Do you think I'll embarrass Jim Born if I say he's kind, and a gentleman? Fortunately, I'm sure none of his fellow cops will read this to poke fun of him. When is the last time you saw a gentleman stand up when women got up or sat down? At happy hour on Friday night, with eight women in attendance, poor Jim spent the evening getting up and down. And, then he carried another author's box of books to the restaurant for event organizer, Chantelle Osman. A true gentleman.
Jim's biography for the Desert Sleuths' Write Now! Conference said, "James O. Born, the award-winning author of the Alex Duarte and Bill Tasker series, is a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He has investigated organized, violent and economic crime, drug cartels, and public corruption. A former technical advisor to Elmore Leonard, he also writes science fiction under the name James O'Neal."
As keynote speaker for the conference, Born was terrific. He had us laughing from the start, when he said on the drive over that morning, he was hoping his driver, Desert Sleuths President Roni Olson, would stop for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. She told him Robin Burcell said that's a myth that cops eat doughnuts. He said, when the cop looks like Robin Burcell, she probably doesn't eat doughnuts. When they look like he does, he eats doughnuts.
Jim reminded Robin that they had first met on a panel at Bouchercon. The panelists were all cops and authors, Burcell, Born, and Michael Black from Chicago, who was 6'3'' and 200 pounds. Some man stood up, and asked, "Don't you have to be sick to go back to your jobs every day?" Jim said, "Sir, should Mike and I come down and whip your ass?" Afterward, Black told him he did a good job, but one of our policies is, don't threaten the readers.
Since Write Now! was a writers' conference, Born told the audience if they were finding writing fun, they were on the right track. He spent fourteen years writing and rewriting before he got anyplace. You can have all the realistic details, but they don't mean anything if there isn't a good story, good characters, and a well-written story.
Born admitted he doesn't watch most cop shows. He said C.S.I. isn't how police work. And, as to that redhead on C.S.I. Miami, he wouldn't be able to put on those sunglasses the next time if he talked to him that way.
How did he begin writing science fiction crime novels? Jim Born went through the DEA Academy. At that time, it was at the FBI in Quantico. Eventually, he joined the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As part of his job, he sits on boards and they talk about what the future of law enforcement looks like. He uses real techniques, and those ideas, to set his novels twenty years in the future. He said C.S.I. is actually more science fiction than his books are.
After writing his previous crime novels, he wanted to write these books. TOR, the big science fiction publisher, told him to write a fantasy about something that was important to him. He answered that no one wanted to read about a tubby, middle-aged cop who women find irresistible.
For the group of writers, Jim Born was demonstrating police techniques and equipment. Before starting, Jim warned the audience members if they dozed off, he would comment about it. He also told us a lot of other people write a lot of his books. He hears cops say things, and he puts it in his books. Now that he's published, though, it's not as easy. Now, the cops will say, "Are you putting this in your book, Jimbo?" He's always listening to what's going on. He still remembers when his boss was yelling at him and his partner fifteen years ago. "I can't believe you guys can be that effing stupid!" His quick response? "Boss, that's another example of you underestimating us."
Born pointed out that he dresses for work just as he dressed for the conference; loose shirt, khakis, sometimes jeans, boat shoes (asking us if we knew what boat shoes were in Arizona), or running shoes. No one expects a man dressed like that to be a cop.
Born had shipped equipment and props to the event organizer, Chantelle Osman. So, he showed us a fake Glock 45, saying this was the gun he carries in a specially made holster. He stressed when he pulls the gun, he says one thing, and one thing only. "Police. Don't move!" He'll stand back, with something between him and the person he's drawn the gun on, but that's all he'll say. Then, when he testifies, he can say he identified himself, and told the suspect not to move. And, a witness can repeat what he said. That's what he was trained to say.
And, he reads a suspect his rights, and has them sign it. He doesn't recite it from memory after learning it on Adam-12, although he does remember it.
It's a shame everyone couldn't have been there for Born's demonstration of handcuffs. Although he was perfectly serious about the use of all his equipment, he also made it funny, as he handcuffed a woman, and said he had failed to bring his key. Fortunately for his victim, Robin Burcell has the standard handcuff key in her purse. When presenting flex cuffs as prize, he also warned the audience that they are for one time use only, so be prepared with a heavy tool to cut them off, or your partner will be left attached to the bedpost. He also told us he's the senior guy in his office, and usually handles corruption and fraud cases, so something probably went wrong if he's making an arrest. And, Jim warned he's an equal opportunity shooter. He doesn't care if the suspect is male or female.