When I first started writing humorous romantic suspense novels, I decided I wanted more than a layperson's knowledge of crime investigation (this was before one could find a CSI show on television at any hour of the day). I decided to complete the coursework to become a private investigator/bounty hunter in the state of Georgia. The semester-long class was taught at night twice a week at a technical college. I still had my corporate job at the time, so I left my office at 5:00 p.m., sprinted to my car, and stewed in Atlanta rush-hour traffic for 90 minutes to travel about 15 miles to the campus. Then I sat in class from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., taking copious notes as professional instructors rotated in and out of the class: police officers, detectives, weapons experts, security specialists, bounty hunters, private investigators. I was in heaven... and the only person in the approximately 25-person class who wasn't attending with the intent of going "professional" as a private investigator or bounty hunter (many students were already in law enforcement or security).
The coursework was comprehensive, covering the legal system, weapons handling (including shooting sessions at a handgun range), crowd control, surveillance, citizens arrest, crime scene investigation (from photography to fingerprinting), self-defense, and all the numerous and varied topics that would be covered on the state exam. (Upon completing the coursework, one has to pass a state exam in order to become a bounty hunter. In order to become a private investigator, one has to pass the state exam and also "apprentice" under another P.I. for a certain number of hours before they can open their own agency. And in the state of Georgia, P.I.s aren't licensed, they are "registered.")
The class was tough, but fascinating. The handbooks alone were priceless to a writer, and the contacts, invaluable. Not to mention all the little insider tidbits the instructors shared. For instance, I learned the name of the bar in Atlanta where all P.I.s, prosecuting attorneys, and cops hang out (Manuel's Tavern). I learned that 80% of a P.I.'s job is domestic surveillance (catching cheating spouses), which requires long bouts of sitting in a car, a digital camera with a zoom lens, and few bathroom breaks. And I learned that if you're attacked from behind, don't try to turn around ? it's better to use your feet and elbows to fight back than to expose your face and chest to your attacker.
So, who knows ? if this writing gig doesn't work out, maybe I'll push forward with my training and hang my shingle: Stephanie Bond, P.I.
(Er, on second thought, I'd really rather keep writing, so please check out my Body Movers series!)
Tomorrow: the story about how the Body Movers series became a family affair!