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Many of you attended virtual MurderCon last summer and/or Writers’ Police Academy Online’s recent seminar  “Mystery and Murder: Transforming Reality into Fantastic Fiction.”  Those of you who couldn’t make it missed not only a couple of fantastic training sessions for writers, but also the reference to a few wonderful research books that could help bring a bit of extra zing to your stories.

During his MurderCon presentation, homicide detective Jeff Locklear referred to “Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Fifth Edition (Practical Aspects of Criminal and Forensic Investigations), the unofficial gold standard of death scene reference books.

This book again made an appearance last week when international bestselling author Tami Hoag held up a copy of the book during her session at the “Mystery and Murder” seminar. By the way, Tami gave her prevention from her office, giving the world a peek inside her stunning home.

I, too, have a copy of “Practical Homicide Investigation” and often refer to it either for new information or to reinforce my memory. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but worth every dime. Actually, it worth every penny for the photographs alone, if your crime-scene-writing stomach can take it.

Highly recommended.

*For your shopping convenience, please click the links below.


Next up is a book recommended by Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

“Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases” by Laura Gail Pettler is another “must have” book if the bad guys in your tales wish to fake a murder scene in order to throw detectives off their trails. Dr. Ramsland’s “Mystery and Murder” presentation about staged homicide scenes, by the way, was simply fascinating, and we can’t wait to see what she has in mind for future classes.

And, while we’re speaking of Dr. Ramsland, her book “How to Catch a Serial Killer” should have a home on the shelves of all serious crime writers.


Here’s an oldie but goody. “Spy the Lie” It’s an entertaining read, albeit a quick read, that describes the things to look for during a interviews interrogations. The author also details how easy it is ruin opportunities to garner confessions. There’s a bit of intuition involved as well.


Of course, we mustn’t forget …


Looking for stocking stuffers and other unique gifts for crime writers? What about a Pen Multitool used by Military Pilots, Navy SEALS, First Responders, SWAT, and more? It’s a self-defense weapon as well as a super cool pen.


It’s a glass with a real .308 bullet embedded in its side.


Perfect for taking notes when interviewing cops for your next book, jotting down important details while attending Writers’ Police Academy events, or creating the weekly to-do lists. This pack of notebooks is formatted to help you “get it right.”


Coming January 23, 2021, a live and interactive seminar featuring crime scene mapping using lasers and drones, sexual assault investigations, the craft of writing with USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author Lisa Regan, and more!

writerspoliceacadey.online

Due to the fear caused by the news of home invasions, using hairspray as a chemical deterrent to ward off attackers has been a hot topic, especially among writers who’d love to incorporate the handy “weapon” into their tales.

The general idea is to keep a can handy on the nightstand beside the bed, or a smaller can inside a handbag. Then, as an unsuspecting attacker approaches, the would-be victim sprays the highly-flammable bouffont-molding hair-stiffener into the thug’s eyes, causing him to stop the attack and immediately run away while shedding a steady stream of gooey crocodile tears along the way.

Personally, I, as a former defensive tactics instructor and instructor-trainer, do not recommend the use of hairspray as a means of defense against attackers. It’s not totally adequate for the intended purpose. Nor is it reliable.

Unlike pepper spray that can be effective without direct contact to the eyes, the burst of hairspray mist must hit the eyes directly to do any good at all. And even then there’s a huge risk of doing nothing more than styling the attacker’s long eyelashes and bushy brows.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but carrying the stuff could give a person a false sense of security. And, like firearms and other weapons, unless you practice/train with with your handy-dandy hairspray bad-guy-stopper, chances are that using it in real-life would be totally ineffective. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are any hairspray training academies in my area. Not sure about where you live, though.

The other premise is for the victim to use a cigarette lighter to ignite the hair goop as it leaves the nozzle, turning the misty chemical into a homemade hairspray flamethrower. Now, what halfway intelligent crook would dare continue his advances when faced with a scared and angry, fire-spurting homeowner?

Sure, the idea sound good—spray the attacker’s eyes which could render him incapable of continuing the assault. Or, set his hair on fire causing him to run outside looking like a human 4th of July fireworks display. But, there are a few things to keep in mind before lining your bedside tables with industrial size tubs of AquaNet.

  • For obvious reasons, if you insist upon going this route, remember to use the aerosol hairspray, not the pump type. The idea is to stop the attacker, not give him his recommended daily dose of laughter.
  • The actuators (push buttons) on aerosol cans are normally made of plastic and could melt when exposed to extreme heat/fire.
  • The flame generated using hairspray can extend only as far as the distance reached by the spray, which is basically a couple of feet. Therefore, an attacker could simply wait at a safe distance—four feet, or so—while your weapon slowly burns up/extinguishes. Or, he could stand at a safe distance and roast a marshmallow or two while waiting for the flame to subside.

