donderdag 27 december 2007

Q & A with Jonathan Hayes

We interview Jonathan Hayes, author of the new Edward Jenner series that started out with Precious Blood.

Q: What makes Edward Jenner different from other fictional forensic detectives?

It's a funny question; to me Jenner (who, by the way, loathes his first name, and always goes by "Jenner") feels like a real person. PRECIOUS BLOOD is the first of five Jenner books; the series begins with Jenner a shadow of himself. He's a brilliant forensic pathologist, but he's completely shut down after 9/11. Over the course of the book, he's dragged out of himself, forced back into the world again. He doesn't have any particularly exotic attributes - he's not a superathlete, his hands aren't deadly weapons, he's financially comfortable but not really rich - he's a pretty regular person. But he's smart, determined, and essentially good.

Q: What are your thoughts on the popularity of the forensic detectives these days?
Why forensics, why now? I think there's a fistful of factors. Part of the appeal is that a forensic scientist can be a pencil-necked geek, but still be just as effective at catching bad guys as your typical tough guy detective; it's definitely Revenge of the Nerds time. I think, also, that we've had 100 plus years of brawny or brainy detectivework, so the whole forensics angle feels like a breath of fresh air. Finally, the OJ Simpson case made forensics relevant in the US, and then CSI made forensics sexy.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels sound like?This is an unfair question - way too hard! When I started writing, I had a column on the electronic music of the rave and nightclub culture on the mid-1990s. I'm still a hardcore music obsessive; if I were to make a soundtrack to one of my books, it would go something like "a minute of Akira Yamaoka's guitar theme for the first SILENT HILL videogame here, then two minutes of silence as he's going towards the house, then fifteen seconds from Test Department's THE UNACCEPTABLE FACE OF FREEDOM" etc etc - I'd want to micromanage it, like a movie soundtrack.

I'll tell you what - instead of trying to fit music to one of my novels, I'll tell you what my favourite albums and songs were for 2007, when I was finishing PRECIOUS BLOOD, then talking about it and taking it out on the road: I'll listen to anything, but this was the music I liked best for 2007.

Also! Here's a fan video clip for the SILENT HILL theme I mentioned above:

My favourites for 2007:


1. Burial, UNTRUE - One of the most beautiful things I've heard in forever; something I didn't know I'd been waiting for until I heard it. Those muffled beats and fleeting, melancholy fragments were the perfect soundtrack for this sad year.

2. Panda Bear, PERSON PITCH - Fell in love with it driving to and from Palm Beach, stayed in love with it once I got home.

3. LCD Soundsystem, SOUND OF SILVER - How could this NOT be on the list? Some of it may have leaked over from a 44 minute mix he did for Nike in 2006, but it was, well, just great.

4. The Field, FROM HERE WE GO SUBLIME. This German ambient pop techno record sounds cool and incomplete, as if made in his bedroom by some guy who didn't have any friends who could sing. It is trite, more banal even than an Ulrich Schnauss record, but wholly satisfying in its twee sequencers and familiar 303-y timbres. It was also quite dynamic and melodic for something that was formally fairly minimal. I love every track.

5. The Besnard Lakes, THE BESNARD LAKES ARE THE DARK HORSE. Spiritualized and the Beach Boys (featuring Brian Wilson): two great tastes that taste great together.

6. Dan Deacon, SPIDERMAN OF THE RINGS. Maximalist electronic pop, with complete lack of restraint. This is what it would sound like if Martin Rev played his idea of a Happy Hardcore set in Pee Wee's Playhouse. The major highlight was "Wham City" - what it would sound like if Philip Glass played a set of Happy Hardcore in Pee Wee's Playhouse.

7. Fourcolour, AIR CURTAIN. More ambient processed guitar work from Keiichi Sugimoto; this time around, it sounds like he's sitting upright in a chair, instead of lying on the floor.

8. Klimek, DEDICATIONS. "For Jim Hall & Kurt Kirkwood" feels like a retread of something from Fourcolour's WATER MIRROR (a good thing!). A beautiful, lush collection of processed piano and guitar.

9. Rhys Chatham, A CRIMSON GRAIL. Shimmering walls of massed guitars, sometimes ethereal, sometimes majestic. Far from "Guitar Trio"; much closer to Fripp & Eno's NO PUSSYFOOTING.

