"CONFESSIONS OF A PRIVATE EYE: My Thirty Years Investigating Cheaters, Frauds, Missing Persons and Crooks," by Scott B. Fulmer, Fulmer, P.I. Press, 248 pages (nf)
We all love a good mystery: a smoking gun, a missing person, a recently procured insurance policy. Authors like Raymond Chandler and Sue Grafton and iconic characters like Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew have long proven our cultural preoccupation with finding out who did it and why.
In real life, clients hire private investigators to “look into” a whole gamut of things — if a spouse is unfaithful, if a job applicant is racist, if an employee is stealing or, perhaps, if an insurance claimant is actually incapacitated. Investigators do most of their research without direct contact with or direct questioning of a suspect —otherwise they’re the Pink Panther — and part of what makes their work so tough and so interesting is the circuitous routes they have to take to get evidence. It isn’t always the helicopters and Hawaiian shirts of Magnum, PI.
In “Confessions of a Private Eye,” author Scott Fulmer recounts 30 years of experiences as a private investigator far from the flashy Hollywood portrayals. Fulmer has melted and frozen doing surveillance in a rented van, in the woods (spoiler alert: accompanied by his subject’s dog) and in the bleachers of sporting events. He has placed cameras on restaurant tables and tracking devices on many car bumpers. And yes, he always carries a gun.
Fulmer’s modesty is part of what makes this book worth reading. He’s just as hardworking as we are, he gets nervous like we do and he asks the same kinds of fine-lined questions — what’s illegal and what’s unethical — at his job as we do at ours. Only Fulmer isn’t drinking his Dr. Pepper at a desk like the rest of us, and the variation of his day-to-day is another part of what makes his stories so fun. Fulmer is sorting through trash one moment and getting accosted by a subject the next. He’s working for an angry ex-husband one week, and then he’s off on a case for the federal government. But Fulmer doesn’t glamourize this; he gets tired and his days can be lonely, especially as he often has to leave his family for long stretches of time. Because Fulmer isn’t romanticizing his experiences, it's easy to like them — and him—all the more.
Some of the best parts of this book happen when Fulmer dissects what makes a good investigator. He doesn’t do this in one revelation, though; Fulmer makes readers do our own detective work, collecting information and piecing it together to create a larger picture. And more than once, Fulmer tells us he simply cannot reveal his tricks, a fair trade considering the great stories he’s offering as well as the bustling business he does in his own PI firm in Salt Lake City.Comment on this story
Not only are Fulmer’s tales engaging, but his account of joining the profession is especially interesting because it’s a story of the diligence, high times and lean times, and just plain luck any real life requires. Fulmer explains he’s had many an airplane seatmate suggest he needed to write this book. With such a variety of experiences — many of which are even stranger than fiction — reading Fulmer’s book will leave you glad he did.
Content advisory: "Confessions of a Private Eye" contains a brief description of a suggestive encounter and no offensive language or graphic violence.
If you go …
What: Scott B. Fulmer book signing
When: Saturday, April 28, 7 p.m.
Where: The Printed Garden, 9445 S. Union Square Suite A, Sandy
How much: Free