Human Trafficking

Any good story has to have an underlying bedrock of truth.

Brothers Keeper

In my novel Brother’s Keeper I follow undercover ICE Agent Charlie Bowman as he infiltrates a human trafficking ring. In the book women from the far east are kidnapped off the street and transported in cargo containers to the Port of Charleston then distributed throughout a criminal network. It’s all fiction, but any good story has to have an underlying bedrock of truth.

In the novel I have the victims taken in a foreign land and shipped like animals to the U.S. but I came across this story the other day and thought it bore further study.

Picture1

This is a case where my alumni at the FBI used undercovers to catch a guy outside of Atlanta who tried to hire a couple of thugs to murder one woman and kidnap another.  According to the article the subject was planning on kidnapping his target to pimp her out as a human slave. This story hits pretty close to home. When you see a movie or read a book like Brother’s Keeper where human trafficking is part of the story it makes sense that the actual victims are from somewhere else. Sure they end up in the US and a bunch of other places around the world where they are exploited in a variety of ways but to think of an american girl kidnapped and made a slave here doesn’t compute. Not here right? This case can really give one pause.

I tend to believe that over the career I’ve had and some of the cases I have worked that I am pretty hard to surprise. When I was researching Brother’s Keeper some of the stats I came across related to human trafficking were staggering. The brutality and the tactics used to force another human into modern day slavery are pretty bad too but the shear scope of the problem is what really got my attention. When I began writing Brother’s Keeper human smuggling was just a means of making my bad guys as awful as possible. When I was trying to get the reality of human smuggling right I really learned something though. I’m not going to bury you with stats but it is worth mentioning that today human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar business. There are over 4.5 million people forced into sexual exploitation in our country every year, and 300,000 of those are under eighteen and bought and sold on the commercial sex market.

I’m not big on preaching but the practice of human trafficking is something that the average person doesn’t see, and doesn’t think about, so it doesn’t exist in their world. Sadly you probably run into modern human slaves a lot more often than you think. before I close here are some things to look for that may be indicators of a possible human trafficking scenario: (Courtesy of the www.polarisproject.org)

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

References:

http://m.waff.com/story/36575966/decatur-police-fbi-arrest-man-in-alleged-human-trafficking-plot

http://arkofhopeforchildren.org/child-trafficking/child-trafficking-statistics

https://polarisproject.org/recognize-signs

Author Spotlight: Hollie Overton’s The Walls

Hollie Overton

Hollie Overton’s new book, The Walls was released on August 8th.  Hollie is an experienced TV writer currently working on the second season of Freeform’s “Shadowhunters.” She previously wrote for two seasons of Lifetime’s “The Client List,” and the final season of the CBS drama, “Cold Case.” A native of Kingsville, Texas, Hollie made her way to the Big Apple, where she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Literature at Hunter College and mixology in Murray Hill. Convinced her talents lay in telling stories; Hollie set her sights on Hollywood. In 2008 Hollie was selected for the esteemed Warner Brother Writers Workshop.  Her debut novel, Baby Doll was published in July 2016 and is an international best-seller. Hollie is repped by MetaMorphic Entertainment and WME.

Here is an excerpt from The Walls:

What if you could get away with murder?

Single mom Kristy Tucker works as a press agent for the Texas Department of Corrections — handling everything on death row from inmate interviews to chronicling the last moments during an execution. Her job exposes Kristy to the worst of humanity, and it’s one that’s beginning to take its toll.

So when Kristy meets Lance Dobson, her son’s martial arts instructor, she believes she has finally found her happy ending. She’s wrong.

Kristy soon discovers that Lance is a monster. Forced to endure his verbal and physical abuse, Kristy is serving her own life sentence…unless she’s willing to take matters into her hands. Perfectly poised to exploit the criminal justice system she knows so well, Kristy sets out to get rid of Lance — permanently.

The Walls explores domestic violence, the morality of murder, and how far one woman will go to protect her family.

 

Links to Hollie on Social Media:

www.twitter.com/hollieoverton

www.instagram.com/hollieoverton

https://www.facebook.com/authorhollieoverton/

www.hollieoverton.com

Don’t forget to check out my new book Where Angels Sing, Spoilers Book Two. Available Now.

Where Angels Sing Cover

Spoiler Alert! (Get it?)

Where Angels Sing: Spoilers Book Two comes out tomorrow. In honor of this here is the back cover. I will release some excerpts soon but I’m still trying to figure out which ones I want to put out. If you haven’t read Spoilers already this is going to give some things away, just warning you.

