Turning a Crime into a Story

A few years ago, I attended a crime writers conference where one of the speakers told us true crime stories were less interesting than crime fiction.

Although true crime stories hold a certain fascination for some – there will always be people who want to know all the gory details about who was having sex with whom and how that led to murder or whatever – the point the speaker was making was that, in the main, most real crime is committed for very banal reasons by fairly stupid people. A straight retelling of such stories generally does not make for a good reading experience.

So, what’s a crime writer to do with all that true crime material the world delivers each day? 

You select a crime and turn it into a story using your imagination. You rewrite the boring bits into a story with a few unexpected twists. You transform the fairly stupid people into interesting characters and give them some less banal motivations for their criminal activities. And, you add in the dimension of seeing it through the eyes of the investigators, which allows the story to unfold and draw you into sorting out the mystery of how the crime came into being.

Let’s consider an example from the Stella Bruno Investigates series: A Gun of Many Parts. This story is based on the facts of a true crime committed in Australia.

The basic facts of the crime are:

A man fired a pistol in a suburban street after an argument with a woman and drove off in his car.

The incident was reported to police, along with the registration number of the car of the shooter.

The police pulled over the car and discovered the driver in possession of a Glock pistol, a prohibited import in Australia.

The shooter wouldn’t divulge details of how he’d come into possession of the pistol.

At this point, we’re dealing with a crime committed for a banal reason – an argument – and a stupid act by someone smart enough to keep his mouth shut. But the story took a twist when the police examined the pistol – the three main components of the Glock had different serial numbers.

To most of us, that little fact doesn’t mean much, but to a police ballistics expert it was a red flag, because when a Glock leaves the factory in Austria, those component have the same serial number.

This led to the uncovering of another crime, one committed by three men with a brilliant idea that unravelled thanks to the stupid act of one of their customers, their own lack of foresight, and meticulous record keeping by Glock.

So, what did I do with those facts? First, I shifted the scene of the crime into South Australia, where Stella Bruno does her thing. Then, I invented the characters I needed and wove their story around the bare bones of the real crime.

You can see how it turned out in A Gun of Many Parts.

Reading Stella Bruno Investigates

Stella Bruno Investigates is a series of six books telling seven stories.

Each title in the series is dedicated to a particular crime, but the seventh story, Stella’s story, is interwoven through the six stories that make up the series.

To fully appreciate the gradual unfolding of Stella’s story, you’ll need to read the series in book order.

Set in and around Adelaide, South Australia, the stories open a window into Australian life and policing that allows you to explore life down under, without making the long-haul flight required to get there. That has to be a bonus.

All of the places mentioned in the stories exist – you can look them up using your search engine of choice. And, you can enjoy a meal at any of the restaurants where Stella and Shaun eat – if you ever make that long-haul flight and come to Adelaide. You might even spot me at one of the tables.

Australians are fairly informal in their working relationships, even within the confines of the rigid hierarchy of a police force. Working relationships are built on trust, and it’s not uncommon for officers of differing ranks to treat each other as equals – as Stella and Brian do. Of course, there is also a place for respecting rank, which is why Stella has a different relationship with DI Frank Williams, who is still coming to terms with the reality of his most competent detective sergeant being a woman. He gets better as the series progresses.

The other man of interest across the series is Shaun Porter. He works for the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions but that is secondary to his role as Stella’s new love interest. Yes, police officers have a life outside of investigating crime, and one of the joys of writing the series was witnessing the development of the relationship between Stella and Shaun. I hope you enjoy their story.

If you’re wondering what makes Australian crime stories different, Stella Bruno Investigates gives you the opportunity to find out in six quick reads.

Start with The Identity Thief.

Stella Bruno Investigates – season one

Stella Bruno Investigates is a series of quick reads – books designed to be read in one sitting.

They’re stories designed to be consumed in one irresistible gulp. The kind you can read on the way to work or before you go to sleep. Something addictive to distract you while you wait in line. Intriguing mysteries to enjoy on the train, in the car, or on a flight for less than the price of a Starbucks coffee, with ten times the kick.

Set in and around Adelaide, South Australia, the stories focus on the criminal investigations led by Detective Sergeant Stella Bruno.

Stella is assisted by Detective Constable Brian Rhodes, who’s approaching retirement, harassed by Detective Inspector Frank Williams, and distracted by Shaun Porter from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In addition to all the crime, the stories follow Stella’s developing relationship with Shaun and provide insights into her life as a single mother with a teenage son. You’ll also discover some of the benefits she enjoys being part of an extended Italian family.

If you’ve never been to Australia, this series will give you a little taste of life ‘down under’ where you can experience the North Wind as hot and blustery, and winters without snow and ice.

Season one has 6 stories:

      • The Identity Thief
      • A Gun of Many Parts
      • Bones in the Forest
      • A Deadly Game of Hangman
      • Taken
      • Fallout

The series is also available in two collections for those who prefer their books printed on paper.

      • The Identity Thief Collection
      • The Fallout Collection

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

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Stella Bruno Investigates – Book 5

Abduction, Suspense, and a Strange Demand.

Detective Sergeant Stella Bruno investigates the abduction of eight-year-old Julia Ryan, taken from her nanny at gunpoint.

When the kidnapper demands something outside the control of Julia’s family as ransom for her release, Stella is determined to find him before it’s too late.

Detective Constable Brian Rhodes is confident the kidnapper will make a mistake.

If you enjoy mystery and intrigue, you’ll love Taken, book five in Peter Mulraney’s Stella Bruno Investigates series of quick reads.

BUY from AMAZON

A Deadly Game of Hangman

Stella Bruno Investigates is a series of quick reads – books designed to be read in one sitting. Each book in the series only takes around an hour and a half to two hours to read. So, there’s no waiting for days to find out who did it. Continue reading “A Deadly Game of Hangman”

Stella Bruno Investigates in South Australia

A Gun of Many Parts, book two in the Stella Bruno Investigates series, is now available from Amazon.

Explore South Australia,  check out some of the places featured in the series, and nominate a place you’d like to read about in one of Stella’s future investigations.