Montana Crime from a Crime Writer/Lawyer’s POV – by P.A. Moore


Since I write legal thrillers, based on factual scenarios from our law practice here in Montana, I never miss the Crime Roundup in our local paper. Here in Flathead County, population 90,000-ish, we get some interesting characters calling the police for a variety of reasons.

In the last few days, a caller reported that her neighbor was saying “not nice things” about her. Is this a police matter, I wonder? Another reported three kids ringing the doorbell, asking for water. Is it possible they were just thirsty in this above average heat? Someone else phoned in to report that either wolves or dogs were eating a deer carcass. Query what the responding officer should do when he arrived?

But my personal favorite this week is the woman who reported that her computer contracted a virus after she watched a porn movie that Kim Kardashian made with Ray J. A virus, as in a sexually transmitted disease? And is it contagious? If I’d been the officer who received that call, I’d think twice about responding in person.

Here in western Montana lots of people drink. We have nearly as many bars as churches in Whitefish, so someone on Central Avenue screaming the Lord’s name could be a preacher trying to convert the drunks, or a drunk after he tripped and fell on our seriously cracked sidewalks. Certainly inebriated people comprise the majority of those arrested in our community. Alcohol involved fights, drunk drivers, and guys urinating in public, usually in the alley behind a bar, fill the Crime Roundup daily.

Many of those arrested end up as clients of our mom-and-pop law firm. Practicing law in a small Montana town never provokes boredom … too much information about our friends and neighbors, yes. But dull? There hasn’t been a humdrum day yet in the 16 years since we opened our doors. 

Of course, we also get our share of tragedies. Our local front page story today focuses on a 22-year-old bride who pushed her husband of eight days off a cliff in Glacier National Park, then lied to the young man’s family, friends, and to the authorities. She’s in federal custody in Missoula hoping to get released on bail. I know there’s more to the tale than the Daily Inter Lake reports, but I can’t help feeling sad for all involved.

So, yes, local crimes inspire me to write. In Courthouse Cowboys, I described the behind-the-scenes drama of a local murder case I tried, and Dateline, NBC covered gavel to gavel. They did a good job but missed the real story, so I fictionalized the names of the characters and locations and published the story as fiction.

My next book, due out in two weeks, isn’t quite as Montana-focused, but involves many of the same characters. And yes, indeed, many who live in our beautiful Rocky Mountain community appear, in whole or in part, as players in the drama.