Writing Lessons from the 1949 Film Adam's Rib, Starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy

In A Lawyer's Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, we cover the in's and out's of trials, lawyers, courtrooms and a whole lot more, including a section dedicated to ten of our favorite legal films, and what they can teach writers.

Below is an excerpt about the classic film Adam's Rib that featured Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn as married lawyers who face off as opposing lawyers in a murder trial.

Book Excerpt

Top Ten Legal Films: Adam's Rib

Adam's Rib (1949): Starring: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn; directed by George Cukor. A courtroom comedy, with a dose of drama, featuring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as husband and wife attorneys who are on opposite ends of a criminal prosecution: Hepburn is defending a woman who shot her husband; Tracy is the prosecutor.

Note: It’s highly questionable that a district attorney’s office would allow one of its prosecutors to try a case if his wife was the defense attorney. More likely, the DA’s office would cite a conflict of interest and have another prosecutor try the case. Nevertheless, Hepburn’s and Tracy’s opposing counsel roles provide wonderful story conflict. 

Oh, what are you gonna do, object before I ask the question?
— Tracy confronting Hepburn in the courtroom

Adam’s Rib, interestingly enough, was based on the real-life story of actor Raymond Massey and his wife Adrianne Allen's divorce. They had hired married lawyers William and Dorothy Whitney, who, after the divorce was finalized, divorced each other and married their clients! Keep in mind that William and Dorothy Whitney were divorce attorneys in private practice— unlike the setup in Adam’s Rib where the husband represented the government, and the wife was in private practice. 

To prepare for the role, Katharine Hepburn and the director, George Cukor, spent time in different Los Angeles courtrooms to pick up details to help make the acting and story authentic. 

Judge's bench Jury box, Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio by Carol Highsmith USE THIS.jpg

Tip for Writers: In general, court hearings are open, which means the public may attend. This is an excellent way to learn about the court system, and watch lawyers, judges, witnesses and others in the course of a trial. At times, the court might close a court proceeding to the public if the judge wishes to protect someone’s dignity, such as a child’s or a distressed witness’s. 

Historical Perspective on Adam’s Rib

In 1940, 9 years before Adam’s Rib was filmed, the United States Census identified only 4,447 female attorneys in the US, or 2.4 percent of all lawyers in the country.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US entering WWII, many male lawyers enlisted in the military, which created a void in American law schools. The sudden need for students was filled by women. By 1942, women law students were 4.35 percent of all law students; by 1943, the number of women had increased to 21.9 percent. During WWII, some law firms began hiring women lawyers for the first time, such as the New York firm of Cahill Gordon in 1943, and Shearman & Sterling in 1944. 

According to the article “Adam’s Rib as an Historical Document: The Plight of Women Lawyers in the 1940s,” the number of women in law school began decreasing significantly after WWII, and many female lawyers lost their employment positions to returning American solider-lawyers who were given back their former jobs. Also, many returning serviceman obtained funding via the GI Bill for law school, and by 1947 law schools were again churning out a much higher number of male rather than female attorneys.

So by 1949 when Adam’s Rib started playing in movie theaters, female lawyers like Hepburn’s character Amanda Bonner were already vanishing in the US.

 Click on image to go to book's Amazon page

Click on image to go to book's Amazon page

Article by Colleen Collins, All Rights Reserved. Do not copy, forward, or otherwise distribute without written permission by the author.

In Honor of Book Lovers Day: Keith Richards, Rock-n-Roll Librarian

  Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Voodoo Loungue World Tour, Rio de Janeiro, 1995 (photo is in public domain, courtesy of Machocarioca)

Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Voodoo Loungue World Tour, Rio de Janeiro, 1995 (photo is in public domain, courtesy of Machocarioca)

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.
— Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards: Rocker outlaw...guitar god...book lover

This will either surprise you or make you jealous: Keith Richards has extensive personal libraries in both of his Sussex and Connecticut homes. In fact, he has so many books that he once considered "professional training" to better manage his vast collection. Yes, dear reader, rock-n-roll bad-boy Keith Richards dreamed of becoming a librarian.

Keith and the Dewey Decimal System

Once upon a time, Keith was painstakingly arranging copies of rare books about the history of early American rock and World WarII. He was applying the standard Dewey Decimal classification system (possibly fortified with a glass of vino or a little ganja -- although he no longer does "the hard stuff" Keith is quoted as saying he's still fond of wine and weed). Whatever he might have been imbibing, he nevertheless felt overwhelmed with his massive book classification project, at which point he seriously considered becoming a librarian.

