Monthly Archives: July 2010

Q&A: Are There Food Combinations That Can Cause Death?

Q: In my story, somebody wants to kill a man by sneaking something into his food. The rest of the family ate the same food, but nobody else became ill. What combination of foods could he have eaten or could the family have eaten to change the outcome. He has no known allergies, but the person who wanted to make him suffer winds up tried for murder.

Diana Huston

A: There are no foods that will protect someone from the effect of other foods or toxins so that won’t work. And since you’ve ruled out a food allergy and a bacterial agent or toxic poison added to the food wouldn’t fit since it would effect everyone who consumed the food. To varying degrees, but still everyone would be effected in some way. Your best bet is to set up a situation where relatively common foods would harm an otherwise normal appearing person.

I would suggest having your character be on one of the Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI) drugs since these medications can have deadly reactions if certain foods are consumed. These meds are classified as psychotropic drugs (effect the psyche) and are typically used to treat depression. If your character had some degree of depression, his MD could prescribe one of these drugs and he could take it daily. The MAOIs tend to lessen depression and elevate the person’s mood. So far so good.

MAOIs alter the chemistry of the brain by blocking the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which normally breaks down norepinephrine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Complex biochemistry and it’s not necessary to explain it. Just know that a person on a MAOI must not take certain other meds and must avoid certain foods. If not a Hypertensive Crises could ensue. In this situation the blood pressure (BP) abruptly shoots up and the person can suffer a stroke, heart attack, or sudden death.

Common MAOIs are: Nardil, Pamate, and Marplan.

Drugs that can cause a Hypertensive Reaction when taken in conjunction with one if these MAOIs include:

Diet Pills of all types
Many High Blood Pressure meds
Flexeril (Cyclobenzaprine)
Prozac (Fluoxetine)
Paxil (Paroxetine)
Zoloft (Sertraline)
Demerol (Meperidine)
Any Tricyclate Antidepressant such as: Elavil (amitriptyline), Sinequan (doxepin), and Tofranil (imipramine)
The list is very long but the above are a few common ones.

Foods to avoid are those that are high in the amino acid tyramine such as: certain cheeses, fava beans, smoked or pickled meats, fermented sausages (bologna, pepperoni, salami, and summer sausage), alcohol, and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. Again, the list is much longer but this gives you the idea and some choices.

If your character was taking one of the MAOIs for some mild depression, your villain could then slip him an amphetamine or a diet pill or a couple of Paxil tabs and wait.

In the food arena he could feed him one of the above foods or even more diabolical could make a caffeine broth, which he could slip into a bowl of spicy soup. This would be easy in the serving process. Finely ground coffee could be simmered for a while to leach all the caffeine out, the liquid could be boiled down to concentrate it, and then it could be strained. A couple of tablespoons of this potent liquid could easily be added to his bowl of soup—a spicy or very flavorful one to mask the bitter taste of the caffeine—and the killer could sit back and wait.

In a few minutes the reaction would occur. The victim’s blood pressure would shoot up, he would develop a severe headache, blurred vision, shortness of breath, and then collapse. He could or could not have a seizure with this. The elevated BP damages the brain and may even cause bleeding into the brain.

Or he could become short of breath and sweaty, perhaps clutch his chest and complain of chest pain, and collapse. This would look very much like a heart attack and indeed such elevated BP could precipitate a heart attack.

Of course, the ME would find caffeine in his system but if this occurred at a party where coffee and caffeinated soft drinks were available, he might assume that the victim drank some those and this in combination with his prescription medication did him in.

A similar scenario would work if he was unknowingly fed sausage or cheese. These could easily be added to some flavorful food so that he wouldn’t know he was consuming them.


Diatoms on Clothing and Corpse Location

Drowning is one of the most difficult causes of death for the medical examiner to determine. You would think he would simply have to find the lungs filled with water to make this call but that’s not the case. If a corpse is tossed into a body of water, the lungs will passively fill with water as the air escapes and is replaced with the liquid. So the simple finding of water-filled lungs does not prove the cause of death was drowning.

