The Alibi: a Booked ezine

Issue 11, November 24, 2005
ISSN: 1715-9105

Watch BOOKED Investigates James O. Born's Shock Wave (all times EST):

  • Saturday, Nov. 26, 11PM on ACCESS Television
  • Tuesday, Nov. 29, 12:30PM and 8:30PM, and Wednesday, Nov. 30, 4AM on BookTelevision
  • Friday, Dec. 2, 9PM, and Saturday, Dec. 3, 1AM, on CLT
  • Wednesday, Dec. 7, 7AM, 6PM, and 11PM on CourtTV Canada
BOOKED Announcements
  • A CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR JAMES O. BORN! Tuesday, November 29th, BOOKED presents a phone-in chat with this week's featured author, James O. Born. We will select 5 people to take part in this half-hour conversation. For your chance to participate, email your first name and two questions you'd like to ask the author. Preference will be given to BOOKED Club members, so be sure to include your username! Send your entry to: The talk will be digitally captured and later offered as a podcast.
  • Starting this week, BOOKED is moving from 8PM EST to 11PM EST on ACCESS Television. Show times on BookTelevision, CLT, and CourtTV Canada will not change.
  • WEBISODES ARE NOW ONLINE! Visit the Webisodes page of BOOKED ONLINE to check out the series of exclusive webisodes with true crime experts. Be sure to check back next week for the next in the series!
  • PODCASTS NOW AVAILABLE! We have launched our first in a series of podcasts. See what's available on the Podcasts page. Choose which podcast to download, or subscribe to the feed and get the podcasts automatically.
Writer Rap Sheet: James O. Born

James O. Born is a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He has worked in a variety of areas of law enforcement, which has given him a wide range of experience to draw on for his crime fiction.

Born began working with legendary crime fiction writer Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, The Hot Kid) as a technical advisor before becoming a writer in his own right.

When it comes to crime fiction, Born has some strong opinions. “As a working cop I like to see accurate detail, not something a writer learned from watching Law & Order or CSI. A good story is more important than perfect detail, but little things can add up to turn off a realism junkie,” writes Born in his article “Writer Cops” (Web Mystery Magazine, Spring 2005). [This attention to detail and demand for realism made Born an ideal candidate for BOOKED Television – check his facts this week –Ed.]

“Cops who have super abilities make me smile. On the TV show Joe Forester in the 70s, he would throw his nightstick and trip fleeing criminals. I always thought that was cool. One night I ended up in a foot chase in Miami and threw my nightstick at the guy, hoping for the same effect. It shot between his legs without touching him,” recalls Born in an interview with Mystery Ink, “I put lessons like that in my books. It may not be pretty or flashy, but my characters act like people I know. Some people are dumbasses, so some of my characters do stupid things.”

Escape Clause: James O. Born's new novel, due February 2006Watch for James O. Born's next release, Escape Clause, due in February 2006. Keep an eye on, or visit Born's website at

Photo of Author James O. Born

“I couldn’t read police stories because when someone got something wrong in a book, it was hard for me to continue.  In my police career I never ‘twisted a gun out of a maniac’s hand’ or ‘saw fear in someone’s eyes’.  I lived in a world where I was worried about losing a tooth in a fight, and getting home to my family at night.”

--Author James O. Born

Booked Television: November 26-December 7
Graphic: BOOKED investigates James O. Born's Shock Wave

Shock Wave by James O. Born ISBN: 0425209237

BOOKED experts discuss terrorism and bomb threats as they follow Agent Bill Tasker as he tries to stop a terrorist from bombing Miami.

In this episode, our host Fred Yackman is joined by:

Graphic: Booked Experts
Killer Reviews with Paul Bergen and Barry Hammond
Paul and Barry are two 'crime geek' book reviewers based out of Edmonton, Alberta, and can often be found prowling the aisles of local independent bookstores.
Paul Bergen and Barry Hammond Photos
Article Title: Stop It! You're Killing Me! Loving the Bad Guys

Barry: There's a kind of subterranean strain of story in crime fiction, where the murderer, criminal, or villain actually becomes the focus of the piece. Interestingly, this style may have come out of the movies, where you had appealing character actors playing the bad guys. I think of James Cagney in White Heat, or Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo. Even today, I know more people remember Hannibal Lecter than any other characters in the Thomas Harris books. I wonder if it comes out of the old adage of actors saying villains are more interesting to play than heroes? Maybe it's more interesting for writers to write bad guys, too?

