A Failed “Suicide by Cop” — what charges?

Unfortunately, we’re too familiar with the phrase “suicide by cop” — where an individual creates an incident designed to provoke law enforcement into killing him. We’ve seen it in the news, and in books and on TV. What if the attempt fails and all survived? After the arrest, after the sighs of relief and prayers of gratitude, what happens?

An incident in a nearby community illustrates the potential charges. According to an account in the Missoulian, a young man named Brown held his mother and sister hostage on the roof of their home, with a rifle, and fired shots. Two officers went on the roof; a third stayed on the ground. Brown aimed the rifle at the officers on the roof, apparently in an attempt to provoke them to shoot him. They chose not to shoot, because of the hostages, the proximity of other homes, and their awareness that if they wounded rather than killed him, the situation could worsen quickly. They did not know that the rifle was no longer loaded. The officers on the roof were able to get close enough to tase Brown and subdue him. All were unharmed.

According to the Missoulian, “Brown was charged with three counts of assault on a peace officer, one count of assault with a weapon for also pointing the rifle at his sister during the incident, and one count of criminal endangerment because of the threat it posed to the neighborhood.” He faces up to 60 years in prison. (Remember, state laws vary and the crimes that could be charged — along with their names — vary as well.)

Another interesting note: one of the officers was trying out an “eyeglasses camera” that recorded the entire 23 minute incident, including the 4-1/2 minute confrontation on the roof. The jury was able to watch the entire video.

So — how can you use a similar incident or the eyeglasses camera in your stories?

Last call — bid & contribute to a great cause!

Do you have your bids in? No? Stop procrastinating — bidding ends May 31 at NY Times best-selling romantic suspense author Brenda Novak’s annual online auction. Writers and readers of all genres will drool over the offerings. All proceeds go to juvenile diabetes research — a cause prompted by Brenda’s own son, who has Type 1 diabetes — more than 1.6 MILLION has been raised so far! More from the auction website. 


My contribution: win one of those baskets in the window of The Merc, crammed with a signed copy of Death al Dente and Montana goodies! Cowboy Roast Coffee, huckleberry chocolates, preserves, taffy, lip balm, soap — and a custom coffee mug.

Join the fun for a great cause!

A note on usage: “the suspect”

GarnerI’m a big fan of Bryan Garner, author of Garner’s Modern American Usage, as well as a respected teacher of legal writing. I subscribe to a daily email service from Oxford Univ Press, publisher of his usage guide, and couldn’t resist passing on today’s entry:

“Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day

suspect, n.

A “suspect” is someone suspected of committing a crime. The person who commits the crime is a criminal (or a robber, thief, murderer, or the like). But in police reports it is common for writers (and, more commonly, broadcast reporters) to describe how “the suspect” committed the crime. Not only is this often absurd (if there is no suspect at that time), it is also potentially false and libelous (if there is a suspect but the suspect is not guilty). Unfortunately, the slack usage seems to be an infection that some writers catch from hanging around police jargon too long — e.g.:

o “When confronted, the other man punched him in the eye. The suspect [read ‘assailant’] fled on foot, leaving the lawnmower.” Jeremy Jarrell, “Woman Reports She Saw Man,” Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, W. Va.), 31 May 2002, at C3.

o “After being given an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect [read ‘robber’] fled north on foot.” “For the Record,” Salt Lake Trib., 1 June 2002, at B2.”

(Looks like the Oxford email is an advance version of the entries on Garner’s blog, so you can subscribe via Oxford or read the blog, which has an RSS option but no email subscription.)

A few days left in the bidding — Brenda Novak Auction for juvenile diabetes research

NY Times best-selling romantic suspense author Brenda Novak’s annual online auction continues with an amazing array of prizes for writers and readers. All proceeds go to juvenile diabetes research — a cause prompted by Brenda’s own son, who has Type 1 diabetes — more than 1.6 MILLION has been raised so far! More from the auction website. 


My contribution: a signed copy of Death al Dente and a basket of Montana goodies! As of May 24, bidding is already up to $75 — to my astonishment. How high can it go? Surprise me! Contribute to a great cause and get a brimming basket of prizes! (Sorry I can’t post a photo of the basket — just imagine one of those great baskets in the window of the Merc!)


Huguette Clark — a forthcoming book

Huguette Clark 2Readers know I’m fascinated by the story of Huguette Clark, the reclusive copper mining heiress who died in 2011 at age 104, and by the legal wrangling over her estate and what appears to have decades of manipulation and mismanagement. Read my earlier posts here. Now the MSNBC reporter who uncovered the story, Bill Dedman, is writing a book with a relative of Clark’s. “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune,” will be published Sept. 10 by Ballantine (Random House). Here’s a link to the cover and copy. The MSNBC stories are collected here. 