But the medical examiner has a couple of tricks that can sometimes help. Though not always present, if he finds debris within the mouth and lungs as well as damage to the nasopharynx and the airways, both of which result from the victim struggling for air but only breathing in water, these findings would suggest that the victim was alive when he entered the water. Debris deep within the lungs can’t get there passively and must be inhaled.

And in some cases, diatoms can help.

Diatoms are microscopic organisms that live in all types of water. They can be found in oceans, lakes, and your own bathtub or swimming pool. These tiny creatures are protected by a silicon–containing shell that is quite resistant to damage. They survive in a corpse for a long time. Though controversial, they can be used for determining if someone drowned. In this circumstance, as water is inhaled in the lungs, these diatoms worked their way from the air sacs of the lungs into the bloodstream and from there escape into the tissues, particularly the bone marrow. The medical examiner can test the bone marrow of a suspected drowning victim and if he sees a large number of diatoms then he might conclude that the victim died of drowning.

Now it seems that diatoms might also help locate where a crime took place in cases where the corpse has been moved and the victim’s clothing contacted water. A recent study in the journal Forensic Science International suggests that diatoms can be found in the victim’s clothing. Cotton clothing that has contacted water will absorb and retain the diatoms from that water. If these can be located and identified then they can often be traced back to the source. Diatoms vary from location to location so comparing those found on the victim’s clothing with those of a certain location might be useful in placing the body at that location.

This can be very useful to investigators when a person has been killed near a body of water and then their corpse is dumped at another location. Locating the primary crime scene–the place where the murder took place–is extremely important to investigators since this often results in finding further evidence that leads to the perpetrator. If these diatoms can help make that connection, they might prove to be a useful investigative tool.


King Tut and Sickle Cell Disease

Few deaths have generated more interest and confusion than that of King Tut, the Egyptian boy king. Some say he was murdered, others say he died of this injury or that disease, and still other says that he had multiple genetic disorders that did him in. Truth is that no one knows.

Back on March 2, 2010, I posted a note about King Tut and the fact that researchers had found DNA from malaria organisms and from this concluded that the young king had died from this very common disease. Now a German team of investigators have come up with another theory: Sickle Cell Disease.

In my original blog, I discussed how Tut had bony deformities of his legs, predominantly manifested as some form of clubfoot, as well as a cleft palate and some evidence that he may have had Marfan’s Syndrome. I also pointed out that his murky lineage might have been resolved by this DNA testing. It is entirely possible that his father Akhenaten might have bore the young king with Tut’s aunt, Akhenaten’s own sister.

Now, Christian Timmann and Christian Meyer of the Bernhard Nocht Institute have postulated another cause of death. They believe he might have had sickle cell disease and that this might have led to his death. Sickle cell disease is common in those of African descent and occurs more likely when inbreeding is present. With Tut being the son of a mating between brother and sister, and if each of them carried the sickle cell gene, it would be possible for the young man to have inherited the homozygous or worst form of sickle cell anemia.

In sickle cell disease the abnormal red blood cells often clog up small blood vessels, which in turn can reduce blood and oxygen supply to various portions of the body, including the bones. Sufferers of this disease often end up with bone damage and deformities from this reduced blood supply. Could this explain the young man’s boney abnormalities? Possibly but it would be hard to indict this cause for either a club foot or a cleft palate. Still some of his other musculoskeletal problems could easily be related to sickle cell anemia.

This will require further investigation and indeed studies are underway so hopefully we will have more information down the road.


Q&A: How Are Multiple Gunshot Wounds to the Chest Treated?

I got this fun question from my friend Dave Corbett.

Q: For my story, I need to know what someone with three small caliber wounds to his lungs, with a not-so-good time lapse before hospitalization (say 30-45 minutes) and internal bleeding, would face in the ICU. How would they treat him? I assume surgery to repair the internal wounds and stop the bleeding, but how does one do that with lung tissue? Post-op, what drugs would be used and what concerns and complications (heart attack, etc.) might he face? In the end, a friend helps smuggle him out of the hospital, because he’d rather die at home. Basically, I need the details to make the hospital scene vivid and credible.

