Real world of forensics

David Caruso, fiery orange hair ablaze against the blue-tinged Miami background, slowly takes off his sleek titanium Maui Jim sunglasses, his stone-cold, magisterial face reminiscent of a life lived with almost too much manliness, his SUV parked behind him, exploding (for no apparent reason at all) in a majestic, slow motion show of pure awesomeness. And only one thing comes to mind as you prepare for an exciting episode of CSI: Miami: This is forensic science!

Isn’t it? Wait – it’s not? Not even a little bit? “Uh-oh, I just signed up for a degree because I thought it looked really cool thanks to David Caruso’s sunglasses … I mean, show. Oops!”

Television and film have shown us great, albeit far-fetched – and many times ridiculous! – variations on the forensic scientist and detective, over the years. And CSI: Miami, along with its numerous counterparts, continues this grand tradition. But this is what many people think of when they imagine forensic investigators out in the real world – a stylized work environment full of guns, babes, bullets, and blood, in which our star scientists solve a case in 42 minutes flat, with time to spare for soaking up the Miami sun and grabbing a few brews with colleagues.

The actuality is a bit different. While TV and movie portrayals tend to push the bounds of plausibility, forensic science is an important and fascinating asset to our society as a whole. It’s worth a closer look to see what makes forensics so interesting, as well as to learn more about a career that will allow you to make a real difference within the ever-growing and always exciting field of forensic science.

Why So Fascinating?

Forensic science is the discipline of combining a variety of scientific and technical means to reconstruct past events from still-existing evidence. In criminology, the focus is on civil and criminal cases. Within this broad spectrum of forensic science, there are roles as a forensic engineer (with a focus on traffic accidents, fire investigations, wrongful injury and product failure cases), medical examiner (ascertaining cause of death), or forensic science technician, among many other positions and specializations.

A Focus on CSI Types and Lab Rats

The work of forensic science technicians embodies a great deal of what the forensic world has to offer. In most instances, workers will specialize in one of two categories:

  1. crime scene investigation – for those who work at actual crime scenes
  2. laboratory analysis – where forensic science technicians are most commonly found

According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the National Institute of Justice, they are – at the most basic level – scientists interested in putting together the disparate puzzle pieces left after a crime has been committed.

If this is you, you may be in charge of collecting, analyzing, and, many times, presenting your findings in a court of law. The diverse and complex investigations may include crime scenes, arson, missing persons, mass fatality, and cold cases. Your job is to provide a clearer picture of a crime to the police, a jury, and the interested public. You have the chance to provide the ending to the story.

What Will You Do?

At crime scenes, you may:

– take photographs
– make sketches
– collect evidence (weapons, bodily fluids, fingerprints, and more)
– attend autopsies, in certain cases

As a laboratory technician, you may:

– use scientific analysis to classify evidence found
– reconstruct crime scenes in order to figure out what really happened
– use diverse and expensive laboratory equipment and chemicals in order to properly analyze materials
– conduct testing on fingerprints, DNA, blood splatter, ballistics, and more

Most laboratory workers have a specific focus on, say, ballistics, DNA, or blood spatter. Depending upon inherent differences in each unique case – whether arson, kidnapping, or murder – investigators employ a range of different methods and techniques in order to solve the underlying mystery. These experts often have backgrounds in fields like chemistry, mathematics, biology, physics, or computer science.

How does it sound so far? Pretty cool, right? Maybe not in a “David-Caruso-car-exploding-glasses-off-not-a-care-in-the-world” kind of way, granted. But it is much more helpful and beneficial to society, don’t you think?

Prerequisites and Requirements of the Field

How do you become a forensic science technician, you ask? Let us count the ways, courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Prerequisites On-the-Job Training Work Conditions Pay and Job Outlook
Crime scene investigator Bachelor’s (some rural agencies accept a high school diploma or equivalent). Apprentice to more experienced investigators. Staggered day/evening/night shifts are normal. Expect overtime work, too. $51,570 per year with 19 percent growth potential from 2010-20.
Forensic science technician Bachelor’s in either forensic science or a natural science (such as biology or chemistry). Learn laboratory specialties on the job. Time required varies depending upon the specialty. Standard work week. $51,570 per year with 19 percent growth potential from 2010-20.

You may need copious amounts of on-the-job training before you can work independently on cases. You’ll also want skills like good public speaking and the ability to write reports that are not only technically accurate but also understandable to non-technical readers.

You’ll have the opportunity to work in a variety of environments: police departments, morgues, hospitals, universities, medical examiner/coroner offices, crime laboratories, and more. Developments in technology – as well as jurors’ growing knowledge of forensic techniques – is expected to lead to steady growth in coming years. Also, due in large part to its portrayal in the mass media – thank you very much, David Caruso and your exploding car! – there will be substantial interest from students for years to come.

What Does It All Mean?

If you want to make a difference while doing work that will both challenge and satisfy you creatively, forensic science may just be the perfect choice. You’ll have a wide variety of specialties to choose from and the chance to solve interesting problems using cutting-edge technologies. David Caruso, eat your heart out!

*Article by

HS Stavropoulos

Lee is a great guy, don’t get me wrong.  He graciously didn’t put my name and phone number on the picture of me flipping off the police on that felony traffic stop or send it to my local police department.  Hey, how was I to know that the scumbag driving the SUV and his flaky girlfriend had just robbed a store.  What about the gun, you say.  Not mine, I swear I was just holding for a friend.  I’m totally innocent.

Anyway let’s get back to Lee.  He worked hard protecting citizens from the bad guys as a police detective even receiving an award of valor.  He created THE BEST WRITERS’ CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD, the Writers’ Police Academy.  Still, I blame him for ruining my television viewing pleasure.  Let me explain.

