Sunday, February 16, 2014

Undercover Investigation: Information for Writers with Roger Price


English: Coffee comes in may varieties, shapes...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiona - I am treating myself to a double
            mocha latte to celebrate having
            my guest Roger Price with me
           - and quite frankly to get my brain
           revved. I am working on Washington
           D.C. time, for Roger this is mid-day. 
           Roger, could you kindly introduce
           yourself to my readers, let them know
           where you're from and how you've
           spent your time?

Roger - Hi, I'm from Preston in Lancashire,
             which is a small city in north of
             England near Manchester. I joined
             the cops in 1977, having failed to
             hold down two jobs in a chicken
             and pie factory. I spent the first few
             years pounding the beat before
             joining the CID (detectives) where I
             spent time on Drug Squads 
             (narcotics), working homicides,
             and the last 15 years on national
             squads and in intelligence, which is
             where my covert experiences
             come from. I'm now a full time
             writer, and it is from the clandestine
             world where I draw my crime
             fiction inspiration from. I have
             worked all over the UK, Europe
             and as far as the Far East chasing
             Hong Kong Chinese Triads.

Fiona - Ha! I'm still stuck on the pie factory. That sounds like a wonderful place to work. But since you took
            the dangerous route, can you tell me about your favorite case or is that disallowed?

English: A photograph of hemp (Cannabis sativa...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Roger - I'll choose my words... The operation
             that led to the far east, involved a UK
             criminal gang that was seeking to
             import 2 tons of cannabis into the UK,
            destined for the streets of north-west
            England. Had that been successful, they
            then hoped to bring in five tons of
            heroin. The three operations ended with
            me operating under the radar in 
            Bangkok where the UK criminals met to
            finalize the deal with the Triads. Whilst, 
            there, they learnt of my existence and
            were actively looking for me to kill me.
            Fortunately, they did not and from the
            info we learned, we were able to 
            intercept the 2 tons of cannabis, and
            arrest all the bad guys - including the Triads. Of the 14 arrested 12 stood trail and 10 were
            convicted. Due to the level of threat, there was a great deal of satisfaction in the convictions.
            Interestingly enough, identifying the route the far Eastern exporters were using led to several other 
            seizures around the world which totaled 43 Tons of Thai Herbal Cannabis - it was then the world's
            largest seizure (when taken together) There has been a far larger one since in Mexico.

Fiona - Most excellent! I'm so glad they didn't succeed in finding and killing you. Now, how is that you've
            had all of these adventures and you don't have a single scar? It seems improbable, and it ruins my
            favorite question.

Roger - Really sorry about that, but I have broken my nose twice if that helps. First time was a punch as a
            young cop and the second time I fell off a motorbike, looking on the bright side, when I came off my
            bike, that occasion actually straightened it some

Fiona - So not over a girl. Sigh, you know that's not very romantic; you
            could have fibbed. How about tattoos - or would that make you
             too identifiable?

Roger - You're right I should have fibbed, darn it, too late. 
            You're spot on about the tattoos; I mean some guys have them,
            but I used to  think it always safer not to. Try and remain the 
            grey man.

Fiona - Okay grey man, let's talk about that a bit. Can you clarify the
            term undercover for us?

Roger - The phrases undercover, an undercover officer or undercover operation, are often confused
             with anything that is covert or clandestine. It is true that officers who conduct surveillance or plant
             authorized technical kit – such as listening devices, cameras etc. – are all highly trained law 
             enforcement officers or police staff; but undercover is different.

             In police circles, an undercover officer is an officer who has undergone extensive selection and
             training and is authorized to break the law. Though, there are restrictions – obviously.

             Often an undercover officer (U/C) will have spent many months infiltrating a criminal organisation,
             building trust, whilst facing the risk of scrutiny on a daily basis.

             Sometimes, it may be a ‘quick in and out’ sort of job that requires someone with relevant skills to
             provide a service at short notice – such as driving a wagon full of drugs, when the bad guys have
             been let down at short notice. (Or perhaps the good guys orchestrated this by arresting the driver at 
             the last minute on a minor matter, to allow the U/C to be used.)

