Tuesday, June 11, 2013

When is a coroner like a writing desk?

Sometimes I’m surprised at the things I thought I knew and didn't. 

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



Morgan Mandel said...

I never knew there was a difference between a coroner and a medical examiner. Thanks for bringing that up.

Morgan Mandel

Lynn Cahoon said...

I really liked that map from NPR. It gives me a bit more information. Research, it never ends, right?

Kaye George said...

Great info, Lynn. I did know the difference, but this map is very handy.

Evelyn Cullet said...

We learn something knew all the time. Thanks for the insight and explanation, Lynn. Great Post.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I enjoyed your post, Lynn. Research is so important and of my favorite aspects of writing.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Yep, there is a big difference. In our county a deputy sheriff is also a deputy coroner and can pronounce someone dead. Not sure how many they actually do this with.

Lynn Cahoon said...

Kaye - glad you liked the map. :)

Hi Evelyn - Thanks for stopping in.

Jean - sometimes I don't know what I don't know.

Marilyn - The things we know. I love being a mystery writer.