10. The Dirty collective, DIRTY SPACE DISCO. Yay! I'm always grateful for anything Dirty.

Best Songs
1. "All My Friends" - LCD Sound System
2. "Wham City" - Dan Deacon
3. "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" - Of Montreal
4. "Melody Day" - Caribou
5. "Paper Planes" - MIA
6. "Beautiful Life" - Gui Boratto
7. "Where is Home?" (Burial remix) - Bloc Party
8. "Comfy in Nautica" - Panda Bear
9. "Disaster" - Besnard Lakes
10. "Dancing on Our Graves" - Cave Singers

Q: Has your writing changed much since the first novel?
I'll let you know when I've finished A HARD DEATH! Certainly, I find writing easier now that I know that I actually *can* write a novel, and have a clearer idea about how plot and dialogue and character all work. I hope that each novel will be even stronger than its predecessor.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?Yes. The forensic stuff I know, of course, but a fairly high degree of realism is important to me. I want the characters, the crimes to exist in a REAL world. I probably do too much research, actually - I think it was the British Science Fiction writer Brian Aldiss who said that most research is a form of procrastination, and I think he's right. I can allow myself to get carried away investigating the minutest details of an event in a minor character's back story that is pretty much irrelevant to the main story. I'd estimate I don't use 75% of the material I dig up.

Q: What's next for you and Edward?
For reasons that will become semi-apparent as you read PRECIOUS BLOOD, Jenner will leave NYC; the sequel, A HARD DEATH, is set in South Florida.

Q: Which crime writers do you like?
Early: Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, Poe, some Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Chandler, Hammet, the MacDonalds (both Ross and John D.), Rex Stout

Contemporary: I'm just catching up after a several year period of intense work, and am well behind the curve. Some favourites are PD James, Henning Mankell, Thomas Harris, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, George Pelecanos and David Simon. But there's so many I haven't read - I have a huge To Be Read stack beside my bed, and am making slow progress.

Q: What does the future of forensic science / law enforcement look like in your opinion?Expensive and tricky for a while. I'm really not sure how much criminalistics we can afford, but I'm sure defense attorneys will make some hay with the notion of unequal access to the science.

There will, of course, be plenty of DNA.

Q: What question should be asked every writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?
Q: Just what is it about David Hasselhoff?

My answer: I can't be sure, but I think it's got a lot to do with the hair...

For more info about this author visit:

dinsdag 27 november 2007

Trace Evidence (Evelyn James) by Elizabeth Becka

Evelyn James is a forensic investigator in the Trace Department of the ME's office. A refreshingly 'real' and 'ordinary' character she gets involved in the murder investigation of several young women whose feet haven been inserted in concrete, strangled and found in the water.
One of the victims turns out to be the daughter of her old flame,mayor Darryl Pierson. Suspecting a male nurse who also treated her teenage daughter gets her personally involved and determined to find the killer.
Helping her are two homicide detectives, one of which is very attracted to her. Can they save Evelyn when the killer catches up to her?

Aside from the fact that all characters come over very believable and the story is thrilling enough a very strong point is of course that Elizabeth writers about what she knows and does so in a way that it doesn't bog down the main plot. A great debut!

Forensic Facts: When does a forensic pathologist visit a crime scene?

We asked the following question to Lee Lofland ( , author of Police Procedure and Investigation - A Guide for Writers and an expert in Crime Scene Investigations:

"When does a forensic pathologist visit a crime scene?""

The answer:
Most police departments and sheriff's offices have a standard operating procedure (SOP) regarding the notification of the medical examiner or coroner (some locations have coroners while others have medical examiners). That protocol usually requires officers to call the medical examiner/coroner any time there's a suspicious death in their jurisdiction.

A medical examiner is appointed (hired) by a governing body, such as county commisioners or the governor of a state. Medical examiners must be a licensed forensic pathologist - a medical doctor. A coroner is an elected official who, in many states, is not required to be a medical doctor. In fact, in many areas, the only requirement for someone to be a coroner is that they be a registered voter in the area where they seek office. In some counties the sheriff is coroner. Other localities may elect funeral directors, tow truck drivers, or even the local ticket-taker from the movie theater. Non-doctor coroners employ forensic pathologists to conduct autopsies, but it is the coroner who signs the death certificate.

A medical examiner/coroner, or someone from their staff, normally visits the scene of any suspicious death - suicide, murder, if the deceased is under the age of eighteen, accidental death, a death that occurs in a prison or jail, and sometimes if the death is the result of an automobile accident.