Fiona - Clever. You just said that the U/C is authorized to break the law with restrictions.

Roger - What a U/C can’t do is to incite someone to commit a crime that they otherwise would not commit.
             I think you call it entrapment in the states, and it is clearly illegal, for obvious reasons.

Fiona - It seems that there's a lot of strategy at play when putting a U/C in place.

Roger - Using a U/C is no different than deploying any other type of covert tactic, and will not always be the
             best asset to use for a particular job.

             For example, one of the first things to do when considering the tactic is to risk assess – as best you
             are able – those you are sending a U/C to meet and engage with. If the target is a drug dealer who
             steadfastly refuses to sell drugs to anyone he has not known for many years, then what’s the point
             in deploying a U/C only to have him or her knocked back, or worse, compromised.

             The fun in arranging and managing U/C operations is that you are operating in a constantly moving
             grey area. ‘Pushing the envelope’ in a relentless battle of wits against the bad guys.

             Make no mistake, they know all about the covert tactics employed by the police; but they just don’t
             know exactly: How? Where? Or when?

Fiona - Now you are using your life experiences to capture bad guys in fiction. How was that transition for
            you? It seems you would have a stable of characters and situations at the ready.

Roger - The beauty of writing crime fiction utilizing U/C(s) in your plots is that you can let your imagination
             run wild. The small example above about removing the bad guys normal driver so a U/C (with a
             persona of a wagon driver) can be deployed, is one I just made up, but I would be surprised if it’s
             never been used in real life. 

             Perhaps the U /C in your story will be a cleaner or a cook who works for the target, and as such,
             he/she would never be considered a cop. The gardener cutting the lawn, or the target’s son’s new
             girlfriend. Let your imagination run amok, and remember, the best place to hide something or 
             someone is often in plain sight.

             The criminals hate being caught in undercover operations, whether they are long term infiltrations or
             quick ‘stings’ as in drug ‘bust buys’. Not only is the evidence usually of a high standard, and often
             irrefutable, it hurts their egos. No one likes to be duped, it makes you feel dumb; and in the criminal
             world, reputation and standing are everything.

             Think laterally when devising your plots, the more cunning your ideas, the more you’ll enjoy writing
             about it; and the more your readers will enjoy reading it.

             Each year in the UK and the US some high profile criminal will seek to have the use of U/Cs
             outlawed – as they think it unfair – each year they fail.

            As one distinguished Law Lord in the UK once said, many years ago, whilst rejecting such an
            attempt; “Detection by Deception is as old as a Constable in plain clothes.”

Fiona - Can we talk a little bit about your novel: BY THEIR RULES?

US Amazon link
UK Amazon link

Roger - In my first crime thriller, ‘BY THEIR RULES’, I draw from all my experiences in covert policing to
             add some gritty realism. I use U/Cs, wayward and focused, informants, surveillance, phone taps and
             more to hopefully excite and entertain.

            The sequel, ‘A NEW MENACE’ is due out later this year – where I’ve thrown kidnapping into the

Fiona - Very fun! I can't wait to read it. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us.

Roger - To my fellow writers, good luck with your dastardly clever plotting, and enjoy it. And to you 
             Fiona, a big thank you for inviting me to your blog, which is an excellent resource, one of which I’ll
             be revisiting many times, that’s for sure.

Fiona - Why thank you!
            Readers, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


  1. Fantastic interview Fiona and Roger,

    Just picked up BY THEIR RULES Roger, and look forward to learning more about your books,

  2. Hi Eden, glad you enjoyed the interview, Fiona certainly knows how to do it, she should have been a cop! But thanks very much for picking up BY THEIR RULES, I really hope you enjoy it, do let me know via the email address in the book or you can tweet me @RAPriceAuthor. The sequel, A NEW MENACE is with the publisher now, so if you enjoy By Their Rules, it shouldn't be too long before the next is out. Thanks again Eden, and have a great day, cheers, Roger

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thanks Eden.
      For those of you who do not know Eden, she's at look for her psychological thriller out this year.