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MYSTERY MEN


I have been a fan of detective novels, cozies and TV shows portraying cops and the criminal justice system since I learned how to read. Because they're mysteries. That is, puzzles, forensic or dramatic brain twisters to solve with the authors' clues. Sometimes false leads. I hate that: "No one knew the killer's identical twin was hired as the chamber maid in the mansion." And sometimes hints that were no help at all like "DNA shows it was a male of Asian ancestry." Great. Now that limits the suspect list to a few billion.


I gave up the fictional novels with private dicks always smarter than the real cops, tough guys who knocked down doors and slapped the bad girl around a few times before he either took her to bed or jail. Characters like Sam Spade and Mike Hammer, scribblers' with a more literary bent such as P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh and my favorite Robert Parker frustrated my appetite for real-life depictions of these knights behind a badge. I left them all behind when I discovered the true crime genre with forensic protocols for solving murders and realistic investigative techniques at the forefront of the plot. Finally, I'd found a mystery with true-life clues and emphasis on the meat of the matter and not the fact that the lead detective could commune with the dead victims, drink his or her way through a gallon of booze after the hardware was unstrapped, talk trash to his commander and slug it out with his wife or girlfriend every day but Tuesday.


There's a definite reason I gave up on the fictional Dicks and Homicide cops stuffed on the shelves of my local library. I couldn't watch a whole episode of the Cop shows either. Too silly. Too "carbon cutouts" of every other cop show on. Law and Order seemed the closest by far to what I knew from my life experience with real cops, DA's and criminal Defense Attorneys. But in the end, the producers always snuck in scenes and asides from the soap opera genre. All their cops seemed drawn from the Joseph Wambaugh clan—drunks, ex-drunks, problem boys stepping over the line on a regular basis, cold-hearted cynics isolated from real society. I suppose that is true to a degree given the demands and stress of the profession. But that's not an accurate picture of the genre of men and women who work their behinds off to solve these criminal mysteries every day of the week, in every part of America and the world at large.


My protagonist in the Detective Sergeant John Bowers procedural series was born out of this quandary of wanting to find a real cop, a good guy who loves his job catching bad guys and getting closure for victims. He's ordinary I guess you could say. He has faults. Just like us. But his basic instincts are always pointed in the right direction—after a few wrong turns maybe. He's not an alcoholic, he can't get past the letter A on a list of feminine wiles, but he's trying to catch up. He's fair; he's committed; he's untainted by racist ideology, sexist sabotage and general-variety bullshit. He's normal in other words. A working stiff who sometimes loves to hate his Bureau cubicle in the Justice Center. But there isn't another occupation he'd rather do. John Bowers is my kinda guy. A real guy. Someone I'd like to share a beer with, get messy with at a backyard barbeque and hash over cold cases.


I have known and worked with cops from small town America where homicides show up once every few decades to urban nests of high crime, gang violence, serial killers and plain jane nutjobs. John lands somewhere in the middle. His bailiwick at Central Precinct Portland Police Bureau is morphing from a town to a big city with all its problems. Homicide rates are catching up with bigger US cities like LA with stiffs stacked in the coroners' hallway waiting for cooler space.


So, my diet for crime fiction is firmly planted in the Procedural genre. I want all the forensic work mixed in plus a realistic tracking of the door-to-door dog work involved in actual homicide work. New technology breakthroughs have helped to solve cases that probably would revolve to the Cold Case Unit in John's day. Like CC TV surveillance, DNA, genealogy data bases and other national data sources to match suspects to case forensics. But the basics remain. It's the homicide team trying to fit all the puzzle pieces together that gets the bad actors off the streets. Since the Bowers' series setting is the mid 1990's, there is more of the gumshoe labor involved for John and his partner Sgt. Minnie Raye. Lets a reader follow the trail from the start and sniff out the spoor just as John does. Puts you at the scene and on the hunt. A good ride for true crime and mystery fans alike. My kinda trip.






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