Sunday, April 08, 2012

What Does It Take to Be a Detective?-Guest Blogger Robert Bailey-Giveaway

Welcome mystery author Robert Bailey as he blogs about “What Does It Take to be a Detective?” and celebrates his books going to eBooks! Leave him a comment—with email, too—and one lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of Dying Embers.

“Everybody wants to be a detective, carry a big shiny gun, and be all the rage at cocktail parties.”   People tell me that the cocktail party is as dead as a dodo.    Don’t know if that is true, but I am quite sure that lots of people still want to be a detective.  
Most folks may be satisfied to read the tales of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane (at least they knew how to navigate a cocktail party). Other folks want to get right into the action, as I found out when I ran my own detective agency.  In hiring employees, I have interviewed not only homemakers and groundskeepers, but a long list of other occupations, including architects, firemen, and airline pilots.
Folks I did hire needed to have a plain appearance and be able to blend into a crowd.  They needed a good memory for faces and automobiles.   Applicants who could show me they had the right change for a bus always got a second interview.
They needed to be able to make up a cover story on the run, one that they could remember, and that other people would believe.    Their safety and the success of the case depended on avoiding the squad car and the ambulance.
There is one fib universal to all detectives when they are interviewed by a reporter. “A detective’s job is boring. Most of my time is spent digging through old records!”  I was never bored; I also did the surveillance and often wrapped up with the case on film.  Big fib: “I rarely, if ever, carried a gun.”   Never went to work without one.  
Guns!  Here’s a little story that was kind of a hoot.  My phone rang and an attorney asked me to meet him at a small restaurant out of town.   He promised work, but needed an armed guard.
 I told him, “Great.  Two hours for seventy bucks.  Give me your bar card number and I’ll call you back.”
“But I’m paying for lunch,” he said.    “Besides, seventy dollars is too much just to meet me.”
“Come to my office,” I said.  “Free, and you get coffee.  The Danish is getting a little dented.”
“Can we discuss the cost, my client is really pressed.”
 “I’ll meet you,” I said.  “If you have work for me, we can talk about it.” 
His bar card was good—I don’t meet strangers.   He sat in a booth with his back to the door--late thirties or so, wearing a thousand dollar suit.  I took a stool at the counter.  I watched him--pretty sure he was alone, and mostly interested in his five hundred dollar watch.  I finally took a seat with him at the booth. 
“What are you doing sitting over there?” he said.
“I didn’t know you were here yet,” I said.  He didn’t believe it, but he let it slide.  “So what’s our business?”
“My client is getting a divorce. Her husband has assaulted her on several occasions. He’s going to pick up his clothes tonight. I don’t think there will be trouble as long as there is someone else present. “
“Call the police,” I said.
“He is the police.”
“Have her go to a show,” I said.  “Maybe spend a couple of days at a motel.”
“She can’t,” he said.  “She has a plastic tether on her leg.”
“Seventy dollars an hour for four hours,” I said.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said.
I wrapped my Colt in a paper napkin and set it on his plate.   “Do it yourself,” I said.  “It’ll be free.”  He looked like he wanted to head for the door.
He wrote me the check.  
Like I said, I never got bored.  Whether the most important attribute of a good detective is guts or stupidity, I leave to you.

Robert Bailey

Dying Embers Blurb:
Art Hardin, retired military intelligence officer turned private investigator, is content with his regular caseload involving insurance fraud and employee theft. So when a wealthy industrialist approaches Art to find an old flame, he's wary of taking on the case. Only when pressed by his wife, Wendy, does Art agree to help, but only if the decision to make contact is left to the missing person.

The former lover, a reclusive but prominent artist who has changed her name, turns up dead shortly after Art locates her. His client charged with murder and his detective's license revoked, an angry Hardin finds himself the subject of "professional" surveillance, his office ransacked, and his life up for grabs as a shoot-out erupts on the street.

The FBI, long on requests and short on information, approaches Art for his help . . . to act as bait. Seemingly out of options, Art agrees, but with an ace up his sleeve. Aided by an outlaw motorcycle gang, Art decides that, this time, the bait is going to bite back.

Dying Embers Excerpt:
People can be trusted to lie.  They lie in the bedroom, the boardroom, and the courtroom.  The biggest lies are told the loudest.  The worst lies are the ones they whisper to themselves.

Tracy Ayers was tall, tan, thin, and blond.  She had porcelain skin, and a pouty little mouth, ripe with lies.  Folks like Tracy lie to me a lot.  I never take it personally.  I'm a detective—when people quit lying, I'll be out of business.

Tracy breezed into the office of Howard Butler, dressed for success, wearing a string of pearls and a navy blue shirtwaist dress with white piping and a pleated skirt.  She sported perky and unfettered breasts that swayed in unison like a pair of fat puppies doing a vaudeville soft-shoe with their noses pressed into the curtain. 

Howard Butler owned Butler's Prestige Import Automobiles.  I sat enthroned on Howard's custom recliner chair behind two acres of leather-topped mahogany.  I stood as Tracy sashayed from the door to the desk, across an oriental rug that protected the parquet floor.  My suit pants had crept up my backside.  I resisted the temptation to give a discreet tug on the seat of my trousers.

"Hi, my name is Art Hardin," I said.  "This is my associate, Lorna Kemp."