Can you imagine being shushed by Keith Richards? Or what it would be like going to the reference desk...and there's Keith Richards?

He'd probably be very cool about books turned in late; after all he once owed libraries 50 years worth of fines.

The Saga of Keith and the Overdue Library Books

Keith Richards Owes '50 Years' of Library Fines (Huffington Post)

Library offers to waive Keith Richards' £3000 fine if he drops in for visit (Mirror)

 

Rock on. Read on.

World Book Day: Humphrey Bogart, Movie Star & Avid Reader

 Humphrey Bogart in the 1934 film trailer for  Petrified Forest  (image is in public domain)

Humphrey Bogart in the 1934 film trailer for Petrified Forest (image is in public domain)

Bogie And Books

Did you know Humphrey Bogart loved to read? Although he was a poor student, and was eventually expelled from the prestigious Phillips Academy, he had a lifelong love of reading, and could quote Plato, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Shakespeare.

Some of his best friends were screenwriters, such as Nunnally Johnson and John Huston. I've always admired Huston for his directing, even his acting, but did you know he also wrote over 20 screenplays, including the adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon

 Humphrey Bogart in movie trailer for  Casablanca  (image is in the public domain)

Humphrey Bogart in movie trailer for Casablanca (image is in the public domain)

By the way, here's a wonderful write-up about John Huston and his writing and directing of the The Maltese Falcon (via Word&Film): John Huston and the Making of the Maltese Falcon.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"A must-have for any writer serious about crafting authentic private eyes. Collins knows her stuff."

~Lori Wilde, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

Cookies, Browsers, and Keeping Them Separate

The following article is an excerpt from my recent nonfiction release How Do Private Eyes Do That?

Tips for Keeping the Cookie Monster Out of Your Browser

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins

 Not all cookies are bad, be they edible or data dropped into your browser (Image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Not all cookies are bad, be they edible or data dropped into your browser (Image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

What's a Cookie?

Cookies are small amounts of data that websites drop into your browser so they can monitor your internet browsing activity. As they are text, they cannot install anything on your computer. And they are not necessarily evil little creatures as some clue in your browser about preferences you have established for certain sites (such as reading newest comments first or ensuring secure logins).

And then there are the cookies that surreptitiously monitor your internet comings and goings, then feed that data to advertisers and others. If you don’t want your personal internet browsing to be stored in their databases, below are three tips for taking a byte out of those cookies.

Tip #1: Cookie Notices on Websites

Many websites have a symbol, icon or notice that by your visiting the site, you agree to its cookie-gathering policy. Such notices say something like “We use cookies to improve your experience. By your continued use, you accept such use. To change your settings, please see our policy.”

If you don’t want to agree to a site’s cookie-gathering, simply leave the site.

Tip # 2: Do Not Track Options

 Do Not Track options block approximately 70% of web-tracking sites (image is in public domain)

Do Not Track options block approximately 70% of web-tracking sites (image is in public domain)

Fortunately, browsers offer Do Not Track options so users can opt-out of advertising services and other analytics on websites. Unfortunately, the Do Not Track option is similar to the Do Not Call registry—selecting the option doesn’t necessary mean that the website is going to respect your request.

Nevertheless, based on a recent report from the Information Commissioner’s Office, Do Not Track options block approximately 70% of third-party web tracking, so view it as a basic protective step. Here is a list of advertisers who claim to honor Do Not Track requests: Do Not Track: Implementations

Below are the steps for how to do this for Chrome & Safari (the Do Not Track option is on by default for Mozilla):

Chrome: Preferences/Settings->Advanced Settings–>(Select appropriate boxes)

Safari: Preferences–>Privacy–>(Select appropriate boxes)

For other browsers, check what security or privacy options are available under Preferences.

Tip #3: Add-Ons/Extensions

A second line of defense are add-ons and extensions that you download to your browser. These are not 100% remedies, but another, tougher layer of cookie-protection on top of Do Not Track settings.

The below services are free, with most offering more additional, comprehensive services for a monthly fee:

• Ghostery

• Disconnect

• AdBlock Plus

• Privacy Badger

Please do not copy/distribute any articles without written permission from Colleen Collins. Do not copy/distribute or otherwise use any mages noted as copyrighted or licensed.

