Problematica Technica

Zoë Sharp

I believe I may have mentioned it before that I don’t like making mistakes. It bugs me to realise that I’ve left some small error in the final version of a book that I just know people are going to spot and giggle about. And occasionally they do.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading over Christmas, and finally got around to finishing the final part of the Millennium trilogy. Wonderful books once I got into them – I can entirely understand their popularity – but chock-full of factual errors, including one involving how a TASER functions which was a major part of the plot.

But anyway …

If you watch any kind of TV cop shows, it’s easy to see where a lot of writer’s mistakes come from – Hollywood. I’m a bit of a fan of TV cop shows, I admit. A couple of episodes of NCIS or CSI, or Without A Trace are what I need to wind down before I head back up to the computer to put in another late-nighter. But it’s purely entertainment, not research.

Because we don’t have ‘live’ TV we watch stuff on DVD instead, which means we can watch old and new series almost back-to-back. For this reason we happened across an old episode of CSI where the plot centred on illegal street racing, a la The Fast And The Furious, and a new episode of NCIS: Los Angeles which also had street racing as its backdrop.

Why is it that so many people get car stuff wrong in books and on screen? I mean, I can understand gun errors. Not that many people have seen a real gun up close, never mind handled or fired one. I didn’t think there was any thriller writer out there who still talks about flicking the safety-catch off a Glock, but I’ve been surprised recently.

And I have to say that the movies don’t help. I’m amazed how many TV cop shows have somebody run out of ammunition at a vital moment, and only realise the fact because they keep pulling the trigger on their semiautomatic and it goes ‘click’ repeatedly. Now, anybody who’s shot a semiautomatic knows that when the magazine is empty, the slide locks back (see pic below and please excuse silly grin – I don’t get to play with firearms much these days). Squeeze the trigger and nothing happens. No ‘click’. Not even once, never mind repeatedly.

Of course, there are oddities. I had one character using a SOCOM Mk23 covert pistol in one book. This is designed for taking out sentries. When the suppressor is fitted, the gun has a slide lock that prevents the ejection of the brass, so the noise of the mech working does not negate the silencing of the shot.

But I digress …

Back to cars. Just about everybody’s driven a car, or seen one, or sat in one. But I can’t believe the writers for one of those cop shows I mentioned came up with the idea that fitting a new experimental-type of battery to a car would cause it to, a) go like brown smelly stuff off a shovel, or b) explode for no apparent reason. I confess that don’t remember a great deal else about that particular episode because I was too busy laughing.

And, for heaven’s sake, vehicles do NOT burst into a dramatic fireball after a few rounds fired into them. Most times, you need to blast away with incendiary rounds before the damn things even start to burn. Erm, not that I’ve tried it, of course …

They don’t blow up from being pushed over cliffs, either. And if the engine is turning over without the engine firing, it’s NOT the battery at fault. Shooting out the radiator will not cause the car to stop instantly, either. Speaking as someone who’s had their radiator holed by a disintegrating fanbelt, you can get quite a few miles before the engine temp climbs to the point where you have to stop and let it cool down, but you CAN limp home if you’re careful.

Medical clangers are even more prevalent. My favourite go-to guy for all queries of a forensic or medical nature is Doug Lyle – DP Lyle MD. Doug is the author of numerous mystery novels as well as forensic books, and I recently came across an old issue of the MWA newsletter where he listed the top ten writer’s medical and forensic mistakes: 

