were doing things that some people didn't agree with. Let's just phrase it like that.
If a law enforcement officer does not agree with the law, is that an internal conflict that they can ever resolve, or do they just get on and do the job?
Adam: Or they decide not to do the job anymore. Find another agency to work for.
It goes back to the conversation before where I was talking about finding the right fit, where we were talking about a job assignment, but the same thing goes with your agency. I certainly have my own thoughts and opinions on what's going on at the border and the level of compassion that we're currently showing versus what I think should be done.
It's tough to say and if you're right in the middle of it, and it is something that is such an internal conflict, that will be the time where you either need to do something to change that at the operational level or you need to remove yourself from it, like change something internally with you. So yes, there's constant internal conflict.
Crimes are broken down, not to throw some Latin out there, but essentially, crimes are either mala in se, which means they're bad in their body, in the way that they are or they're mala prohibita, which is they're a crime because we said they're a crime.
So marijuana possession. There's nothing inherently evil about possessing marijuana, it's just we decided that that's something that we want to write a law about or not write a law about, or remove the law versus something where we would all agree that murder or taking something that belongs to somebody else, that is just inherently wrong.
If you are in a position where you're having to enforce a law that you may not agree with, it's more often a mala prohibita crime than it is something that is a mala in se crime.
In most of the stories that we're drawn to tend to be ones that are more on that mala in se, that visceral feeling of, is there a moral worth to the story that we're embarking on? And it could be that you're trying to right the wrongs from within the agency, which is definitely a David and Goliath battle. But yes, internal conflict is real.
And obviously, law enforcement, when you go to a courtroom, it is the people of the state of California against so and so. Just in the title, it's off, it is conflict and conflict drive story. So that's the reason why it is such a popular thing for sure.
But anytime you explore something on a deeper level, with that internal conflict, what's the right thing to do, and why did the character take that path? I think that's really interesting.
Joanna: You're right. And I think this conflict idea is so important. And again, as you say, why it's so popular a genre to read. In Britain, I think crime fiction is probably our number one genre. And true crime in America I think is huge. It's just massive, these books.
But again, another layer of conflict and something I'm thinking about. Obviously, I'm in the UK, you're in the U.S. At ThrillerFest, I'm often asked: “Is it true that your cops don't carry guns?” I'm like, “Well, most of them don't, some of them do now,” but there are these fundamental differences in jurisdictions.
You just mentioned marijuana. I was in Amsterdam last week and…
Adam: It's part of the culture.
Joanna: It's part of the culture, it's a non-issue. It's not illegal.
I have an idea. I've mentioned this before on the show, but some murders on a boat. I'm not going to get more detailed than that. But you do have a really interesting episode on your podcast about murders on a boat.
I wondered if we could talk about international issues because it would seem to me in this kind of global world we're in where we can all fly around the place.
What happens when there are international murders, either in international waters or between states where you have to negotiate with different people to get things done?
Adam: That is a great question. One thing a lot of writers don't necessarily realize is that jurisdiction can often extend beyond the physical borders of the country.
For instance, in the United States, we have federal laws that prohibit certain actions done by American citizens anywhere in the world. So like the sex tourism where an American male goes over to the Asian Pacific, and they start engaging in all sorts of in vile disgusting things, even though they may be in another country, the fact that they're an American citizen makes it a crime in American court. So, obviously, there has to be some sort of international working going on.
For the U.S., the FBI has a position that they call a legal attaché, and they abbreviate it or shorten it as legat. As a special agent for the FBI, you can get assigned to London, or you could get assigned to Thailand or whatever and you're working out of a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
Your role is to liaise with local law enforcement. So in that case, if you had an American citizen leave California or New York and go over to somewhere in the Asian Pacific and commit that crime, an FBI agent would be involved in getting you arrested locally there and then extradited back to the United States.
