I slapped the cuffs on Paul and tossed him into my own holding tank for this interview:
INTERROGATING THE INTERROGATOR
Paul Bishop: I was looking for a new twist on an established genre. While pulling my hair out watching an interrogation conducted by real world detectives on an episode of 48 Hours, I realized I’d never come across a novel, movie, or TV show portraying the successful interrogation techniques I’d developed over thirty plus years with the LAPD dealing with uncountable suspects. I now teach interrogation to numerous law enforcement agencies – not just the techniques, but the psychological and physical sciences behind them. Finally, I took the hint mysubconscious had been using to batter me and realized I was in a unique position to write an interrogation based novel and make it as realistic as fiction would allow. Lie Catchers is the result.
How is Lie Catchers different from your Calico Jack Walker or Fey Croaker books?
The Calico Jack Walker books are all about action. Fey Croaker always finds herself not only in the middle of tough homicide investigation, but also battling with the administration and everyone else around her.
Lie Catchers takes a much deeper more complex look at both its characters – LAPD top interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randal – and how they do the things they do. It’s not a novel about asking questions. It’s about asking the right questions, in the right way, at the right time, to get to the right truth.
With a few exceptions, you've mainly written police stories. Is that because it's what you know, or do the stories you come up work better with police protagonists?
I’ve written westerns and sports novels, but cop tales were what publishers wanted most from me. It was the genre where I had the strongest hook – real cop writing cop books…The Joe Wambaugh of the mid-list. If I’d been a cowboy or a pro athlete, I probably would have gone down a different literary path.
Did you want to write before you joined the police force, or did that happen later?
I’ve always wanted to pursue both professions since I was very young. Growing up, I regularly pursued activities and educational opportunities geared toward both passions. I joined the LAPD in 1977. I finally reached a level of skill as a writer to begin selling freelance non-fiction articles and short stories about five years later. For the next thirty years, I juggled both professions – Although, sometimes I felt like a court jester juggling kittens who’d just been thrown a chain saw.
You're not shy about your enthusiasm for the pulps. How do you use that pulp inspiration to blaze your own trail in a genre with such a rich history?
The pulp writers from back in the day have always been my heroes. Guys who could be at a party, realize they had a story due the next day, go off in a corner with a battered typewriter, grind out 4,000 words non-stop, and then go back and join the party. I also loved the way they wrote – raw, stripped down, straight ahead storytelling. Stuff we could use today to rescue us from the glut of doorstop, non-thrilling, thrillers…
I’ve always strived to marry the pulp style of storytelling to the evolved style of more complex characters, themes, and realism. Even in creating the Fight Card series, I was firmly in the world of the New Pulp genre – modern storytelling with an old school edge.
Police dramas, either in the cinema or on television, often ignore standard procedure, though "Car 54, Where Are You?", you must admit, nailed The Job perfectly. Do you find that "the rules" get in the way of your plots, or do you work them into the narrative as a help or a hindrance to your characters?
I try to strive for realism in my cop novels, but I’ve never let the rules get in the way of a good plot twist. That said, readers come to my books with certain expectations. I have to work very hard to maintain their willing suspension of disbelief. Sometimes, I can’t write the reality of a situation because no reader would believe it – the whole truth is stranger than fiction thing.
The majority of police and detective work is repetitive and not too exciting. The easy answer is usually the correct one. In reality, O.J. did it. Only in fiction is O.J. being framed by a violent psychotic UCLA fan with a grudge. There is an old axiom that police work is 99% boredom and 1% pure terror. It is the 1% you have to concentrate on as a writer to keep readers engaged.
In what instances would you ignore procedures to enhance the drama in your work?
It depends on the book I’m writing. The Calico Jack Walker tales are thrill rides in which procedures are made to be ignored. Fey Croaker, on the other hand, have to play nice with proper procedures. Fey has never met a regulation she hasn’t wanted to break, but she can’t because her stories are based in a more confining reality. In the Fey Croaker books, rules and regulations are obstacles to overcome in a realistic way and add to the tension and Fey’s frustrations.
With Lie Catchers, I had to be very careful to stay within the real world as much as possible if I wanted readers to concentrate on the art of interrogation, which is at the heart of the book. They have to believe the background pallet of Lie Catchers in order to believe in the techniques Pagan and Randall have developed.
What aspect of police work has never been fully explored in "cop fiction"?
Hopefully, interrogation (pause to let the laughter settle down)…I also don’t think the real world of police Internal Affairs has been addressed in a realistic manner. If I was to bring Fey Croaker back for another outing, Internal Affairs would be the focal point of the story.
What is one question you've never been asked that you'd like to answer?
I could probably list a whole page of questions I don’t want to be asked and don’t want to answer (mostly because the statute of limitations hasn’t run yet). So let’s just leave it at that and walk away…
May we have a clue about your next book?
I’m at the beginning of the sequel to Lie Catchers. I have a real attachment to Pagan and Randall and have a notebook full of wringers I want to put them through. Book two is plotted, but in book three, I’m thinking of taking Pagan and Randall down to Guantanamo as objective investigators looking into a murder in the compound. I find the notion of the interrogators interrogating the interrogators compelling.
You're on record as saying you would probably have to arrest Mike Hammer. If that ever happened, would you take him alone, with a partner, assemble two or three SWAT teams, or call Trinity Valance? [Trinity Valance is a hit woman Paul wrote about in a short story; see Running Wyld.]
In a Mike Hammer world, I’d have no choice but to go solo with a .45 blazing in each hand…
Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was twice honored as Detective of the Year. He continues to work privately as a deception expert. His fifteen novels include five in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series. His latest novel, Lie Catchers, begins a new series featuring top LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall. www.paulbishopbooks.com, Twitter @bishsbeat, Facebook, Amazon