Category Archives: Crime

Brother Bones, the Undead Avenger

Air-85It would be so nice to have a working crystal ball that could effectively predict which projects would be a success and which would be forgotten the minute after they were published. Which is to say that when creating my Brother Bones the Undead Avenger almost ten years ago, I honestly had no idea how it would be received by readers. Having gotten hooked on pulps at this time and launched our New Pulp publishing house, Airship 27 Productions, me, and Art Director Rob Davis, had agreed we’d do books on classic pulp heroes and newer characters written in the same vein.

BonesMy idea was to create a dark, tragic hero who could go toe to toe with both the Shadow and the Spider but with a supernatural twist. Thus the concept of a big city mobster who, upon being shot to death by his own twin brother, is sent back to this world by a guiding spirit to atone for all the bad things he has done while alive. That figure was Tommy Bonello and his brother was Jack Bonello. In the first tale, “The Bone Brothers,” Tommy, through a bizarre series of events, actually grows a conscience and gives up his life as a hired gunman. Fearing him to be a dangerous loose end, the Boss gives Jack the job of finding Tommy and ending his life. But here comes the real twist of the story, when Tommy’s spirit returns to the land of the living, it invades Jack’s body, effectively ending his life. Now that dead body is controlled by Tommy’s spirit…ergo, it is a zombie and wearing a white skull face mask becomes the gun blasting Undead Avenger, Brother Bones.

11110809_775668472530292_5605267081029804039_nAll of this took place in a fictional northwest metropolis I called Cape Noire. It’s a very bad place in which all manner of evil exist and is populated by some truly strange beings. None more so than Harry Beest, a one time gangster whose brain was cut out of his head and put into the body of a silverback gorilla. There were no limits to my imagination when it came to weaving Brother Bones tales. Pulp has always been about exaggerations.

The first story appeared on a website and was very well received. Which was encouraging enough for me to pen six more over the next two years. Finally, with Airship 27 up and running, we decided to bring those half dozen tales, plus a brand new one, to print in the very first volume. Rob provided both the cover painting and black and white interior illustrations. Thus was Brother Bones born.

BonesPosterEAlong about this time it was thought that a comic book adventure would make a great cross-promotional item and so I write “Bullets of Jade,” a 48 pg Brother Bones one shot that was illustrated by the stylistic John Polacek and published via Rob’s own independent comic imprint, Redbud Studio. With that out, I set about writing new short stories for what I thought at the time would be the second volume of prose adventures. What I didn’t realize was how much the first book had won over pulp fans including a very talented writer named Roman Leary. Months after its publication, Roman began corresponding with me and eventually submitted a short story for one of our Masked Rider western anthologies.

Then, while I was still writing new shorts, Roman asked if I’d be willing to allow him to write a full length Brother Bones novel. Naturally it was a surprise, albeit a pleasant one, to know someone else was that into what I’d created. Initially I had my doubts but in the end Roman convinced me by sending along a detailed plot outline which impressed the hell out of me. I relented and gave him the thumbs up. Once the novel was completed we recruited Scottish artist Rob Moran to provide the cover and interior illustrations and released, “Ron Fortier’s Brother Bones – Six Days of the Dragon.” That it became a big hit with our fans and readers came as no surprise. Roman is a gifted writer and he thoroughly had a blast handling my bizarre cast of characters.

Air-9I almost forgot. Soon after the first book’s release, Jase Marshall of Marshall Collectibles began making custom Brother Bones action figures which are amazing. Jase is a great guy and after several readers of the book wanted to commission him to do Brother Bones figures, he sought me out to get my permission, which I was only too happy to provide. Since then he’s made several versions, all of them superb.

Now we had two books and a comic and action figures out there. It was time for me to get busy again. A few months later, I’d finished the second collection of shorts and brought Rob Davis back on board to handle the interior illustrations while recruiting Pat Carbajal to do the painted cover for “Brother Bones – Tapestry of Blood.” In that particular collection we added a new member to the Cape Noire family, a sexy female vampire calling herself Sister Blood. My little pulp idea was growing every day.

That became most apparent when T Glenn Bane, the owner and manger of Scaldcrow Games came to me with the request to produce an RPG module based on my stories. Although I’d never personally been a gamer, Rob had and he found Glenn’s offer a terrific idea. So, with his urging, I agreed. Off to Kickstarter they went and within a few months had completed a successful campaign to produce “Ron Fortier’s Cape Noire,” a model that will play with many popular pulp-related games. October of this year is the set date of release.