  1. The Quick Death: “No one dies instantly. Well, almost no one. Instant death can occur with heart attacks, strokes, extremely abnormal heart rhythms, and cyanide and other ‘metabolic’ poisons. A shot to the chest or abdomen leads to a lot of screaming and moaning, but death comes from bleeding and that takes a while.”
  2. The Pretty Death: “I call this ‘the Hollywood death’ – real dead people are ugly, pale, waxy and grey.”
  3. The Bleeding Death: “Dead folks don’t bleed. When you die your heart stops and the blood no longer circulates and it clots. Stagnant or clotted blood does not move.”
  4. The Accurate Time of Death: “Determining time of death is neither easy nor accurate. It is always a best guess and is stated as a range and not an exact time. In real life, the ME would say that death likely occurred ‘between 8pm and midnight’ but that might make him appear wishy-washy and Hollywood likes its heroes to be smart.”
  5. The One-Punch Knockout: “The hero socks the bad guy’s henchman in the jaw. He goes down and is apparently written out of the script because we never hear from him again. It’s always the henchman because the antagonist, like most people, requires a few solid blows to go down.”
  6. The Disappearing Black Eye: “If your character gets a black eye in Chapter 3, he will have it for two weeks, which will likely take you through to the end of the book. He will not be ‘normal’ in two days. On a good note, by about day seven your female character may be able to hide it with make-up.”
  7. The Quick Healing: “If your character falls down the stairs and injures his back, he will not be able to run from or chase the bad guy or make love to his new lover the next day.”
  8. The Untraceable Poison: “No such thing.”
  9. The Instant Athlete: “Your PI drinks too much, smokes too much, and eats donuts on a regular basis. He will not be able to chase the villain for ten blocks. Two on a good day.”
  10. The Instant Lab Result: “The world is not like CSI. In the real world, the same test can take days, even weeks. And the coroner will not likely release a report until the results are confirmed.”

Obviously, I’m paraphrasing, but if you want the full run-down you’ll just have to go out and buy one of Doug’s excellent books, such as FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES. I highly recommend it as a fixture for every crime writer’s bookshelf.

So, what mistakes have you come across lately, on page or screen?

And just so you don’t think I’m being entirely without humour today, here’s a wonderful sketch with Ronnie Corbett and Harry Enfield: My Blackberry Is Not Working!


This week’s Word of the Week is culverin, which was an early form of handgun; later a type of cannon with a  long barrel of relatively narrow bore, used in the 16th and 17th centuries, also culverineer.

56 thoughts on “Problematica Technica

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    My husband, truly a gun expert, is with you on tv shows and movies. He always explains to me what the correct thing should have happened (it goes over my head but I nod anyway). Oh, he gets so disgusted. I think the only time his eyes have lit up in regard to guns was with the movie The Expendables at one point when Sylvester did an impressive magazine switch.
    I have a problem in general watching crime shows — it just seems to be either over the top or go so slowly.

  2. J.D. Rhoades

    I've talked before about the reasons "lawyer shows" drive me crazy: every lawyer only has one case, murder cases appear to be in trial a week or so after being filed, the TV judge lets TV lawyers get away with shit that would end up with you cooling your heels in the holding cell, if not disbarred, in real life, etc.

    Another one that always amuses me is cars that go aerial in a chase and come crashing down, then speed along as if nothing untoward has happened. I suspect that a crash from a jump like that would mess up the suspension something awful, if it didn't snap the axle in two. Likewise, as someone who's seen a lot of car crash victims who can barely walk for weeks after a 30 MPH MVA, I can't help but roll my eyes at the hero who smashes his car into the bad guy's at top speed, then races after the fleeing villain on foot.

  3. Zoë Sharp

    Hi PK

    I missed The Expendables at the cinema – I'll seek it out on DVD, definitely! There's a very impressive bit of quick-fire point shooting in Collateral, too.

  4. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Dusty

    I can imagine they bend the rules something awful in the courtroom scenes, but have you never wanted to give it a try …?

    And car crashes almost always result in injury – especially to the car. Remember The Dukes of Hazzard? All those amazing jumps in the General Lee Dodge Charger? The ones that almost invariably broke the car's back on landing, but it was right as rain in the next scene. Apparently, they destroyed over 300 late 60s/early 70s Chargers making that series. Shame!

  5. Alafair Burke

    The super high tech gadgetry on crime shows makes me nuts. They take grainy security video, tap on the screen, get a clear image, them use facial recognition technology for an identity match in two seconds.

  6. Dana King

    I don't have any relevant examples because I stopped watching weekly cop shows several years ago. It was right about the time CSI caught a guy who used frozen hamburger as a bullet, and another murdered by the sole prints of his sneakers. I know those are as unique as fingerprints, but they're also really only useful after a suspect has been caught using more menial methods, so they have the shows to compare. In this case they went into a high school (I think; it's been a while), and pulled out the kids who wore a certain brand of shoe, then that model, then held them all up t compare prints.