David Corbett

A: What happens to your shooting victim and how he is treated depends upon what injuries he received. A gunshot wound (GSW) can be a minor flesh wound or can be immediately deadly or anywhere in between. It all depends on the caliber and speed of the bullet and the exact structures it hits. A shot to the heart might kill instantly—or not. The victim could die in a few minutes or survive for days or could recover completely with proper medical care and surgery. It’s highly variable but ask any surgeon or ER doctor and they will tell you that it’s hard to kill someone with a gun. Even with a shot or two to the chest.

A small caliber, slow speed bullet, such as those fired by a .22 or .25 caliber weapon, are less likely to kill than would heavier, higher velocity bullets from .38, .357, or .45 caliber weapon. Also the type of bullet makes a difference. Jacketed or coated bullets penetrate more while hollow point or soft lead bullets penetrate less but do more damage as the bullet deforms on impact. All that is nice, but the bottom line is that whatever happens, happens. That is, a small, slow bullet might kill while a large, fast one might not.

Since in your victim the bullets penetrated the chest wall and damaged the lung, he would cough up blood, be very short of breath, and could die from bleeding into the lungs, basically drowning in his own blood. Or the lung could collapse and again cause pain and shortness of breath. But we have two lungs and unless the GSWs are to both lungs and both collapse, the victim would be able to breathe, speak, even run away, call for help, or fight off the attacker. If he’s tough, that is.

Most likely your guy would be very short of breath and cough and wheeze out blood in a fine mist or in larger droplets and even clots. He would quickly become very weak and dizzy, his blood pressure would drop, and he could slip into shock. With the injury to his lung, the oxygen content in his blood could dip to very low levels and he could lose consciousness if you want. Or not. Anything is possible. All this could happen in a very few minutes or over an hour or more, depending upon the rapidity of blood loss and the degree of injury to the lungs.

Once rescued, the paramedics might place an endotracheal (ET) tube into his lungs to help with breathing, start an IV to give fluids, and transport him to the hospital immediately. He would then be seen by a trauma or chest surgeon and immediately undergo surgery to remove the bullets (if possible) and to repair the damaged lung or whatever else was injured. The surgeon might simply repair the lung or he might have to remove one or more lobes (sections) of the injured lung. Each lung has three lobes—upper, middle, and lower. The left lung has a very small middle lobe, called the lingula, since its space is occupied by the heart.

After surgery, he would be on a ventilator for as long as needed but usually only overnight. We always try to remove ET tubes as quickly as we safely can since there are many complications if they remain in place for several days. Most commonly this is pneumonia. Also, being tied to an ET tube and a ventilator immobilizes the patient and sets him up for deep venous thrombosis (DVT—clots in the leg veins) and a pulmonary embolus (PE)—this is when the leg clot breaks free and travels to the lungs. Very dangerous and potentially deadly and a common occurrence in these situations.

He would have a chest tube (actually a thoracostomy tube but we call them chest tubes) in place. This is a flexible plastic tube that is inserted through the chest wall and slipped into the space between the chest wall and the lung. It is attached to a suction device and is used to evacuate air and any residual blood or body fluids from the chest cavity, which helps keep the lung inflated. Once the lung heals and can stay inflated on its own, the tube is pulled out. This could take a couple of days or up to a week. It’s highly variable.

He would be treated with antibiotics to prevent lung and wound infections and of course pain meds. Once he was off the ventilator, he would be mobilized from the bed to a chair as soon as possible. This helps prevent pneumonia, DVT, and PE. He would then begin respiratory therapy, initially with deep breathing exercises to help the lung stay inflated and heal more readily, and then to walking and strength building.

Most patients in this situation recover quickly without complications and go home in a week, rest there for a couple of weeks, return to part time work for a few weeks and be full speed by 3 to 4 months. Or he could have one of any number of complications and die. Or be permanently disabled. It all depends upon the nature of Injuries, the effectiveness of the treatment, and luck. None of this fits your guy though, since he plans to leave the hospital a bit early.

