Sunday, October 6, 2013

How Great Author And Sleuth Nigel Cooper Wrote His Detective-Vampire Novel!

Vampire Review is very pleased to have Nigel Cooper guest post today. Thank you, Nigel, for stopping by and for sharing your processes for writing your vampire novel. ~ Tami Jackson

How Does A CSI Team Catch A Modern Vampire?
By Nigel Cooper

I cannot stress how important research is when writing a novel. Different authors have different techniques for doing research for their book. Some will research as they go along, possibly taking ten months in total to write it. Personally, I like to do all the research first, then write. I will spend anywhere between three and eight months researching and writing a synopsis (typically 10,000 to 15,000 words). Then, once that's done, the book is very clear to me and simply needs to be written.

At that point I sit down and spend ten to twelve weeks writing the first draft of the novel; between 85,000 and 110,000 words. Before I could start writing my debut novel "Email From A Vampire," I had to do quite a lot of research. There was a good amount of historical research involved, such as learning details about 11th century wagons drawn by horses as a form of transport. Then there was the 15th century Scottish Claymore broadsword to learn about and a 17th century Baroque ballroom and much more.

But the most challenging research of all was based around the work of a CSI (Crime Scene Investigator). I needed to know: How would a CSI team trace and track down a modern day vampire living in London?

In the UK, our CSI’s used to be called SOCOs (and SOCO) which stands for Scenes of Crime Officer. Yet SOCO doesn’t really sound that great, compared to the American’s CSI. Today, the British police have followed the American formula and now have CSI departments as well.

Once I had the bulk of the plot and story worked out, I realized about two thirds of the way through the book that Detective Inspector Marion Maldini (one of the main characters) would have to get quite close to catching Tristan Syhier Burnel (the main protagonist/vampire) to give the story a twist. Yet I wondered: "how would a modern day DI and his team of CSI’s catch a 1000-year old vampire?"

Surely a vampire would have a lot of practice at dodging the police throughout the centuries – and so far in my novel Tristian had prevailed. What’s more, he has super-human strength, can move at an incredible speed, jump very high, sees in the dark, reads people’s thoughts, hypnotizes people and can do so much more. Oh, and he can’t be killed by police bullets or regular tactics either!

So, after getting permission (in person) from Deputy Chief Constable John Feavyour and his PA Barbara Warsap of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, I went up Peterborough Police Headquarters and spent the afternoon speaking to their CSI manager, Mark Kelly.

Armed with my MacBook laptop I put many questions to Mark. By the time the afternoon ended, I felt like I had completed a course in CSI investigation techniques. It really is quite incredible what CSI experts know and the techniques they use are fantastic. And let’s not forget, the police are not in the business of giving away their trade secrets, so what I have explained below is simply the tip of the iceberg. For CSI secrets that could not be disclosed, I had to use creative license while writing.

A Few Things I Learned About CSI's Investigation And Tracing Techniques:

1. Physical transferrence

Forensic science pioneer Edmund Locard (1877–1966) is famous for saying "every contact leaves a trace," which essentially means that the longer and stronger the contact, the greater the transfer. More specifically, when you sit in a chair a part of you and/or your clothing transfers to it. This could be a hair off your head or arm, dead skin cells and/or clothing fibers. Also, chair residue can also transfer onto your clothes. People often forget that the transfer process goes both ways, from person to chair and from chair to person.

A CSI can use such trace evidence to prove contact transpired, which proves that a person was at a specific place. However, this does not prove that the person actually committed the offence. It also does not prove that they were there at the exact time the crime happened. Proof that the person committed the offence still must be provided as there could be another legitimate reason the person was at the wrong place.

2. Electronic trasferrence
Thanks to modern technology, there's also an electronic footprint that everybody leaves behind. For example, you might get in your car in Cambridge, drive to a petrol station, then to shops, and on to see a friend before you drive home. Any one of the roads you traveled could have had a CCTV, where the footage shows your car at a given point at what time. Then? Thanks to ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) system, the police will have a record or your car’s registration number and the exact time you drove past that recording device.