The other time that we will see that on the international scale using the FBI at the local level, since I'm a local detective, not an FBI agent, is if I have a murder here in California, and I think that that suspect fled overseas somewhere, even though it's just a state crime of murder, I will go to the FBI and they will write an arrest warrant that's international called an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
They will take that unlawful flight warrant and essentially flag it in the Interpol system. So one thing to understand about Interpol, which is the International Criminal Police Organization, they're not like a police body that goes out and arrests people. They're kind of like the UN.
They're headquartered in Lyon, France, but they're bridging cooperation between police agencies from around the world, and they try to do so as neutral as they can, like avoiding politics and all the other diplomatic stuff.
So if a foreign country that needs access to somebody that's here, you try to bridge those gaps using those kinds of diplomatic ties at the police level as opposed to the actual diplomacy stuff. So it can be pretty interesting.
And for the UK, I would imagine that whether it's the Met or the National Crime Agency, somebody, I would imagine, has a similar program where they have British law enforcement agencies around the world to handle the police interests of the UK abroad. I don't know that for sure, but that's certainly something that writers could research to find out, if you have this transnational or international kind of crime spree, who would really be the players involved?
Joanna: Fantastic. And just coming back to the boat, from my research:
I understand that there are places on the high seas as such that are not anyone's jurisdiction. What would happen in that instance?
Adam: You would fall under the jurisdiction of where the ship was registered. So if you are on an American cruise liner that's somewhere way out in the Pacific or way out in the Atlantic, you could potentially fall under the jurisdiction of whatever flag that that ship is sailing under.
Or it could be under the laws of either the nationality of the suspect or of the victim, it really kind of depends. But I would imagine that all of the potential legal jurisdictions involved may end up getting together and kind of hashing it out as to where it's going to go.
More often than not, when you have those kinds of in-between scenarios, you're going to get more players involved rather than fewer players involved.
Joanna: That could be more painful as opposed to less painful.
Adam: Exactly. Let's say you won the lottery and you have a ship and you decide you're not going to register your ship with any country, I'm not going to fly under a flag so that way I'm not beholden to these countries, the problem then becomes that any country that if you're in their waters or near their…
Joanna: Yeah, you don't want that.
Adam: We don't know who you are so we can board you. So you bring on more trouble than it's worth.
Joanna: That's good to know. And it's funny because of course I didn't want to give away my ideas, and everyone's got their ideas. But what I love about your podcast is you're talking about things which can give you ideas and this kind of reverse design is what you talk about.
I'm a discovery writer, as in I'm a pantser. I prefer discovery writer. So I don't tend to know necessarily what's going to happen. When I wrote that crime novel, “Desecration,” I didn't know who was going to do it.
But obviously, if you're helping screenwriters, and to be fair, the best crime novels are highly plotted. Jeffery Deaver as mentioned writes 200 pages of plot before he writes his book.
How do you do this story timeline if you were advising writer's rooms on this plotting idea?
Adam: Well, first, I have nothing against pantser or discovery writers. It's a great way to roll through your first draft to see where your creation's going to go. But ultimately, you're going to get stuck, you're going to get to a point where you've written yourself into a corner.
And you're like, “Oh, man, how am I going to get out of this?” And it's one of those things where…this is one of the common scenarios where there is a script and process where a writer's room has all these things that they want, these scenes that they want to have happen, but then they don't know how to get from A to B.
And a lot of times, it's a lot easier, kind of like when you were a kid and you were doing the maze puzzle, it's easier to start at the end and work your way back because the branches that go off in a million directions don't look the same when you're in reverse. So you're reverse engineering the story of, so I will start with what do you want the end to be? Do you want the bad guy to get away or do you want him to be caught?
Okay, you want him to be caught, but not until this point. Okay, so we want it later in the story than what would normally happen in a typical investigation. We need the interrogation scene to be one where he's not in jail, or they don't know if he's done it yet.
Reverse engineering the story can be a smart way to make those logical leaps where you've changed the mindset on how you're rolling through the story. And I think we underestimate the significance of working backward in our thinking. This actually goes to the way we tell lies and try to cover them up.