He could of course sneak out or could sign himself out of the hospital Against Medical Advice (we call it AMA) at any time after he was off the ventilator. If he did, they would give him antibiotics and pain meds and have him see his MD every couple of days for the first week or so. Then less frequently after that until he was well again. Or died peacefully at home as seems to be his plan.


Posted by on July 16, 2010 in Medical Issues, Q&A, Trauma


6 Mistakes Crime Writers Make That Kill Their Writing–Guest Blogger

“Hearing shouts, the overweight cop came running, doughnut in hand, as the victim’s head exploded like a ripe tomato.”

1.  “I’ll be the bad cop, you be the good cop.”  Yawn.  That’s about as tired and overused a cliché as giving the cop a box of doughnuts.  Other over-the-top examples: car chases, sleazy defense lawyers, and the pathologist findings that neatly wrap up a plot.

2.  “Johnny, the third bad guy on the scene, shot Sally, the shorter SWAT team member in the kneecap with his Beretta right before he was fatally shot in the heart by Tony, the rival gang leader.” Shoot ‘em ups can be dramatic and add a certain excitement to a story.  After all, Raymond Chandler’s advice to crime writers still rings true – “If your plot is flagging, have a man come in with a gun.”  But throw in more than two characters and readers will either be lost or worse yet, give up.

3.  Ever since the episode of CSI where the vulture dropped an eyeball into a martini glass like an overripe olive, I’ve been wary of food/body analogies.  Nobody’s head explodes like a watermelon, and it’s bad writing to say it does.
4.  It’s not the plot that carries the story, it’s the people.  The story won’t matter if we don’t care about the characters.  Janet Evanovich’s stories of Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, would fall flat without Stephanie’s meddling parents, loopy grandmother, chintzy cousin Vinnie, and dashing detective Joe Morelli.  Those secondary characters are not only fun, but they show different sides of Stephanie.  On its own, the plot is abstract; it requires the characters to make it real and make it matter to the reader.  The stakes of the plot must matter to the characters in order for us to care as readers.
5.  “Hint, hint, wink, wink. PSSSSTT…THIS IS THE RED HERRING!” Readers can tell when they’re being sold a red herring, an obvious attempt to divert attention from the “real” killer.  Trust your readers to be sophisticated enough to think about more than one thing at a time and to seriously consider multiple possibilities throughout your story.  Nobody wants to read a book where they can guess the ending by the fourth chapter.

6.  Only use ridiculous plotlines and situations if you can pull it off.  Characters around Stephanie Plum can be goofy because humor is a critical part of the series.  Cat detectives and vampires may seem absurd, but once the reader accepts the premise, there still must be certain boundaries in play.  For example, the cat may solve crimes, but the cat doesn’t fly.

We’ve all read books where the murder weapon was a statue made to slide off its base with an application of honey, so that it fell directly upon the victim, who happened to be standing on exactly the right spot at exactly the right time. Plots that rely on amazing acts of coincidence insult your reader.

This guest post was contributed by Angie Best-Boss, an award-winning writer and author who has written extensively on helping students find the right psychology degree.

Angie can be reached at:


Posted by on July 14, 2010 in Guest Blogger, Writing


Life Imitates Art: A Writer’s Question

Recently, Thomas D. went missing. He had last been seen leaving a party and did not turn up again for four days. This was when a state trooper found his car some 480 feet off the Taconic State Parkway. He was found some 120 feet from his crashed BMW suffering from a back injury and dehydration. He apparently been able to crawl out of his car, which was stuck in a marshy area, but was unable to get to the roadway. He apparently was taken to the hospital and is now doing well. This story reminded me of a question that I receive many years ago from Lee Goldberg and used in my book Forensics & Fiction. Here is the question.

How Long Could a Man Survive in the Desert After Major Injuries from an Automobile Accident?

Q:    Here’s my scenario: A man loses control of his SUV and drives off a cliff on a remote, dirt road outside of Kingman, Arizona. Nobody notices the accident. He breaks his pelvis, maybe his legs, maybe a couple of ribs. Due to his injuries he is unable to climb back up the hill to the road. He survives on water from his windshield wiper reservoir, and eats bugs and lizards and whatever else he can find. He uses the wreckage for shelter in the sweltering heat and isn’t found for five or six days.