 

Click on book cover to go to Amazon page.

"A must-have for any writer serious about crafting authentic private eyes. Collins knows her stuff." 
~Lori Wilde, New York Times bestselling author
"If you're looking for the lowdown on private investigations, this is it."
~Bill Crider, author of the Truman Smith mystery series

Self-Publishing: Tips, Resources, and Recommendations

 Woman writing on laptop (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Woman writing on laptop (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

By Colleen Collins, All Rights Reserved

Since 1996, I have sold over two dozen novels to traditional publishers who handled the editing, proofreading, formatting, packaging, distribution, and at times some promotion, too. Since 2011, I have also self-published seven books in the romantic-mystery and nonfiction genres, which means I handled, or retained services for, all those same tasks.

In this article I share lessons I learned (some the hard way) in self-publishing, as well as my recommendations for publishing services. (Obviously my personal recommendations are not meant to be all-inclusive—they are simply a handful of talented people and companies I've had the privilege of working with, and whose results have been outstanding.) 

Recommendations in General

Before you hand over your hard-earned money to any publishing service, ask ahead of time for three or four recommendations from writer-friends or check qualified resources, such as Preditors and Editors.  Also, publishing attorney Susan Spann (@SusanSpann) offers insightful publishing tips and warnings on Twitter.

Let’s start with a look at the editing process.

Developmental Editors, Copyeditors, and Proofreaders

 Side-stepping copyediting & proofreading invites frustrated readers (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Side-stepping copyediting & proofreading invites frustrated readers (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

In general, a developmental editor helps shape a story; a copyeditor fine-tunes the story by correcting grammar, smoothing out syntax and so on; and a proofreader reads through the book to catch any errors before it goes into production.

Lessons Learned

With my first indie novel I skipped the proofreader step, figuring my background as a technical editor meant I could edit my own writing. Ha! After readers contacted me with typos they found, I humbly corrected them and forwarded my book to a professional proofreader.

Recommendations

The Blood-Red Pencil Check the Meet the Blogging Team page for more information about editing services.

Judicious Revisions, LLC Proofreading services for indie authors, specializing in romance genre. (Also, one of the nicest, most diligent proofreaders I've ever worked with).

Moonshell Books, Inc. Award-winning author Shelley Bates offers copyediting services to independent authors. The “Other editors and resources” page lists additional developmental editors and copyeditors.

Book Covers

As the old saying goes, first impressions count! Invest in potential readers’ first impressions of your book by hiring a professional graphic designer.

Lessons Learned

For my first nonfiction book, How Do Private Eyes Do That?, I decided to save money and create my own cover. Let’s just say some people have design talents, but not yours truly. Recently, I hired talented graphic designer Kim Killion to create a new and vastly improved cover for the second edition, to be released August 2016. Before and after thumbnail versions, below (mine on left, Killion’s in middle).

The cover on the right, Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas, was created by another of my favorite graphic designers, Dave Fymbo of Limelight Book Covers.

(Book cover images copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Recommendations

The Killion Group, Inc.: http://thekilliongroupinc.com

Limelight Book Covers: http://www.limelightbookcovers.com

Formatting

I used to pay for third-party formatting services, but for the past three years I've been spoiled by using Vellum, available for Mac OS X 10.9 or newer. The creators of Vellum are former Pixar film software gurus who bring their knowledge, expertise, and creativity to Vellum. The product is intuitive to use, with real-time previews of how the book will look in a variety of formats (such as Kindle, Nook, and others). Being former Pixar guys, they know how to make graphics look amazing, too.

I've also saved a heap of money using Vellum—for example, one third-party formatting company (recommended by Amazon) charged me $450.00 to format a nonfiction book, claiming the sticker-shock price was due to the number of graphics and links I had in the book. Having been a technical editor for years, I can certainly understand how much time it takes to double-check links & graphics, but the book didn't have that many links and graphics, which was around 45,000 words (novella-sized).

Below is a screen shot of a page in Vellum, pre-generated ebook.

 Vellum page from my book  A Lawyer's Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms  (co-written with Shaun Kaufman; image is copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Vellum page from my book A Lawyer's Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms (co-written with Shaun Kaufman; image is copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

When I switched to Vellum, I re-formatted that same book in less than a day for $10.00, minus my time. Even adding my time, the cost was way less than what that third-party formatting company had charged.