    Now I only watch shows that have come highly recommended, and almost always on DVD.

  7. Spencer Seidel

    So, I'll play the devil's advocate here.

    I feel like I've read many thrillers where even though all the details are likely technically correct, the entire premise of the story is completely unbelievable, or the main character is an unbelievable superhero.

    Series thrillers/mysteries are often guilty of this kind of thing. Their main characters just wouldn't face such impossible circumstances again and again and again in real life. Once? Sure. But 10+ times?

    Those kinds of things bother me much more than inaccurate details.

  8. Mark Terry

    One of our favorite TV shows at the moment is Mythbusters and they routinely take film clips and try to prove or disprove the things that happen. I recently saw one where they attempted to duplicate the bus jump scene from the movie SPEED. Nope, dudes, not a chance. Totally busted.

    They focused practically a whole series of shows on Indiana Jones films. They took the scene in Temple of Doom where they jump off the building and hit a series of awnings. "Buster", their ballistic gel test dummy, didn't look so hot by the time he hit the bottom. And don't even get me started on jumping from an airplane in a rubber raft!

  9. billie

    My son is a factoid geek and loves to read/watch things to find the details that are just wrong. And he adores Mythbusters.

    I tend to give a lot of creative license when I read – don't watch much TV as we don't have it either – but sometimes on Netflix episodes I see something that husband or son will say "that's not how it works" – I say "it s a TV SHOW" and let it go.

  10. Rob Gregory Browne

    Zoe, it sounds like you watch a lot of American crime shows. No wonder you find mistakes… 😉

    But I guess it's not limited to the Americans. I was just watching an episode of Wire in the Blood (god, I love that show) in which a crashed van spontaneously caught fire, then exploded before they could pull the bad guy out of the driver's seat (which, by the way, was on the wrong side—what is it with you people?)

    I'm finding, however, that I much prefer the British crime shows to the American ones. Is it the accents? The lack of guns as a solution to every problem? The intelligent, twisty plot lines? The characters who look like real people rather than movie stars? All of the above?

    But I digress. As for stupid mistakes, I'm sure I make them all the time in my books, but unlike you, I don't worry much about it. It gives people an excuse to email…

  11. Rob Gregory Browne

    Spencer, I think you're talking about Jessica Fletcher syndrome. That poor woman couldn't turn around without bumping into a dead body. If anything Murder She Wrote taught us, it's that we should never move to Cabot Cove.

  12. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alafair

    I agree about the facial recognition software. We have more CCTV cameras in the UK than anywhere else in the world, and by that reckoning we should have no crime, right?

    One of the London boroughs ran trials with automated FR software, and it didn't manage to pick out a single person of interest, despite the fact that they KNEW several wanted criminals lived in the area and wandered about.

  13. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Dana

    Yeah, I know what you mean – but I did say 'entertainment, not research'.

    What bugs me is the fact they never suit up – plastic booties is about as far as they ever go – and they NEVER bring in arc lights. A pen torch is always enough for them to see the tiniest spec of evidence. And don't get me started on the fact they go from crime scene straight to questioning suspect (?!) thus allowing any halfway competant defence lawyer to claim cross contamination.

    Ay ay ay …

  14. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Spencer

    Your point is exactly why a friend of mine won't read series books. He will only read standalones, and they're getting harder to find!

    I note that there was a nice little sideways comment about this in the second Die Hard movie: "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice…?"

  15. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Mark

    I always thought it was a gag about the alternative Evil Kinevil – that he tried to jump a line of motorcycles in a bus. Wish I'd seen them wreck a bus in that episode of Mythbusters, though.

    And when it comes to Indiana Jones, I have just three words to say: "Nuking the fridge."

    I rest my case ;-]

  16. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Billie

    Yeah, I know – "it's TV" is the perfect rejoinder to any complaints about accuracy, but those episodes about car stuff were just completely ridiculous. It's like expecting reality TV shows not to be carefully scripted and stage-managed I suppose … ;-]

  17. Jake Nantz

    Don't have any mistakes to report (I'm sure I make more than I spot), but I did see something interesting the other night that I thought you might like to hear about, being both the word nut and the gun nut that you are (woman after my own heart, as they say).