I can’t watch Castle any more.  It wasn’t Lee’s blog about all the procedural faults with the show.  No, I still watched because I love Nathan Fillion.  Brown Coats unite!!  Er, um, moving on, it wasn’t Lee’s blog, but the Writers’ Police Academy that created the problem.  Not just for Castle, but all television cop shows.  See, it goes like this, I turn on the tv, the opening scene begins and I start with, “that’s not right.  The police would never do that.”  Ten seconds later I’m yelling, “the ME (medical examiner) can’t tell cause of death at the scene or the time of death!!”  CSI is a total bust.  When one of the techs walks in with a black light after spraying the scene with Luminol, I’m not just yelling, I’m screaming, “Luminol does not need blue light!!  It’s about luminescence not fluorescence!!”   And those high heels and low cut tops; forget it, it’s all over for me.  Click, TV off, and I walk away muttering ‘that was just wrong, wrong, wrong’.  Lee’s fault.

But it doesn’t end there.  A house burned down in my neighborhood.  I read every newspaper account.  I was fascinated because the reports stated that the fire burned so hot it obliterated the area where it started.  I wondered which type of accelerant was used and how much the house was insured for and whether the owner was in financial trouble or hiding criminal activity.  Not really good things to wonder out loud when your neighbor’s house burns down.  Okay, some of this I come by honestly, I am a crime writer, but really all those thoughts were just enhanced by, you guessed it, the Writers’ Police Academy; THE BEST WRITERS’ CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD.  I blame Lee.

I watched the news about the shooting in DC this week.  Many of those officers were not being paid due to the government shut down, but performing their duties protecting others was important to them. As the police officers surrounded the car with their guns drawn, I knew what they were doing and why.  I understood the risks they were taking and the scenarios that they were prepared for.  My perspective had changed.

The Writers’ Police Academy provided that insight.  There were many live demonstrations.  I got to see dogs in action working with their handlers.  Climb into a command trailer.  We had a bomb squad demonstration.  Really cool, from the dog  detecting the ‘bomb’ in the backpack, to the robot moving the ‘bomb’ away, to the officer suiting up and taking a detonation device to the ‘bomb’.

Then the ‘fire in the hole’ called out before the ‘bomb’ was exploded. We experienced it from start to finish and the ‘boom’ made us all jump even though we all knew it was coming.  We then got to pepper the officers with questions as we furiously wrote down the answers.

I got to search a building with training from a SWAT officer.  We were ‘issued’ fake guns and rifles and sent in to search.  Then on the second time in, someone was chosen to hide.  Half of us died by not finding the suspect before he or she found us.  The officer taking us through the search procedures was also a sniper; a nationally recognized expert police sniper.  When asked if it’s possible, like in the movies, for someone to shoot a person holding a gun to a hostage’s head without harming the victim.  He responded, “I can.”  I wasn’t just impressed, he’s the one I want if a gun is ever held to my head.  Nationally recognized police sniper and I-got-to-train-with-him!!  I’m putting that on my writer’s CV.

Then it was my turn to shoot.  At the simulator.  We were allowed to chose real handguns.  I wanted the 9mm Rugar.  Hey why not?  In the simulator you experience the feel and weight of real weapons.  The magazines are fitted with electronics rather than live bullets.  The system records each ‘shot’ fired.  Where it hits on the screen.  Kill shots are identified with a red dot.  My heart was pumping as I held my gun.  My vision narrowed as I focused on the screen.

We went through several scenarios.  Each forced you to assess the situation, each individual to determine whether a person was a potential threat and whether you needed to shoot and at whom. While not real, it’s disconcerting to be faced with a gun fired at you.  I accorded myself well.  I made several kill shots and all my non-lethal shots would have incapacitated the shooters.  I was deemed worthy of being some one’s partner on patrol.  I walked out of the room wired on adrenaline.  I can’t imagine what police officers experience in real situations, I didn’t have real bullets firing back at me, but I do have an inkling and an incredible amount of respect.

I also understood the potential dangers of approaching a vehicle after a regular traffic stop, but the increased danger of a felony traffic stop. I’d learned all about it during the felony traffic stop at the Writers’ Police Academy.  Yes, that traffic stop.  Lee has photos.  I’m never going to be able to live this down.

The scariest moment though was the jail tour.  We had to make sure we had nothing on us but our ids.  We couldn’t bring in pens with springs – prisoners could make zip guns if they were able to get a hold of the pens.  A prisoner in a holding cell screamed at us as we walked by.  We toured the command room, medical facility, the personal effects room, and then one of the floors.

You enter the floor through a series of doors each requiring either an override key or permission from the command room to get in.  Each door has to close first before the next one is opened.  It took a while to get our entire group through.  The best behaved prisoners were located on this floor, still we were out in the central area with the prisoners around us.   The floor was open in the center with cells around the outer rim. A few watching television were a couple of chairs away from our group. Others were watching us from their cells or classroom, pressed against the glass to look at us. We huddled closely to listen to the guard tell us about the area.

The prisoners looked so young to me and no different from young men I might pass in the street back home. I wondered about their choices or lack thereof that got them here.  The guard reminded us that these prisoners were the ones deemed with the best chance to turn around their lives.  But, there were floors that we could never see like this due to the types of criminals.  I thought about the most heinous crimes possibly committed by the prisoners on those floors and was glad they were in jail and not on the street. The floor was completely closed off from the outside world.  There was no natural light or air, no windows that looked out.  If I had any thought towards criminal activity, that would have made me reform immediately.

The Writer’s Police Academy instructors are experts, special agents, professors, sheriff deputies, highway patrol, EMTs, SWAT officers, firefighters, and detectives – top people in their respective fields.  I learned about forensic psychology, forensic DNA testing, cold case investigations, crime scene investigation, fingerprint analysis, blood analysis, crime scene evidence collection, serial killers, profiling and so-much-more.  We heard from best selling authors on their writing journey and how they weave in facts, experiences and case studies into their stories. Police officers told us they love what they do; they feel the responsibility and the duty of doing a job well.

