Thursday, September 3, 2015

Calling Dr. Watson by author Chris Karlsen

Author Chris Karlsen

After a satisfying twenty-five-year career in law enforcement, nineteen of which were as a detective, I retired. When the job was exciting, it was very exciting. I'd met many interesting people, had a lot of laughs, and ended it happy and healthy. I looked forward to the free time retirement would give me and the opportunity to take writing lessons. I'd had a story in my head for a long, long time and couldn't wait to tell it. My story was a historical romance. The one thing I didn't want to write was a contemporary cop story. I love to read them, especially Joe Wambaugh, Mike Connelly, and John Sandford. Writing one myself held no interest for me. I never, ever thought I'd need to think about police work again, other than to watch NCIS and Castle.

Knights in Time by Chris Karlsen
That belief held true until book 2 in my historical romance series, Journey in Time. In that story, the heroine, a modern London attorney caught in a time warp and now in Medieval England must present a case before King Edward. She is both the accuser and the accused. I found myself reliving my trial experience in criminal court. It started with the scene of the crime where she both defended herself and is accused of provoking the attack. She must choose what can be used as evidence in her case against the attacker.  More important, she must choose what to use in her defense. The year is 1355. 

Silk by Chris Karlsen
As there is no science to aid her, I had to make good use with what was on hand. In my latest release, Silk, I did what I swore I wouldn't—wrote a cop story. The character came to me while writing another book. Everything about him was crystal clear in my mind from the beginning. However, in serving my love of history, I wanted to make the story my spin on a classic British mystery/suspense. My protagonist, Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone (Ruddy), is a Victorian man. He is a detective with London Metropolitan Police Service and the year is 1888, the year Jack the Ripper appeared on the scene. Ruddy does not investigate the Ripper murders. I wanted him to have a serial killer of his own to discover.

He had many of the same issues as my heroine in Journey in Time: he lacked the benefit of forensic science. This setting is shortly before even the rudimentary study of fingerprints. Once more I went back to work I thought I'd left behind. Except this time, I didn't have forensics to rely on either. As I had Ruddy walk through the crime scenes, I "shadowed" him, noting what might be useful as evidence.

I gave him the ability to do ornamental iron work, a skill he learned from his blacksmith father. He creates pretty garden furniture and gates as a hobby and to make a little extra money. He works off sketches and uses his artistic ability to draw suspects from victim and witness descriptions. In Silk, he also uses it to recreate crime scenes for comparisons.

One of the problems that arose in the Jack the Ripper investigations was conflict between the two different police agencies involved. Another was how media presented the handling of those cases by the police. Both are issues that arise today with high profile cases. For many agencies, internal politics can hamper a detective's progress in various ways as well. I gave all three stumbling blocks to Ruddy to overcome or deal with as best he could.

To my surprise, I've had a lot of fun writing my cop story. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to solve a case using just old fashioned detective work. I don't think Ruddy ever needed fellow detective Sherlock Holmes but at times I'm sure he'd have welcomed Dr. Watson's help. He might not have used it, but I think he'd take suggestions into consideration.

Chris can be reached on her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

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