Part I was in last week’s edition of modenook.com. If you haven’t read it, you should. Now on with Part II.
You were on track to become an FBI agent. What happened to derail it?
My first job in law enforcement was with the FBI. I worked in Support and learned all about how the FBI works and how police react in certain circumstances. I was there when the Patti Hearst kidnapping and the SLA case occurred. I was in a program to become an FBI agent and, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it, the FBI agent program was cancelled weeks before I was eligible. This forced all of the young men in the program to seek jobs elsewhere and that is how I ended up at LVMPD.
You witnessed police employees under investigation when you were with Las Vegas Metro. How did that play into your book?
Just before I retired, I worked in the police union office representing employees that were under investigation. I saw the anguish they went through during that period. I worked with the officers in Internal Affairs and that became life research for the book, as the protagonist of Scrafitto has a run-in with his department’s IA division. This eventually leads to his expulsion and his move down to Costa Rica.
You manage to touch upon many issues without sounding preachy. What are some of the issues you’ve woven into the story?
I had a personal experience dealing with the internal investigations, and wanted my book to touch on issues like Latin macho attitudes, ex-pats in a foreign country, women’s rights in a Latin country, and also anger management. I once was investigated for insulting a fellow employee with my body language, or non-verbal implications, and had to deal with anger management issues. Mitch Sharp, the book’s protagonist, has to deal with anger management issues.
As a CSI or Forensic Scientist I was called upon to go to court to testify. I testified on many high profile cases and even cases where the Clark County DA himself handled the case. Those many interesting cases included some where the defense attorney thought they had the upper hand only have the rug taken out from under them by my presentation of the evidence.
Please give me a specific example. I’m sure you have many to choose from.
One case I remember well was a drug sale case where the packing tape used to wrap the packages of drugs revealed a fingerprint. A well known and feared defense attorney questioned me on the location of the print and thought he proved that it could have been placed on the tape roll by someone else. I then was able to point out on re-direct testimony that the print was not on the beginning but on the end of a tape strip, under layers of tape and therefore had to have been placed by the person who wrapped the bundles of drugs.
CSI on TV and movies and CSI in real life are often two different things. Would you like to comment?
I testified almost 300 times and ran headlong into the CSI effect. The CSI effect is the unrealistic expectation of jurors with regard to the capabilities of forensic science and the belief that forensic evidence, especially DNA, will be present at every crime scene. I do not remember any of my cases that tilted on the CSI effect but I believe there have been many across the country that have. The Casey Anthony case comes to mind.
A high profile case that affected all forensic scientists and CSIs was the OJ case in Los Angeles. We all followed that case very carefully and had the trial on TV during lunch breaks at the lab. Immediately after that case, CSIs and forensic scientists all over the US changed how they testified and how they documented their cases. This actually fits into the CSI effect because a forensic scientist now has to be better prepared for court and testify more thoroughly to make sure the laymen jurors understand the capabilities of forensic science.
So it seems natural that you would write a book with realistic CSI details. When you began to plot the book, was that something you were determined to include?
For the longest time I resisted putting crime scene details into the book. I had been around that for 30 years and really wanted to write about something different. However, my editor advised me that I would be crazy if I didn’t add some of the authenticity that I could bring by drawing on my experience.
As a writer, of course we create characters that populate our fictional world. And I did that as well, but I did use real people as models for a few of the characters. Two of them were done as a tribute to them and their courage dealing with life. One of my characters is a quadriplegic in a wheelchair based upon a friend of mine who could act as a positive role model for us all. Another character is based upon a brother-in-law who was a schizophrenic and who unfortunately passed just before the book was published.
Now for the stock question, Steve. Where did you get the idea for Scrafitto?
As far as the idea for Scrafitto, I had the seed of the story for many years, but one day I heard a news article on KNPR about women being oppressed by the macho society in Mexico and how some rapes went unpunished due to that warped attitude. This story inspired me and fit right in with my book. However, I didn’t want to set my book in Mexico so I picked the Central American country of Costa Rica that had been in the news featuring ecotourism. Just about this time a co-worker retired from LVMPD and moved down to Panama. I corresponded with him and learned about the ex-patriot (ex-pat) life in a foreign country. All of this became the background for Scrafitto.
Well done Steve. The closing comment I want to make is how skillfully you wove the details of photography and the atmosphere of your Costa Rican locale into the book. Instead of flat details, as the reader, I had a feeling of being personally involved in both.
For more information, visit Steve Scarborough’s website
Spotlight appears every Tuesday in the Las Vegas edition of modenook.com and every Wednesday in the Los Angeles edition. Writers’ Tricks of the Trade appears every Thursday in the Las Vegas edition and every Friday in the Los Angeles edition. If you have an event to list, a suggestion for Spotlight or the monthly Writers Tricks of the Trade E-Zine, please email email@example.com with the subject of Submission, Suggestion or Comment. Follow me on Twitter @LVWritingExamin.
More information about Morgan St. James and her appearance schedule visit www.morganstjames-author.com and www.silversistersmysteries.com