Some very recent life changes have made it necessary for me to step into the work force after having been at home for twenty years. Yep. Starting over "fresh" at 43. (That's another story.)  I wanted to poll the writers here about their jobs in criminal justice. Having read many of your posts in the past, it seems there are some of you who have direct experience in this field and I'm curious to get your feedback. I'm a writer too but have not published in this genre. I have a sense that experience in the field might help the writing experience and I was thinking two birds with one stone and all that. So, I've rambled. Hope you're having good holidays and will have writing success in 2012.

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Hi Meg,

I've been interested in all things crime-related for most of my adult life, and for a while was a police reporter for a newspaper in England.  I'm now a prosecutor in Austin, TX, so get to see the crazy stuff first hand.  As far as my crime writing, I just signed a three-book deal for a mystery series set in Paris.  I wouldn't say I get my ideas from my work, most real crimes are pretty mundane.  However, I do think it helps when coming to procedural matters and crime-solving techniques.  I know what will fly and what won't, I know the mistakes cops and crime-scene specialists can make etc.

I'm sure a new career at the young age of 43 is daunting, but I hope you find something you like, and something that helps your writing!


Congrats on the book deal, Mark.  Why Paris?  And is it a police procedural?

Thanks!  Paris because... I love it so.  Been there a lot, parents live in France, just a lot of connections and good vibes.  Headed back in ten days, as it happens.  The main character is American, though, head of security at the US Embassy.  No, not a police procedural but the MC is former law enforcement so evidence collection and procedures do play something of a role.

Sounds good!  I wish you great sales!

This is very helpful to me, Mark, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to fill me in on how your career has informed your writing and congratulations on your three book deal. While yes, it's work, a gig in Paris is well, quite nice. I hope it all comes together for you and that the writing works itself out beautifully.

And thank you for your encouragement. I know I will find work that satisfies my curiosity and serves as a source of information for my writing. Some training will be a part of this, but that will be interesting too.

Bon voyage.

What is your background, Meg?  Do you have any military experience?  I'm just wondering how you would expect to move into a law enforcement job without any background at this point. I applied for a job in federal law enforcement ten years ago and was turned down because I didn't have the background.  They want some kind of experience, at least at that level.  I know some police forces have age limits, and I can only imagine how tough getting through the academy at that age might be.  (And please don't take that as an insult, I am six years older than you.  There is no way I could do the physical stuff!)  On the other hand, perhaps a job as a dispatcher or 911 operator would work for you.  Something like corrections might be a possibility as well.

Hi J.E. thanks. After some cursory research, it became quite obvious to me yesterday that I could never be on a police squad, though often they will allow you to sub in some college creds for years of experience in the military, for example. But physically, at this point, I don't think I could do it, and yes, there are age restrictions. Something in corrections is exactly what I was thinking of too or something in P.I. work. Many more women are going into P.I. it seems during their hours away from being mom - and I still have that role to consider. Someone like Tana French did not use an occupation to do her research - except her interest in archeology, for example. I am generally a bull-dog when it comes to doing research, which is also why P.I. fascinates me and which is why I'm thinking I might not be able to do something of this kind of writing, though it may not satisfy all purists. Anyway, even P.I.s seem to be coming from police detective work, though not all. Thank you so much for the brainstorm. I am tracking with you here. There's a part of me that just wants to completely through caution to the wind, research the heck out of a novel and finally go for it, and see how long the alimony holds out. I've been quite revealing. I wish the economy wasn't so bad and that congress wasn't looking so hard at cutting alimony to women who have dedicated their better years to being at home. Kinda freaks this former full time mom out. Thanks for listening/reading.

Meg: Best wishes to you as you make a transition in your 40s. I did the same thing after I was let go from my radio job in the recession of 1993. I had been publishing short stories and my second novel had just been released, so I decided to return to school for a second Master's degree in order to be credentialed for the teaching of writing at the community college level (they only require MA degrees, not PhDs). If a career in criminal justice is your dream, don't give up even at age 43. See if your local community college has a program in criminal justice - mine does - and find out what it takes to get at least an Associate's Degree in the field (it would take two years or less, probably) and what the job prospects are for someone with an Associate's degree. Interview the people who teach the courses. The program at my community college includes forensics lab work. If you don't get work in the field, at least your crime writing will be much better informed! Even if you don't want a degree, you might be able to 'audit' the courses at a lower fee (and you wouldn't have to write papers).

John D



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