What condition would he be in? Dehydrated? Badly sunburned? Unconscious? What would he look like? Once the guy is back in the hospital in Kingman, what treatment would they give him?

Lee Goldberg, Los Angeles, California
Author of the Diagnosis Murder and Monk novels

A:    Yes, he would be severely dehydrated. More so if the temperature was high, as it is in summer there, and less so if in winter. In fact, in winter he could die from hypothermia.

If he broke his pelvis and/or a leg or two there would be some internal bleeding, which would only add to his problems. If he then had only a little water and some berries and bugs he would become severely dehydrated, and would likely slip into shock and could die. But you want him to survive, so a pelvic fracture would work well. Or a fracture to his lower leg. The bones there are the tibia (big one) and the fibula (little one). I would not have him fracture his femur (upper leg bone), since this is often associated with a great deal of internal bleeding into the leg, and his survival under the conditions you describe would be much less likely. A pelvic fracture might prevent him from climbing or crawling back up to the road and would limit his mobility greatly.

Dehydration is the loss of body water. The rate at which we lose water depends upon several factors, such as the ambient temperature (the higher it is the faster the loss from sweating), activity (water is lost through the lungs with each breath and exercise increases breathing), medications or drugs (alcohol and diuretics cause water loss through the kidneys), and other factors. The symptoms of dehydration are thirst, fatigue, dry mouth, nausea, sleepiness, confusion, disorientation, and finally shock (low blood pressure), a rise in body temperature, and finally death, more or less in that order of appearance. He may also hallucinate or see mirages, which are due to a bending of light rays. The heat rising from a desert bends light rays due to changes in the density of the air. The result is that you see blue sky below the horizon and it looks like a body of water. Often a person who is dehydrated and confused will rush (with your character crawl) blindly toward it, but can never reach it because it doesn’t exist, and because the optical illusion keeps moving away.

The rapidity with which dehydration occurs will dictate how quickly these symptoms appear and how severe they are. Organ damage is primarily to the kidneys, which can be severely and irreversibly damaged with severe or prolonged dehydration.

In your scenario the dehydration would come on slowly, over a day or two, and would not become severe for as much as three or four days. Of course if he lost considerable blood from his injuries, this process would occur much more quickly. Also, at higher altitudes dehydration comes on more rapidly because the air at high altitudes tends to be drier. This means that more water is lost through the lungs than is lost in damper air at sea level. Kingman is fairly high and dry. His movements as he crawled around and searched for food would also dehydrate him more quickly.

Since your victim is young and healthy, and I assume is not taking any diuretics and has not consumed any alcohol before the beginning of his ordeal, two days would be a good average time frame for him to get into trouble but survive without major problems. You could stretch this to three or four days if necessary, but no longer. Not in the sweltering heat you described. Otherwise he could develop heat prostration or heatstroke and die.

When found he could be awake and alert, confused and disoriented, or in a coma. All of these are possible. The rescuers would wrap him in a blanket if he were cold, or douse him with water and fan him if he was suffering heat prostration or heatstroke. They would give him sips of water, stabilize any leg fractures with splints, and call for help. Once in the hospital he would get IV fluids and X-rays. Blood work would be done to determine how much blood he had lost and to check for kidney problems from the dehydration. He could require a blood transfusion, and his leg or pelvis could need a surgical repair. This would depend upon the type and extent of the fracture. Or he could need neither.

Yes, he could be sunburned unless he remained in his shelter during the day and scratched for food at dawn and dusk.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Medical Issues, Q&A


Tooth C-14 and the Age of a Corpse

Identifying unknown corpses is one of the most difficult things that the forensic pathologist and the forensic anthropologist must do. This is particularly true in situations of mass disaster where there are so many bodies to deal with or in circumstances where the body is severely decayed and there is little left to deal with but bones. The size, the sex, and the age of the skeletal remains narrow the possible identities. If the skeleton is intact, the size and the sex of the victim is usually easily ascertained but the exact age of the person is more difficult.

