Are you caught out by punctuation?

The meaning of the title depends on the punctuation. Try these two examples.

  1. Caught by a real former-detective fiction writer.
  2. Caught by a real former detective-fiction writer.

The first means I was caught by a former detective who is now a fiction writer, whilst the second means I was caught by a person who used to write detective fiction. I expect you could find other ways of punctuating it to give other meanings. As a writer, I have to be careful how I punctuate my sentences. I also value my editors, as they always spot something I had overlooked.

In which way was I really caught recently?

I met a detective-fiction writer who is a former detective. When we discussed reasons for creating an amateur detective, which I have written about previously, he caught me out by spotting one I had conveniently forgotten to mention. As a real detective, he knew all about police procedures and the culture of a police station, but if I wrote about a police detective, I would undoubtedly make a lot of mistakes, damaging my credibility.

Won’t I be caught by my readers anyway?

Of course, even an amateur sleuth has to deal with the police. Do I not risk being caught by my readers when I make incorrect assumptions about the police? As I write in the first person, any such mistakes can appear to be due to my character’s lack of knowledge in that respect. And police procedures are less central to my plots than they would be if my hero was a police officer. This does not mean that I don’t try to be accurate and realistic as far as possible. It just gets me off the hook.

Have you caught me yet?

Have you read Accounting for Murder, Double Entry? If so did you spot any clangers regarding police procedures or anything else? I would like to hear from you. If you haven’t read it, now could be a good time, before the sequel, Old Money, comes out.

Buy it here on Amazon or here on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it.


When former athlete Patty Rogers decides to divorce her unfaithful husband, Ray, she calls on accountant, Frank Hill, to find Ray’s conveniently missing investments. The trail leads from Cardiff to the financial heart of the City of London and to Aberystwyth, where the mystery turns into a murder. The police regard Patty as their one and only suspect. Frank and his teenage daughter Jane try to find the real killer, unaware of the dangers they are facing from corrupt accountants, racist thugs, a dog-fighting gang, uncooperative policemen and Ray’s mistress, a pop star with many faces and a rock-solid alibi. To see justice done they will need all Frank’s investigative skills and Jane’s youthful energy. And more.