Last time I spoke to one of the Vellum creators, the company doesn't have plans to make a PC version. If you're a PC user, once again I suggest asking other writer-friends for their recommendations.

Promotion

Self-publishing inevitably includes book promotion. I recently read a wonderful self-published murder-mystery that a friend loaned me. When I looked up the book on Amazon, it had only 3 reviews! Excellent reviews, but I was surprised there were so few. The ranking of the book was 1,427,618, which is very low. What a shame the author didn't invest more time and money into promoting her book because she wrote a very entertaining, well-written story, which unfortunately isn't getting the attention it deserves.

Lessons Learned

For my first indie novel, I paid $200 for a book blog tour that never materialized. I count myself lucky as some writers have lost much more money to bogus/ineffectual promotion services. How did I lose $200? I didn't get 3 or 4 recommendations ahead of time; instead, I selected the first service I found. I tried to use common sense—the business owner was a multi-published author so I figured that person had the right background; the website was appealing...but I should have done my homework and asked for more recommendations.

Recommendations

Tasty Book Tours specializes in the romance genre (which includes the subgenres romantic suspense, romantic mystery, and so forth). Self-Publishing Review named it one of the top 10 book tours. Lisa Filipe, the owner, is one of my favorite people in "the book biz." When I sign up for one of her promo tours, I know the book is in excellent hands. 

BookBub isn’t cheap, but book promotions reach a vast audience. It's not always easy to get your book accepted, but when it is, you'll enjoy the benefits. My romantic-mystery The Zen Man, which I gave away for free via BookBub, got thousands of downloads...and over 100 reviews on Amazon. 

Kindle Nation Daily offers pay-for services similar to BookBub, but the options are in general less costly. Just like BookBub, Kindle Nation Daily submissions pass an editorial review for appropriateness, but their guidelines for acceptance aren't as stringent as BookBub, plus you meet the people behind the scene at Kindle Nation Daily (BookBub is more mysterious in that way). My personal experience has been that I usually get 25% (at least) more downloads at BookBub vs. Kindle Nation Daily, but the latter is friendlier, nicer, even easier to work with.

 Writer-Director Billy Wilder's headstone "I'm a writer, but then nobody's perfect" (image is in the public domain)

Writer-Director Billy Wilder's headstone "I'm a writer, but then nobody's perfect" (image is in the public domain)

Colleen Collins is a private investigator and award-winning, multi-published author in the romance, mystery, and nonfiction genres. Her next release is How Do Private Eyes Do That? (Second Edition), August 2016.

Female Private Eyes in Literature

Introduction

A few months back, the editor of the online magazine Festivale asked if I'd like to write an article about female private investigators in fiction, going back to such early women detectives as Miss Felicity Lemon, the efficient secretary for Mr. Parker Pyne in Agatha Christie's set of short stories Parker Pyne Investigates (1934). This kind of article is "my thing." Besides being a female PI, I've written female private detectives in novels and three nonfiction books on private investigations, as well as judged novels and short stories for the Private Eye Writers of America.

Below is an excerpt with a link to the full article. Enjoy!

Female Private Eyes in Fiction:

From Lady Detectives to Hard-Boiled Dames

© 2014 Colleen Collins, All Rights Reserved

“I thought it was time for a tough, smart, likeable female private investigator, and that’s how V.I. came to life.” ~ Author Sara Paretsky about her PI character V.I. Warshawski

Ask people to name one of the first fictional female private eyes, and they might mention Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone or Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, both of whom hit the fiction scene in the early 1980s. Actually, the first female private detective appeared in a story over a hundred years earlier.

Before we step back in time, let’s first define a private eye, AKA private investigator (PI) or private detective.

Private Versus Public Detectives

The private eye genre features a private investigator, or PI, protagonist who is a citizen paid to investigate a crime (however, there are times in stories where private eyes work a case for free—for example, the PI feels compelled to solve a good friend’s murder).  Private investigators are not government employees who work in the public sector, such as police detectives, coroner’s office investigators and federal special agents. However, it is not uncommon, in both real life and stories, that retired government investigators start second careers as PIs.

A few examples of private investigators: Those who work in solo practices or as employees for a PI agency, reporters, insurance company investigators, and even lawyers in private practice. 