If the remains are those of a child it is usually easier since the development of the bones and teeth follow a pattern that is recognizable and more or less predictable. But once someone reaches adulthood this becomes more problematic. The teeth are often the best bet but once the wisdom teeth have completely erupted it is difficult to ascertain age. Hard to distinguish the skeletal remains of a 20 year old from a 35 year old.

Enter carbon-14. Carbon-14 is the radioactive isotope of carbon and is present in the residual of all organic materials. It has not been a useful forensic tool simply because it is too blunt and can only narrow down the age of the carbonaceous material to a century or so. So it is very good for determining if something is 500 years old or 5000 years old but not much help with a more recently deceased unidentified corpse.

A new technique has appeared that shows promise. A Swedish research team has begun looking at carbon 14 in tooth enamel and have found that it is highly accurate in determining the year of birth in anyone under 50 or 60 years of age. This technique uses the carbon-14 that was released into the atmosphere during the nuclear testing that was so common during the 1950s and 1960s. It’ll be interesting to follow this new technique and see if it really pans out to be as useful as hoped.


Q&A: How Could My Sleuth Recognize a Chimera?

This will be the first post of a new series I’ll add to the blog from time to time. I get cool questions from writers all the time so I thought it might be fun to post some of the most interesting ones here.

Back in 2004, I received a question about chimerism from Susanna Shaphren. I included it in my book FORENSICS & FICTION. I thought it might help readers understand this fascinating medical condition a little better so here it is:

Q: My question is about chimeras, individuals whose body is made up of two genetically different lines of cells. The case I read about involved a woman who underwent tests to determine if one of her sons was suitable as a kidney donor for her.  Testing determined that two of her sons were NOT her biological children. Their DNA came from the mother’s twin, who instead of surviving to be born was somehow absorbed into the birth mother’s body.

I would love to use this as a springboard for fiction, but I need some help to be sure I’m on at least semisolid ground. Unless the character with this condition needed an organ transplant, would there be any other possible way for the condition to be diagnosed?

Susanne Shaphren
Phoenix, Arizona
Author of “Arrangements,” in Mystery Writers of America Presents Shoe Business Is Murder and “The Best of Friends,” in Sex, Lies, & Private Eyes

A: When an egg and a sperm join to make a fertilized egg, the genetic makeup of the offspring is set at that moment. Normally the cell will divide into two, and those into four, and those into eight, and so on. At some point in the growth of the zygote the cells begin to specialize or what we call differentiate. Some will become brain tissue, others blood cells, and others muscle cells.

In fraternal twins two eggs are fertilized by two sperm and this process occurs in parallel, and two entirely distinct individuals result. In identical twins the original fertilized cell (egg) divides into two cells, but these two drift apart, and then each proceeds along the growth path in tandem. This creates two individual with identical genetics. After all, they started from the same cell and thus from the same egg and sperm. So far so good.

In chimeras fraternal twins are formed (two eggs and two sperm, and two genetically different individuals) but these two original cells (fertilized eggs) stick together. As growth takes place the developing zygote is composed of two distinctively different cell types with two distinctively different genetic make-ups. As these cells begin to specialize, some organs and tissues may come from one type of cell and some from the other, and still others may develop with a mixture of cell types. This leads to a chimera, where various body tissues (liver, blood, skin, heart, brain) may have one or the other or both of the two original DNA profiles. This can lead to confusion in any testing dependent upon DNA typing.

Chimeras may appear normal or may display certain mosaic patterns, particularly unusual pigmentation patterns, on their skin. This is merely an expression of their two genetic types. A mosaic in art is something made up of different-appearing distinct pieces. The same holds true here, since the cells of the person contain separate and distinctive DNA patterns.

If the person were normal in appearance, the only time a chimeric condition would be diagnosed would be if DNA testing were undertaken. This is done in organ transplantation, paternity testing, and in criminal situations, to name a few circumstances. Otherwise the person may never know of his condition.

If your character displayed an odd mosaic skin pattern, your sleuth could see this and suspect that the person was chimeric. These skin patterns can be almost anything, even areas of a distinct checkerboard pattern.