Where Angels Sing Cover

Where Angels Sing: Spoilers Book Two comes out tomorrow. In honor of this here is the back cover. I will release some excerpts soon but I’m still trying to figure out which ones I want to put out. If you haven’t read Spoilers already this is going to give some things away, just warning you. Here it is:

“Where Angels Sing is a gritty crime thriller that picks up where Spoilers left off.

Detective Benjamin Wilke has tried to get over the murder of Poppy Montague.

Montague was killed during an operation to take down a weapons trafficking conspiracy almost a year ago, Wilke was only minutes too late to rescue her. He was the first to find her lifeless, abused body and he was powerless to do anything about it.

Wilke knows people responsible for Poppy’s death are out there. Ben Wilke also knows those people, powerful, connected people need to pay.

Wilke’s only lead in an off the books investigation vanished before his eyes. He’s lost, no leads, no direction, just boiling anger, and festering rage. Little does Ben Wilke know however that his actions have drawn attention. The cabal he hunts is deeper and broader than he could ever have imagined, and they’ve decided he’s a threat. Will he realize he is being hunted before it’s too late?”

I hope you like the book. Please let me know what you think.

How I Got Started

Where Angels Sing Cover

My new novel Where Angels Sing, sequel to Spoilers comes out next week, October 3rd. Where Angels Sing will be my fourth novel. I started writing when I was a little kid  but it wasn’t until after I finished my Master’s Degree in Forensic Science at the University of Florida that I was able to put all the pieces together and finish my first book.

Prior to finishing my first book, Shattered Circle I had been able to sketch out a frame work for a few different ideas but I was never able to get down to the actual writing. What I think happened at the conclusion of grad school that got me really writing was a very simple thing I had ignored in the years prior. I just sat down and started typing.

During my course work for the UF degree I had a schedule. the degree was largely independent work, mostly research and papers that had to be completed by a given deadline. No one was watching over my shoulder to make sure I got my work done. No one was going to call me and ask where my work was if I didn’t submit a paper on time. It was all on me to complete the task so I set up a work schedule.

At the time I was a Special Agent of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service assigned to our Contingency Response Field Office. My work day generally started at 7:30 am. I started showing up at 6:30 so I could do my research or write my papers before the workday started. I did this consistently throughout my course work. During my tenure at CRFO I traveled a lot. Wherever I was in the world (I worked on my UF program in seven different countries over the two years of study) I kept to my own self imposed schedule. When I graduated from the program I suddenly had an hour or more in my day that was empty space. I decided to fill it with writing.

I had a couple of ideas floating around my head and settled on an urban fantasy pitting a homicide detective against a blood magic cult. I will go into what went into Shattered Circle in a later post. With that hour I set aside for myself I decided to attack a 100,000 word novel by chipping away at it by 500 words a day. The first draft took a few months but one day I just looked up from my screen and realized I did it…I had written my first draft.

Not that I should be considered by anyone to be an expert but I am asked often at book signings and by everyone once they find out I’m a writer, ‘how do you do it?’

My humble advice is very simple: sit down and write. I have found that word vomit is a very effective means of becoming a writer. You can always fix it in the rewrite.

Don’t forget to check out my books here.

 

Detective X

22699824._SY540_

You remember the JJ Abrams show Fringe? I loved that show but I think what I loved the most about it was the crazy scientist Walter Bishop. The character was similar to other anchors of a good mystery series. The odd genius who can come up with a quick fix, or some obscure science that nobody understands to save the day. Kind of like a MacGyver without the mullet.

What if there was a real life genius who had a hand in almost a thousand criminal cases, laid the ground work for modern forensics, and was almost completely forgotten by history? I know, it sounds awesome. See below.

In 2014, a curator was searching the archives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for a new exhibit. In a box, she found nine notebooks that belonged to a little known scientist who’d worked for the agency in the early 20th century.

Wilmer Souder was an everyday farm boy from southern Indiana. He went to college and earned his Ph.D. In 1916.  He then went to work at the National Bureau of Standards (now known as NIST).

Historically Souder is known for his work on materials used for dental fillings. When he’s mentioned in NIST historical records he’s described as the founder of the dental materials research program. His biography however also contains a seemingly random anecdote noting he was involved in investigating the murder and kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh.

Turns out that in addition to being an expert on dental fillings Wilmer Souder moonlighted as a sought-after forensic expert in handwriting analysis, typewriting analysis, and ballistics. His expertise and influence effected more than 800 cases throughout his career. Prior to the uncovering of his journals he was known to history only as Detective X.

How Souder came to be involved in forensic is not clear however at some point a request was made to develop a systematic way to do handwriting and typewriter analysis. Souder, whose specialty was taking exacting measurements and making precise comparisons, joined the project.

