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  • Gregory Zeigler

So You Want To Write About A PI?


In my first novel, The Straw That Broke, I introduced Jake Goddard as a PI who had sort of fallen into the job through his work as an historical document researcher in Salt Lake City, Utah. I don’t think it is a spoiler to tell you Jake falls in love with a Wyoming cop by the name of Susan Brand.


In my second eco-thriller, (the sequel to The Straw That Broke) Some Say Fire, Brand has joined Goddard Consultancy as a PI and is just beginning to learn how difficult—as Pam Beason who has worked as a PI so aptly pointed out in her recent post—it can be.

Frankly, I was basically winging it and truly wish I had read Pam Beason’s digital book So You Want to be a PI before my first two attempts. I spent a lot of time researching and interviewing cops. Yet I gave the world of the PI short shrift, I fear.


Now, thanks to Pam’s experience and typically well-written digital book I understand much more about the role of the PI.


Here are a few of the things I’ve learned and incorporated into my writing:

  • PIs can feel powerless, especially if they have grown used to the power extended to police officers, as is the case with my character Susan Brand.

  • PIs have to use their brains and wiles much more than their guns. In fact a gun, even though carried legally, can land a PI in a world of trouble.

  • Training for private investigators varies widely from state-to-state and in essence PIs, although they carry a badge, don’t have much more power than an average citizen.

  • In fact, to paraphrase Pam’s book, PIs have no special powers to coerce anyone into doing anything. Lock picks and handcuffs do not come with your investigators license and if you are caught with them you could be arrested.

  • And finally, the best tools in a PIs toolkit are a quick mind with extensive knowledge of technology and information sources, knowledge of the legal system, and people skills.

So based on what I’ve learned, I’ve created a very perceptive and personable investigator/researcher in Jake Goddard who uses his Browning nine-millimeter sparingly and takes names before kicking ass. In Susan Brand I’ve created a more impulsive, often frustrated, partner who might just kick your ass without ever asking your name.


My two PIs complement each other and have a tendency—by the end of my novels at least—to get stuff done.


With thanks, as always, to my FRW partner, Pam Beason.