At which point, if you are the guy who started all this, you have to start wondering, “What next?” More stories of course and hopefully more comics. I mean, what else haven’t we covered? And of course ask that question of the universe and it has a funny way of answering. This time in the form of another request concerning Brother Bones. This one from two young filmmakers from Seattle, Erik Franklin and Daniel Husser, wanting to know if I would let them make a small budget, independent Brother Bones movie! After I picked myself off the floor, I fired back a reply asking to know a lot more about this offer. All which led to a conference call between the three of us and then later with Rob sitting in.

aircornerSo here’s the scoop on the Brother Bones movie-in-the-making. It is based on the very first two Brother Bones stories from book one; “The Bone Brothers” and “Shield and Fang.” I, along with Erik Franklin, wrote the story and then Erik used that as the basis for the finished shooting script. The film will be shot entirely in Seattle, and unlike the big Hollywood studios, I’ve have final say on all aspects of the production, particularly in casting and story. Both Erik and Daniel are huge Bones fans and dedicated to bringing these wild stories to the screen the way I wrote them. Note, though I doubt the finished movie will ever play in theaters, they are in the midst of negotiation a really great contract with a well respected video distributor so that DVD copies will most likely end up in major retail chains ala Walmart and Target when done. And the possibility exist for sales to cable companies. Am I excited? Oh, yeah, in fact when principle photography begins, I’ll most likely fly out to Seattle to meet with the cast and do a Stan Lee style cameo. I mean, who would want to pass up such a chance to be in a movie based on something one created? As of now the boys are in pre-production and Rob has lent a hand doing character sketches which will aid in both casting the right actors and costuming, as this is a 1930s period piece.

576798_3698421172113_1108190359_nAnd as if that wasn’t enough, I spent the last two weeks adapting Erik’s shooting script into a 130 pg graphic novel I hope to sell to a comic outfit. All fingers crossed.

And that, my pulp loving friends, is where we are at today. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to keep folks updated on all things Bones, he even has his own FB page, so please, feel free to drop by and sign on. The more the merrier. It’s been a wild ride so far and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing down any time soon.

Remember how I started all this. Long, long ago, I wrote the Green Hornet series for Now Comics and it launched my writing career. Whereas thirty years later, it remains the one property I am known for. Not a bad thing by any means. But maybe that is all going to change now. The next time my name pops up in fan conversations, they might be saying, “Ron Fortier…didn’t he create Brother Bones?” Damn, but I like the sound of that.

Cap (2)

Guest Post by
Ron Fortier 

Detective Science Fiction

I love mysteries and crime stories especially when they’re set in the future or on other worlds because they not only solve crimes, the good ones also explore the relationship between humans and technology and maybe even with other races. That combination makes Detective Science Fiction is the perfect genre mish-mash!

What are detective science fiction stories?
They’re detective stories set in the future, on earth, other worlds or somewhere in outer space. The detectives need to be observant, to investigate, to question suspects, work within the laws (or sometimes outside them), report to superiors, interact with segments of society. While the detective does his job, the reader experiences a future society through the detective’s eyes. It’s a very up close and personal view of the world.

Why does this mash-up make for great crime fiction?
Technology changes but human nature doesn’t. Despite our technological advances, crime is still part of our world. Theft, murder, white collar, blue collar crimes, crimes against humanity, deviant crimes, commercial crimes, drugs, crimes in international law (slavery, genocide, war crimes, piracy, for example), and the list is endless. In writing about the future, it forces us to consider our lives in the present. What if technology changes and we can read the brain or the psyche to predict if people will commit crimes? What are the ramifications? What happens when we break the laws of alien cultures? What are frontier crime and justice like on a newly colonized world? What happens when an android commits murder? Android or robot detectives, even if they’re good at their job, what perils do they face? What constitutes crime in the future? How are murder mysteries solved in the future – great sleuthing or with advanced technology?

Why do they work? Isn’t science fiction supposed to be about the science?
Detective science fiction works because detectives are like scientists in that they question, they need to know how things work, they explore, they follow clues. But detectives need to find the truth, and to do that they must dig into the corners of society, personalities, and political structures. They need to know a little about everything just enough to ask the next question or suffer the consequences if they don’t. In short, detectives in science fiction are the best tour guide to both future technologies and the resulting human condition. Technology usually has a huge role to play in a detective sci fi and for that reason I greatly admire the authors who go that extra step to know their worlds well.