Posted by on July 5, 2010 in DNA, Medical Issues, Q&A


Tess Gerritsen, Jane Rizzoli, and Maura Isles get ICE COLD

Tess Gerritsen is the best-selling author of the Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles novels. She has an extremely loyal following for one simple reason: Tess writes great books. The latest is titled ICE COLD, and like its predecessors will certainly be a bestseller. But there is even bigger news from Tess: Rizzoli & Isles is a new TV series coming to TNT on July 12th.

To discuss her new book and TV series, Tess graciously agreed to answer a few question for The Writer’s Forensics Blog.

Tess, welcome.

DPL: Wow. Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles make it to the screen. How did that come about? Was it your idea or did the studio come to you?

TG: About three years ago, my characters were optioned by producer Bill Haber at Ostar Enterprises.  Since I’ve had my books optioned or bought outright several times, and nothing ever came of it, I did not let myself get too excited by this particular option deal.  I signed the contract, cashed the check, and went back to writing my books.  A year later, after the option ran out, Haber renewed the option.  That was nice, but again, I didn’t let myself get too excited, even though Haber called me several times to express his continuing commitment to turn my books into a TV series.  Then last year, after he hired Janet Tamaro to write the pilot, things began to happen quickly.  The script came in, and everyone loved it.  TNT issued a “talent-contingent” order for a pilot.  A few weeks later, Angie Harmon signed on to play Jane Rizzoli, and the rest of the cast fell into place.  The pilot was filmed, and a month later, TNT ordered ten episodes.  Once the ball started rolling, it just picked up speed.  I certainly never expected it to reach this point!

DPL: I assume you will serve as consultant for the new series. True? Will you write some of the scripts?

TG: I won’t be writing any of the scripts.  For that, they have a terrific team of six writers, and they are crafting all the episodes.  Every so often, they’ll shoot me an email asking for suggestions on a particular plot issue, but other than that, they are the ones writing this show.  And I’m very happy that they’re using so much from the books.

DPL: Will Rizzoli and Isles change in any way for the TV series or will they hold true to the novels?

TG: Their personalities are very true to the books.  Jane is still the tough, aggressive, blue-collar cop.  Maura is still the elegant and logical “Mr. Spock” scientist.  The biggest change is in their physical appearance.  Angie is far more attractive than Jane, and Maura Isles is now a blonde (perhaps to contrast with Jane.)  But when it comes to the way they behave and think, they are definitely my characters.

DPL: When does the series debut? How many episodes can we expect in the first season?

TG: “Rizzoli & Isles” will debut on TNT July 12 at 10 PM  (9 CT).  TNT has ordered 10 episodes.

DPL: Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little about the first episode?

TG: The plot is based on my book THE APPRENTICE, which is the second book in the Rizzoli series.  It introduces all the major characters and sets the foundation for their relationships.

DPL: As the series unfolds, will we see any major changes in either Jane or Maura or in their relationship?

TG: Jane and Maura are much closer to being real friends in the TV series than they are in the books, where their relationship is a bit more distant and wary.  The show plays up the contrasts a bit more too, with Jane being more tomboyish and Maura being more girly.  There’s a great deal more humor in the TV show, and the interplay between the two gals had me laughing out loud when I watched the pilot — this despite the plot was about a gruesome serial killer.

DPL: Your latest book in this series is ICE COLD. By my count that will be the 8th novel in the series. Can you tell us a little about this story?

TG: Yes, it’s the 8th book in the series.  I take Maura out of Boston for this tale.  She heads to Wyoming for a medical conference, and takes a spur of the moment ski trip with some friends.  A snowstorm, and misplaced faith in their GPS, sends them up a mountain road where they become stranded and must seek shelter in a remote little village called Kingdom Come.  There they find abandoned houses, meals still on tables, and dead house pets.  What happened to the inhabitants?  That mystery — and their ever more disastrous attempts to reach safety — send Maura on a harrowing adventure.

Visit Tess’s Website


Posted by on July 2, 2010 in Interviews, Writing

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