What I'm reading: Crossfire, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Promo note – WHEN DANGER CALLS is now available at the Kindle Store. It's $2.99. Of course, if you want an autographed hard copy (great for gifts) you can still get them either through the regular Amazon store or via my website.
Back to the Writers' Police Academy
Dr. Jonathan Hayes was the featured afternoon speaker (again, right before dinner) and he elaborated on his earlier talk. This time, he focused on points which we authors can use to get things right in our books.
(Note: you might not want to be reading this over breakfast)
On an unidentified body, for ID purposes, he will take chest and dental xrays which can be saved. He'll also take fingerprints. DNA is both time consuming and expensive.
He gave us some nice 'time of death' information, some of which I've already made use of in my current WIP.
Given an ambient temperature of 72 degrees, body temperature will drop 1 to 1½ degrees and hour. It takes about 3-4 hours to notice discoloration. Lividity is best used to determine if a body has been moved.
Rigor Mortis is a result of the coagulation of muscle protein. It's first detected about 3-6 hours after death, is full at 6-12 hours, and passes 18-36 hours after death. Basically, if a body is warm and limp, time of death is under 3 hours. Warm and stiff: 3-8 hours. Cold and stiff: 8-36 hours. Cold and limp: over 36 hours.
Our dinner keynote speaker was author Jeffrey Deaver. He entertained us with stories about his decision to become a writer, and the painful path to publication. He left us with three pieces of advice:
1. Write what you enjoy reading.
2. Rejection is a speed bump, not a brick wall.
3. (attributed to Mickey Spillane) "People don't read books to get to the middle."
Readers want living, breathing characters.
On Sunday, Lee arranged a panel discussion which included the county Sheriff, an ATF agent, a retired CHP officer, a retired police officer, a microbiologist, a forensic pathologist, and a forensic psychologist.
Training for law enforcement in 1973 was 3 weeks. Now it's 640 hours in North Carolina. There's a need for more cyber-cops. The criminals are always on the leading edge, and the cops are playing catch up. Back 'in the day' cops dealt with "Felonious Mopery" with "Attitude Adjustments" (which often entailed a whack on the head with their flashlights).
Our microbiologist gave us her definition of VIP. To those in her field, it means "Vial in Pocket" because it's very easy to take a very small amount of a biohazard, dissolve it in less than 3 ounces of water (the limit one can carry on a plane) and simply put it in one's pocket. Scary, yes?
Our ATF agent (also a writer) said his pet peeve is writers who use the "FBI comes in and takes over the case" scenario. In real life, that doesn't happen. First of all, the FBI simply doesn't have the manpower, nor are they familiar with the details the way the local cops are. The locals are the ones who know who's who. In reality, more often than not, there's a partnership, and the FBI are more than happy to assist, but not run the show. Especially since rape, robbery and homicide are NOT federal crimes, so they have no jurisdiction anyway. Right now, they're too busy with terrorism.
Another tidbit. The average shooting scene takes between 7 and 44 seconds to play out. Those who took the FATS training gained a real appreciation of the pressure on law enforcement.
One of the panelists likened the population as being made up primarily of sheep. There are always some wolves around, and he sees cops as the sheep dogs, protecting the flock.
All in all, the Writers' Police Academy was a fantastic bang for the buck, and I'm already thinking about next year. Lee Lofland's already discussing an improved version, although there really wasn't anything not to love about this one.
Tomorrow, my guest is author Gerrie Ferris Finger. Her topic: Words and Places. Be sure you stop by and give her a warm welcome.