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Some Clues to 'CSI's' Success Lie Behind the Scenes

Television: CBS' also-ran is now one of TV's top-rated dramas, and one reason for its good fortune lies in technical advisor Elizabeth Devine, now a story editor.

December 31, 2001|MICHAEL E. HILL | WASHINGTON POST

Donahue also uses the word passion when appraising the work of Devine. "She knows the nuts and bolts that a criminalist would," she said.

"She has the storytelling ability of a writer," Donahue added, "and the passion you have to have for both jobs."

Devine also is nursing a passion to write a book.

"The tentative title is, 'What's This Girl Doing at My Crime Scene?' Which I used to hear a lot," Devine said. "I was one of the few women going into the field. They were used to older men in tweed coats. I showed up looking like a surfer chick."

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She Eventually Earns

Respect of Colleagues

Devine won over the police officers she encountered at crime scenes with her willingness to do the work, she said. Colleagues in her own line of work were tougher, she said, resenting her success and her association with high-profile cases.

Devine said the mix of male and female criminalists in her old office is now about 50-50. When she started out, she was one of a few.

"If I opened doors, I hope so," she said, "because I worked [hard] at the sheriff's office and did things no one else would do--blood and brains dripping off the ceiling, 2-month-old decomps.

"There's a body in the Dumpster? I was over the side and into the Dumpster. That was received well, especially by cops. They size you up in two minutes, and if you're not pulling your weight, they react."

When it came time to leave all that behind and commit to TV writing, Devine sat down with her children. Youngest daughter Rachel and son Austin were OK with the idea. Middle child Katherine had reservations.

"She said, 'Mom, it's more important to catch bad guys than to work on a TV show.' I said, yes, but Mom's caught bad guys for a long time. Now I'm going to do something different.

"She was the only one who didn't support it," Devine said. "She was proud that I caught bad guys."

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