Most petrol stations have CCTV cameras, and when you go inside to pay, your face gets recorded onto yet another CCTV inside. Whenever you use your credit or debit card to pay for goods, your bankcard details are also registered.

So the police also know exactly what time you were where. As you travel from one point to the next, police have the opportunity to add up all this electronic information that you left behind. And they would probably know the exact route you took too.

All this does not even mention your mobile phone. As long as your phone is switched on, it is acting as a GPS for the police, telling them exactly where you are. This is done via the phone’s unique IMEI identification number; all phones have one, and such allows police to narrow down your location to a single street. Considering how, even if you remove your phone’s battery and sim card the GPS tracking system in your phone will still work is scary.

3. DNA collection

DNA is short for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. The British DNA database has recorded information about 10% of the population, most of whom are criminals. When somebody is arrested, the police take a buccal swab from inside the mouth of the arrested criminal (small cotton bud like stick that is wiped on the inside of the cheek). This is sent off to the lab and after processing, a resulting unique number (about three telephone numbers long) is added to the database, along with the person’s details such as name, date of birth, town of birth, address etc.

Often at crime scenes, DNA is collected. Remember, DNA is found in saliva so they can get this off a cigarette butt that was left at the scene of the crime. It is also found in your hair, blood, sweat, tears etc. If you drank from a can your DNA would be around the mouthpiece. If you have been arrested before, the police would be able to prove you were at the scene from the DNA you left behind.

Violent fights leave traces of blood all over the place. If you bite your victim, your DNA will be around their wound. There have been a few instances of violent homophobes contracting the AIDS virus after beating up a person with the disease. In one instance, the attacker grazed his knuckles on his victim’s face. Blood from the victim entered cuts on the attacker’s knuckles and he contracted the AIDS; a strange kind of justice perhaps?

4. Dumb criminals posting on the Internet

Perhaps the funniest technique that the police have for catching criminals is when criminal’s unwittingly turn themselves in by posting facts on social media. Police teams are on Facebook and Twitter all day because this has proven to be the single most effective way of catching small time crooks.

You’d be amazed at how often crooks incriminate themselves simply by posting facts on Facebook or Twitter for the world to see. In the same ballpark of stupidity are the small-time thieves who steal things or break into people’s houses, then list their swag on eBay.

eBay is one of the first places that police look these days to find stolen goods that were pinched the night before. The police simply do a search on eBay for the stolen item, and eBay provides law enforcement with the name and address of the account holder.

Once something has been posted on a social network, it is there forever for the whole world to see. Even if the post is deleted, it is still backed up and archived away – just in case it is ever needed for proof in the future. Facebook and Twitter are constantly being backed up from one minute to the next, just in case something goes wrong on the servers, these back-ups never go away.

Email is another method the police use. They will often call in a forensics IT specialist to do this job. If you send an email, the police can find out exactly where the computer was located when the email was sent. And, if you were a suspect, the police could monitor your computer from their own headquarters and the second you log in to send an email, the forensics IT specialist will know about it before you even hit "send." an email – they can actually watch you type the email in real time. Scary stuff.

These are just a few of the things I learned while spending time with a real life CSI manager. And as I have already mentioned, the police did not give away their most effective secrets.

BACK ON TOPIC OF MY BOOK: Email From A Vampire

In my novel Email From A Vampire the protagonist, Tristan Syhier Burnel, is pretty smart and not so easily caught. That's not to mention all his special powers as a vampire.

Detective Inspector Marion Maldini uses CSI techniques to stay hot on Burnel's heels.  It’s an interesting game of cat and mouse.

Email From A Vampire can be found on and as either a paperback, or Kindle download.

For more details about the author, visit:
© 2013 Nigel Cooper

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