Kindle Forum banner

1 - 15 of 15 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,888 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Scott Turrow set nine of his novels in a fictional Midwestern county, Kindle County. Since Turrow and I both live in suburban Chicago his Kindle County is more than likely Cook County (where Chicago and oodles of crime and corruption occur). It seems to me that gives Turrow at least a little leeway in terms of not having to follow the Cook County criminal justice system to the nth degree. I'm sure he knows it well enough to since he's a lawyer and has practiced here extensively, but for whatever reason he doesn't use it.

Not being a lawyer and not using a specific place I believe would be beneficial for me. I'm not using it as a cop out for a lack of research, but it would be freeing to know that actual lawyers from Cook County will not be calling me out for every little technicality I get wrong. Plus it could help in that there are areas (judges chambers, prisoner/lawyer interview rooms etc) I would not have access to and hence would not be able to describe firsthand.

So go specific or generic? What do you guys think? Any thoughts are welcome. Thanks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,279 Posts
I would think you'd still be beholden to state laws, fictional country or not.

It sounds like you want to do fake country and it works in your genre, so do that. I would make sure there's a few authors with fake counties though. If it's only one guy, he might be an outlier.

I prefer books with real settings, but I see authors get small details wrong in contemporary romance all the time. I imagine it's much harder to nail details in a legal thriller.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,888 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Crystal_ said:
I would think you'd still be beholden to state laws, fictional country or not.

It sounds like you want to do fake country and it works in your genre, so do that. I would make sure there's a few authors with fake counties though. If it's only one guy, he might be an outlier.

I prefer books with real settings, but I see authors get small details wrong in contemporary romance all the time. I imagine it's much harder to nail details in a legal thriller.
Thanks Crystal. From what I've read of legal thrillers Turrow is an outlier. And really I've read not a few legal thrillers that have procedural errors in them. Although I did notice one legal thriller used the name of a fictional newspaper. I think that's a good suggestion to stay faithful to the laws of the state no matter if the county is fictional or not. I think I'll be best off staying faithful to the actual county.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,167 Posts
I'm not sure I understand the dilemma.  What does it matter if you use a real or fake county name?  Regardless o the name, the county's laws can be identical to the "real" county if you like.  Or they can be different.  You write fiction, so laws (or police procedure, or legal tactics) can vary from the actual ones.  Happens all the time, in books, TV, and movies.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
142 Posts
everybody knows Kindle County is Cook County, it's just annoying

a crime novel, including a legal thriller, is nothing without its setting

big cities should be the real big cities in their real counties, however, because the corrupt smalltowns that inspire certain stories might get huffy, you might use fake names for smaller places -- & even then you might do just as well to err on the side of reality

Clanton, Ford County isn't real but  for a time Canton, Mississippi did have that sign saying something like, Welcome to Canton, home of A Time to Kill, we hope you have some time to kill with us

New Iberia used to have a Dave Robicheaux tourist map you could walk

you get none of that if you use a fake place

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,888 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Jena H said:
I'm not sure I understand the dilemma. What does it matter if you use a real or fake county name? Regardless o the name, the county's laws can be identical to the "real" county if you like. Or they can be different. You write fiction, so laws (or police procedure, or legal tactics) can vary from the actual ones. Happens all the time, in books, TV, and movies.
Hi Jena. If you use a real county you have to get that county's details right. If you use a fake county you don't have to. But you lose some of the reader's interest if he would be interested in a particular specific place if you go with a fictional place.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,888 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
nightwork said:
everybody knows Kindle County is Cook County, it's just annoying

a crime novel, including a legal thriller, is nothing without its setting

big cities should be the real big cities in their real counties, however, because the corrupt smalltowns that inspire certain stories might get huffy, you might use fake names for smaller places -- & even then you might do just as well to err on the side of reality

Clanton, Ford County isn't real but for a time Canton, Mississippi did have that sign saying something like, Welcome to Canton, home of A Time to Kill, we hope you have some time to kill with us

New Iberia used to have a Dave Robicheaux tourist map you could walk

you get none of that if you use a fake place
Thanks nightwork. And I agree with you. I'm going to use at least my county (Cook County). I don't think I'll use Chicago because I'm not familiar enough with the city. Not being an attorney, I'm wondering how I'm going to be able to describe the attorney visiting prisoners at Cook County jail. Especially in this Covid era. That sort of thing. But it should be do-able somehow.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,279 Posts
You may not be able to do real world research right now, but I imagine there are plenty of articles, blogs, books, etc written about Chicago/Cook County crime and jail.

And while I've never reached out for an interview re someone's job, I have found people are generally interested in talking to writers about their work. Especially people who are used to seeing writers get the details wrong.

There's Google Maps and Google Street View and all sorts of tools for getting details of a city right.