Amateur sleuths, however, are not classified as private eye genre as they are not paid for their professional investigative services.

This article categorizes female private detectives into different stylistic eras: Victorian, the Golden Age of Detectives, Hard-Boiled and Contemporary. 

Victorian Era Lady Detectives

 Possible drawing of the first real-life female PI, Kate Warne, whose history is similar to the fictional Miss Loveday Brooke

Possible drawing of the first real-life female PI, Kate Warne, whose history is similar to the fictional Miss Loveday Brooke

The Victorians loved crime fiction, which typically reflected their world of dynamic men in society and passive women who stayed at home. However, a few authors challenged those roles in detective fiction.

Many view Mrs. Paschal as the first female private detective in literature. In 1864, Paschal appeared in The Revelations of a Lady Detective, written by W. S. Hayward, a British male writer. Although Mrs. Paschal occasionally worked with the police force, she also conducted private investigations for payment.

In 1894, private detective Miss Loveday Brooke appeared in a collection of stories by Catherine Louisa Pirkis, The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective. The thirtyish Brooke worked for Ebenezer Dyer, head of a private detective agency in London, after being “thrown upon the world penniless and all but friendless.” Cut off from the world she once knew, she is a competent investigator who conducts convincing impersonations, traits that are reminiscent of the first real-life woman PI in the US, Kate Warne, who talked her way into being hired as a private detective by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in1856.

Golden Age of Detectives: Snobbery with Violence

The Golden Age of Detectives is generally acknowledged as spanning the years 1920 to 1939, although some contain it to the 1920s only. Stories from this era emphasized plot, English settings, and detectives who displayed ingenuity in solving the crimes.

During the early1920s, Hulbert Footner wrote a series of detective stories featuring Madame Rosika Storey, Private Investigator, whose tales were published in the US, United Kingdom and other countries.

In 1928, writer Patricia Wentworth introduced Miss Maud Silver as a minor character in Grey Mask. In 1937, Silver starred as a professional private detective, although she preferred to be called a private enquiry agent, in The Case Is Closed. Mystery novelist D. L. Browne, AKA Diana Killian, calls Miss Silver “a professional investigator and a stand-up woman, a true forerunner of all future female private eyes.”

Private detective Miss Felicity Lemon made her entrance in 1934 as the efficient secretary for Mr. Parker Pyne in Parker Pyne Investigates, a set of short stories by Agatha Christie. Later, Agatha Christie’s iconic private detective Hercule Poirot hires Miss Lemon to be his secretary.

Trixie Meehan, created by Thomas Theodore Flynn, worked at the Blaine Private Detective Agency with her partner Mike Harris in stories published in Detective Fiction Weekly: “The Deadly Orchid” (1933) and The Letters and the Law (1936).

If crime fiction were compared to eggs, this golden era of detectives would be soft-boiled, differentiating it from the hard-boiled private eyes that were starting to emerge in American literature.

Hard-Boiled Lady Dicks

The hard-boiled genre and its detective - AKA shamus, private dick, snoop, gumshoe - took its first steps in the 1920s and hit its stride in the 1930s up through the 1950s. These hard-drinking, wisecracking private eyes walked the mean streets in an urban jungle filled with violence and bloodshed.

Alongside iconic hardboiled private eyes like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe were their female counterparts in pulp fiction (named for the cheap "pulp" paper on which these stories were printed). A subset of these female private eyes appeared in the "screwball comedy" genre, which included elements of farce, romance and humor. Below is a sampling of these detective dames, their authors and example works:

To read the full article, click here.

Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye

 Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private EyeTopics include the history of the first US female private eye, investigative tips, real-life case stories, links to other PI/cold-case/private-eye-genre blogs and sites, an overview of several popular female private eyes on TV and more.

Audiences: Fans of the private eye genre, writers, armchair detectives, and those simply curious about the real-world of PIs.

To Order: Click here or on book cover image to the left.

As an experienced private detective and a skilled storyteller, Colleen Collins is the perfect person to offer a glimpse into the lives of real female P.I.s
— Kim Green, managing editor of Pursuit Magazine: The Magazine of Professional Investigators
The stories were interesting and I’ve always wanted to read a book like this. This is also very helpful for creating a PI character and coming up with ideas for scenes, plot twists, and small side cases. It’s well written and enjoyable.
— M. Morris, Amazon reviewer