If this writing gig doesn’t work out, I might become a private investigator. I took the coursework several years ago—night classes of processing mock crime scenes, lifting fingerprints, learning the finer points of surveillance, photography, self-defense, even crowd control and how to make a citizen’s arrest. Plus there was the firearms part, and the test at the shooting range. My certification silhouette still hangs in my office (it’s the first thing an intruder would see). The class was fascinating—and hard.
At the time I was still working in the corporate world full-time. After my day job twice a week, I fought ridiculous traffic to make it to my class on time, then absorbed information for two and a half hours as different expert instructors—police officers, private detectives, self-defense instructors, security professionals, and weapons specialists—crammed our heads full of state statutes and procedures. Because the class was also required for bounty hunters, we learned a lot about how to find people and rules of apprehension. And because P.I.’s have proximity with authorities, many are called to serve subpoenas.
We got to experiment with state of the art James Bond-like gadgets, and practice exposing latent fingerprints in an aquarium using super glue. We learned self-defense tactics hands-on, and were expected to read volumes of material in between classes in preparation for a test at the end of every class, leading up to a cumulative exam at the end of the class, which we had to pass if we planned to go on to apprentice under a private investigator and become a registered P.I. (which required yet another test administered by the state).
A female P.I. taught a couple of the curriculum sections. She would make a great character—she was attractive, but tough. She worked for the District Attorney’s office most of the time, but had done all kinds of investigative work. She told us about some of her more interesting cases, but she also stressed that much of her job was domestic surveillance or theft detection in retail stores. Being a P.I. is one of those jobs that looks glamorous, but isn’t as exciting as is portrayed on TV—they’re not all cool-as-a-cucumber Kalinda on THE GOOD WIFE who extracts secrets and kicks butt with equal aplomb.
Still…there are days when I think it would be gratifying to be part of the justice system. I’ve been told that I’m “judicious.” I don’t believe it was meant as a compliment, but I don’t think it’s wrong to want life to be fair and for everyone to play by the same rules, and for justice to be served in the instances where people behave badly. I think women are generally more concerned about social fairness—perhaps that’s why they make good investigators. Women are intuitive, easy to talk to, and can typically gain access to restricted areas more easily than men. And women are better at multi-tasking, and keeping lots of balls in the air. So I think I’d be a good P.I., and some days, it sounds more inviting than sitting all day writing!
Sigh…but since I don’t think I’ll ever have the chance to become a private investigator, I’m going to pour all my aspirations into my new series, TWO GUYS DETECTIVE AGENCY. In the first book, due out later this month, two estranged sisters (whose last name is Guy), after finding themselves husbandless and broke, take on a faltering P.I. agency. There’s an old saying in writing: Don’t write what you know, write what you want to know. I’ll be living vicariously through my characters in these books, for sure.
Q: If you had to choose another career tomorrow, what would it be?