At the scene of a crime, the medical examiner/coroner is in charge of the body. Detectives are in charge of the crime scene and gathering evidence. Medical examiners do not conduct criminal investigations and they don't make arrests. Likewise, detectives don't poke and prod on a dead body. The medical examiner's duty is to determine the cause and time of death. A detective's job is to solve the crime.

Lee Lofland is a veteran police detective and the author of Police Procedure and Investigation, A Guide For Writers. Lee has worked as a uniformed officer, a detective supervisor, and as an undercover officer. He’s solved cases in areas including narcotics, homicide, rape, murder-for-hire, and ritualistic and occult crimes. Lee lives in the Boston area where he serves as a board member for the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America. He consults for many bestselling authors, and he writes for various newspapers, newsletters, and freelance articles for publications, such as The Writer magazine. Lee recently appeared in the BBC documentary, How to Commit the Perfect Murder. His current projects are a children's book that's scheduled for release in 2008, and a mystery novel.

maandag 26 november 2007

Q & A with Tess Gerritsen

Q: What makes Maura Isles different from other fictional forensic detectives?
-- In many ways, she's similar to other fictional forensic pathologists in the job that she does, the cases she tackles. But as a character, Maura is very much a reflection of my own personality -- logical, detached, and a firm believer in science. Sort of the "Mr. Spock" of the crime-fighting world. But unlike me, Maura's a woman struggling to find happiness in her personal life. She makes some unwise choices in love, and now she's suffering from those choices. Readers sometimes ask me how someone as smart as Maura could make such dumb choices in men.
Sadly, I can point to a number of really brilliant women I know who've ended up in unhappy relationships -- so Maura's no different. Just because she's fictional doesn't mean she's immune to the realities of romance.

Q: What are your thoughts on the popularity of the forensic detectives these days?
-- We all want incontrovertible evidence to reassure us that no injustice has been done. We like answers we can rely on. That's the beauty of forensic evidence -- when it's properly collected and analyzed, you don't have that nagging suspicion that maybe you just convicted the wrong suspect.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels sound like?
-- A low constant thrum of cello music. Unsettling and foreshadowing of bad things to come.

Q: Has your writing changed much since the first novel?-- It's gotten a lot edgier. I tackle subjects that are quite a bit more grotesque. I also feel a lot more free to linger on my characters' lives, and to add more complications to their personal stories, because it's a long-running series and I have the leisure and the space to do so.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?-- It depends on the story I'm telling. For books like BONE GARDEN and GRAVITY, I was writing about topics that are far afield of my own comfort zone (1830's Boston; the space program.) For such books, I have to devote months to background research and site visits before I feel ready to tackle the writing. For the Rizzoli and Isles series, though, I can do much of my research while I'm writing the story. I can rely on my own medical training, or I can call my medical colleagues. I keep a large personal library of medical and forensic textbooks.
Sometimes, I'll elaborate on true crime cases for my stories. Finally, I subscribe to the Nexis news search service, which sometimes directs me to real-life crimes stories.

Q: What's next for you and Maura?-- I'm now working on the 7th book in the series (still untitled). It features mummies, shrunken heads, and other archaeological oddities!

Q: Which crime writers do you like?-- I've been most impressed by several authors recently, among them Linwood Barclay, C.J. Box, Lisa Unger, and Chris Mooney.

Q: What does the future of forensic science / law enforcement look like in your opinion?-- Theoretically, it should get harder and harder to commit a crime and get away with it. But human error always enters into the picture, and as long as law enforcement makes mistakes, forensic science is going to
have its limits.

Q: What question should be asked every writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?
-- "How do you know when an idea is going to turn into a book?"

For more info visit:

vrijdag 23 november 2007

Coming up...

Next week we'll be featuring some very cool stuff over here!
Not only will we have a Q & A with bestselling author Tess Gerritsen we'll also have a new feature 'Forensic Facts' in which we answer the questions you, as forensic fiction fans want to know. If you have any questions about forensics drop me a line at and I'll see if I can have it answered.

Also, if you're writing a novel featuring a forensic detective or you are a forensic expert let me know if you're interested in doing something for the site.