One of the techniques that we'll use for interview and interrogation is I'm going to ask you to tell me what happened, start this morning, work all the way through until you came to the interview room right now. And you're going to tell me your story.
A lot of it's going to be a lie, a lot of it's going to be the truth, depends. But when I ask you to then tell me that story again, but start now and work backward, your brain isn't thinking that way. And so if you're fabricating something, it's going to be really hard to get everything in order.
But if you're recalling what you did in order of like, “Well, I was here and before that, I was at my mom's house. And before that, I…” It's easy to recall stuff. But if you're fabricating in reverse, your brain has a hard time wrapping the process that way.
So similarly, if you're trying to create the story backward when you're…I mean, you're not sitting in an interview room with a cop asking you all of these questions, but it gives your brain the chance to stop and reset and think about, okay, what order did this happen and where did these little threads go? So that's just one of the techniques.
Joanna: It's so interesting because I think the plotting the threads. So when you talk about timelines, I mean, again, in everyone's mind, there's the whiteboard at the police station with the kind of the lines on it and the pictures and things.
Is that how you do it, or how would you recommend doing that?
Adam: Well, I've never been issued a ball of yarn to plot out that scene.
Joanna: Why not?
Adam: No. Yes, we do. I will have a dry erase board. I'll occupy a conference room where we've got dry erase boards on the wall. And as we encounter new witnesses or suspects or people, those pictures will go up there.
But really, and this is the importance of creating an omniscient timeline as a writer for everything. And what I mean by omniscient timeline is knowing where all of your characters were at what time and what they were doing, where they were, and when those timelines intersect, that's where you're going to have your inciting incident or your interrogation.
That's where the conflicts happen, is when those timelines weave. But the reason why a timeline is so important is because that is the true why of your detective.
When we first talked about investigations, I'm looking down that timeline into the past of trying to plot out, when did this happen? When did that happen? And that's where I'm piecing together the truth. So when I go into that interrogation, again, it's not exposition, it's I'm trying to lock my suspect into a story.
He may lie to me, he may tell me the truth, he may do both in the interview, but whatever he says, that's memorialized on that timeline of, “You said you were here and now regardless of whether or not it's true or not, I'm going to see whether that's true. I'm going to find other ways to determine if you told me the truth for this. And if it looks like you're a liar, that's not going to play out well for the jury.”
Now, this is where you can, as a writer, can create red herrings where if I'm in this interview, and I'm interviewing a witness, and I'm getting this lie, and I don't lie, you may get your reader to believe that this is a culprit because they're lying to the cop.
But going back to the why question, what is the why of the suspect? Well, he may not be the guilty party, but he may be trying to hide something else. “I didn't commit the murder, but I don't want my wife to find out that I was with somebody that I wasn't supposed to be. So I'm lying to you right now because I know she's going to find out if I say anything.”
That's where you can create those red herrings that are important to telling mysteries especially, but understanding that the goal of an investigation is to plot every single thing they can onto a timeline. You really need to do that yourself as the author in order to paint that full picture.
Like if you know that back in 1982, your suspect was driving an orange Ford Pinto, you plotted that out, that may be something you can reveal as a clue early on in a cold case story and then have it revealed from there on. So once you plot out that whole timeline, then you can start playing around with the story as far as what you're going to reveal and when.
Joanna: And I was just thinking then with the lies and you mentioned earlier about an interrogation room dialogue shouldn't be the cop telling everything that's happened. It should actually be a whole load of lies and subtext with pretty much the cops not saying, “This is what happened.”
Is that right?
Adam: I tend not to ask a question unless I already know the answer, and I'm giving him a chance to either tell the truth, where I'm assessing his truth-telling nature or he's outright lying to me and I know I'm on the right path.
We can end up getting kind of astray by focusing on the lie and not really thinking about why. Earlier, we talked about the tropes. There's one other trope that drives me nuts and that is when the detectives walk into a crime scene. They're looking at the body and whether or not they're actually in the crime scene or not, but they automatically have these answers to what happened.
