Thriller writer, former US Naval Intelligence Officer James North is hosting me on his blog: Forensic Research and Crime Writing

Reblogged from James North.
Sorry about the different lay-out.
Research that Keeps Critics at Bay by Jane Risdon
I am the guest author on Thriller writer,
former US Naval Intelligence Officer,
James North’s blog.
On several occasions, recently,
I’ve been asked to provide my expertise to authors
whose books have featured characters in the Music Industry –
I’ve worked in the International Music Business for most of my adult life –
and it got me thinking about my own writing
and areas where I’ve been in need of ‘expert’ advice.
I write crime stories and sometimes they venture into the hazy world of MI5
and MI6,
and although I can call on my own experience back in my distant youth
when I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall,
London, limited though it might be,
I still need to clarify details and exactly what each part of the
British Secret Security Services does.
Of course I can always delve into their websites for general information
and it is now possible to contact their Press Offices who are happy
to work with authors.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to have met a
retired Detective Chief Inspector
– also an author – on Facebook,
who has been kind enough from time to time
to answer my many question about police procedure.
It is important as writers, especially crime writers,
to get our facts right when telling a story which may well involve
the investigation of a particular crime.
And, as I mentioned earlier, I’d been thinking about my knowledge base
and how to expand it for some time.
Late last year I was lucky enough to discover the answer.
I found several British Universities offering on-line courses in various aspects of Forensics –
fantastic. Just what I was after.
Somewhere I could educate myself at my own pace at home.
Since starting my first course – Human Identification and Forensic Science –
which introduced me to the world of clandestine burials and the identification
of skeletal dismembered remains,
which I and the other students managed to eventually identify –
using the most recent methods of facial reconstruction,
DNA and Anthropology –
working as part of the Forensic and Police I
nvestigation of a missing person,
I have undertaken two further courses.
The second course I’ve completed was an introduction to
Criminal Justice and Forensic Science.
I learned about the complex world of DNA profiling and Fingerprint analysis and
researched many criminal cases where miscarriages of justice had been discovered
and how convictions had been over-turned and the role played by Forensic Science
in obtaining evidence and solving crimes.
It was a real eye-opener I can tell you.
The third course I’ve completed recently,
Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigations, has been fascinating
and has made me realise just how we cannot always believe our own eyes
and memories.
During this course I and the other students worked alongside the police
in the investigation of an armed robbery
and we (virtually) sat in on the interviews with witnesses by two detectives.
One used old-fashioned methods investigating the case and conducting interviews,
getting the witness to tell their story,
often with prompts and leading questions using Photo-fit pictures
of a selection of potential suspects and a physical line-up to identify the suspect.
The other detective conducted their witness interviews using the latest methods
– neuro-psychological techniques – to question the witnesses,
allowing them to relate their story uninterrupted and not prompted,
and using computer generated images of faces where the witness was able
to move the eyes, nose and lips etc.
to build an image they felt was closest to the suspect they’d witnessed.
This method helped solve the case faster, more accurately,
and didn’t lead or suggest anything to the witness.
Now, armed with my new knowledge and basic understanding
of how to investigate a crime,
make an identification of a skeleton from basic anthropology
and forensics, right through to getting a witness to a crime
to relate what they saw more accurately,
I am more confident in my crime writing.
Those authors for whom I was a musical consultant tell me
I gave them that same confidence.
Keeping things real and accurate for our readers.
Most important for me as a writer and also as a reader.
I hate finding inaccuracies in crime stories I read and
I hope my readers won’t find any in mine.
Jane Risdon has spent most of her adult life in the
International Music Business,
managing songwriters, musicians, singers,
and record producers with her musician husband.
Always longing to write she never had the opportunity until a few years ago
when her husband’s former fan-club secretary,
ex rock journalist, and now award winning author,
Christina Jones, urged her to take the plunge.
Since then Jane has become a published author with Accent Press
and has contributed to various anthologies as well as
co-writing with Christina.
Their novel is due out later this year.
Jane is also writing a series of novels, Ms Birdsong Investigates,
about a former MI5 Officer who finds herself investigating
a missing woman
and ends up tackling Russian Mafia and Ukrainian people traffickers
in rural Oxfordshire.
Links to books and more:
Accent Press:
Amazon Author Page:
The views and opinions expressed in guest blog posts on this website
do not reflect those of the blog host.


  1. Excellent blog entry, Jane. I’m really impressed with how far you’re going in order to get a knowledge base that will keep the police procedural things in your books feeling beievable. And, with those classes, I can only imagine the field trips you must go on. Best of luck with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Jeff, it is fun but hard work. I just like to know what I am trying to talk about. Thanks for dropping in and do keep me in the loop with your WIP and when it s due out. 🙂 x


  2. Lovely post! And what a way to keep informed and learn what you need to learn for accurate storytelling. I really respect that, Jane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Margot, thanks so much. It was learning the basics as I felt I was getting out of my depth with a lot of things which have moved on since Agatha and many other writers I enjoy so much. I hate finding mistakes re such things and I know you can’t be one hundred percent accurate one hundred percent of the time, but I felt lacking in some areas. Hence the mind blowing, twisting the little grey cells, attempt to get informed. Actually I have enjoyed it no end and am registered for another course – addicted I think. Thanks so much. I try hard. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Please leave a reply and comment - your input is really appreciated. Thanks, Jane

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