Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Book Review:
The Complete Crime Reference Book
By Martin Roth

Reviewed by Andi Ward
2003, Andi Ward

 

hile the title is fairly descriptive, and it is a very good crime reference for writers, I found this book far from "complete" in the dictionary definition of the word. No book containing less than 300 pages could possibly hold everything a writer would need to know on a crime-related subject.

The book breaks down the different aspects of crime very well, dealing with different types of criminals separately, though very succinctly. The aspects of law enforcement are spelled out in great detail, from the local levels (there are charts details the hierarchy of the LAPD, the NYPD and the Cincinnati PD as examples) to the FBI and the military. What is legally needed for an arrest and a conviction (surprisingly, not the same things) is covered. This is also one of the few books I have seen that contains what happens after the trial is finished, including sentencing, paroles and jail time. Prisons are also covered, as well as the different roles of the various courts and court officials.

Mr. Roth has included a plethora of glossaries and lists, including police codes, 'slanguage' for different groups, and definitions of crimes. There are lists of different types of guns, crimes (broken down by base names, i.e.: Robbery, etc.), narcotics, etc. Most of these lists, however, have no descriptions attached to them, so while the writer may know that Mexico's magic mushrooms is an illegal narcotic, he still has no explanation of its affects, if it's a national or state offense, etc.

I found The Writer's Complete Crime Reference Book to be an excellent jumping-off reference work. By reading through it I gained ideas of what I wanted to look for in other research. However, as a "complete reference," I found it to be highly lacking in the details needed for my work. For instance, though it was one of the few books I've found which covered the topic of arson, the entire section was only three pages long and two of those pages were lists of the different types of incendiaries and of motives for arson. There was no information of how the actual investigation into solving the arson is handled, which was what I needed.

Being something of a dedicated researcher (I actually think it's fun, not work), I think this book is a definite keeper since it can point me in directions I need to go. It's rather a "card catalog" reference book rather than something I would use to draw actual information for writing. As it is difficult for me to find such card catalog, I hold this book very high in my estimation and recommend it to people who do serious research for writing Mystery or Suspense. However, for those people who wish to have a single book or two as their sole references on a subject, I cannot recommend this book for that purpose.

The Writer's Complete Crime Reference Book by Martin Roth

Copyright 1990

ISBN# 0-89879-397-1

Publisher: Writer's Digest Books