In Search of an FBI Brain To Pick

I am not a fatalist.  I don’t think that every single thing that happens to us is preordained or unavoidable.  However, I do think that some things happen for a reason.  My background is clinical psychology, so as a therapist, I am very familiar with the idea that much of what happens to people is a symptom of an underlying issue or problem.  Anybody who’s been following me lately knows that I’ve had some really serious trouble getting my words in the last week or two.  Some of it’s been scheduling conflicts.  Some of it has been lack of direction on my plot.  Some of it is the usual struggle with writing a good love scene.  Well, today I think I figured out that reason (maybe).

I was catching up on RtB this morning and came across a recent post by Allison Brennan.  It was interesting on a number of levels, but then I came across this passage:

When I was writing TEMPTING EVIL, I spoke with an FBI Agent (the same agent who invited me to join the Citizen’s Academy.) As we talked, I learned that the entire premise of the book wouldn’t work. FBI Agents don’t cross jurisdictional lines to pursue fugitives. So if an agent had a tip that their assigned fugitive was in another state, they’d call it into that regional office to follow-up on.

What would happen, I asked, if an agent disobeyed the rules and went after the guy on his own?

Good question. He didn’t know. But it could be anything from mild disciplinary action to termination. Yeah! A gray area! I can work with that. And, frankly, Mitch Bianchi (the agent in question) tends to break rules a lot. The scenario not only could work, but it deepened characterization.

There’s no need to reproduce the copious swearing that this induced.  You see, this means that the entire set up for my book isn’t viable. If my prior issues weren’t enough to drive my writing to a screeching halt, this would have done it.  Crap.  I won’t bore you with the details of why it won’t work other than to say it’s a jurisdictional issue among other things.

I am in desperate need of an active or retired FBI agent who is willing to allow me to pick his or her brain on procedural matters.  My great uncle was SAC of the Birmingham field office for YEARS, and he would have been an excellent source.  But he died about five years ago, so sadly, that’s not an option.  I just flat don’t know anybody in the FBI.  And to my knowledge, there’s not a book out there anywhere that lays out procedure for that organization (which I can understand, as I expect that’s not information they’d want available to the criminal public).  But come on!  I need some questions answered! Of course, writing romantic suspense, I usually have weird questions, and you know, you just can’t ASK those sorts of things of normal people without being looked at like you’re a complete lunatic.  I’ve had varying levels of success in emailing various organizations and people to ask questions–from the always helpful Dr. Doug Lyle, over at the Writer’s Medical and Forensic Lab, to the Departments of Corrections in North Carolina and Virginia, to the absolute lack of response from a few other places I’ve emailed, like the state crime lab.  Ah well, to be expected.  They’re busy doing important work to solve real crimes.  I’ve posted a forum question about it over on crimespace, which has so frequently been useful at answering my questions in the past, so here’s hoping that will work.

In the meantime, DH and I are flying home to Mississippi today and saying goodbye to the lovely snow here in Colorado.  I’ll be using my notebook today to try and brainstorm about how I can fix this problem.  Mainly I just have to figure out a viable setup.  Once Kensie is in Lawley, the rest of the story can pretty well proceed as I’ve written it.  So it’s the very front end I need to correct.

4 thoughts on “In Search of an FBI Brain To Pick

  1. Hi! I saw this trackback and noticed you commented on my article. I’m sorry it messed up your premise. But I don’t think you have a problem (I took the liberty of reading your question on crimespace.)

    Using my admittedly limited knowledge, most regional offices don’t have profilers; however, all regional offices have an Evidence Response Team who are (usually) a group of 8 special agents with additional training in specific areas (like evidence collection, photography, forensic anthropology, etc.) Essentially, CSI-type training. Regional offices, depending on where they are and the geographic region they cover, will have remote offices. So, for example, the Sacramento region has several satellite offices. One office (in South Lake Tahoe) has 2 agents; but the Fresno office has (I believe) 16 or thereabouts. The regional office has probably 100+–I’ll have to check my notes.

    Agents CAN be assigned to different offices, based on a variety of factors. If a local sheriff requests help, the FBI can and will usually get involved. They would probably go through the local office first and if the local office doesn’t have the resources necessary to help, they may request help for an adjoining jurisdiction or from Quantico. I don’t see why you can’t make your premise work if the heroine has a connection to the case, or if maybe she had been working on something indirectly related to the case, or because she’s from the area.

    Rae Monet is a retired FBI agent who might be able to help. She’s a friend of mine and has been invaluable. Email me for her contact information.

    My comment about fugitives was very specific, BTW, related to fugitive apprehension. The FBI often helps out adjoining jurisdictions, and in a time of crisis they’ll send squads (usually of 8) to other areas. Remember: this is fiction. As long as you can make it plausible, we can get away with alot 🙂

    As an aside, when I first spoke with my contact about my upcoming FBI series, he completely annihilated my premise. This was a nationally-based Evidence Response Team that responded to specific situations nationwide. The purpose of ERT is to have a local, immediate response when needed (i.e. during the Lacey Peterson disappearance, the Yosemite murders, etc.) You don’t want to wait for someone to travel cross-country. I was disillusioned, but decided to just go with my original idea. However, I’ve since learned that Violent Crimes is the lowest priority post-9/11 (counterterrorism and counterintelligence and cyber crimes, specifically child pornography, are the three top priorities.) So knowing this, I figure I can fund a special ERT unit out of Quantico through legislation to handle Violent Crimes because the resources locally are so focused on terrorism issues. We work with what we have, right?

    Good luck!

  2. Well that’s a relief. After your comment and a few others on Crimespace it looks like with some minor tweaks I can probably make my original premise work. I overlooked the bit about the specific query regarding fugitive pursuit in my pre-caffeinated haze at 6:30 yesterday morning when I read it! Still, would love to be able to do some fact checking, so I will definitely be emailing you for your friend’s contact info. Thanks Allison!

  3. Detectives such as Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Shell Scott and Vincent August, do what they do to make money, to survive. They are loners by nature and are reconciled to that lifestyle but there is longing in them for something more. The problem is the perfection they demand from themselves in terms of their work they also demand of anyone who tries to get to get close to them.

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