I returned home psyched and roaring to go.  Now instead of a blank page when I set down to write, I see my instructors.  The ones who took their own personal unpaid time to teach, instruct and tell war stories to a bunch of typewriter/computer wannabe jockeys.  I asked the officers how we could best represent them in our writing.  I will never forget the response, “take what we’ve given you and write it right.”

For Lee and all the officers and instructors, I vow to do my best to get it right.  Still, Lee did ruin my life, I’ll never be able to watch police shows any more because now I know how it’s really done. I’ll throw crime novels with inaccurate police procedure into the fireplace. Sigh, life as I knew it will never be the same. Still I say….


To Lee for the Writers’ Police Academy; THE BEST WRITERS’ CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD.


To all the officers, lecturers and everyone who made it the BEST WRITERS’ CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD.

Oh, you might be wondering about that felony traffic stop.  Well…they needed volunteers to portray the bad guys.  Of course I jumped at the chance to act bad.  Very bad.  I blame it on Lee.  He made me do it.

*     *     *

You can read more from H. S. Stavropoulos at

Lynn Chandler-Willis

This was my second year attending the Writers’ Police Academy. Last year, I was in such awe of simply being there I failed to notice one important thing. The instructors, and even the guest speakers, are very…approachable.

They really don’t mind answering really weird questions. The amazing thing about that is most of the instructors aren’t writers—yet—they get it. They get the stuck plots, or the plot twists, or the need for a perfect poison. Probably the only place where you can ask the best way to kill someone and not be looked at strangely. Or arrested.

The Writers’ Police Academy is not a writer’s conference in the grand scheme of things. Yes, there are a lot of writers who attend. Yes, the keynote speaker is usually a NY Times best selling mystery author (this year Lisa Gardner, last year Lee Child) and yes there are books for sale and authors ready and willing to sign. But you won’t find workshops geared toward the craft of writing, other than getting it right from a law enforcement point of view. There are no workshops or panel discussions on pace, or dialogue, or outlining. But there are workshops on blood spatter and collecting evidence.

Lee Child in the driving simulator

Lisa Gardner in the unmarked police car prior to her ride with a covert task force

And those workshop instructors are as approachable as any you’ll find anywhere. The Writers’ Police Academy recruits the leaders in their fields. The top guns. Professor David Pauly, M.F.S., holds a Master of Forensic Science degree from George Washington University. He’s currently the Director of Applied Forensic Science at Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC.

Dave Pauly

Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice at DeSales University. She’s a renowned speaker on serial killers and psychopaths and has appeared on 20/20, Larry King Live, and numerous cable programs.

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Denene Lofland holds a Ph.D in Pathology and is known for her expertise in DNA, bioterrorism, and new drug discovery.

Dr. Denene Lofland

Robert Skiff is a crime scene evidence collection expert and the Training Manager at Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories.

Robert Skiff

These men and women can’t help you with your synopsis or tell you whether your dialogue works, but they are more than willing to hold a dialogue with you to help you work through that tricky plot point. They’re approachable. They freely give their email addresses. They’re a mystery writer’s dream come true.

Why do they do it? They enjoy it. And believe it or not, they learn some things, too. Robert Skiff of Sirchie says some of the questions we writers ask helps to keep him on his toes. Writers tend to ask creative questions so it allows the instructors to play the “what if” game, too, to come up with creative answers.

I sat in one of Dave Pauly’s classes with NY Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner. She asked questions, and Dave answered. And it was a really cool moment. I, little ol’ author, was in the same room with this award winning author with 16 million copies of her books in print—and I had the same access to the answers. Last year, I joked with Marcia Clark. Yes — that Marcia Clark. And she’s really, really funny.

Marcia Clark at the session on shallow grave investigations

No matter what you write, you probably have a stack of go-to reference books you frequently use. The instructors and speakers at the Writer’s Police Academy are those books. They’re walking, breathing books of knowledge more than willing to share.

Will I go back to the Writer’s Police Academy? Yes. Why? Because hopefully as my writing career continues to grow, new questions will arise. I’ll move on to the next work in progress which will bring new obstacles, new discoveries, and new ways to kill people. On paper, of course.

*     *     *

Lynn Chandler-Willis has worked in the corporate world (hated it!), the television news business (fun job) and the newspaper industry (not a fan of the word “apparently” and phrase “according to”). She keeps coming back to fiction because she likes making stuff up and you just can’t do that in the newspaper or television news business.

She was born, raised, and continues to live in the heart of North Carolina within walking distance to her kids and their spouses and her nine grandchildren. She shares her home, and heart, with Sam the cocker spaniel.

She is the author of the best-selling true crime book, Unholy Covenant. Her debut novel, The Rising (Pelican Book Group) was released in July 2013. Chandler-Willis is the 2013 winner of the Minotaur Books/Private Eye Novel Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel competition for her novel, Wink of an Eye.

You can visit Lynn at


Judge Bill Hopkins...

Why I did NOT like Writers’ Police Academy

You heard me right. The reason I did NOT like WPA 2013 is that I couldn’t go to every class! It needs to be weeklong and everyone who attends should get paid vacation from his or her employer. Plus gas money and a food allowance.

Other than that, the session was excellent. I went with my wife and mystery writer Sharon Woods Hopkins ( — buy her books). Together, she and I (www.judgebillhopkins — buy my books) call ourselves The Deadly Duo.

Writing for the both of us, I’ll concentrate on a few of the many things that were outstanding: Kathy Reichs and Lisa Gardner were two of many authors who spoke there. Kathy’s presentation and Lisa’s inspirational talk were worth the price of admission (which is reasonable to start with). It’s always good for novice writers to hear from people who’ve struggled with the same things that they are struggling with.

Let me throw in here that one of the best groups a writer can join is Sisters In Crime. That organization subsidized a lot of the WPA and I thank them for it! Join today  by visiting:

EMS and the crime scene scenario gave a realistic version of what a mass casualty crime could look like, including (in our session at least) a real newspaper reporter who was chastised by one of the participants for getting too close to the “action.” The young people (students and first responders) literally gave of their own time so that we writers could learn how things work in the real world.