The nine notebooks found in the basement at NIST showed that during his career Souder was requested to lend his expertise to a variety of cases brought to the bureau by the Post Office, the Department of the Treasury, and various other government bodies. In addition to appearing in court as an expert witness, he helped pioneer some techniques still used in modern American Forensics.

He developed a method of projectile analysis in which he used a recent invention, the microscope, to compare expended bullets to see if they were fired from the same weapon. He advised the founder of the FBI’s forensic lab on policy and protocol. When he analyzed handwriting from ransom notes during the Lindbergh case he matched them to Bruno Hauptmann, who was eventually convicted and executed for the crime.

Souder brought the scientific method and statistics to law enforcement, a profession that was more art than science during that early era. The head of the New York Police Department at the time is reported to have said of Souder that he was, “the most outstanding expert [in forensics] on the continent in the last one hundred years.”

Somehow Souder’s work was lost to history, and Souder himself may have had a hand in that. While he actively published his dental work. Souder tended to downplay his work in the field of criminalistics. Some believe Souder feared criminals learning too much from his methods, or seeking him out for retribution. Souder had a wife and daughter, it’s understandable that he would not want his prosecutorial work to follow him home.

When Souder retired none of his contemporaries at NIST continued in the field of forensic research and eventually the agencies link, and Souder’s, to forensics was lost.

What a great story. One of those rare nuggets from history where an unsung hero finally gets the recognition he deserves. Kind of has a Sherlock Holmes vibe to it. And how cool would it have been to have the nickname “Detective X”?

Maybe I need to venture into the historical nonfiction genre for my next project.

John Stamp Author Page

References:
Greenwood, Veronique. “Secret Crime-Fighter Revealed to Be 1930s Physicist,” National Geographic, March 17, 2017. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/20…

 

Author Spotlight: Pamela Crane

Art of Fear

I have another author spotlight I would like to share since I am getting this blog up and going. Early reviews for Pamela Crane’s  The Art of Fear call it “An intricate literary thriller that will twist your brain and leave you breathless.” Pamela is the multi-award winning author of a long string of psychological thrillers.

SYNOPSIS:

“A life no girl should endure. A father no daughter could love. A twist no one would predict.

From award-winning author Pamela Crane comes a terrifying tale of small-town secrets and murder.

Ari Wilburn’s life ended long ago—the day she watched her little sister die in a tragic accident and did nothing to stop it. Crippled with self-blame and resented by her parents, she stumbles through life … and onto an unexpected clue that casts doubt on whether the death was accidental.

Now a psychological wreck, Ari joins a suicide support group where she meets Tina, a sex-enslaved escapee who finds her long-lost father dead. Suicide, police ruled it. But Tina suspects foul play. As a bond develops between the women in their shared loss, they’re dragged into playing a dangerous game with a killer.

Faced with a murderous wake-up call and two possibly linked deaths, Ari’s investigation puts her next on the killer’s list. But she’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Needing closure, Ari must face her demons and the killer behind them … or lose everything she loves.”

PAMELA CRANE’S BIO:

Pamela Crane is a professional juggler. Not the type of juggler who can toss flaming torches in the air, but a juggler of four kids, a writing addiction, a horse rescuer, and a book editor by trade. She lives on the edge (ask her Arabian horse about that—he’ll tell you all about their wild adventures while trying to train him!) and she writes on the edge. Her characters and plots are her escape from the real world of dirty diapers and cleaning horse stalls, and she thrives off of an entertaining tale.

She is the author of several award-winning and best-selling psychological thrillers.

LINKS:

http://www.amazon.com/Pamela-Crane/e/B00FOS91AI

facebook.com/pamela.crane.52
As always don’t forget to check out my books here.

Starting a Blog

Author Photo.png

 

Hey Everybody I was trying to think of what else I could do to maximize my time behind a computer screen and decided to start a blog. If you check out the tagline this will be the world according to me, no apologies for that, but I will admit things might get a little weird from time to time. I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to blog about but for starters I’m thinking about detailing how I go about writing, what my strategy is, and where some of my material comes from. I was also thinking of throwing in some book reviews or product reviews if I see something I like and want to write about it. There will probably be a little thrown in about the family, two kids, great wife, and two old dogs. At the moment however I am hiding from hurricane Irma in Helen, GA. The fam is packed into a hotel room and I’m the only one still awake while the wind howls outside and the dog snores and takes up most of the bed.

More to come. Just getting started. For now though here is a shameless plug for my books.

I have mostly written crime thrillers in Spoilers and Brothers Keeper. Shattered Circle was an urban fantasy/crime novel, all published by Solstice Publishing. Where Angels Sing is a sequel to Spoilers and will be out October 3rd, can’t wait.

Anyway, have a good night. Out.