What are key features of this genre?
For me, it’s a toss-up between technology and characterization. Both are essential and both are the reason I keep reading detective science fiction. The best ones have great plot twists and turns, and are sprinkled with red herrings. As a reader, it’s easy to immerse myself into a society with this combination of plot, technology and characterization. However, just as with commercial crime and mystery stories, there’s a wide range of styles or sub genres within this genre mish mask.

There are cyberpunk detective stories where the element of human/computer relationship plays more of a role than characterization and plot. Then there’s hard boiled noir detective science fiction where in a dark, futuristic society, a detective (usually a gun-slinging male) must solve a crime written in the style of American noir of the 1930 and 40s. There are some cozy mysteries in that the crime is committed off scene and there is little violence but it’s heavy on the setting, the detective’s character, but the detective isn’t usually laid back citizen, like Miss Marple although there may be lots of deduction and little violence.

But the general feature of a good detective science fiction, no matter the subgenre, is the world building, the protagonist’s interaction in that world and the morality tale that crime stories evoke.

Book recommendations:
If you haven’t read any detective science fiction, beware – there’s been a lot written but not all of it has been categorized as detective science fiction, it’s still in the larger science fiction category. And, it’s not brand new either! Here’s the classic story from Isaac Asimov himself of why he wrote his first detective science fiction. This led to him pioneering the human-robot buddy cop genre.

“[John] Campbell had often said that a science fiction mystery story was a contradiction in terms; that advances in technology could be used to get detectives out of their difficulties unfairly, and that the readers would therefore be cheated. I sat down to write a story that would be a classic mystery and that would not cheat the reader — and yet would be a true science-fiction story. The result was The Caves Of Steel.”

The Caves of Steel is a must read.

To date, Good Reads has over 100 books listed in its Science Fiction Detective category. BestScienceFictionBooks.com contains a stellar list. It’s worth checking these lists. So for this reason, I won’t be listing the popular and classic books like the “Gil Hamilton” stories by Larry Niven. Instead, I’ve got 5 authors and novels you may not be familiar with but are worth reading:

Hydrogen SteelHydrogen Steel by K.A. Bedford
When top homicide inspector Zette McGee is called out of her mysterious retirement to help Kell Fallow, a desperate former android accused unjustly of murdering his wife and children, she knows she has to help him. (This is powerfully written, with lots of great world building and much intrigue with sabotage, spies and nasty infections. The consequences of and ramifications of artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness are dealt with superbly.)

Ultra Thin ManThe Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson
In the twenty-second century, a future in which mortaline wire controls the weather on the settled planets and entire refugee camps drowse in drug induced slumber, no one –alive or dead, human or alien—is quite what they seem. When terrorists crash the moon Coral into its home planet, it is up to Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos, contract detectives, to solve an interstellar conspiracy or face interplanetary consequences. (Clever title. Clever concept. To say anymore would be to spoil it. Sorry.)

transient cityTransient City by Al Onia
On a distant mining colony at the far reaches of outer space, vast cities crawl across the surface of a desolate planet looking for valuable minerals while their citizens struggle to survive. Victor Stromboli, a professional crime scene witness, is nearly crippled by the brutal memories he can neither control nor forget. Now he has to solve the mystery of a missing corporate executive who happens to be married to the one love of Victor’s life. (Crawling cities! What a cool concept especially on frontier planets where the characters are strong and quirky and come with really unique idiosyncrasies!)

Red PlanetRed Planet Blues by Rob Sawyer
P.I. Alex Lomax works the mean streets of New Klondike, the domed Martian city that sprang to life in the wake of the booming fossil market. He plies his trade among the failed prospectors, corrupt cops, and ‘transfers’—folks wealthy enough to upload their consciousness into near immortal android bodies. Then, he lands a cold case—a decades old murder of Weingarten and O’Reilly, the men who first discovered evidence of life on Mars. (This was a delightful gumshoe romp which dealt with the implications of transferring human consciousness into android bodies, thus making humans, albeit wealthy ones, nearly immortal.)