    On the Smithsonian channel, there was a piece on a book written in medieval England that was a sort of "weapons catalog and inventions of the time" kind of book. Can't remember the name of the guy who wrote it, but it was fascinating stuff, about 1-on-1 duels and horse-powered tanks and such. But that's neither here nor there.

    Anyway, the historical weapons expert said that, at the time of this book, they'd had gunpowder for a time and cast iron, but could not yet bore into a solid block to make a seamless cannon. So, cannons were made like buckets and barrels of the time, by laying slats together (metal instead of wood) and encircling them with bands, and that's why it is still today called the "barrel" of a gun. I have no idea if that truly is the reason, but it sounded plausible and you posting reminded me of it. Just thought you'd be interested.

  18. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rob

    UK cop shows don't have quite so many firearms – at least, not usually with the cops. On this side of the Atlantic it's a case of "Stop! Stop or I shout 'stop' again!"

    But British policing isn't still like Life on Mars. Or Ashes To Ashes, for that matter ;-]

    And you don't make too many mistakes in your books, Rob – I check very carefully when I'm writing them …

  19. Zoë Sharp

    Oh, and Cabot Cove Syndrome is more usually used to describe an amateur sleuth who falls over bodies every five minutes, rather than a pro law enforcement character who has to save the world every day.

    I think.

  20. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Spencer

    I used to love the Dick Francis books because it was a series of standalones. They were similar – if you liked one, you were pretty sure that you were going to like them all – but very rarely did he bring a main protag back for a second go-round.

  21. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Jake

    Never heard of that, I must admit! I thought the earliest cannon were of cast bronze. I would have thought the barrel would explode if there was somewhere for the gases to go other than straight out of the end of the muzzle. I shall look into that further!

  22. Spencer Seidel

    Zoë — you'd get along with my father quite well, who is a big Dick Francis fan. I've only read a couple. The fact that he wrote around the common theme of horses and horse racing is a neat idea in concept.

  23. Murderati fan

    I love watching Castle then going to Lee Loffland's site on The Graveyard Shift where he points out the technical and procedural errors.

  24. Gar Haywood


    How about the old standby nonsense of the half-second hot-wiring of a car? ANY car? Just reach under the dash, yank a wire, give it a quick twist, and you're off!

    Well, yeah, maybe in 1971 if the car in question was a '68 Chevy Nova. But for any car post-1980…

  25. Debbie

    Zoë, brilliant clip. I'm going to post it to my wall over on FaceBook. Thanks. I enjoyed your blog too btw.
    I finished a scene in my WIP yesterday, and when I checked with my source, I found out that my character did not, in fact, walk away, but was found, hospitalized, and required surgery.
    brutal yes, but my version is incorrect. Going now to rewrite the scene.

  26. Kim C

    Well, I happen to work on one of those American crime dramas. I won't say which one, but it was mentioned here. =(

    In defense of our writers, delivering 22 episodes a season for years on end is not easy. Well before episode 100, you kind of run out of new ideas.

    As for the repeated inappropriate clicks on a semi-automatic, well, that I'm going to lie at the feet of the sound team. Our sound team cannot stand silence and I can't tell you how many times something was added just because it sounds cool. American television in general does not like absence of sound. We have to foley everything. Drives me nuts.

    The pen light vs arc light issue, well that goes directly to an influx of film directors moving into television. They like it dark. A penlight is much more cinematic than an arc light. What irks me more is when all the lights in the lab or autopsy are turned off. Please.

    As for the racing and the cars, well, I can only comment on our show in particular. I know our writers do a boatload of research. I also know a great deal of it is tossed out in the room in favor of speeding up the plot, a problem when you try to cram an A, B and often times C story into 44 minutes. Another problem is writing by committee. An EP takes something out/changes it while a staff writer (who has done the research) knows it is wrong to do so, but doesn't have the power to enforce their view.