There's somebody on scene who's like, “Oh, this happened and they did this and this,” or they pantomime all of the scene of what happened. This is the first 10 minutes you're in a crime scene. If you commit to a story and a narrative in your head, the rest of the investigation is going to be tainted by a confirmation bias.
Eoes this evidence support my working theory of how things work? And if it doesn't, then I'm going to discount it. Where in reality, we need that evidence to just empirically stand for itself and then we can make inferences from it later, not walk into this crime and just automatically assume we know everything which TV cop shows love to do. And we want our character to be right.
And some of the best do it. I mean, one of my favorite movies was “Heat” but Al Pacino who is a Detective Lieutenant, not a Detective, again the rank thing, is standing over a bunch of dead bodies at a crime scene and saying, “These are who these guys are. This is what all this means.”
It's just like, “Well, that's pretty cool for the viewer to see but maybe we need to infer some of that and take a step back and not just assume we know everything.”
Joanna: We're almost out of time, but is “Se7en” a good cop movie?
Adam: I love “Se7en.”
Joanna: Me too.
Adam: I absolutely love “Se7en.”And I love David Fincher as the director. Yes, it is.
I'd like to think I'm more of Detective Somerset, Morgan Freeman's character, than Brad Pitt's character but no, that was a fantastic movie. And in fact, I saw a week…like walked into theatre not knowing anything about it a week after I'd seen “Usual Suspects.” I had this mind blowing experience of finding out the ending, so doubled down.
But yeah, I love that movie. And then the other ones, just if you're going to do your own kind of research, “The Wire” on HBO was one of my favorites and one of the most realistic cop shows. And then currently right now, “Bosch” on Amazon. And more importantly, Michael Connelly's books.
If you go back, like a lot of times, the writers really want to have believable scenes and dialogue and not feel like it's a bunch of exposition. Read the last two or three books of Michael Connelly's, read them the first time for the journey and then just buying it, but then the second time you go through, start dissecting it as an author, start looking at the scenes that he includes, and it seems so seamless.
Two characters are riding in the car, they're going from a crime scene to a crime lab. Does he need that scene? Well, the reason the scene's there is because the conversation is moving that story forward. And if it didn't do that, you didn't need the scene. He's a real master of that craft. If you want a masterclass in telling a detective story, he's definitely the best at it.
Joanna: I think he's the showrunner or he's very involved with the actual TV series.
Adam: Exactly. That's one of the benefits of working for Amazon, I guess, on the studio side, not to go on to the whole other conversation.
Joanna: Not a political show. But no, this is fantastic. I could talk to you forever, but of course, that is why your podcast is available.
There might be a book coming, right?
Adam: I've been working on a book for about the last year and a half. And then hopefully by the time this podcast airs, it should be up for presale. It's called The Writers Detective Handbook.
And then another great resource that I want to mention real quick is Patrick J. O'Donnell's book called Cops and Writers. It will be out soon. He is a sergeant with a major metropolitan police department in the Midwest, but he's also hosting a police procedural panel at 20 Books Vegas.
He's asked me to be on it and we've got Jennifer Sorvino, who's a defense attorney, we're going to have this whole panel of basically doing the same kind of discussion with the people that are attending 20 Books Vegas. So if you're listening and going to that, please be sure to show up, that'd be awesome.
Joanna: That's November 2019?
Joanna: Right. So time sensitive, but whenever people are listening, The Writer's Detective Handbook will be out.
Where can people find your website and your podcast and you also have a fantastic newsletter as well. Tell us where we can find these things.
Adam: The podcast is called “Writer's Detective Bureau” and the easiest way is for your listeners is to start on my website, just writersdetective.com/podcast. That way they can hear a little trailer of the podcast to see if it's something they want to listen to, and it's also the way that they can send in a question for me to answer on the air.
And if you get selected, then I also plug your author page or website or whatever you want.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, that was brilliant, Adam. Thanks so much for your time.
Adam: Thank you so much for having me. It's been fun.