A Police Procedural? What Was I Thinking?
by Patricia Smiley
After writing four novels about an amateur sleuth with a sense of humor, I decided to mix things up a bit. PACIFIC HOMICIDE is the first in a new series and a change of pace for me. It’s a police procedural featuring Homicide Detective Davina “Davie” Richards, a petite, red-haired woman, a second-generation LAPD detective, an expert marksman who carries a Smith & Wesson .45, and a composite of every strong woman I’ve ever known.
Most people don’t realize that patrol officers in high crime areas might draw their weapons every workday but most cops spend their entire careers without firing a gun in the line of duty. Davie is an outlier, a cop who killed a suspect to save her partner’s life.
Here’s what Library Journal said about PACIFIC HOMICIDE: "...Smiley kicks off a hard-boiled series with a bang in this fast-paced novel that sweeps readers along quickly. Davie is an engaging sleuth; her tough exterior hides a fragile heart. VERDICT This classic police procedural, with the obligatory cop humor included, recalls titles by Robin Burcell or Alafair Burke."
The Los Angeles Police Department: A whole slew of authors have written about the LAPD, many of them with connections to the department. Michael Connelly’s early books were set in Hollywood Division, as are those of multiple other authors. Paul Bishop’s detective Fey Croaker is assigned to West L.A. Joseph Wambaugh has varied the locations of his novels.
My book is set in the LAPD’s Pacific Area Police Station, which covers the Westside of Los Angeles from Venice Beach and Playa del Rey to LAX, with Culver City to the east, extending northeast to the intersection of Westwood and National Boulevards. Pac-14 is a diverse area that includes public housing, upscale homes, movie stars, and thirty-five known street gangs. It’s also near where I live.
The LAPD and me: Back when I was writing the first book in my amateur sleuth series, False Profits, I wanted to place a scene in a police station, but I’d never been in one before. That’s a good thing, right? One night I went to a Neighborhood Watch meeting and a Senior Lead Officer from Pacific Division asked for a volunteer to create a flyer for a neighborhood cleanup. I raised my hand. She was impressed with the result and encouraged me to volunteer at the station. One of the first things they asked me to do was lead a guided tour for an open house. Divine providence?
I worked with the LAPD for fifteen years as a volunteer and Specialist Reserve Officer (non sworn), mostly assigned to Pacific Division but for a time with detectives at the LAX substation and on a short-term project at Hollywood Homicide. The last five years was spent in the detective squad room. My supervisor saw potential and sent me to law enforcement computer database training, detective school, and homicide investigation school. He taught me how to investigate burglaries and thefts, interview witnesses, victims, and suspects, write search warrants, and present cases to the DA’s office. During my time interacting with patrol officers and detectives, I also learned how easy it was for the best of cops to run afoul of the disciplinary system. Those and other stories inspired PACIFIC HOMICIDE.
Set in Los Angeles: “Why write about L.A.?” you ask. “It’s so been done before.” True, but there are over three million people in the city, over ten million in the county, and over 150 languages spoken in the city’s schools. At the end of every freeway exit is a new neighborhood and another writer’s story. There’s plenty of room for everybody.
Mostly I write about L.A. because I live here, which gives me access to the sensory and cultural details of the city. But Davie’s travels won’t be limited to the city. Homicide detectives travel far and wide to track down leads. In the second book in the series, I take her outside the city and the state in search of justice.
Research: I learned volumes from my past volunteer experience, but to supplement that knowledge I read the Los Angeles Times, which provides extensive coverage of police issues. While I was writing PACIFIC HOMICIDE, the LAPD switched their department-issued duty weapons from Glock to Smith & Wesson. It’s a small but important detail I wouldn’t have known about except for an article I read in the newspaper. Another valuable research tool is the official department website www.lapdonline.org. But the most important sources of information come from my contacts in the department. They tell me what’s possible, what’s reasonable and more importantly, what I got wrong. They also forgive me when I don’t take their advice.
For more information please visit my website www.patriciasmiley.com or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/patriciasmileyauthor/?fref=ts
Most cops spend their entire careers without firing a weapon in the line of duty. LAPD Homicide Detective Davie Richards is an outlier, a cop who killed a suspect to save another officer’s life. While she waits for the police commission to rule on the shooting, she’s called out to probe the gruesome homicide of Anya Nosova, a nineteen-year-old Russian beauty whose body is found in the Los Angeles sewer system. With her own case in limbo, Davie knows that any mistakes in the investigation could end her career. As she hunts for the murderer, somebody begins to hunt her . . . and it’s no longer just her job that’s on the line.
Patricia Smiley (Los Angeles, CA) is a bestselling mystery author whose short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Two of the Deadliest, an anthology edited by Elizabeth George. Patricia has taught writing classes at various conferences throughout the US and Canada, and she served on the board of directors of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and as president of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. Visit her online at www.PatriciaSmiley.com.