On CSI

The Forensics of Fiction

By Don DeBrandt

When I write suspense fiction, I write under the name Donn Cortez. For other projects–like SF, or comics, or essays–I use the pseudonym Don DeBrandt. This is the first and probably only time I’ll get to use both for the same book.

So, let me take off my Donn Cortez-as-guest-editor badge and put on my Don-DeBrandt-as-essayist name tag. Although really, I should keep both on, because while this essay is non-fiction–and thus clearly in deBrandt’s domain–it’s about the process of writing a CSI: Miami novel, which is Mr. Cortez’s job. So, forgive me if the proceedings get a little schizophrenic.

Which, right off the bat, is wrong.

Schizophrenia refers to a psychotic break with reality. What I was trying to imply was more along the lines of Multiple Personality disorder, which is entirely different. It’s a common mistake, but not one a scientist can afford to make.

But then, I’m not a scientist.

I have no formal background in science, or even higher education. I enjoy books that use hard science, but I don’t pretend to understand all of it. My usual emotional response to a highly technical explanation is first, Wow, that guy really sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, and second, I could never write something like that.

Well, as it turns out, I was wrong again. By the time this essay sees print, I’ll have written four CSI: Miami novels.

And this is how I did it.

1. Scene of the Crime

There are many approaches to writing a novel. Fortunately, the one I  …

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