Monday, October 11, 2010

Writers' Police Academy, Part 5

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.

Points made:

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.


GunDiva said...

If anyone wants to read the paper that the panelist was referring to about sheep, wolves and sheepdogs, here's the link:

It's written by Lt. Dave Grossman and is very eye-opening I think.

Anonymous said...

Hi Terry. You're right, I'm actually in N.C. today meeting with officials from the college, the police academy, instructors, and new hotels.

Yep, the 2011 event planning is officially underway. You're also right about bigger and better. Wait till you see what we have lined up for you guys!

Oh, we plan to open registration next month, and it will be on a first come first serve basis.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it's Jonathan Hayes, not Jeffery Hayes. I think you had our keynote speaker (Jeffery Deaver) on your mind when you wrote the article.

Wynter said...

Great info - and some of it very scary indeed.

JournoMich said...

I'm sorry to hear that you were at WPA and I wasn't! Would have been fun to meet you. I was signed up for it but had a last-minute family conflict.

New book sounds great! Congrats!


Terry Odell said...

GD - thanks for the link.
Lee - looking forward to the details (suggest perhaps you impose on your speakers to do repeats so we don't have to wait for cloning technology!) And thanks for the correction on Jonathan's name--my bad. Which is another reason authors should avoid giving characters names which start with the same letter!

Wynter - yep - all SORTS of stuff goes on that we don't know about.

Michele-maybe next time.

Katie Reus said...

Great notes, Terry! Sounds like you got a lot of good info.

Anonymous said...

Good meetings today. Lots of exciting plans. Lots of action. And lots of...well, I'd better stop now before I give away our secrets.

Terry Odell said...

Katie - definitely

Lee - can't wait to see what you've cooked up.

Kathy said...

Terry thank you for sharing your visit to the Writer's Police Academy. It sounds like a really fascinating thing. Unfortunately North Carolina might as well be the moon right now.

Toni Anderson said...

Great wrap up, Terry--especially as I missed much of the panel to go to FATS. not that I'd have swapped that for the world :)