    All sorts of mistakes are found in editorial, but by then it's usually too late or too expensive to fix them all, so we do what we can, shake our heads, bitch and moan, throw our hands up and go with the theory, "well, at least they'll have something to talk/blog about on the boards." =)

    American network television is more about filling a time slot than it is about story and art. We strive to make in the other way around, but in the end the pressure from the studio and the network to produce so much product a year decreases the quality of the product. Seriously, take a look at your favorite series. I'm going to bet most of them are on cable networks where they order fewer episodes a season and the product isn't played out as quickly. I know mine are.

  27. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Guilty, guilty and guilty.
    I've got one of Doug's books, too. I should study it once in a while.
    And the gun things…guilty!
    What amazes me about Hollywood is that most TV shoes and films get all this wrong and yet they have tremendous resources when it comes to doing research. Usually, the top experts in the field are employed to give their very best information on any subject. And still, a car blows up when it bumps into a wall.

  28. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Spencer

    Haven't read any of the newer Dick Francis, but the older ones I loved. And they weren't just centred around horses and racing – there was always some connection, but he went into art and photography, flying, and even hostage negotiation. Fascinating. Say "hi" to your dad from me ;-]

  29. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Gar

    Yeah, hot-wiring is not quite that easy. I did have Charlie steal a Kawasaki by kicking the steering lock off and hot-wiring it with a Swiss Army knife, though. Does that count?

  30. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Debbie

    I love this sketch. I particularly like the way Harry Enfield nearly loses it when Ronnie Corbett starts talking about dongles – around 1:53. Glad you enjoyed it.

    I had Charlie shot twice in SECOND SHOT (the clue is kinda in the name, I admit) and she's on crutches and suffering for the rest of the book. In fact, she's still suffering through part of the next book, too. Hope your scene worked out OK.

    But, being absolutely technically correct would be very boring if you went too far with it. Everybody knows that private eyes spend nearly all their time following cheating spouses and insurance fraudsters, and not solving homicides, but this is why we read for entertainment again, isn't it?

  31. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Kim

    Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the trouble to take me to task for my glib complaints. I DO appreciate the pressure people are under to produce 22 episodes of good quality stuff, week in, week out, and I can see how quantity can win out over quality some of the time.

    And, before I go any further, I did point out that I LOVE shows like the ones I mentioned (and therefore, probably the one you work on). This is why I go out and buy them on DVD, series after series, and will often watch them right through several times. If I found the same kind of mistakes in a book, I’d put it down and – if there were enough of them – I probably wouldn’t read another book by that writer.

    BUT, mistakes on TV are where a lot of writers get their info, so it becomes a bit of a vicious circle. The click thing with empty semiautos has always driven me crazy. Not as bad as the distinct click of the hammer being manually cocked on the Glock … which doesn’t have one! This explains why every motorcycle on screen sounds like a Harley, regardless of engine configuration, and why tyres squeal on a dirt road.

    Yeah, I get the whole dramatic lighting thing – I’m a photographer as well, and people look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I start getting studio lights out to do an outdoor shoot on a sunny day. Now you mention it, they do tend to do autopsies in the dark, don’t they? Maybe it’s being eco-friendly and saving electricity?

    Car chases are dramatic and I thoroughly enjoyed the bit when Bruce Willis threw a police cruiser at a helicopter in Die Hard 4.0. I can suspend my disbelief in order to watch a movie or TV, but when the whole plot revolves around something that’s wrong – like the experimental battery thing I mentioned – it’s harder to get immersed in the story.

    I don’t know what networks my favourite show are on, because I don’t live in the States, so have to rely on waiting until it all comes out on DVD.

    Thank you for putting up with my rant with such good grace ;-]

  32. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Stephen

    I think Kim has explained very well how and why the mistakes creep into TV shows, although you would have thought movies would have the time and budget to get it right a little more often, wouldn't you?