Paul: It would be challenging in different ways. While I think that, in this genre, good people are made interesting by their situations:"how do I get through this without doing anything bad?", bad people are interesting by their very existence. The problem a writer has is to make them believable.

Barry: I think writers probably sense the freedom of these individuals, the fact that they are capable of anything. And as a reader I feel the same thing and this makes the story more thrilling in its unpredictability. The most compelling example that comes to mind is Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, where the book follows the central character's inner monologue. The character is a sheriff in the book, but he's also a homicidal maniac. That's the earliest book I can think of that did it well and probably started a trend.

Paul: Loved that book and how long it took me to truly grasp the nature of the sheriff since from his point of view he's just doing a job that needs to be done. One of my favorite writers who has deeply immoral and destructive protagonists is James Ellroy where the cops are very dirty and often worse than the criminals they pursue.

Barry: The effect is often stronger through setting a realistic tone

which lulls you to the aberrations of the character. They present the characters as they are, with no comment from the author and let the reader make up their own mind as to their morality. Charles Willeford takes this to the limit when he takes the rough but good Hoke Mosely and after a number of books has him become the type of man he was often after. This was quite a contrast from the amiable but disheveled version presented in the film Miami Blues.

Paul: You couldn't really say Ellroy is much of a realist. His almost hallucinogenic prose mirrors the unsettling amorality that pervades his books. I find that I am almost flabbergasted by the wide swath of destruction these lead villains leave in their wakes. Murder is just another one of their tools and the utter pragmatism of their actions is astonishing.

Barry: That comes across well in the Ellroy-based film L.A. Confidential. You get to that point of comparing degrees of bad rather than the usual bad versus good. And I find that a nice change. Ultimately though, as enthralling as these characters might be, I prefer the more nuanced and thus difficult examination of the good person surviving bad times.

Paul: I agree. A book with a lead bad seed takes you on a holiday to that colorful unpredictable foreign country but the struggle for good deepens your understanding of home.

Case Book: Constable Grant Jongejan, Explosive Technician

“The best part of my job is the very extensive technical knowledge. It involves a lot of science. I was a constable for several years before joining the Tactical Unit, and from there I applied to become an Explosive Technician. I have a background in construction, and my extensive knowledge of building construction and wiring made me a good candidate. The other thing they were looking for is people with the right demeanour. Obviously you have to be pretty calm and level-headed.”

--Constable Grant Jongejan

Photo of Constable Jongejan
Edmonton Police Service Bomb Dismantling Robot
One of the Edmonton Police Service's Robots

Constable Grant Jongejan is an Explosive Technician with the Edmonton Police Service. “Most days I am simply a patrol constable responding to calls for service. At times we do get called out to take care of explosive events and that’s when I would work as a bomb technician as opposed to a patrol constable,” explains Jongejan.

We’ve all encountered the Hollywood cliché of the bomb tech staring into a tangled mess of wires and frantically trying to remember if it’s the blue wire or the red. How real is that? “It’s real, we call those Category A. Category A means life is at imminent risk – as an example, someone with a body bomb strapped to them. That’s when we’d go in and deal with the bomb hands-on. However, these cases are infinitesimally rare. I can’t think of a single instance in Canada where a bomb tech participated in that kind of dismantle.” Typically bomb techs don't dismantle devices by hand - "it's not a good strategy and it's certainly not a best practice." So for the majority of situations, a bomb tech will approach an explosive device remotely. That's where the bomb dismantling robots come in. “The robot gives us the ability to deal with bombs remotely, rather than having a human being standing over the package.”

“When we arrive on the scene where there is a bomb, the first thing we do is start an investigation. We are sometimes able to ascertain exactly what we’re dealing with simply by similar fact information we’ve received. We’ll want to speak to police personnel that have been there because they’re trained witnesses and can provide us with real-time intelligence we otherwise wouldn’t get. Then we develop a strategy.”

Last Words

Coming up on BOOKED Television:

BOOKED investigates Kathy Reichs' Cross Bones. Expert lineup for this show: Religious Scholar David Goa, Rabbi David Kunin, Writer Scot Morison, and Physical Anthropologist Michael Billinger.
Check Broadcast Dates and Times

Look for the next Alibi – we’ll introduce you to writer Kathy Reichs, and talk to Physical Anthropologist Michael Billinger about his work.

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Here are the remaining books, in order, that our experts will be dissecting in the weeks ahead.
Get reading!

Cross Bones - Kathy Reichs
He Who Fears the Wolf - Karin Fossum

For more information about the booklist or upcoming shows, visit

The views expressed in this ezine are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Reel Girls Media Inc.

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