Also, if the attacker is only two feet away when the victim begins the process of match-striking and spray-squirting, he could easily disarm the victim. They’re not going to stand around whistling a merry tune while waiting for the intended victim to first grab the can and a box of matches, strike a match or two (the first almost always breaks, especially when the match-striker is under pressure), hold down the button, release a stream of spray, hold the match to it, which could blow out the match, by the way, and finally ignite the hissing spray, and then aim it at the attacker, who, by now has puckered his lips and tweeted out the full ten-minute eight-second-long version of Free Bird. 

4. While standing in your bedroom striking matches and/or flicking Bics, an attacker could easily grab the blanket from your bed, toss it over you and your flamethrower, and then beat you senseless with your own fuzzy orangutan slippers .

5. If the spray fails to ignite you will have merely succeeded in helping your attacker keep his “Do” in fabulous shape for his appearance at your neighbors house … after blacking your eyes and stealing your stuff.

Of course, you could always switch to deodorant—aerosol, not roll-on—as a source of power for your flamethrower/chemical deterrent. At least then the attacker would smell nice while he pounded out a rhythmic Latin beat on your head.

A prime example of weaponized hairspray-fail was the fight between two Michigan women where one grabbed a can of hairspray, aimed it at her opponent, and set the stream on fire. Well, the flame never reached the other woman, who promptly grabbed a lamp and hit the fire-sprayer with it. When police arrived they found scratches on the faces of both women … and a broken lamp.

Wasp Spray as a Tool for Self-Defense

Using wasp and other bug sprays as a tool to ward off attacks earns an even bigger NO, Don’t Do It!

Pepper sprays and other such chemical deterrents are designed to irritate the eyes and respiratory systems of humans. As their bug-stopping compounds, wasp sprays, on the other hand, typically include pyrethrin or pyrethroids. Pyrethrin, a biodegradable compound, comes from a species of chrysanthemum plant, and its role is to disrupt a wasp’s nervous system. Actually,  pyrethrin is a low-toxicity pesticide.

Pepper sprays cause swelling of the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat, and discharge from nasal and sinus passages. Other effects are coughing, shortness of breath, involuntary eye closure ( a big plus when using for self defense), burning and redness of the skin, hyperventilation, and even  fear and panic.

Exposure to wasp sprays basically make you smell funny and your skin gets wet. However, when sprayed directly into the eyes of an attacker, well, it might make him a bit angry since the stuff could very well, but slightly, irritate the eyes.

Why go to all this trouble  and the risk of the thing not working when you could simply purchase a can of pepper spray instead? *Please check state and local laws before placing an order.






You, Cap’n Rufus “Tater” Jenkins of the Cornsqueezins’ County Sheriff’s Office, had a long night answering call after call—he-saids, she-saids, chasing a Peeping Tom through back yards and alleys, a couple of drunks arguing over a near-empty bottle of Strawberry Hill, kids spray-painting stop signs, and the guy who insisted he was Jesus and attempted to prove it by damning you to hell a few dozen times after you refused to give him ten dollars for a hamburger he promised to repay on Tuesday.

Cap’n Rufus “Tater” Jenkins

Yep, a looonnnggg night and it was only half over when Jimmy Bob “Peanut” Lawson, Jr. decided to join forces with his good friend Jack Daniels to blacken both his wife’s eyes.

Well, Erlene, the wife, wasn’t about to stand for that nonsense so she poked ‘ol Peanut in the gut a couple of times with a dull kitchen knife. Didn’t break the skin, mind you, but the act was just enough to send Peanut off the deep end. Oh, he was plenty mad about it, a yellin’ and screamin’ and a stompin’ his Doc Martens across the linoleum, and kicking at Porkchop, the family’s adopted and long ago retired police dog. But Porkchop, having been to this freak show one too many times in the past, was a nervous wreck and knew to stay six or seven dog-dish-lengths away from his master’s size twelves.

Porkchop, having seen his better days, religiously adheres to the seven dog-dish rule of thumb.

After about ten minutes of plate, bowl, and pot-and-pan-throwing, one of the kids, a snot-nosed, freckle-faced boy, aptly named Junior Lawson, Jr., of around ten or so years of age, picked up the cordless and punched the speed dial button for 911.