  33. Boyd Morrison

    I haven't seen the episode with the battery-powered car exploding, but if they did it right, it sounds like it could be made plausible. Electric motors are much more powerful than internal combustion engines, which is why cars like the electric Tesla accelerate so quickly. So if you did come up with a high-density battery that would be lighter than existing technology, you could fit a larger and more powerful motor into a car, making it much faster. And there are plenty of true stories about lithium-ion batteries in computers that have spontaneously exploded. The Tesla is powered by lithium-ion batteries. I even read that some firefighters were wary of using the Jaws of Life to cut into Priuses because they were afraid the batteries would explode.

    While I, too, chuckle at and get frustrated by technical flubs and misrepresentations, they're usually done to make a more interesting and exciting story (though some are just lazy and wouldn't affect the plot if they were done correctly). I enjoy Castle and CSI and movies with plenty of these tech flubs because they usually make the story more fun and exciting, and I'm willing to live with that. Honestly, I probably wouldn't sit through a story that was technically accurate but boring (still waiting on those DNA results!).

    However, that doesn't mean I won't note them, especially when we're talking about a nonfiction story. I just saw a rerun of the movie Midway last night, and most of the planes were the wrong type, and the attacking torpedo bombers usually didn't even have torpedoes slung under them. I'm sure it was done that way because they didn't have war footage of the right kinds of armed planes, but it was distracting.

  34. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Boyd

    That's my point exactly. It could have been made plausible if it had been a battery-powered car. However, this was not a battery-powered car – it was a Mitsubishi Eclipse with a turbo'd 4G63 16v DOHC petrol engine and nitrous oxide injection. Quite how the experimental lithium-ion battery was supposed to hot-rod the motor in any way, I wasn't entirely sure. I know fitting an ignition amplifier can boost the voltage at the spark plug, but this was just a battery stuck under the rear of the chassis.

    And in China there was a problem not that long ago with mobile phone batteries exploding – a real problem if you happen to keep your mobile in your breast pocket!

    But, as I said to Debbie earlier in the comments, being entirely factually correct would be boring. You're quite right – it should take days or weeks to get certain results back, so compressing the time frame is a well-known dramatic device.

    Sounds like the makers of Top Gun saw Midway, too. The planes in the dog fights change in every shot ;-]

  35. Boyd Morrison

    You're right, then, Zoe. That's stupid, and a good example of laziness. It wouldn't have taken much effort to make it plausible. The corollary to the argument that you don't want the story to become boring with highly accurate technical detail is that you also don't want something completely implausible (or even impossible) to give the reader or viewer pause. It's hard to get lost in the story when you're constantly going, "Really?"

  36. MJ

    Hey, I'm from Detroit and this is one thing I know – cars usually catch fire from non-dramatic electrical faults or because a rioter turns one over and torches it. If 1-2 bullets could cause a car fire, we'd have even more people riding the bus here.

    Also, real car accidents don't always look "dramatic" – even something as frightening as getting hit and spun on the highway, at highway speed, leaves a car only slightly dented if it didn't roll (and some of those accidents just make a "plink!" sound instead of "CRASH").

    In a "meta" way, I liked the CSI episode where the bad guy fired a handgun held horizontally, gangsta rap video style, because he didn't know what he was doing and wanted to look cool, and gave himself a telltale cartridge ejection burn. Way to have the industry tease the industry about inaccuracy. Heh.

  37. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Boyd

    I agree – as a reader I willingly suspend my disbelief to enter the story. Dragons, other worlds, vampires, walking undead, you name it I'll happily read about or watch it, but there are still certain rules that have to be followed, or I get jolted out of the story and lose heart with it.

  38. Zoë Sharp

    Hi MJ

    The only car I actually saw explode was a VW Camper van that was already well ablaze from an electrical fire when one of the onboard propane cylinders went up. That was quite dramatic. But you're right, it's normally more of a thunk than a big flingy accident ;-]

    And it's amazing how hot spent brass is. One of the first times I ever took Andy to a gun range, he was firing a semiautomatic with a right-hand eject mech, in the lane to my left. As soon as he fired, the hot brass pinged out, bounced off the boards at the side of my firing position, and went straight down the front of my shirt. Tends to put you off your stride a little. Now I always go for high collars at the gun range – something that zips up to the chin – and ask Andy to stand to my right.