(Also The Good Wife & The Good Fight take place in Chicago. They are shot in NYC mostly, though they usually pass it off as Chicago well).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,167 Posts
Gregg Bell said:
Hi Jena. If you use a real county you have to get that county's details right. If you use a fake county you don't have to. But you lose some of the reader's interest if he would be interested in a particular specific place if you go with a fictional place.
IMO, there are two things to consider: 1) you don't "have" to do anything, including getting the county's details "right." You may want to get them right, or as correct as possible, but no writer "has" to do any particular thing.

And 2) There's getting the details "right," and getting them RIGHT. If you do use the actual county name and take some license with the laws and legal processes, I'm pretty sure that 99% (maybe a few percentage points more) of your readers won't know the difference. I've been living in the same county for 30+ years, and I couldn't tell you more than the general common-knowledge ins and outs of its laws. And even if I did read a book set in my county and I knew that something was incorrect, I'd consider it artistic license.

One thing you DO need to get right about an actual county or city or whatever is... the geography. Don't put mountains where the land is flat, don't situate an existing city in the wrong location, etc. That kind of thing can't really be fudged. But laws and legal processes? Yes, I consider that artistic license. (Don't get me started on how TV shows like Blue Bloods take license with police procedures. I find it annoying, but I accept it for artistic reasons.)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,141 Posts
Gregg Bell said:
Thanks nightwork. And I agree with you. I'm going to use at least my county (Cook County). I don't think I'll use Chicago because I'm not familiar enough with the city. Not being an attorney, I'm wondering how I'm going to be able to describe the attorney visiting prisoners at Cook County jail. Especially in this Covid era. That sort of thing. But it should be do-able somehow.
Maybe you could contact a local criminal law attorney and ask him or her?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
142 Posts
jb1111 said:
Maybe you could contact a local criminal law attorney and ask him or her?
i'm a believer in taking the interesting person out for a drink & let them spin stories, hard to do right now, but you could have the wine store deliver them a bottle and arrange for a Zoom date?

my writing has really slowed down right now because i do rely more on personal interviews
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,888 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Crystal_ said:
You may not be able to do real world research right now, but I imagine there are plenty of articles, blogs, books, etc written about Chicago/Cook County crime and jail.

And while I've never reached out for an interview re someone's job, I have found people are generally interested in talking to writers about their work. Especially people who are used to seeing writers get the details wrong.

There's Google Maps and Google Street View and all sorts of tools for getting details of a city right.

(Also The Good Wife & The Good Fight take place in Chicago. They are shot in NYC mostly, though they usually pass it off as Chicago well).
Thanks Crystal. Yeah, there are so many resources. I have been to two of the Cook County Courthouses. And outside one is Cook County Jail. It's going inside to visit a prisoner that I don't know how to describe accurately. But I could find out how, have somebody walk me through it, in some legal forum somewhere. Everything else I feel I can access research-wise.

PS. Now I'll be watching TGF for faux Chicago scenes!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,888 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Jena H said:
IMO, there are two things to consider: 1) you don't "have" to do anything, including getting the county's details "right." You may want to get them right, or as correct as possible, but no writer "has" to do any particular thing.

And 2) There's getting the details "right," and getting them RIGHT. If you do use the actual county name and take some license with the laws and legal processes, I'm pretty sure that 99% (maybe a few percentage points more) of your readers won't know the difference. I've been living in the same county for 30+ years, and I couldn't tell you more than the general common-knowledge ins and outs of its laws. And even if I did read a book set in my county and I knew that something was incorrect, I'd consider it artistic license.

One thing you DO need to get right about an actual county or city or whatever is... the geography. Don't put mountains where the land is flat, don't situate an existing city in the wrong location, etc. That kind of thing can't really be fudged. But laws and legal processes? Yes, I consider that artistic license. (Don't get me started on how TV shows like Blue Bloods take license with police procedures. I find it annoying, but I accept it for artistic reasons.)
You're right, Jena. I'm just reading reviews of legal thrillers and it's always the lawyers saying the book lacked authenticity. But usually it's because of legal procedural stuff. Now that I think about it, I don't remember any lawyer/reviewer saying, "You didn't describe the courtroom or the lawyer/inmate interview room properly."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,888 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
jb1111 said:
Maybe you could contact a local criminal law attorney and ask him or her?
Thanks jb. Yeah. I guess I always avoid the personal contact whenever possible. Google is so efficient. But you're right. I have interviewed a policeman and I got stuff I'd never get from Google.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,888 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
nightwork said:
i'm a believer in taking the interesting person out for a drink & let them spin stories, hard to do right now, but you could have the wine store deliver them a bottle and arrange for a Zoom date?

my writing has really slowed down right now because i do rely more on personal interviews
Thanks nightwork. Good suggestion on the wine. It'll happen. I just need to reach out more.
 
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Top