PREDATOR (Kay Scarpetta, forensic pathologist by Patricia Cornwell)

Dr. Kay Scarpetta working for the National Forensic Academy in Hollywood, Florida gets involved in the case of an apparent suicide through Peter Marino. Also, she’s involved in a behavioral studies program in Massachusetts called PREDATOR by Benton Wesley that studies the brains of serial killers. Of course, the bodies soon start to pile up. Add to this the trouble Lucy has with her brain tumor and mysterious new lover, a very troubled Marino (who gets a biker stud makeover), a psycho called Hog and a lot of office back-stabbing and you’ve got one complicated novel.
I was curious to see how Cornwell would tie all these plotlines up in neatly fashion. I ended up a bit disappointed. This novel seemed more cinematic to me than usual, I’m still not sure if I liked that.
Cornwell takes some chances with this bestselling series, using the third person to narrate it this time and shaking up the status quo of some characters. I applaud her for that. The plotting however in general seemed a bit weak to me. Too many unresolved threads.

dinsdag 20 november 2007

Q and A with Elizabeth Becka

The first writer for our Q & A is Elizabeth Becka, author of the Evely James (forensic scientist) series.
Q: What makes Evelyn different from other fictional forensic detectives?She's neither a superwoman nor traumatized. She's very ordinary. Unfortunately that can sometimes veer too close to boring so I have to make her do interesting things.

Q: What are your thoughts on the popularity of the forensic detectives these days?I think it's another twist on the mystery story. We love mysteries and are always looking for a new approach. Agatha Christie started the little old innocent looking amateur sleuth. Crime in a growing America started the hardboiled PI line. They're all good, and they all persist, in one way or another, so I think a forensic detective might wane in popularity in years to come but will never go away entirely.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels sound like?
Like instrumental film scores, my favorite thing to listen to while I write. Especially one by James Horner. With an occasional Evanescence song. I like tons of music of all different kinds, but these are what I think would express my books.

Q: Has your writing changed much since the first novel?I hope it's improved. Otherwise, not much. I read all sorts of books on writing and then I go to write and forget every word of advice and just take a stab at it. I worry a lot about that.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
I didn't at first because forensics is my job, so I already knew it, so to speak. But in trying to keep my books interesting beyond the forensics I am doing more and more research. Unknown Means (Feb 08) uses the salt mines under Lake Erie, Takeover (Feb 09) involves the Federal Reserve. One that's with my agent now involved (peripherally) video games. I also utilize any friend or relative or long-lost acquaintance who might know something about the subject in question.

Q: What's next for you and Evelyn?
Unknown Means will be out in February 08. Other than that, she and I have the same daily struggle: to stay intelligent and interesting as we age, and try to make the most of every day we have left.

That makes it sound like I'm 90, which I'm not, I'm 44. But in America that's the same thing.

Q: Which crime writers do you like?
Jeffrey Deaver, Tami Hoag, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Connolly, Jan Burke, Peter Abrahams, Ethan Black.

Q: What does the future of forensic science / law enforcement look like in your opinion?
It's going to get better and better as technology develops. In the same way that television screens and cell phones and MRI scanners will get better. Forensics has been lucky to get all the attention, and therefore funding, it has for the past ten to twenty years.

Q: What question should be asked every writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?
"When you're writing a book do you ever think to yourself, maybe I just can't do this?" I would love to hear other writer's answers to that one. Mine would be: Yes. Every day.

CROSS (Alex Cross, forensic psychologist by James Patterson)

For a thriller written by a guy famous for turning out page-turners this one seemed a bit slow at certain moments. It seems like the first 100 pages are just set-up for the rest of the story.
We follow hitman and psycho rapist the Butcher as well as Cross’ retirement from FBI duty. The incidents that make him retire make you wonder why he didn’t do it years ago, all the danger he’s been in and all. Of course it doesn’t take long for Cross to help out his friend John Sampson with an investigation. Especially when it looks like the guy Sampson’s looking for is also the killer of Cross’ wife.
Anyway, the style is typical Patterson again and an easy read. Personally I like the added possibilities of Cross retiring from the FBI to set up a private practice. There’s cliffhanger at the end that sounds like an interesting premise for the next novel but maybe this series starts to read a bit too much like a TV-series with a ‘to be continued’ at the end. I for one, was expecting a lot more from this novel.

vrijdag 2 november 2007


Welcome to my new blog. After the succes of Sons of Spade ( I decided to create this new blog. In the way SoS featured PI's this blog will be all about forensic scientists in novels. So you'll see Kay Scarpetta, Alex Delaware and lesser known characters and their authors show up. Featured will be reviews, interviews, news etc.
Are YOU a writer of that kind of fiction? Let me know so maybe you can be featured on this site!