One of the other favorites we had was the little robot who carried a bomb away from the scene to a safe area where it was exploded. This, as they say, was better than television. Along with the demonstration of the robot, we got information on the physics of an explosion. For example, it’s the concussion from the blast that will kill you, not being thrown through the air (although that certainly won’t do you any good).

But the best part of all was the firearms training simulator. There we were armed with computer guided pistols and were shown video scenarios. If we shot the bad guy or bad girl before they got us, we got points. If we killed an innocent person, we lost points. If we got “killed” we lost. Period.

Now, out of five scenarios, I got the kill shot five times! And Sharon backed me up five times!

The moral here is: Do not mess with the Deadly Duo!

*     *     *

After two decades on the bench, Bill Hopkins captures readers with his Judge Rosswell Carew murder mysteries. How does a judge manage to wrangle his way into investigating so many crimes? And can he do it without crossing into the dark side himself? Find out by reading the first book in the series, Courting Murder.


Author’s website:

Author’s FaceBook page:

*     *     *

Sharon Woods Hopkins writes a mystery series featuring Rhetta McCarter, a mortgage banker who drives a 1979 Camaro named Cami. The first book, KILLERWATT came out in 2011. KILLERFIND came out in 2012 and KILLERTRUST, the third in the series will be out in 2013.

Sharon is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Southeast Missouri Writers’ Guild, and the Missouri Writers’ Guild. Her short story, DEATH BEE HUMBLE, appeared in the SEMO Writer’s Guild Anthology for 2012, and her newest short story, DEATH TO PONDER will be in a mystery anthology this spring.

Her first Rhetta McCarter book, KILLERWATT was a finalist in the 2012 Indie Excellence Awards. Her second book, KILLERFIND was released in July 2012.

Besides writing, Sharon’s hobbies include painting, fishing, photography, flower gardening, and restoring muscle cars with her son, Jeff.

Sharon also spent 30 years as an Appaloosa Horse Club judge, where she was privileged to judge all over the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Like her protagonist, Sharon is manager of the mortgage division of a bank.

She lives on the family compound near Marble Hill, Missouri with her husband, Bill, next door to her son Jeff and his wife Wendy and her grandson Dylan, plus two dogs, one cat and assorted second generation Camaros in various stages of restoration.

Her books, KILLERWATT and KILLERFIND are for sale on, or directly from her home page at, or from the publisher at or from any Indie bookstore.


Her third book, KILLERTRUST will be available in 2013.


John Foxjohn

The Investigator – On the morning of April 28, 2008, Sgt. Stephen Abbott, a supervisor with the Lufkin Police criminal investigative division, awoke to a cool, windy Monday. As the second highest ranking member of the detective division, he didn’t handle a case load. Instead, he supervised those who did investigate crimes, plus, like many small departments, he had other jobs: mainly the crime scene unit and the evidence room.

Sgt. Abbott had been on the Lufkin Police Department for fifteen years, and in truth, very little of that in the CID (criminal investigative division). However, almost all police investigative units have someone with the ability to go into any situation and deal with any sort of person or problem—be it a board meeting with suits, politicians with an agenda, or a ditch digger in ripped jeans—and be able to relate to the people and handle whatever situation comes up. In April of 2008, Sgt. Abbott was that person in the Lufkin CID whom higher-ups sought out to handle delicate or unusual cases.

Abbott’s day had progressed like many others—until around four-thirty when his two bosses sought him out. They had what they thought might become a sensitive situation. In other words, the proverbial mess had hit the fan, and Sgt. Abbott was going to have to clean it up.

As Sgt. Abbott headed for the DaVita Dialysis Center in Lufkin, all he’d been told—in fact, all his bosses knew, was there might be a problem with some tampering with medication. Abbott didn’t know he was about to step into the most unique investigation in the world—one with no blueprints because no one else had ever done it.

Inside the DaVita Dialysis Center

When the detective supervisor arrived at DaVita, he listened in stunned silence as the official at the clinic explained that two patients had come forward that day and said they witnessed a DaVita nurse inject two other patients with bleach. The witnesses claimed that they saw the nurse inject the patients and discard the syringes in two different sharps containers.

Nurse Kimberly Clark Saenz

The DaVita supervisors didn’t really believe the two witnesses’ stories—it seemed utterly incomprehensible—that is until they opened the two sharps containers and tested the syringes.

Recovered syringe – evidence

In fact, the statements by the witnesses and the bleach-positive syringes explained a lot of unnatural occurrences that had happened in the clinic.

The DaVita officials also told Abbott that they’d been collecting, freezing, and preserving the bloodlines of all patients who’d suffered adverse heart problems while connected to the dialysis machines. The bloodlines were what carried the patients’ blood out of the body and returned it.

DaVita patient care area (Dialysis machines)

Abbott had little investigative experience, but a high intellect, and that one of the reasons he’d risen through the ranks so fast. It was also the main reason he was a detective supervisor.

That afternoon, as Sgt. Abbott began an investigation no other detective had ever thought of, he would make three critical decisions. Instead of waiting, he had the CSU collect those patients’ bloodlines right then and there.

Dialysis bloodlines

This decision would help later in combating the defense attorney’s claim that DaVita was using his client as a scapegoat. DaVita did not have the frozen bloodlines to tamper with—the police had custody of them.

His second decision was even more important. DaVita had removed the two sharps containers the witnesses claimed the nurse dropped the syringes in from the patient area and turned them over to the CSU. However, Abbott went a step further than what anyone could have anticipated, and again, this step would help defuse the defense attorney.

Abbott had the CSU collect every single sharps container in the clinic—around forty of them.

His third decision would prove the biggest in the entire investigation. Once they had all those containers at the police department, he asked the CSU to test every one of the containers and syringes for bleach.

Inside a DaVita sharps container

Most of the containers were either full or almost full of uncapped syringes that contained patients’ blood, and by then, he knew that there were patients at the clinic with the AIDS virus.