That’s where you show up with lights and siren blazing and blaring to all get out. And Peanut, a Friday night regular, meets you in the dirt and weed-infested driveway, huffing and puffing like an old-time, coal-fired locomotive engine. In each hand, a backyard chicken he’d been choking in preparation of the Sunday noon meal.

Peanut is well-known in his town as a backyard chicken-choker.

Now here’s where things could get a little dicey. So it’s best to run down the checklist before diving right in. You know, size him up. Is Peanut armed this time? Is he really going to attack? Or, is all that chest-thumping and Tarzan-yelling just a show for the neighbors? Well, you’d better find out in a hurry because he’s starting to spin like the Tasmanian Devil.

So how can you tell if this guy means business, or not?  Well, there are a few telltale signs that could help you evaluate the situation since weapons and other items that are capable of puncturing your flesh, bones, and organs should be your first concern.

Here are some common indicators that Peanut, or the cousin visiting from the big city who’s standing off to the side of the trailer, is carrying a hidden gun or knife. Some are obvious, while others … not so much.

The first is a clear indicator.

Cousin Jimmy Buck from Swamp Holler, West Virginia

Signs the Suspect May Be Carrying a Weapon

1. It’s 97 degrees outside and Peanut, standing smack-dab in the center of the intersection at 9th and Main, is wearing his heavily-insulated, knee-length, blood-stained orange hunting coat. Yes, Einstein, he’s probably wearing it to hide a sawed-off shotgun, the one Daddy gave him for Christmas when he was three.

2. The tail of his flannel shirt is out, but one side is riding higher than the other. A great sign that he’s wearing a weapon on the “high side.”

3. Even wearing a shirt tail on the outside is a sign that he might be carrying a weapon. Unfortunately, it’s also a sign known to bad guys, which means they might recognize you as an undercover officer.

Signs that Peanut is about to attempt to stomp your butt into the mud

1. For some unknown reason, many offenders/would-be attackers seem to feel the need to rip off their shirts prior to delivering the first blow. So, when a drunk starts ripping cloth and zinging buttons across the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, well, that might be a good time to reach for the pepper spray because he’s subtly announced his intentions.

The standard shirt-ripping ritual is usually accompanied by lots of top-of-the-lung screaming and yelling, especially nasty comments about your wife and mother. Nasty comments about the family dog are optional.

They sometimes decide to rip off their shirts before engaging in battle. Other times, if the mood to fight strikes ’em just right, they’ll throw punches while wearing nothing but …

2. Another clue that Peanut is about “go for it” is when he starts glancing at a particular spot on your body, like your throat, stomach, or even a knee. Instantly, you should go on alert for a possible strike to that area because Peanut is announcing his intentions and he’s ready to pounce. Watch the eyes, for sure, but more importantly watch the hands.

New Picture

3. Peanut constantly glances to a spot behind you, or to a place off to your right just out of your line of sight. Watch out, because his partner may be approaching for a rear ambush. And, his partner just might be Mrs. Peanut. Yes, even though her “loving husband” had just moments ago beat the ever-loving snot out of her she’ll often defend her man until the bitter end. Unfortunately, the end sometimes results in a funeral … hers.

These quick glances are also good indicators that Peanut has a hidden weapon nearby. For example, you’ve stopped Peanut for drunk driving and he’s constantly glancing toward the glove compartment. Well, there’s a good chance that a weapon or other illegal items are concealed there.

The Spud family

4. The Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home – You arrive on scene and you approach Peanut, who is standing still, staring off into space. His jaw is clenched and he’s sweating profusely, even though you’re both standing in two feet of freshly-fallen New England snow (New England snow, to me, is the coldest snow on the planet). He doesn’t respond to you in any way, but you see the anger rising. Face is growing redder by the second. Veins poking out on his forehead. Eyes bulging. Yeah, you get the idea. Believe me, it is time to take a step back and start pulling every tool you’ve got on your duty belt because this guy’s getting ready to blow. Silence is definitely not golden in this case.

5. Peanut might be a “I’m not going to look at you” kind of personality. This is another indicator that an assault may be on the way. If he’s staring at place on the ground, refusing to listen and obey your verbal commands, then be prepared for an attack. At the very least, be prepared for a battle when the time comes to snap on the cuffs.

I guess a good rule of thumb is to always assume the worst, hope for the best.

Sometimes “the worst” happens when Mrs. Peanut becomes fed up with her abusive husband. Next thing you know she’s living in Swamp Holler with Cousin Jimmy Buck in his new doublewide.