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Q.What got you into P.I. work?

I was always impatiently curious, but abhorred school or being spoon-fed information not necessarily pertinent to what I wanted to know at any given time. So, it was an obvious avenue; become a P.I. and get paid learning. It's what I always wanted to do. A P.I. will eventually touch on just above every aspect of life, slice through a cross-section of society, most lines of work, every character under creation, and probably every situation or problem imaginable. It's challenging work.

Q.What started you writing?

It started when I was on assignment in the Philippines. Specifically, at Puerto Galera, on the island of Mindoro. I'd been on Mindoro many times before, the first occasion when I was in the Corps, during a SEATO exercise around 1961. Anyhow, some time around 1995, I started jotting down notes for a journal as I'd been keeping for years, and soon found that I had many elements of a novel. All it lacked was a scenario, and a time frame. I've always been interested in Asian cultures, more so for the Philippines. So, I began writing "Some Called It Paradise". That novel, a saga, took 14 years to complete.

In the meanwhile, I continued to globe trot on investigative assignments, on all continents. As I built an international agency I decided to write stories about some cases. The Mike Roth series was born. For me, these novels are a snap in that no research is required and I simply recall cases and their resolutions, and formulate stories based on a composite of assignments. Contracts and ethics prevent me from publishing actual cases and names.

Q.Why are Mike Roth novels written in the third person? Aren't most detective stories in the first person?

Almost all writers of detective fiction write in the first person. I'm not sure why, but suspect it's to avoid the challenge of hammering out details regarding how significant case information is developed. Note, for instance, how most non-P.I. authors conveniently have a police source who comes across with background information for the hero, some old chum from yesteryear. It isn't explained how the information was developed. Having police sources is rare. Cops don't particularly care for, or assist P.I.s and there are departmental rules governing queries into certain databases. These days, cops can check few records without leaving their fingerprints all over the place which makes their superior inquire into their activities. They need a reason, ie: a case file, to probe certain indices. In most police departments, cops can't even make long-distance telephone calls without first completing a call sheet explaining why and to whom the call is necessary, which becomes part of a permanent record. I've never read a detective thriller that satisfied me once the writer lost credibility. If a writer hasn't been a P.I. or isn't consulting closely with one, it's easy to spot holes in a manuscript. I'm not a surgeon or a rocket scientist, so I certainly wouldn't attempt a detailed medical or scientific drama without a qualified co-author or consulting competent authorities. Screenwriters can evade scrutiny with vague explanations; novelists can't.

Q. How do you choose the various international settings for your stories?

I've handled actual assignments repeatedly in the venues I've selected for my stories. Merely visiting isn't enough; it was necessary to actually handle cases there, deal with the man-in-the-street, medical, forensic, and police primary sources, court and financial records, criminals, witnesses, etc. It adds locale color to the stories and I infuse elements of actual cases.

Q. Roth seems to bounce around a lot, with glimpses into various cases going on simultaneously. Why is that?

That's because our business is like that. Most cases are usually completed in a few days, but others may take weeks, even months. Even years. So, we may return to a case and geographical location more than once as sources become available and questions present themselves based on earlier findings. The clean cases are easily resolved. It's the dirty cases where things get complicated because we handle assignments with a view towards possible criminal charges or litigation. That means gathering evidence: proof, readying witnesses and making them available. It's not enough to think or even know about a wrong-doing; it must be proven.

Q. Can I get a book autographed?

Since I'm mostly ePublishing at the moment, snail mail a note to me which I'll sign and return. It may take a while since it'll be returned from a U.S. postal address.

Q. Can I get work like Roth's?

Of course. It's simple. Spend fifteen or 20 years learning everything you can about locating people, bounty hunting, repo work, insurance law and adjusting, product liability, rules of evidence, security-perimeter and executive-surveillance and technical surveillance,arson, photography, surreptitiously recording, eavesdropping devices,TSCM (technical security counter measures), medicine, forensic medicine, drugs, criminal and civil law, penal measures, accounting-forensic accounting would also be a plus-executive protection, management software, weapons, interviewing and interrogation, and litigation. Throw in a couple of divorces, and if you're married, be prepared for one. Simple.

A lot of people believe that they have the skills for this work and many do and can develop them easily enough. But the thing they overlook is the nitty-gritty, day-to-day grinding out results. PI work is a lot of things, but firstly, it's a business. And many aspects are routine to a numbing degree. It's like any profession; anything worth doing will likely take a lifetime to master. Like any endeavor, it's not something one should take up lightly.

Q.The next Mike Roth thriller- what, when, where?

Email me, and when it's close to publication time, whether by press or ePublishing, I'll let you know. Both Mike Roth and I can be reached at author@byronbales.com Or through: P.O. Box 42, Ban Krut, 77190 Thailand.