Like the difference between coroner and medical examiner.
Growing up, I knew that Quincy was a medical examiner and Idaho had coroners. I knew that fact about Idaho because at Girl’s State (a program designed for high school juniors – the leaders of tomorrow, I had to run for an office. Knowing I wouldn't be successful in a popularity vote (think shy bookworm) I chose the one office I didn't think anyone else would want. Creepy coroner.
And just to set the record straight – the girl who won, cheated. She used a ventriloquist dummy in her campaign speeches. Totally against the rules, but maybe even creepier than the girl who haunted the library most of her academic
So when I penned my first cozy – set on the central California coast, I chose a mortician in a nearby town to be my coroner character.
Today, reading an interview with a Colorado retired coroner made me question the use of the role. So back to Google I went, and found a chart here (Thanks NPR) that breaks down by state who handles the states dead.
Coroners are elected. And in some states, a popular vote and a ventriloquist dummy, (yes, I do hold a grudge, why?) will get you the position. Medical examiners are professionals, trained and hired.
I can see how authors get lost in research, trying to make their books accurate. Whether it’s a contemporary setting, or historical, there are always going to be things you thought you knew.
And that’s the fun of writing. Learning more than you’ll ever say about a subject. Like coroners. Now, luckily, California uses both, so my small town coroner, Doc Ames, can rest comfortably in the pages of the book without being revised.
So, MMM readers and authors, what did your favorite author get wrong? Or right? No names please, we’ll protect the innocent. J