Because the two patients that the witness saw injected with bleach lived, Sgt. Abbott’s initial investigation was for aggravated assault. Syringes from sharps containers other than the original two, would eventually point to murders, and a bunch of them.

Kimberly Clark Saenz was caught adding bleach to her patients’ IV ports

*     *     *

Best-selling author John Foxjohn epitomizes the phrase “been there–done that.” Born and raised in the rural East Texas town of Nacogdoches, he quit high school and joined the Army at seventeen: Viet Nam veteran, Army Airborne Ranger, policeman and homicide detective, retired teacher and coach, now he is a multi-published author.

Growing up, Foxjohn developed a love of reading that will never end. In fact, he refers to himself as a “readalcoholic.” He began with the classics and still lists Huckleberry Finn as one of his all time favorites. Later, he discovered Louis L’Amour and besides owning every book he wrote, Foxjohn says he’s read every one of them at least five times.

However, when he was twelve, Foxjohn read a book about Crazy Horse, and decided right then he would also write one about the famous Lakota leader. After many “yondering” years as L’Amour called them, he spent ten years researching his historical fiction, Journey of the Spirit, now titled The People’s Warrior.

The book did well in sales and quite a few people, even today, still believe it’s one of his best. However, it was not the first he published. Code of Deceit, a story about a young Houston homicide detective came first, and became the first in four David Mason books.

Foxjohn’s third book, Cold Tears, the second in the series, set an example that would be hard to live up to. His editor even said she didn’t believe he could ever write a better book. The awards and accolades for the novel bore out her remarks.

Other novels would appear, but then Foxjohn hit a snag. He found out that he had cancer. For a year an idea had percolated in the back of his mind about writing a legal romance thriller with a woman defense attorney as the protagonist. Writing a novel through the eyes of a woman is something not too many men attempt.

In Foxjohn’s own words, “I thought I was going to die so why not give it a shot.” He was wrong about the dying part; like so many other events in his life, he survived, and so did the idea. It became his novel Tattered Justice. For many reasons, it will remain one of his favorites.

Foxjohn has published mysteries, romantic suspenses, historical fiction, legal thrillers, and coming in August 2013, a true crime.

Killer Nurse

When he’s not writing, teaching writing classes, or speaking to different writing groups and conferences, Foxjohn loves to spend time square dancing, working in his rose garden, or in his garage doing woodwork. However, his passion outside of family and writing is without a doubt, anything to do with the Dallas Cowboys.

Crime: The animated series

Crime: The Animated Series

Created by: Alix Lambert and Sam Chou

Alix Lambert’s ongoing investigation into the world of crime includes hundreds of collected interviews she has conducted with criminals, law enforcement, victims, and observers of crime in the world we live in. Using excerpted audio from these interviews and teaming up with animator Sam Chou of Style5tv In Toronto, Lambert and Chou have developed a series of short animated episodes, which through a variety of voices, illuminate the criminal world and paint a complex portrait of who we are as people.

From bank robbers to cops to victims to observers, Crime: The Animated Series explores how crime affects us all. The series is dark, compelling, heartbreaking, and yes – sometimes funny. Each episode is approximately 3 minutes and features the work of a different animator/designer who brings their own personal style to the series, while the series as a whole maintains a cohesive look through it’s limited red, black and white color palette.

Always surprising and intimate Crime presents a collection of unique perspectives on a subject that has captivated though-out time.

*     *     *

Alix Lambert

Lisa Black: unsolved Cleveland homicide

Beverly Jarosz was the epitome of an innocent, all-American schoolgirl in a more innocent, all-American time. She lived in a tidy suburb with her parents and one sister. Her mother worked in an office, her father was co-owner of a small manufacturing firm. Her little sister took horseback riding lessons. Beverly went to a private high school and dated a strait-laced college boy. Everyone in her life was exactly who they seemed to be. There were no secrets.

But just after Christmas, 1964, Beverly was stabbed over forty times, in her own home, in the middle of the day.

The murder was never solved.

It was a Monday, December 28. Beverly’s parents were at their jobs, but Beverly and her sister Carol were still out of school for the Christmas holidays. They had puttered around the house in the morning, then walked to the store and then over their grandmother’s house for lunch. Carol had stayed at her grandmother’s, but Beverly caught a ride home from her grandmother’s neighbor. A girlfriend, Barb, was going to come over about 12:30 and they were going to go visit a third friend.

About 1 pm, Beverly called her mother at work and chatted for a few minutes, saying that she had to go and change before Barb arrived. That was the last conversation Beverly had with anyone except the killer.

Barb’s mother dropped her off, late, at 1:20. The storm door was locked but the inner door stood open. Barb knocked and rang the bell, but Beverly didn’t answer. Barb assumed she couldn’t hear the bell over the radio, which blared classical music in the living room. Barb waited for a while on the porch but eventually gave up and headed home. The third friend called later to see why they hadn’t showed, and from there they contacted Bev’s grandmother, who called Bev’s father. Ted Jarosz rushed home and, at 4:10 in the afternoon, found both doors unlocked and his daughter, dead, in her second-floor bedroom.

Her clothing had been yanked upward and downwards to expose her torso. She had been stabbed in the back and slashed in the neck, but death came from the clothesline knotted around her neck.

The investigation was thorough. The police in Garfield Heights, Ohio, interviewed every boy Beverly had dated or spent time with, the neighbor who gave her a ride, the boy who bagged groceries at the local store. Of course they looked at both her straight-laced boyfriend, Roger McNamara, and her bad-boy ex, Dan Schulte; they both had alibis but not perfect ones, but they both passed lie detector tests. The investigation continued, rewards were offered—but sufficient evidence never accumulated against any one person.

Several factors in the case stand out. One, the killer didn’t just walk into the house. Both Beverly and her sister Carol were mildly fanatical about keeping doors and windows locked (plus it was December, not a time for open windows in Cleveland). In a time when the populace was largely more trusting than it is today, Beverly would not let anyone she didn’t know into the house, not even the meter reader. So it seems she opened the door to her killer.