Defining Diana 2Defining Diana by Hayden Trenholm
Found naked and alone in a locked room, the beautiful woman was in perfect health, except she was dead. It’s 2043 and much has changed: nuclear war, biotechnology and all-powerful corporations have transformed the world. Now science is taking DNA manipulation to new levels. Superintendent Frank Steel is an old-fashioned cop who handles the bizarre and baffling cases no one else can solve. He knows the money, murders, missing persons and gruesome body shops are connected and it starts with the girl. (This novel creeped me out partly because it’s set in a village not far from where I live but also because of the nature of the crime. What would a cyborg future look like, not only with cyborgs and what they’re capable of doing, but what crimes come with that kind of existence?)

June Wrap-Up!

Hey Folks,

I’d first like to thank every one who contributed a post to this month, Fictorian and guests alike!

The idea of a month devoted to not just research collection (because we’d like to spend more time writing instead, right?), but also some new concepts and ideas we might not have thought of to apply to our stories, thus making them more believable, realistic, or even helping us think of what might be true in the future.

Overall, I hope that our information was useful.


Some of my favorites (and there were many), in no particular order:

I started us off with a discussion on why realism and accurate information was so important in media.
Mostly because I was chased by a black bear once, and man, was I ever glad I read Little House on the Prairie.

Buuut also you know not everyone in your story is going to know the most accurate information, or maybe the readers are so used to an inaccurate trope that realism would cause them to cry foul. So sometimes perfectly accurate information isn’t the most important thing to the story.

Kristin Luna explored how gender can influence perceptions of risk-taking characters, particularly young women. We take risks! But perhaps not in the same way as young male characters might.

Guy Anthony De Marco gave us a 101 on proper terminology and use of firearms. Particularly, please don’t have your character take the safety off the revolver unless they’re removing their finger from the trigger. Just…why.

Marta Sprout wrote an excellent guest post on how crime scenes should, and shouldn’t, be investigated.

Kim May implored us to do our research on the particular culture of an Asian character instead of writing them into a stereotype. 

If we don’t care enough to get it right then we offend readers of that ethnicity — thus losing them as readers — AND we mislead and misinform the readers who aren’t familiar with that ethnicity. Also, by misrepresenting that group we’re ultimately contributing to the cultural oppression of that group — even though we don’t mean to.

I shared how to look for, and write about, a character drowning. Also please watch out for everyone at the pool. Even if they’re a strong swimmer. But especially watch the little ones because I had to pull a kid out who was panicking and that was so scary for them. Pools are supposed to be fun and safe summer memories.

I also wrote about the moving definition of ‘death’ and that lead to a whole exploration of what exactly cryonics are, how it all works, and what one might do with that sort of technology in their story. 

M. J. Carlson gave us a Top 10 list of the most used (and misused) injuries in fiction in his very informative guest post.

Mary Pletsch talked about how misconceptions about the military and soldiers can not only lead to inaccurate plotlines and failed missions, but contribute to ugly misconceptions around real service members.

Nathan Barra had so much on how one can accurately portray scientists outside of the stereotypical tropes that he had to split it into Science Fact and Fiction Part 1 and Part 2.

In Healing in Science Fiction, Jace Killian emphasized how quickly technology can change, and the importance of doing your research on current issues when anticipating future technology.


That’s what we have for June! Stay tuned for an interview with an amazing person tomorrow and check back in July as we discuss genre!

– Emily Godhand

On Writing Crime Scenes

Guest post by Marta Sprout.

Crime scene

Developing crime scenes that are both intriguing and realistic is a delicate balance. Popular TV shows are notorious for depicting scenes that are dramatic, but anyone in law enforcement would call criminally stupid.

Certainly you know that DNA results don’t come back in an hour or that you can’t snap a picture of a fingerprint, and one minute later have a match and a photo of the perp. NCIS’s Abby Sciuto knows more than a fleet of forensic experts rolled into one. Horatio Caine in CSI: Miami drives a Hummer, which would make a real CSI snort her iced tea. Not only do they not make that kind of dough, they are civilians, who do not carry guns or arrest people.

Here are a few insights I learned from an active crime scene investigator on how to get it right.

Real homicide scenes are messier, smellier, and nastier than anything shown on TV. Decomp is an odor no one ever forgets. Victims often loose more than blood. (I’ll let you use your imagination on that one.) One mistake often seen on TV is that they don’t consider the amount of blood loss that would be normal for each type of injury. They might have a knife wound to the belly and show buckets of blood spatter. Not realistic. Or Hollywood might have a character with a scalp wound and show little or no blood. Scalp wounds bleed profusely.

