How Crimes are Committed and Solved

Edited by John Boertlein

Writer’s Digest Books. 2001.

Talking Pictures alias

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This book has the potential to help creative writers in all genres make their exposition more exciting. 

Screenwriters and playwrights who desire to create a realistic atmosphere in their scripts or plays involving crime and criminal detection will find it invaluable. The book is a compilation of articles by crime specialists that explore the dark side of human nature and reveal its quirks in stark detail. Believe me, this book is as close as you want to be to the criminal elements you need to create realistic movies and plays about crime and punishment.

The editor has compiled this book from a fourteen volume reference series for writers on crime detection. He’s the material into six major sections:

1) How the criminal justice system works in America – from the initial arrest through the trial and sentencing stages.

2) Major crimes and the process of investigating them. This includes murder, mass murder, serial murder, the autopsy, larceny, burglary, robbery, assault and con artists.

3) The hardware and skills used in criminal pursuit and detection. This covers weapons, searches, interrogations, forensic psychology, and profiling.

4) Hate crimes: street gangs, hate groups, and terrorists.

5) Vice related crimes: gambling, prostitution, sexual predators, and drug related crimes.

6) Surveillance techniques and procedures for tailing suspects.

The numerous supporting visuals in the book help clarify things for us amateurs. The photos and illustrations of weapons and evidence samples help immensely. The charts describing various wounds and their effects on the victim are very useful. The diagrams of crime scenes were so detailed they motivated me to sketch the crime scene for a story I’m developing. This exercise helped me to break down the various assignments for my fictional investigation team in a more dramatic and realistic way.

The many experts who contributed articles to this book give lots of specific examples from personal experience that kept me riveted. They occasionally use ‘play scripts’ to illustrate the specific types of cons criminals use to lure victims.


Don’t comb this book for story ideas; leaf through it after you’re written your first draft. This book will help you clarify details that only the pros know, discover new twists to the criminal mind and get an authentic perspective on the process an investigating team goes through. My copy is dog-eared because I stopped reading so often to look at a script I was working on and rethink my work with a fresh perspective.

Many movie and scriptwriters dread writing ‘exposition’. This book will give you a new perspective on ‘getting the facts’. The author tells us, “One of my favourite scenes in the Movie Chinatown (one of the best detective movies ever made) takes place in a dusty county clerk’s office. Watching how Jake Gittes (the protagonist) interacts with the clerk tells us a lot about the sort of person Gittes is. See, gathering information can be made interesting.” Indeed, it can.

Lenore Wright

Howdunit is available from the publisher at or by calling 1-800-221-5831.

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