The other is the mysterious present she had received the previous summer. A gift box from Higbee’s department store had been tucked inside the back door with “To Bev” written on it. Inside were a silver ring and bracelet. Far from being charmed by the idea of secret admirer, the gift made Beverly nervous. The sender has never been identified, the ring and bracelet nice but not distinctive enough to trace.

The clothesline, of course, remained around Beverly’s neck but the knife or whatever was used to stab her was never found. It might have been a brass letter opener that she kept next to her bed, but if not, then the killer brought the weapon with him and took it away again afterward.

It seems clear that the murder grew out of a sense of unrequited love; he imagined a relationship with Beverly and turned violent when she did not cooperate. But that hardly narrows the field in the life of a popular family girl—neighbors, schoolmates, relatives, parents co-workers, someone she once passed in the park. It could have been literally anyone, and she would not have known until it was too late. Such are the dangers of life when you’re pretty and young.

Anyone who might know anything about the Beverly Jarosz murder can call the Garfield Heights police department at 216-475-3056.

*     *     *

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist in the Cleveland coroner’s office she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department. Her books have been translated into six languages. Evidence of Murder reached the NYT mass market bestseller’s list.

See Lisa’s books at:

Blunt Impact will be available April 1, featuring forensic scientist Theresa MacLean and a series of murders surrounding a skyscraper under construction in downtown Cleveland. The first to die is young, sexy concrete worker Samantha, thrown from the 23rd floor. The only witness is her 11 year old daughter Anna, nicknamed Ghost. Ghost will stop at nothing to find her mother’s killer, and Theresa will stop at nothing to keep Ghost safe.

Also, Kindle owners can find a bargain in my new book The Prague Project, written under the name Beth Cheylan. A death in West Virginia sends FBI agent Ellie Gardner and NYPD Counterterrorism lieutenant Michael Stewart on a chase across Europe as they track stolen nukes and lost Nazi gold, hoping to avert the death of millions of people.

Donald Bain: The science behind

My novel, Experiment in Murder, the 26th book in the Margaret Truman Capital Crime series, was published in November 2012. Some reviewers have compared it to The Manchurian Candidate because it deals with the same subject as that chilling book and movie—mind control and the manipulation of certain vulnerable people to kill. While indisputably intriguing, it nevertheless prompts the question: Is what occurs in each book scientifically valid?

I assure you that it is.

My involvement with mind control and the use of hypnosis began in 1973 with my friend, Long John Nebel, then the king of late-night talk radio in NYC. In 1972 he’d married Candy Jones, a famed WWII pinup and one of America’s most well-known models. I was speaking with her at the wedding reception when a strange thing happened. The woman I was talking to suddenly became a different person. Her voice lowered, and her expression changed. I was taken aback by the experience but went on to other conversations and forgot about it.

Long John Nebel

A few months later a distraught Nebel called and asked me to come to their Manhattan apartment. According to Nebel, what I had experienced at the reception was taking place with regularity. Candy kept shifting into that other personality. Nebel told me that her alter-ego even had a name: Arlene Grant. John, who was fascinated with hypnosis and devoted some of his shows to it, began taping Candy when these unsettling shifts in personality occurred. He played me some of the tapes. What I heard was provocative, to say the least. Candy would suddenly morph from being sweet and loving into a hard, sarcastic other woman, challenging everything John said, and at times reliving past portions of her life from before she met him. There were also moments on the tapes when those previous episodes in her life hinted at government involvement, particularly the CIA and two physicians known to have had connections with that agency’s well-documented experimental programs using drugs and hypnosis to manipulate people.

That meeting in John Nebel’s apartment launched me on a year-long quest into the world of medical hypnosis and the phenomena of multiple personality, and how they can be used for both good and evil.

Over the course of the next year I listened to hundreds of hours of tapes John had recorded of Candy when she fell into an involuntary trance state. I attended myriad medical conferences around the country learning everything I could about the power of hypnosis and how it could, when skillfully practiced on the right subject, cause the subject to bend to the hypnotist’s will, including becoming an assassin. It was an eye-opening journey that resulted in the book The Control of Candy Jones (later reissued as The CIA’s Control of Candy Jones). And it is the science of mind control that is at the heart of Experiment in Murder.


Mind control is not science fiction. It has been clinically proved by top psychiatrists and psychologists over many decades. Dr. Herbert Spiegel, arguably the world’s leading expert in the use of hypnosis in medicine, was a close friend of John Nebel and became mine as well. His groundbreaking work in measuring each individual’s ability to be hypnotized—which he called the Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP)—identifies those who are most easily led into the trance state. The HIP scale runs from one to five, with five representing those rare individuals who not only are easily hypnotized and manipulated, but who enter into involuntary trance states many times a day. Spiegel used the names of mythical Greek figures for labeling the three basic types of personalities and their relative capacity to enter hypnotic trance. Dionysians are most easily hypnotizable and tend to respond more to their emotions when making a decision. Apollonians are least easy to hypnotize; they apply more cognition to decision-making than Dionysians. And Odysseans fall into the middle range, which includes most of us. There are very few “fives” in the population. They’re almost freakish in their capacity to enter trance. Candy Jones was one of these “freaks.” She was the perfect subject for anyone wishing to prove that it’s possible to use hypnosis to create the perfect assassin, someone who pulls the trigger while in a trance and has no memory of having done so, or of who implanted the instruction to kill.

Candy Jones was one of many unsuspecting Americans used as guinea pigs in the CIA’s infamous series of mind control experiments going back to the “Cold War” days when our government feared that the Soviet Union was in the forefront of creating assassins through the use of drugs and hypnosis. The experimentation on her was conducted by two physicians she’d gotten to know while using her fame in the 1940s to sell war bonds. She wore her patriotism on her sleeve, and it wasn’t difficult to entice her into what seemed like innocuous sessions with these doctors over the course of many years. The goal in Candy’s case wasn’t to turn her into an assassin. She was the subject of the theory that with the right subject, and with skilled hypnotists, someone—in this case Candy Jones—could be trained to become the perfect courier, carrying sensitive messages without knowing that they were, and programmed to reveal those messages only when given the right password. Should the enemy intercept such a courier it would be impossible to force her to reveal the messages she carried, no matter how severe the interrogation and/or torture.