(Photo from MSNBC)

Death al Dente — from the jacket — from other authors

Untitled-4I thought for sure I’d shared with you the cover copy for Death al Dente — out in just over two months — and the marvelous quotes other authors kindly gave me, but apparently I only thought about it. So — if you can stand me talking about “the book” one more time — here’s what the cover and some very smart writers are saying about it:

“The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as a Food Lovers’ Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin’s freshly booming business might turn rotten when a former employee turns up dead…

Murphy’s Mercantile, known as the Merc, has been a staple in Jewel Bay for over a hundred years. To celebrate their recent makeover as a gourmet food market, Erin has organized a town festival, a Festa di Pasta, featuring the culinary goods of Jewel Bay’s finest—including her mother Fresca’s delicious Italian specialties.

But Erin’s sweet success is soured when the shop’s former manager, Claudette, is found dead behind the Merc on the Festa’s opening night. With rival chef James Angelo stirring up trouble and rumors swirling that Fresca’s sauce recipes were stolen from Claudette, Erin’s mother is under close scrutiny. Now Erin will have to hunt down some new suspects, or both her family and her store might wind up in hot water…

Includes fresh, delicious recipes!”

Praise for Death al Dente and The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries:

“Small town charm and big time chills. Jewel Bay, Montana is a food lover’s paradise – and ground zero for murder! A dizzying culinary delight with a twisty-turny plot! I’m totally enamored of Leslie Budewitz’s huckleberry chocolates, Shasta daisies, and Cowboy Roast coffee. More please!”

–Laura Childs, New York Times best selling author

Death Al Dente is the first book in a delicious new series. Leslie Budewitz has created a believable, down-to-earth heroine in Erin Murphy, who uses her sleuthing skills and the Spreadsheet of Suspicion to catch a killer. The supporting cast of characters from Erin’s mother Fresca, to her cat Sandburg, are charming. I’m looking forward to my next visit to Jewel Bay.”

–Sofie Kelly, New York Times best-selling author of the Magical Cats mysteries

“Clever, charming and completely yummy. Leslie Budewitz cooks up a delectable mystery! A tempting concoction of  food, fun and fatalities that will have you racing through the suspenseful pages…then heading for the kitchen to try out the irresistible recipes.”

–Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity winning author

“An intriguing sleuth, who loves gourmet food, family, and her hometown, plus recipes to die for distinguish a delectable mystery.”

–Carolyn Hart, Agatha-winning author of Dead, White, and Blue, and Letters from Home

And coming in May 2014, Crime Rib. When a national TV cooking show comes to Jewel Bay to film the annual Grill-Off, things get hot. Can Erin find a killer–before the town’s reputation is toast?

Thanks again for sharing my excitement — it means the world to me!

Murder in Singapore? A family’s international quest for answers

I mention this story with some hesitation, because it is unresolved, and because the local family at the heart of it still has no answers about the death of their son in Singapore in June 2012. But the family of Shane Todd has publicized his death — which Singapore officials initially labeled a suicide — to get answers. Maybe you can help. At the very least, the Todd family’s story may help you write your stories of international crime and intrigue with greater accuracy and greater sensitivity.

According to the Kalispell Daily InterLake, Shane Todd was a software engineer for a company in Singapore, getting ready to return to the U.S. He raised questions about the company’s activities, and even told his parents that he feared his work might jeopardize American security. His work involved gallium nitride technology. A hard drive they found in his apartment after his death — apparently overlooked by officials who seized his computer and other belongings — reportedly suggests he was right to raise questions. The State Department and both Montana’s Senators have become involved, and the case has been publicized in the New York Times and elsewhere. Singapore officials have promised to reopen the investigation.

(I’ve linked to the latest local story as of this writing, in late April; Google Shane Todd for updates. And keep a Montana family in your hearts.)

(An inquest began in Singapore in mid May. Here’s the Daily InterLake’s account, from AP.)

photo credit 

The Saturday Writing Quote – a W.S. Maugham collection

“A novelist must preserve a childlike belief in the importance of things which common sense considers of no great consequence.”

“The novel may stimulate you to think. It may satisfy your esthetic sense. It may arouse your moral emotions. But if it does not entertain you it is a bad novel.”

painted veil

“Only a mediocre writer is always at his best.”

“The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.”

“I only write when I’m inspired. And I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.”

— W. Somerset Maugham, British novelist and short story writer (1874 – 1965)