True Detectives

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Author William Parkhurst spent two years observing more than 150 operatives from four different detective agencies, reading case histories and interviewing bounty hunters, field investigators, skip tracers, and other specialists in the arcane world of the private investigator. In TRUE DETECTIVES, he brings that world to life, following cases from the moment that a troubled client walks in the door. Unlike the fictional Philip Marlowes or Sam Spades, however, few of these investigators engage in gun battles or work as rent-a-cops; Vincent Parco, the head of Vincent Parco and Associates, has drawn his gun on the job only once--at a huge gray rat.

Instead, these specialists deal in information. The reader comes away chilled by the realization that in the computer age a detective, armed only with a subject’s social security number, can tap national networks holding work histories, medical backgrounds, and tax, voting, driving, and credit records to create accurate physical descriptions and project future actions, uncovering closely held secrets with ease.

For example, based on the paper trails left throughout a lifetime, tracers located a person missing more than forty years in less than fifteen minutes. In another instance, a violent bail jumper, missing for several weeks, is located after only three days of fieldwork. This engrossing book should be required reading for every would-be writer of detective fiction and for every person interested in the problems created by the computer age’s information explosion.