  39. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Call me cynical, but it's been my longtime observation that the bulk of the audience for films and TV that feature a lot of guns and car stunts are in fact stoned out of their minds at viewing time and perhaps not inclined to notice the finer points of firearm and automobile technology.

    So why go out of your way to get it right just as long as it's AWESOME, DUDE?

  40. Zoë Sharp

    Damn, Alex, I don't do drugs and I can't drink (which should preclude me being a crime writer at all, I know) so I obviously haven't been watching movies correctly at all. Doh!

  41. Alexandra Sokoloff

    No, Z, writing crime BOOKS is different. I don't know many stoners who are avid readers – attention span, doncha know. Readers like the real deal when it comes to technology (which is why I avoid the whole issue by writing supernatural!).

    I'm just saying – if you're looking for realism in film and TV – well, most of the film and TV writers I know know their audience, and it's really not so much about accuracy or realism as it is about pure sensation.

  42. Mike Wiecek

    I can live with a few technical errors — most of which I'd miss anyway:) — but what drives me bats is wrongheaded use of slang. Usually the author appears to have been too lazy or uniformed to find out what people REALLY say, and falls back on ancient, even prehistoric, cliches. Not to name names, but I read a Major Bestseller a couple years ago who (without any apparent irony) had a black character referring to "honkies." Or "perps," or "five-oh," or "nine" … you know, the kind of slang that was "cool" about thirty years ago.

    Richard Price is someone who gets it right — or if not, is so convincing that it doesn't matter.

  43. Jake Nantz

    I have to agree with Mike on the slang issue. I have it on pretty good authority that a lot of—if not most—cops don't use words for criminals like "perps" or "unsubs" or "suspects".

    They just call 'em "assholes".

  44. Reine

    Hi Zoë,

    Just thinking about "Cabot Cove syndrome" and while I know it's ridiculous how often Jessica runs across dead bodies, I think there are way more murderers that we might think. I only came to think this after realising how many I've come into contact with just in my personal life . And people Ive known well who were murdered. And how close I've come to being murdered. Outside of a brief stint as a patrol officer when I was just starting out, I've lead a pretty mundane life. Interesting perhaps yet mundane all the same. It makes me wonder if someone like me has had these experiences, maybe there are a lot more out there than we think. The experience here in Tucson has about put me over the top in the victim-knowing category.

    Excuse me while I go have another nightmare. I'll be back, as normal as I ever am. Hey.

  45. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alex

    Ah, READERS are relatively normal – it's the writers who spend all night in the bar. Why do you think the Bouchercon hotels normally quadruple their bar take over the convention weekend?

    I know at Harrogate, the staff run a book on the time of the last person out of the bar. Last year it was around 6am ;-]

  46. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Mike

    Yup, know what you mean. And it's not just black slang that gets mangled. Any Brit characters in books not written by Brits tend to use weird and wonderful mockerney rhyming slang that makes Dick Van Dyke's turn in Mary Poppins look really convincing.

  47. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Reine

    I'm so sorry to be flippant at a time so soon after the shootings in Tucson – humour is a great coping mechanism.

    To answer your point about Jessica Fletcher, everybody knows people who've died, although I think most of the sudden deaths I've come across have been car- or motorcycle-related. It's just unlike Ms Fletcher, it's not often we actually stumble across the body.

    Take care – we're worried about you.

  48. Reine

    Hi Zoë,

    Thank you, really so much, for your caring – everyone. I will be alright. Besides, I come here for the flippancy. Y'know? Have some of my own, too. It keeps me going. I just can't get over how many people I've known or been acquainted with, who have murdered or been murdered. Maybe that's why I read mysteries and thrillers? Trying to come to terms with it? Dunno. I like a good story. And there's usually a good story with a mystery or thriller.

  49. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Reine

    There's a certain amount of 'putting the world to rights' with a crime novel. The good guys generally win and the bad guys generally lose and you get to find out WHY, which is often the element missing from real life tragedies.

  50. Reine

    Hi Zoë,

    Of course. 🙂 Why didn't I think of that? Fancy shrink… well I never said I was good at it. I love these aha moments. Thanks, Zoë.

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