On Being An Expert


“The expert is the son-of-a-bitch from out of town.”
~ Gordon Koller

Those were words my dad used to say whenever a “consultant” showed up at his place of employment. I think you’ll relate to some of the random thoughts that follow; but if you get to a place where you start saying “where the hell is he going with all this?”, I ask you to be patient. There is method to my madness. Consider the following paragraphs like a “prologue” to a bigger (and better?) story.

I always thought my dad had clever ways to convey an idea with a minimum of words and a maximum of punch. As you can tell, he always bristled whenever his company would bring in someone who was thought by management so wise as to tell you how to do your job. Back in the day, the guy brought in was inevitably someone from “out of town.” Usually one of those “big city experts”, as my dad would say.

In my day, we have the same issues; it’s just that the vocabulary has changed. My dad’s “the expert is the son-of-a-bitch from out of town” is what in our day the definition is of a consultant: the person who the company brings in and who “asks to borrow your watch, and then tells you the time.”

So … what does this all have to do with us writers and being an “expert”? I write fiction, so what I’m about to say has more to do with writers who live mostly in their imaginations. In their own made-up world. But it has relevancy to all writers.

I write a lot about spies, and cops and military matters and government bad guys … you know the typical “thriller” fare. And I have people ask all the time – mostly the first thing out of their mouths after having read the novel – “have you ever been a cop.” Nope! “Have you been in the military?” Nope! “Have you worked in the government?” “FBI?” “CIA?” Nope! Nope! Nope!

And let me tell you … it’s hard for them to hide the disappointment on their faces. And the reason is, I think, because they wanted you to be part of a world they never experienced. That you could lead them to places they have never been. But then they find out you’ve never been there either.

So … the question … how did I become such an “expert”? (See how all this comes around? How it fits together??)

The fact is us writers, at least as far as fiction goes, are “experts” … of a sort. But instead of the “expert from out of town”, we are the “expert who makes extensive use of the Internet, especially Google Maps.”

To channel Shakespeare…”the Internet doth make experts of us all.” How much fun was it for me to have a character in my latest novel stop in the town of Calexico. I’ve never been within one hundred miles of Calexico. Not only did I, the author, “stop” in Calexico via the Internet, but went to a house on a particular street in Calexico. I “saw” the house. I even described the house (though changed it sufficiently enough so that no one could recognize it).

I don’t look at this as fraud, but as great good fun. And truthfully, I think our readers do, too. But there is a darker side to the “writer being expected to be an expert” that I am going to talk about in my next post. It is something I think we all, especially fiction writers, have to be cognizant of.


Click here to read the first chapter of my new novel Kissed By The Snow (formerly One Death Too Far). Haven’t got a publishing date yet, but as soon as I do, you’ll be the first to know.

For book marketing purposes, I am looking for “followers”. If you click “follow” in the sidebar menu of this page, not only will I be grateful, I’ll even send you the second chapter of my novel free.

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