Real Life vs. Fictional Investigators

Bruce Robert Coffin here, very excited to be launching the new Murder Books website and blog with fellow crime writers and legal veterans Brian Thiem, Roger Johns, and Ben Keller. Through our weekly blog we hope to bring you an insightful look into real life criminal investigations and how those translate to the pages of our books.

For the past five weeks I’ve been busy making public appearances promoting my debut novel, Among the Shadows. I thought I’d begin the month of November by answering a question commonly asked at these gatherings. What was the inspiration for your latest book, Among the Shadows?

That’s a tough question. I guess the short answer is I wanted to tell a compelling story about a veteran police investigator who faces every cop’s worst nightmare, someone murdering fellow officers. My protagonist, Detective Sergeant John Byron, is a twenty year veteran of the police department in Portland, Maine. As Byron draws near to the twilight of his career, he finds himself separated from his wife, living out of moving boxes in a tiny in town apartment, and battling alcoholism. The one thing he’s always been good at is investigating crime, but his personal life is in such disarray he’s now jeopardizing his career. 
You might think Byron sounds a bit cliché, that you’ve seen this character before but I think you may be pleasantly surprised. What I set out to do when creating John Byron was to bring to life a second generation Irish cop living and working in Portland, Maine. I took bits and pieces of some of the officers I’d worked with during my twenty-seven years on the job and, if I’m being totally honest, maybe even some of myself. Some of those pieces are good and some not so good. Policing may have changed over the years but human nature hasn’t. People will always be people. The human condition comes complete with foibles. 

The manner in which police officers investigate and fight crime has become much more high-tech, but figuring out motives and opportunity haven’t. Good police officers know what drives people to commit murder, and like all good detectives John Byron is relentless. He eats, sleeps, and breathes the cases he gets assigned.

I can tell you firsthand investigating murders takes a toll on the personal lives of detectives. No personal plans are ever etched in stone. Every aspect of a detective’s life outside of the job becomes fluid. The calls come in the middle of the night, on weekends, during holidays, birthdays, and weddings. It’s almost a guarantee, Murphy’s Law if you will, that every important life event will be interrupted by police investigations. And in the case of murder investigations, those interruptions can last days, weeks, months, or even years. Inevitably, spouses and relationships take a back seat to catching the killer. In creating John Byron I have drawn on personal experience to paint a realistic picture for the reader. Hopefully, as you follow Byron through each book, you will gain a greater understanding of what good police officers, tenacious investigators, must give up to see that justice is served.

Welcome to Murder Books!

8 thoughts on “Real Life vs. Fictional Investigators

  1. Great idea. I look forward to reading it. I think the common traits shared between a real life investigator and a good fiction writer are commitment and tenacity. What I know of you, and the little bit I have seen in Brian, tells me that you will do very well. As to Roger and Ben, I look forward to learning still more.


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