Friday, July 18, 2014

Tinker, Tailor, Coroner, Private Eye

If you had a chance to work in law enforcement, which area would see yourself in and why? The coroner’s office? Homicide division? Beat cop? Criminal psychologist? Private investigator? Defense attorney?

by Paul D. Marks

Of the list above, I know which I absolutely would not want to do: Defense attorney: Even Alan Dershowitz concedes that most defendants are guilty. And I couldn't defend a guilty party, especially because the tactics used by the defense are often despicable – particularly when they try to throw the blame on another clearly innocent party to confuse the issue and throw doubt on their often clearly guilty clients. I just could not defend a rapist or a murderer. So, no defense attorney for me. Maybe that’s why I wrote my story L.A. Late @ Night that appeared originally in Murder on Sunset Boulevard (and recently republished in a collection of my stories also called L.A. Late @ Night) about a defense attorney who has second thoughts when she realizes her client is guilty and decides to do something about it...

That leaves the rest of the list:

Coroner's office: Well, I've seen my fair share of blood and guts. That said, I'm also the kind of person who whenever they hear/see symptoms of a disease decides they have that disease. Which is why I can't watch shows like ER or Grey's Anatomy. I guess I can handle blood and guts to some extent, but not symptoms. I think this is what happens with medical students (so maybe I should have been a doctor). So, nope, coroner's office is kaput.

Homicide division: Now we're getting closer. The idea of solving cases and bringing the bad guys to justice strikes home with me. Yeah, I could do that. Third degree and all, with a new energy-saving bulb of course.

Beat cop: Nah. Dealing with all the bad and crazy people you'd have to deal with would make me nuts. And I'd probably end up in the hoosegow myself. That's sort of what my story 51-50, cop slang for crazy, is about. (Originally published in the Psycho Noir issue Dave Zeltserman's Hardluck Stories anthology, but now reprinted in the L.A. Late @ Night collection.)

Criminal psychologist: While psychology interests me, to deal with all those psychos would probably make me psycho and you'd have to have a gun with a hair trigger taped under your desk aiming straight at your client...just in case. Probably not a good way to begin a relationship.

Private investigator: Yeah, now you're talking. Bring the bad guys to justice. And you get to wear a trenchcoat and fedora and use words like gat and gunsel. And slap guys like eternal weasels Elisha Cook, Jr. and Peter Lorre around. Of course, you take your fair share of beatings too, so turnabout is fair play I guess. But still, gumshoe. Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? Or P.I., private dick, private eye, shamus, Pinkerton or Continental Op. And though he's more modern, I hope Duke Rogers, my P.I. in White Heat, carries on their tradition with grace and gats. And you get to have an office in a romantically seedy building with the proverbial flashing neon sign outside the window and the perpetual pitter patter of rain on that window that looks out to the City of Angels. Oh, and here's a happy little ditty about our fair city:

There's one element that was left off the list above: Prosecutor: Probably the best fit for me. A lot of people that have known me through the years say I should have been a lawyer (though I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not...),. I like the idea of being a litigator 'cause I love a good fight. Corporate law, nah. Criminal law, the D.A.'s office, sure. Being able to put the bad guys away, to argue a case. To logically prove a guilty party guilty. Prosecutor would be a good fit for me. But if I chose that route could I still wear the trenchcoat and fedora?


RJ Harlick said...

Great post, Paul.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you, RJ!

GBPool said...

There is something about getting the bad guy. Maybe that's why crime writers write about catching the bad guy or even being one as long as there is a soul in there somewhere that knows he or she will get it in the end. We are glad you are a writer and can kick a little butt every now and then.

Susan C Shea said...

Your great post made me wonder: Why are defense attorneys the heroes of novels, not prosecutors? (At least the novels I can remember.)

Meredith Cole said...

Yes, prosecutors can wear a trench coat and fedora. At least the cool ones (which you would be, of course!)

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Gayle, one of the things I think people like about mysteries is that, as you say, we often get the bad guy at the end. And there is a good feeling about that since it doesn't always happen in real life.

And Susan, I think maybe the reason a lot of defense attorneys are heroes in books instead of prosecutors is because people like to root for the underdog. But in real life, as Dershowitz says, most of those who are charged are, indeed, guilty. But then we are entitled to our dramatic license and there's drama in trying to prove someone innocent and also satisfaction in that, in both writing and real life. In Turow's Presumed Innocent I guess he has it both ways since the protagonist is both a prosecutor and an innocent defendant, at least of murder.

Thanks, Meredith! I would definitely want to be a cool prosecutor :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting post with career options, Paul D. Marks. Thanks! The timing is good, too, as my REVIEW at Amazon just went LIVE for your: L.A. Late @ Night: 5 Noir & Mystery Tales from the Dark Streets of Los Angeles (Kindle Edition) ~ 5-Star Collection. ~Charlotte M. Liebel

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you, Charlotte, both for the nice words about the blog post and for the review on Amazon!

Pam Ripling said...

My choice for you would be homicide detective. You could still rock the fedora.

Great post, and I think I'd choose the criminal psychologist. (I enjoy Perception!)

Paul D. Marks said...

Hi Pam, Thanks, and homicide detective would be a good one for me, especially in a fedora :).

And criminal psychologist would be great for you!