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October 24, 2010

Four cops, Two paramedics, One Mystery Writer

by Vicki Delany

Vicki Delany - cropped

(a note from Louise Penny.  I asked Vicki to join us today because she's not only a fabulous writer, she's hilarious - and kind.  Two great qualities, in my book.  She's published by Poisoned Pen and her latest is a Constable Molly Smith novel called NEGATIVE IMAGE)

Negative Image

 

Four cops, two paramedics, one mystery writer - 

 

That's how many people it took to wake one man up to go to work. 

After I’d published two novels of standalone suspense with Poisoned Pen Press my editor, Barbara Peters, and I decided it was time to try a series.  I knew right away that I wanted to write the type of series I like most to read: the traditional British-type police procedurals. 

But first, I had one problem: I have no experience in law enforcement whatsoever.  I used to be a systems analyst at a bank. Not a lot of gun battles or drunk-and-disorderlies in that job. We didn’t even have a jail in the office basement. 

I knew that if I was to create a reasonably realistic police series I would need some help. 

I’ve been very lucky and there are now four novels in the Constable Molly Smith series set in the fictional town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, Canada. 

 Everywhere I’ve been I’ve found police officers to be more than helpful in talking to me about the ins and outs of their job.  I have a detective constable who enjoys answering all my questions and will look things up, or ask the department lawyer, if he doesn’t know the answer to any one of them.  I’ve toured police stations, met many officers, been out on ride-alongs and walk-alongs, talked to the dog handler and met his dog, been to watch in-service training, been to the firearms training course (where they didn’t let me touch a weapon, you’ll be pleased to hear). 

I’ve had some really boring nights too.  As I try to explain when the nice officer assigned to take me out apologizes because nothing at all happened, if I want to see a gun battle or a bank robbery in progress, I’ll watch TV.  It’s the everyday details of the ordinary cop’s job that I’m interested in seeing first hand, that I want to give veracity to the books. The protagonist of the Constable Molly Smith series is young, green, a bit naïve.  When the series begins, in In the Shadow of the Glacier, she is still on probation.  She walks the beat on a Saturday afternoon, attends fender-benders, throws drunks into the drunk tank, tells people to empty out their cans of beer, helps confused old ladies cross the street, answers domestic disturbances, and stands outside crime scenes not letting anyone in.   

This is the detail of day-to-day policing I’m trying to get right for my books. That as well as the way the officers relate to each other, the jokes they tell, how they balance families and young children, how they train (or not). My books are about murder and kidnapping and tragedy, yes, but they are also about people and relationships.  

One thing I'm learning from the ride-alongs I've been on over the past two years, is that there can be a lot of humour in a cop’s job. It's a tough, often unpleasant, job and they put their lives on the line every day. But boy, do they get a good laugh some times. 

Recently, the car I was in was called to a home where a man wasn't answering the door to his friend who had come to take him to work. It was the usual time and the usual routine, and the friend was worried because the man had a medical condition. He had hammered on the door, tried to peer in windows, even climbed a tree to get a peek inside. But no answer and no movement. 

When we got there, the officer banged on the door, and bellowed, and peered in windows, and banged and bellowed again. He called for an ambulance. Reinforcements arrived, including the sergeant. Someone crouched down and yelled into the cat door. (And took a sniff - ug). Eventually there were four cops, two paramedics, and one mystery writer gathered at the top of a rickety set of stairs leading to the upstairs apartment. Permission to knock down the door was given, the door was kicked in, and everyone rushed in. Everyone, that is, save said mystery writer, who hung behind not wanting to see anything yucky. Then I heard a shout, "XX, what are you doing still in bed? Aren't you going to work?" 

So I also wandered into the apartment to have a look. 

Yup, the guy was tucked up in bed. Didn't feel like going to work, didn't bother phoning in, and didn't particularly want to get up and open the door.  Out we all trooped, one mystery writer, two paramedics, four cops, leaving XX in bed and a broken door swinging on its hinges. 