By the way, spatter is the correct term, not splatter.

The trick for writers is to view every element of the scene from the investigator’s perspective. It helps to draw out your crime scenes in detail so that they are vividly clear in your mind. Then, when you sit down to write, you’ll have all the evidence and elements of the surroundings, which will captivate your readers. It also saves you from discovering ten chapters too late that you had a key piece of evidence in a spot that doesn’t make sense.

So, how does a crime scene investigation work? A patrol officer is normally the first person at the scene. His or her mission is to “show up, call it in, and don’t touch.” Securing the scene is the first vital step. As a writer, this is a great opportunity for conflict. Imagine the possibilities. What if the victim is a superstar? A horde of fans might show up, including thrill-seekers looking to grab evidence that they can sell as murdermobilia online. Now your officers really have their hands full.

Next your lead detective arrives. Mistakes aren’t limited to the TV scripts. Every police department has had someone who did something stupid, even though they knew better.

Let’s imagine a scenario where we have a patrol officer responding to a call about gunfire in the apartment next door to the caller. On scene, the officer finds a deceased male on the bed, calls it in, and guards the door. Perfect, until the detective shows up. He goes straight to the body, checks for an ID, and wanders through the room, searching for clues.

What’s wrong with that? Enough to give a CSI nightmares!

  • He didn’t wait for CSI, who would’ve set down access tarps that would allow for visual inspection of the body without disrupting trace evidence.
  • He didn’t see a casing on the carpet and kicked it out of place. Remember: you only get one shot at a crime scene. Once something is moved, you can’t go back. Location is just as important as the piece of evidence itself. In our scenario (taken from a real scene) the victim had been shot by an intruder standing by the closet, but because the detective kicked the casing, that vital bit of evidence’s value is now greatly diminished. That could throw-off the court case, but for writers it’s an opportunity. What if your detective is the killer? His footprints are expected to be at the scene and he can “accidentally” disrupt evidence to protect himself.
  • When touching the victim, he could have left trace evidence from his own body and clothing behind and he would’ve left fingerprints on the wallet. Gloves, booties, and Tyvek suits are used to prevent scene contamination.
  • Everyone rushes in to view the victim, but many seasoned investigators don’t because it’s too easy to be distracted by the body and miss important details. The investigator I know starts at the outer perimeter and ends at the body. In one case, she found a critical bit of evidence along the side of a house. The victim was in the kitchen.
  • Before anything is touched the entire scene is videotaped, photographed, measured, sketched, and documented in detail.

Investigators are real pros at preserving evidence and knowing which items will give them the most information. Did you know that they almost never test pubic hair? They collect it, but in reality hair that falls out usually doesn’t have the root ball needed for DNA testing.

Have you seen TV detectives using a pen to pick up a pistol by the barrel? Wouldn’t happen, folks. Not only is it an exceptionally dangerous method of holding a firearm, you risk disrupting evidence.

Now to the victim. In most cases, the medical examiner takes charge of the body. Once it’s back in the ME’s autopsy room, the full examination begins.

By the way, dental records are only good for confirming a victim’s ID. Think about it. How are you going to find the dentist, who has the records, if you aren’t fairly sure of the victim’s identity? I saw a show where they used a database to ID a victim through dental records. Nope. I promise that the dental x-rays from your last cleaning didn’t automatically go into a national database.

Research is a lot of work. Why not just make it up as you go along? Two reasons: you want your writing to be credible throughout; and you don’t want to reinforce the “CSI effect” and teach jurors at trial to have unrealistic expectations of seeing a Hollywood style show, where everything is tied up neatly. Real crimes and evidence are rarely so tidy.

I hope you find this helpful. For more information, http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net is a great resource. I went through the Citizen Police Academy and have a hands-on approach to research. If you’re interested in doing the same, check with your local police department for this program.

Best of luck with your writing. Maybe next time we can talk about Killers, Cops, and Fire Power.

 

Version 2MARTA SPROUT is an award-winning author. The Saturday Evening Post published her short story, The Latte Alliance, in their anthology “Best Short Stories of 2014 from The Great American Fiction Contest.” Her essays and articles have been published in newspapers and major magazines such as Antiques Magazine. Known for her thrillers, Marta writes full-time, assists the Corpus Christi Police Department with crime-scene, training scenarios, and enjoys kiteboarding, scuba diving, and snow skiing.