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Geri L. Dreiling’s ‘Crime Beat Girl’ Paints Vivid Portrait Of A Violent St. Louis

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Provided by Geri L. Dreiling.
Geri L. Dreiling has turned to writing novels after years as a lawyer, a journalist and a public relations consultant.

Geri L. Dreiling has been a lawyer, a journalist and a public information officer. Now she’s found a way to combine all three areas of expertise, as the author of a crime novel that involves lawyers, journalists and the public officials they rely upon for information.

“Crime Beat Girl” tells the story of Debbie Bradley, who leaves her journalism job in Washington, D.C., to be closer to family in her native St. Louis. Debbie takes a job covering crime for a new magazine and, branded with the titular moniker, quickly makes inroads with local lawyers, police officers and politicians. But she also inadvertently puts some dangerous criminals on alert — and soon finds herself under (literal) fire.

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On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Dreiling discussed “Crime Beat Girl.” It’s her second novel (“Erasing the Past” was published in 2019), and the first to focus on the topics she spent years covering as a journalist and public relations representative.

Her knowledge of those various arenas came in handy, she said, but it also held her back in some ways. She felt obligated to portray the legal system as it is, she acknowledged, not just in ways that might best serve her plot.

“I had to write and rewrite and cut,” she said. “There are points where some readers may say, ‘This slowed down a little when you’re talking about legal procedure too much.’ But I thought, ‘I can’t cut that, I have to have at least this little portion in there.’”

Despite her years working as a journalist for the Riverfront Times, Missouri Lawyers Weekly and other publications, Dreiling said she actually identified just as much with Debbie’s mom, Beth.

As a mother of two kids in their 20s, Dreiling said she could understand Beth’s desire to support her daughter even while worrying about her safety.

“Beth is much more who I am now, or who I aspire to be,” she said. “I’m familiar with the give-and-take between an adult child and an adult parent, and sometimes how hard it is to let your adult children ‘adult.’”

Beth is also suffering from breast cancer, which Dreiling herself battled eight years ago.

“I wanted to create this character who demonstrated that when a person reaches middle age, you still have feelings, romance may still be a possibility — that you still are fully engaged with the world, and having an illness doesn’t mean that your life has ended,” Dreiling said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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