Troubled homicide detective Gabriel McRay confronts his nemesis Victor Archwood at the killer’s trial. A surprise twist during the proceedings sets a course for Archwood to claim his ultimate revenge on the detective, whom he blames for ruining his life. In a trap that combines Archwood’s theatrical skills and criminal genius, Gabriel is forced to face his psychological demons once again and play a deadly cat and mouse game with a murderous opponent who will stop at nothing to achieve the detective’s total destruction.
by Laurie Stevens
Since I know Brooke has a background in criminal justice, I decided to post about writing crime fiction. It’s important to get the facts straight because readers like Brooke might call me out.
The main character in my books is a tough homicide detective named Gabriel McRay. Gabriel is burdened by childhood trauma, which affects every aspect of his adult life. The series is mostly about his healing process. The murder cases to which he’s assigned impact whatever point of recovery he is in–hence, he spiritually grows in each book. So, not only do I have the task of keeping it real on the law enforcement level, but I have to do a good deal of research on the subject of PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and all the psychological aspects.
This, however, is what I like to do. First, I’ll read books or go online. There’s a ton of research material out there. But you can’t find everything. You can’t find the human reactions of the cops or the doctors. You can’t see their body language or read something else in their eyes. So after I get a lot of questions answered online, I double-check those answers by talking with the professionals. Oftentimes they will share stories with me that blow me away. Truth is stranger than fiction.
There’s a scene in The Dark Before Dawn where I describe the domain of Dr. Ming Li, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner and Gabriel’s love interest. I needed to see what the county morgue and hospital looked like. I wanted to describe it down to the paint colors. Now, L.A. County General is equipped with metal detectors–there are parts of the complex barred to the public. My husband, bless his heart, suggested we sneak inside. So we did. Some couples go to dinner and a movie… The good news is that my niece eventually interned as a forensic anthropologist for L.A. County. Then I got to learn everything I wanted through her.
Detectives-turned-authors often give interviews and those are interesting to watch because they will tailor their talks for the purpose of melding fiction with realism. Also, a cop will tell you what they hate about crime fiction. For instance, if you read a crime fiction book that takes place on the west coast of the United States and the cops are referring to the criminal as a “perp,” that’s simply not done. West coast cops refer to the perpetrators as “suspects.” East coast cops use the word “perp.” I have heard that over and over again, so it really must get under the detectives’ skin.
I have a couple of these guys as friends and, because they are authors, they are usually willing to answer pertinent questions. I just spoke with one such author, Paul Bishop, who was a specialist in interrogation techniques. He ignited the 4th Gabriel book for me, which I’m working on now.
With all that said, I don’t think you should sacrifice the story for the sake of realism. No matter what, you are writing for readers, not researchers. You have to achieve a balance. A psychiatrist read one of my drafts once and we talked about one of Gabriel’s therapy sessions. “Would it go down like that?” I asked. The psychiatrist smiled and shrugged. “Maybe not exactly, but keep it. Keep it,” he stressed. “It works within the story.”
Thank you Brooke for letting me share my thoughts on facts and fiction! It was a pleasure to be here.
Thank you Laurie for such a fun and informative post! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have definitely picked out things in books I’ve read that correlate with my criminal justice background, so you hit it spot on. 🙂
About the Author
Laurie Stevens is the author of the best-selling Gabriel McRay psychological thrillers. The two books so far in the series, The Dark Before Dawn and Deep into Dusk have won 9 awards, among them Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 and the 2014 IPPY for Best Mystery/Thriller. Laurie is a “hybrid” author, having self-published her books, finding an agent for worldwide rights, and then selling her books to Random House, Germany.