This manipulation of Candy resulted in a hellish scenario for John Nebel and his wife. I was a witness to much of it. The non-fiction book I wrote about her experience, The Control of Candy Jones, was published to great controversy. In Experiment in Murder I wrapped the science into a thriller with fictitious characters. But the message is the same. There are individuals who are born with the capacity to easily enter trance, and who are vulnerable to manipulation. This susceptibility is hard-wired in them at birth. It is also common for those on the high end of Herb Spiegel’s HIP scale to have multiple personalities.

In clinical use hypnosis can be a powerful and positive tool to help overcome addictions, allay fears, and in general benefit patients. But in the wrong hands, access to the easily hypnotized can result in advancing evil intentions.   

20th Century Fox purchased the film rights as a vehicle for Jane Fonda. The studio commissioned three screenplays from top screenwriters. The film was never made. I attempted on numerous occasions to buy back the rights, including paying the cost of those screenplays. A dozen other producers have tried to purchase the rights from Fox to no avail. If I were paranoid, I’d consider nefarious reasons for the film never having been made.

The science of mind control, as I described it in Experiment in Murder, might have been used with Sirhan Sirhan, RFK’s assassin. Do I have probative evidence of this? No. But there are a lot of tangential bits of information that I uncovered during my years of research that make it a possibility worthy of further exploration. And, of course, James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King’s killer, was known to have been hypnotized in Los Angeles two months prior to murdering the civil rights leader in Memphis. Did hypnosis and mind control play a role in both those assassinations? Possibly. The salient point is that the science exists that makes such scenarios possible and has been the subject of multiple government-funded experiments since the 1950s.

Mind control is real. Very real. It’s too complicated a subject to explain in this short blog, but is analyzed in-depth in The Control of Candy Jones, and in Experiment in Murder. Given the right subject, and a skilled manipulator, anything is possible—including creating the perfect courier or assassin.

*     *     *

Donald Bain is the author/ghostwriter of over 115 books, including the best-selling “Murder, She Wrote” series of 39 mysteries, and the latest edition in Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes series, Experiment in Murder. His 1960’s airline romp, Coffee, Tea or Me? sold more 5-million copies worldwide, and was reissued by Penguin as a “comedy classic.” His autobiography, Murder HE Wrote: A Successful Writer’s Life, was published in 2006 (Purdue University Press). Don is a member of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, the National Academy of Television Arts & Science, and the Authors Guild. His wife, Renee Paley-Bain, collaborates with him on the “Murder, She Wrote” books.

Please visit him at and “Like” his “Murder, She Wrote Author” page on Facebook.

15 websites

Rhyming words are fun, but some words will leave you tongue-tied trying to find a suitable partner. Anyone who has ever dabbled in poetry will tell you that meter is a refined art that requires the poet to have a comprehensive understanding of how the rhythmic structure of words, sentences and verses ebb and flow. A rookie mistake when dealing with rhyming words is assuming that every word has to be an exact match. A close match is often sufficient to convince the ear that it rhymes without breaking the rhythm of the verse of rhyme. These 15 websites are designed specifically to help you find rhyming words, synonyms and other forms of creative word play.

  1. Rhyme Zone – It’s very frustrating to discover that a word does not have an exact rhyme. However, with Rhyme Zone, you may just find the next best thing. The website’s search engine will look for an exact match, but if it doesn’t find one it will return a list of similar sounding words. You can define your search in a number of ways, including near rhymes, similar sounding words or related words. For more relevant listings, you can also organize the search results by both number of syllables and letters.
  2. Rhymer – As well as providing a powerful rhyming search engine, Rhymer is full of great tips and instructions on constructing rhymes. The website returns results based on rhyming syllables. This is particularly useful if you are a poet, as it allows you to construct verses that flow naturally without stretching to make the words match the meter.
  3. Rhyme Brain – This is a multi-lingual rhyming site that includes French, German, English and Spanish, among other languages. The interface couldn’t be simpler to use; you type the word you wish to rhyme into the search bar and the results are posted in tables on the same page. Rhyme Brain also has an extensive blog on rhyming words and alliteration that you can spend hours browsing through.
  4. Enchanted Learning – Finding rhymes the easy way is one thing; learning to use them on your own is quite another. Enchanted Learning provides endless hours of fun with rhyming games and activities. There is a $20 per year subscription charge, which gives you full access to all the downloadable content from the site. However, there is also a large amount of content that is free of charge and doesn’t require a subscription.
  5. Reggie Loves to Rhyme – This site from Scholastic is a fully interactive site for children, with games and activities that use colors, pictures and sounds to help build rhyming knowledge and skills. Scholastic is an international company that delivers educational material to children in over 150 countries.
  6. WikiRhymer – In keeping with other Wiki-sites, this rhyming search engine is community based. The interface has a number of search parameters to choose from, and there is also a discussion forum where you can ask questions if you’re having trouble with a particular word. This provides a very beneficial platform for poets and song-writers to share ideas.
  7. PBS Kids Rhyming Games – PBS have brought together all their much-loved characters to create a fully interactive site full of rhyming games. Sesame Street, Bingo and others are on hand to make rhyming fun for kids and adults alike.
  8. Word Central – Merriam-Webster are the developers of Word Central, so you shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that the site has a huge database of rhyming words. What’s more, at Word Central you can create your own dictionary along with word definitions. So if you can’t find a word that rhymes the way you’d like, you can just invent one instead!
  9. Find Rhymes – This site adds a new element to rhyme searching by adding phonemes into the mix. Phonemes are the distinct sounds in a specified language that distinguish one word from another.
  10. Rhymes & Chimes – As well as providing rhyming words, Rhymes and Chimes has search parameters for translations, phrases, quotes and related products. Results are also broken down by number of syllables in ascending order from one up to five.
  11. Reading Rockets – This educational site will take you all the way from the basics to the comprehensive elements of rhyming and word play. There’s also a selection of printable material available on Reading Rockets, as well as games and activities you can use on the site.
  12. Your Dictionary – Create your own worksheets and browse through lists of rhyming activities in Your Dictionary’s huge archives. The site is extremely well organized, making it easy to navigate and find what you need with minimal hassle.
  13. Rhyme Bot – This clever bot returns a wealth of information from a single search. By default, Rhyme Bot is tailored towards kids; however, you can also switch to advanced search for more complicated results.
  14. Kids Front – The questions and answers structure of Kids Front is a progressive way of learning rhyming structures.  Although the site is obviously aimed at teaching kids, the exercises are suitable for adults, too.
  15. What rhymes with? – There is nothing complicated or flashy about this site; you simply type a word into the search engine and it finds you rhyming words. However, the results are returned in an easy to read format and each word links to its own related words.

