Writing Real Crime. Fiction.

We read crime fiction (or any fiction, for that matter) mostly because it is–fiction. We also kind of wonder how much of this could be true. Especially when the author is (or has been) an actual cop.

Think Joseph Wambaugh. We all know he was an LAPD cop for 14 years. That says something about his perspective and his understanding of the subject matter. And, when we read any of his fiction, tell me you’re not looking for what could be real.

Or Lisa Cutts, a crime fiction writer who is currently a Detective Constable for Kent Police. Bags of street cred there. How much of her D/C Nina Foster is real?

After almost 30 years as a Toronto Police Service copper, I’ve got a pretty good handle on real crime. And real cops.

So, how real are the fictional characters that populate the pages of our novels?

There is an expression in Policing (and, likely, in nursing, lawyering, etc.):

You just can’t make this shit up.

Wambaugh, Cutts, and I have seen so many weird, amazing, unbelievable, and truly awesome things over the course of any given day on the job that, well…you just can’t make this shit up.

And the men and women who make up a platoon or a squad are also their own special snowflakes. They have to be. From experience, I can say that we can’t be exposed to the world of front-line policing day in and day out without it affecting us somehow (we’ll be talking about that in another blog, trust me!).

By now, you’ve read the first chapter of 10-33 Assist PC. You’ve met Detective Constable Mike O’Shea, his partner, D/C Brian ‘Sal’ Salvatore, D/C Amanda Black, D/C Julia Vendramini and her partner. And you are familiar with Police Constable Ron Roberts. Are they based on real cops?

You tell me.

When I wrote the sequel to 10-33 Assist PC, I was still working my ‘day job’ as a Police Detective. I had a group of readers critique the manuscript, many of whom were cops, lawyers, and reporters that I was either working with at that time, or had worked with in the past. They saw parts of themselves here and there, but I certainly didn’t sit down when I was doing my character development for The Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series with any one individual in mind.

So where did these character outlines come from?

As my wife would say,

A little from Column A, and a little from Column B

Which is to say, I have worked with people like Sal. None of them have been my partners, and, thankfully, none of them met his fate, but they have been on my platoon or in a squad I’ve been on. Amanda Black is a composite of the many strong women I’ve worked with, as is Julia Vendramini.

SPOILER ALERT: I have deliberately set out to write very strong, believable women in my books because…well, I’m sure there will be another blog (or two or three) about the portrayal of women in crime fiction.

And Ron Roberts? Everyone knows a Ron Roberts–fastidious, by-the-book, total Rules-and-Regs kind of guy. And yet….

If you’re a copper (or a lawyer, or a reporter, or a doctor, or a paramedic, or a…), why not weigh in on this discussion?

Leave a comment below about your experience of how your profession (or gender or…) has been portrayed in crime fiction.

Is truth really stranger than fiction?

Until next week, I’m 10-7 for shift.

Desmond Ryan – Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction

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