Lorna sat to my right in an office chair we'd wheeled in for that purpose.  These days it doesn't do for a male investigator to interview a lady without a female chaperon.

Lorna wore a charcoal business suit over a white silk blouse with a collar that made a ruffle around her neck, a costume I believe she considered camp.  She was twenty-two—eight years younger than Tracy—and also tall, tan, thin, and blond.  Unlike Tracy, who was a thief, Lorna had a degree in law enforcement and a job with the DEA that started in the fall.

"Mr. Butler said I should come and talk to you," said Tracy.  She spoke to me first and then nodded to Lorna.

The desk was too wide to reach across and offer her my hand.  I said, "Please have a seat," and motioned to the straight-back chair I'd placed across the desk from me.  Tracy made a swish and flounce of her skirt as she sat, filling the room with the scent of jasmine.

"I think it would be best if we kept this private," I said.  "Do you mind if we close the door?"

Tracy shook her head.  "What's this about?"

Lorna stood and stepped over to the door.  She wore flat-heeled shoes that revealed a lithe and athletic gait.

"I'll try to be brief," I said, and opened the manila file folder in front of me.  Tracy's work application was the first item in the fat file, which also contained her bond application, a background investigation, and a list of her financial assets—including those she shared with her husband, Ken.  Under the top sheets I had enclosed case notes and added a wad of miscellaneous crap to give the file an ominous bulk.  Tracy leaned forward and twisted her head to look at the file.  I closed the folder.  Lorna returned to her seat.

"Just so there's an accurate record for all of us I'd like to record our interview," I said.  "Is that all right with you, Tracy?"

"Sure," she said, all smiles.

I took the recorder out of the top right hand drawer—where I'd stashed it after the previous interview—set it on the desk, and pushed the play/record button.  After a quick glance at my watch I said, "It is nine fifty-two A.M.  The date is May thirty-first.  Present are Tracy Ayers, Lorna Kemp, and myself, Art Hardin.  Tracy, do we have your permission to record this meeting?"

Tracy leaned toward the recorder and spoke.  "Yes," she said in a smoldering alto.  Lorna rolled her eyes.

"Please state your name."

"Tracy Ayers."

"Thank you," I said.  "You're a cashier.  Is that correct?"


"It's your job to handle the work orders, add up the charges, and take payment from the customers?"

"Basically," she said.  "I also answer the telephone, direct the calls, and take messages."

"A man brought his car back for warranty work on a repair.  The service manager had no record of the sale.  The customer had an attitude and a canceled check.  Do you have any idea how that could have happened?"

Tracy shrugged.  "I just take the money," she said.

I studied her silently.  She was good—not a fidget, not a flutter, just the truth that was a lie with a fresh coat of paint—and all innocence incarnate.

Author bio:
Robert E. Bailey spent five years as a corporate security director in the city of Detroit and twenty years as a licensed private investigator. His first novel, PRIVATE HEAT, an action-packed private-eye thriller, won the Josiah W. Bancroft Award at the Florida First Coast Writer's Festival in 1998 and was nominated for the 2003 Shamus Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America. In January 2007, MYSTERY SCENE magazine named Hardin one of its top 100 private eyes.


ishtheintrepid said...

The anecdote of the lawyer meeting made me think of another necessary attribute of any detective: being able to dispense with the 'frills.' All good detectives I've read have had a certain amount of matter-of-factness to them.

Julie Lynn Hayes said...

I'm currently reading a book on how to write a PI novel, so this blog was timely, and very interesting. I like the sound of your book and your detective. Can I assume he is licensed?

I wish you all the best with this. Thank you for an interesting blog and excerpt.


John said...

This is a very beautiful and interesting article
The most educating one i have read today!

High School Diploma

Linda Lyons-Bailey (for GBM4cure) said...

Hi, this is Bob logging in on my wife's account.

Dear Ish,

Yes, absolutely. PS., heard you just had some very good luck with a manuscript of yours. God bless your heart.



Dear Julie,

I am retired now, but was licensed in the state of Michigan. I worked for a larger agency from '78 to '84 and then I ran my own agency for 20 years. If you are writing a PI novel, you might want to check out The Idiot's Guide to Private Steven Kerry Brown, a friend of mine!



Dear John,

I can't thank you enough for taking your time to comment about my work.



Cheryl said...

Loved this article. It's crisp and clever. Makes me think a bit of Jim Rockford.

Wishing you the best,



Toni V.S. said...

Enjoyed the blog and I must say, it sounded like an excerpt itself. If you always write as entertainingly as you blog, Mr. Bailey, your stories should be the best ever! I'm looking forward to Dying Embers. It sounds like my kind of book. Incidentally, I had a chance to work for a detective agency when I lived in CA but I just wasn't certain I had the "right stuff" for it and that made me decide if I wasn't sure, I probably didn't, so I passed.

Linda Lyons-Bailey (for GBM4cure) said...

Hi, Bob again,


Rockford was one of my favorite shows. I liked him because he was always a gentleman. I wish he'd gotten paid better!



Dear Toni,

Thank you for being so kind. I hope you enjoy Dying Embers. The opening paragraph I rewrote several times while I was printing the finished manuscript, but I couldn't send it until I got the opening that I was happy with. After some time I think it still holds up.

People tend to know what is best for themselves in the way of finding a job. I know a lot of people who worked one day and departed! I guess it has to be the thing for you.