My husband and I owned a private investigations agency for over a decade (he’s since returned to being a criminal defense lawyer & I continue to conduct investigations for his firm and other lawyers). Sometimes we’ll watch a movie or TV show starring a private eye and we can’t help but laugh at the implausibility of a situation. To be fair, some films get PIs right, but sometimes they set up scenarios that are more about Hollywood glitz than the real-world grind.
Such as surveillances…
Private Eyes and Stake-Outs
Below are a few slides we presented several years ago at a writers’ conference on writing private eyes in fiction. We took issue with Jake Gittes’ (Jack Nicholson’s iconic PI character) & other PIs’ stylish threads while on surveillance, but with a nod of respect to the private eye genre, too. In general, the writers were crafting current-day PI characters, so we used the noir examples to make a point about “blending in” while on surveillance.
Nice suit, but hey, Jake, it’s only Chinatown
A tie, suit, and hat on surveillance in the great outdoors…yeah, you blend
Okay, you’re getting a better shot with the window down, but you’re giving passersby a clear shot of you as well
Marlowe, you’re lookin’ tough standing at the window with a cig hanging off your lip, but people on the street below can, like, see you too
We’re fans of Marlowe, Spade, Gittes, and other private eyes in film and books. However, if you’re a writer crafting a contemporary PI, don’t fall back on the cliche of the whisky-swilling, gun-toting shamus. There are numerous online resources for learning about the real world of today’s professional PI, a few of which are noted below.
Online Resources and Articles About PIs
Private Detectives and Investigators (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes (my “sister” site, developed in 2009 as a resource for crime fiction writers & investigators)
Lawyers and Private Investigators: A Symbiotic Relationship (article, Shaun Kaufman Law)
Cutting Cliches and Adding Realism to Private Eye Characters (article, The Zen Man)
Praise for The Zen Man
"Great humor. Great dialogue. Author did a great job of establishing the relationship between Rick and Laura. It never overshadowed the mystery, but it made the book truly multi-dimensional."
~New York Times best-selling author Dorien Kelly
"A real page turner. I enjoyed this book full of suspense and surprises. I have never read this author before but will look for her next surprise."
Interviews & Articles