*Today’s article courtesy of

Mark Rubinstein, M.D.

In June 1979, I received a call from a young man. When John and I met, he talked about his father. His dad was a rough-hewn man who belittled and humiliated John, whose self-esteem was crumbling steadily.

Though he was in his mid-thirties, John still lived with his parents. I soon realized John was dependent on his father. He even worked for him. It was quite clear: despite his protestations, John’s wish was to remain a “boy.”

We established a good working relationship. John opened up, and I could tell he trusted me. He said his father was a mob underboss in a Brooklyn crime family. I took this information in stride, thinking it scarcely mattered. After all, John was trying to grow up and leave the nest.

John told one anecdote after another about his relationship with his father; and we were making progress. John realized that despite resenting his dad, he fostered the situation with his father.

One evening in mid-July, John entered the consultation room with a knowing smile spreading across his face.

I waited, thinking something important—perhaps some kernel of insight—might emerge.

“You wanna know who clipped Carmine Galante…?”

John was referring to a mob rubout of a few days earlier. On July 12, 1979, Carmine “Cigar” Galante, an acting boss in the Bonanno crime family, was dining on the patio at Joe and Mary’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. Suddenly, three ski-masked mobsters burst onto the patio and opened fire, killing Galante instantly. One bullet penetrated his eye.

Everyone in New York knew about the hit, since Galante’s photo had been plastered all over the daily rags: it showed Galante—dead as a doornail—sprawled on the pavement with his head resting against a low brick wall. Stuck in his mouth was his still smoking cigar.

John waited for my response.

I realized I was in a terrible situation. Did John’s father know he was visiting me? If so, what did he think John told me about the family business? After all, patients tell their psychiatrists many secrets. I suddenly realized no matter what was—or wasn’t said in our sessions—someone in the family could conclude I knew too much…about anything.

“We have to talk,” I began.

John looked questioningly at me.

“I can’t treat you anymore…”

“Why not, Doc?” John looked surprised and disappointed.

“Because I don’t know what your father or any of his associates think you tell me.”

“It’s just between you and me,” he protested.

“True. But other people know you come here, right?”


“And we don’t know what they think we discuss.”

John got the point.

That was the last session we ever had.

For some time afterwards, I looked over my shoulder.

* Article first published on February 7, 2013 by Mark Rubinstein, M.D. in Tales from the Couch

*     *     *

MARK RUBINSTEIN is a Huffington Post and Pscyhology Today blogger who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, near Sheepshead Bay. After earning a degree in Business Administration at NYU, he served in the U.S. Army as a field medic tending to paratroopers of the Eighty-Second Airborne Division. After his discharge, he went to medical school, became a physician, and then a psychiatrist. As a forensic psychiatrist, he was an expert witness in many trials. As an attending psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell, he taught psychiatric residents, psychologists, and social workers while practicing psychiatry. Before turning to fiction, he coauthored five books on psychological and medical topics.  He lives in Connecticut with as many dogs as his wife will allow in the house. He still practices psychiatry and is busily working on other novels. To learn more, please visit


A Novel

Mark Rubinstein

Thirty years after escaping his hell on earth—a harrowing childhood in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn—Roddy Dolan is grateful to be living the life of his dreams. He has a successful, fulfilling career as a surgeon, a beautiful family, and a lovely home in Westchester County, New York. His past is now just a bad dream.

When he was young and living in Brooklyn, Roddy had an explosive temper and shady friends, which nearly landed him in prison at 17. If it weren’t for a compassionate judge and the Army, Roddy might have ended up going nowhere. But that’s the past, gone for good. Today, at age 45, Roddy is a different man—worthy of the respect he has earned. He is in control of his destiny and rage is no longer part of his life. Or, so Roddy thinks…until a character from his past turns up and re-evokes his long-buried “Mad Dog” alter ego.

A gripping, harrowing, and provocative psychological thriller, MAD DOG HOUSE (Thunder Lake Press; October 23, 2012,  12.99, 978-0-9856268-4-6), revolves around three men—Roddy “Mad Dog” Dolan; his best friend, Danny Burns; and Kenny “Snake Eyes” Egan—who grew up in hell together and never thought their pasts would come back to haunt them. Throughout the novel, Mark Rubinstein provokes people to think about the haunting power of the past and the demons lurking inside their loved ones…and perhaps themselves.

Praise from Readers

“In Mad Dog House Mark Rubinstein reaches out, grabs you and doesn’t let go until you’ve read the last page.”

“One of the best books I’ve read all year.”

“This is a very promising up-and coming author, who, I can tell has a lot more up his sleeve.”

“I was so engrossed in the plot that I felt I was one of the characters participating in the tangle of their lives.”

“The dialogue was gritty and the story was filled with twists and turns.

I didn’t know what would happen until the very last page.”


Mark Rubinstein

328 pages, $12.99

ISBN 978-0-9856268-4-6