This book review series seeks to investigate those books on the market which promise to help you write, with an emphasis on writing within the crime/thriller/mystery genres.
The next review, following on from my thoughts on Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is a look at a reference book I have found invaluable as a newbie crime fiction writer: Kevin N Robinson’s ‘British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers 2016’.
One of my biggest fears about writing in the crime and thriller genres is my lack of knowledge when it comes to the police. I lack confidence writing about the slang, the lingo, the ranks, roles and correct procedures. If you are reading this thinking the same thing, and that you have no idea where to begin to attain this knowledge, look no further than this guide.
Kevin’s directory is not intended as a sit-and-read-it-in-one-go kinda book, but is a treasure trove of info and links you should refer back to often. It is the sort of book every crime fiction writer should have on their desk, right next to the dictionary and thesaurus.
The blurb on the back:
“Are you a busy writer, finding it difficult and time consuming locating the facts about the police in the UK, that you need for your novel?
Do you dream of becoming a master story teller but fear exposing yourself to ridicule because of a poorly researched and written book?
Do you want to avoid making mistakes about the police in your story?
Go down the traditional publishing route and you will find an editor telling you to get your policing facts checked out: go down the self publishing route and its down to your own self discipline and professionalism.
You will find that most bestselling authors have conducted meticulous research or employed someone to do it for them.
You don’t need to spend time and effort tracking down a reliable source of information. You can free yourself from futile research.
You can save time wasted looking for facts you can trust and focus on what you do best – writing.
Treat yourself to the latest edition of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers and turn yourself from a nervous, unsure novice to a confident, professional author.
It’s crammed full of links to expert knowledge and advice that you can use to captivate your readers with compelling dialogue and narrative.
The facts you find using this book will help you decide whether you are going to tell or show in your story and to create and develop believable characters regardless of whether they are heroes or villains.”
How the book is structured:
The easy-to-navigate guide is set out to give you the following vital information:
- Contact details for 72 police forces and agencies
- 352 key documents and guides
- 85 useful sites to check out
- 69 video clips to watch
- 42 social media accounts to follow
- 85 recommended books
- A rundown of acronyms you might come across in your research
3 good reasons you should read this:
1. Kevin has done the hard work so you don’t have to!
When I first started The Puppet Show I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of information I realised I needed if I was going to write a true-to-life story: the police, the forensics, the criminal psychology, the law. I was also completely underwhelmed by the information available for new crime writers to get a start on all of this research; that is to say, I couldn’t find a one-stop-shop for someone starting out, which is why I started blogging my articles.
Kevin must have clocked a whopping number of hours finding all of the links to the police forces of the UK, and that’s the other thing: he has provided hyperlinks to EVERYTHING so that you don’t have to do any of the hard work. The book is only available in digital format so you could have it saved in your email, on your documents on your phone, or I carry my Kindle almost anywhere I go.
2. The perfect starting point for a new crime writer
Kevin outlines in simple language the different ways you can contact a police force to ask for information for your stories, whether it be an official Freedom of Information request, accessing their FAQs or filling out an application to join in on a police Ride Along Scheme. He also includes the details for contacting other agencies that may crop up in your story such as Border Force, the Crown Prosecution Service and INTERPOL.
I think my favourite part of the guide is the list of key guides and documents on tons of categories that will probably be the section you use most. Here there are links to factsheets, legal documentation and news articles on subjects ranging from police fitness tests and entry requirements, indicators of human trafficking, code of practice for interviewing witnesses and how to handcuff a suspect. All of these are the little details you might not know about as a writer but that may just help your story read with a little more authenticity.
3. The recommended reading list
The 85 books Kevin includes toward the back of the guide has been invaluable to me. It is here that I discovered links for work by David Canter (a key researcher for geographical profiling), Michael O’Byrne’s Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure and the fantastic Introducing Forensic and Criminal Investigation by Monckton-Smith et al. If you are new to writing crime fiction, this is your ‘to read’ list.
Over to you
Have you read this directory yet? Have you used it for your story? I’d love to hear what you used it for!