Here is a picture of one of the handsome officers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. 

Policedog

 

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Comments

Vicki, what a great story and how encouraging to know you can write what you don't know (but are willing to endlessly research). And yes, that is one handsome cop. Is he . . . single?

I'm afraid, Harley, you'd be disappointed. He's so dedicted to his job there's no room for romance.

I see that in my article I forgot to mention my web page: http://www.vickidelany.com. I've posted two chapters of Negative Image if you're interested in a sneek peek.

Hi Vicki,

Sorry, my mistake not not posting the link to your web page! And I love the story of the guy in bed...make me think twice, I'll tell you, before ignoring phone calls. Would scare the crap out of me! And like you, there's no way I would've rushed in with the cops. In my imagination I'm so much tougher than in real life. But it must have been nerve-wracking.

So admire you, going along with the police. And the telling details show in your wonderful books! Thanks for this.

Hi, Vicki! I love it that you have your own constable. We should all have one! I used to have my own sheriff's deputy, and when I told him how nervous I was about getting police procedure wrong, he laughed and said, 'Oh, Nancy, somewhere in this country there are cops making the very same mistakes." Wait, maybe that's not funny?? Ha!

Did you wear one of those pretty green vests? If so, I hope yours said, "Mystery Writer."

Welcome, Vicki!

Your novels look so interesting. I am looking forward to reading them.
I used to live in Canada so your stories are even more inviting to me.
I read your bio and Carleton University was mentioned where you earned your degree. I used to drive by there frequently when I lived there.
All the best!

I wouldn't call it pretty, but I am usually given a bulletproof vest, yes. Perhaps I should make a sign up to stick on it that says "writer'. One time they had to find black tape to stick over the name tag on the vest. Just in case some poor cop wouldn't get blamed for anything I did. When I went to the firing range I had a cap that said Police (because the day was exceptionally hot and a vest. I wanted to take a picture of myself but refrained.

I read your Negative Image ARC and enjoyed your characters and plot development, Vicki. I'll be reviewing the novel November 5th at Murderous Musings blog. As a former San Diego police reporter, I got a kick out of your story and can identify with your ride-alongs and other police related experiences. The German shepherd is indeed a handsome police oficer. :)

I fell into your books during the winter Olympics last year. I look forward to traveling Vancouver with them, and I think your preparation sounds really exciting. The man in his bed fizzled which is just as well, and funny. I am going to my TBR bookcase for your book, and look forward to the pleasure.

Hi, Vicki - nice to see you here. I confess I wasn't familiar with your books until I "friended" you on Facebook, but now I am, and I'm so glad. I'm busy getting my hands on them all.

I love the story of the guy in bed. I can only imagine what cops see just in humanity going through the normal course of their day. But as Louise said, it makes you think about ignoring phone calls.

Hope we'll see you often around these parts.

Welcome, Vicki. That police officer is one handsome dog.

Hi Vicki, welcome from another Canadian. Now I will have to go get your book and see if I can pretend I know where Trafalgar is! I used to weightlift with some VCP (Vancouver City Police) officers and they were the funniest guys in the gym.

You don't have to try to hard to find Trafalgar, Gaylin. The real city is mentioned in the acknowledgements! Hum weightlifting with VCP, nice.

Harley, you know that officer only likes one position, right? Sorry, I had too.

http://www.israelmilitary.com/ used to carry a reporter's bulletproof vest. I don't see it listed anymore. Being able to stop AK-47 fire, may be a bit much for Ontario.

Did the officers mention the paperwork? Every officer I know spends about 1/4 to 1/2 of a shift writing reports. Then there are court days as well.

Oh, yeah. They talk about the paperwork, Alan. In the books I gloss over that, but Molly Smith does think that "walking the beat in Trafalgar, B.C. at three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon is about the most boring job in the world."

Vicki, I'm enrolled in Larimer County's Citizens' Police Academy and am blown away by everything involved with police procedure. I did my first ride-along a couple of weeks ago. Love Molly!

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