14 October 2008

Book Review: Sex, Lies and Handwriting

And that's two!

Quick Stats
Genre - Non fiction
Length - About 300 pages of largish print
Author - Michelle Dresbold

"Handwriting expert Michelle Dresbold -- the only civilian to be invited to the United States Secret Service's Advanced Document Examination training program -- draws on her extensive experience helping law enforcement agencies around the country on cases involving kidnapping, arson, forgery, murder, embezzlement, and stalking to take us inside the mysterious world of crossed t's and dotted i's. ... Looks can be deceiving, but handwriting never lies."

First Impressions
Excellent. The author gives good, clear examples and applications to real-life cases that she's worked on, which is great. I found myself going, "Just one more section, I'll only read one more"... She introduces you to the basics quick enough that you can get a handle on what's going on, and see what she's talking about.

High Points
The tone of the book, which is incredibly easy to read and is entertaining as it informs. The concrete examples, even if they are occasionally contradictory (see low points). The real-life applications - this book is choc full of actual criminal investigations and analyses of writing that broke cases. Much coolness.

Low Points
The fact that according to how I interpret what she's saying, my handwriting says I'm a con-artist* who can't keep a secret and has a quick temper. *less than impressed* Yes, I have scrawly handwriting. No, I don't think it's because I have a deep-seated desire to confuse people with what I'm saying, or to deliberately make it illegible. I think it's because I'm too lazy to write neatly, and write very fast in order to get all my thoughts down as quick as possible. I hate handwriting. That's what keyboards are for. (On the plus side, my handwriting also shows I'm an upbeat, happy kind of person.)

Besides, doctors have scrawly handwriting, and they're not all con-artists, are they? (hehe, maybe don't answer that one O:))

The other thing that annoyed me a little about this book stems from the fact that I am not a black and/or white person. Shades of grey, people, shades of grey! Circumstances matter! Just because something means such-and-such in isolation, doesn't mean it means that all the time. Of course, the black-and-white-ness of the book is, I think, caused by the fact that she's trying to pack years' worth of learning into a single, easy-to-read beginner's book. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that handwriting analysis isn't actually so clearcut :)

This was my read-during-the-quiet-times-at-work book. Sections are small enough that you can read them in sometimes under a minute, so it's perfect for having around to read in small snatches and bites :) And despite the title, it's a respectible enough book that you don't get odd looks when someone asks you what you're reading :D

Non-fic books will get an additional rating: Application to Writing (since that is, after all, the point of this blog!). Sex, Lies and Handwriting was fun to read, but unless you happen to be writing crime scene investigation novels where the MC could utilise handwriting analysis, it's probably not the most useful non-fic book. It's not really something you can just drop into a novel unless you've set it up.

(The miller's daughter looked down at the note the farmer's son had passed her. Oh no, she thought. He slashes his i's. And look at those t's! Not to mention the anatagonist p's... And my, oh my, is that a weapon stroke I see? Methinks I shall stay far away from this 'gentleman'...)


* Pondering on this later, it occurred to me that perhaps I am a conartist. I am a writer, after all, O:) the whole business of which is to dupe people into believing our lies (stories)...


Lady Glamis said...

Gasp! Are my stories lies? Hehehe. I think you're right. All of us writers can be called liars - if looked at in a specific light. ;)

And you're also right about your list of books. There's some stuff on there that looks like I might enjoy it. Yay! More books to add to my list. *groan*

This one sounds extremely interesting. I love this kind of stuff. I might give it a try (after I read everything else that's impatiently waiting in the sidelines).

Inkblot said...

It's like that, isn't it :S

Heh, and the whole writers-are-liars thing was the only thing I could come up with to excuse my handwriting, so I'm sticking with it! :D

marieconley3 said...

I so want to read this book now!

Anonymous said...

Sorry you had to spend your hard earned money on the book.

It appears that she has represented herself as an expert in the handwriting field but instead, she has pilfered her information from other people (You can Google phrases out of her book and you will see that exact sentences and paragraphs came from websites such as Wikipedia and other independent sites).

Author Michelle Dresbold claims she can tell you your personality from your handwriting, but she also claims that she is a forensic handwriting expert. Being a forensic handwriting expert is a different discipline that identifies or excludes a writer of a writing. She ‘graduated’ from an advanced course sponsored by the United States Secret Service Questioned Documents (another name for forensic handwriting) which does not qualify you to become a full fledged forensic handwriting course. They tell you right at the course “This does not qualify you to be a questioned document examiner. This course is an overview.” Michelle Dresbold has violated that by not having had additional verifiable training and has held herself out to be qualified after ‘completion’ of the course. You will note in all her public relations material that she claims she ‘graduated’ from the United Stated Secret Service Questioned Document Course. The USSS says that it is only a course and not a school, so there was no ‘graduation,’ just a certificate of completion for attending. Anyone civilian can get into that USSS Questioned Document course if they can get someone from a State or Federal agency to sponsor them. If you have a friend in the police dept., all they have to do is to sign your application to say that it is okay for you as a civilian to go. Oh, and Dresbold stating that she is the “only civilian” to have completed the USSS Questioned Document course is another lie. I know of others.

Please note that Dresbold has never worked for the Secret Service as a forensic handwriting expert. You can call the USSS and check. The person I spoke to is quite aware of her book and to say that they are displeased is a great understatement. Just to clear the record, the Secret Service does not teach graphology.

The biggest lie Dresbold told in her book was that she did a forensic analysis of the JonBenet Ramsey Ransom Note and Patsy Ramsey’s handwriting. Dresbold stole the handwriting comparison charts from a Board Certified Forensic Handwriting Expert who actually worked on the case. Dresbold published that Handwriting Expert’s work in her book, showed the same charts on TV and claimed it was her work…until she was found out and sued by the real author (Cina Wong) of the work. See link below for article.


Excerpt from Forums For Justice link:

The special Karma of this whole situation is this.

1) Cina Wong did her homework and took Simon & Schuster to task and won in a copyright infringement suit involving her handwriting analysis that Michelle Dresbold used in her book, "Sex, Lies and Handwriting" published by that company.

3) Michelle Dresbold apparently thought she could use Cina Wong's analysis charts in her book "Sex, Lies and Handwriting," as though they were her own work. Ironically the title of the book having the word "Lies" included, obviously, in my opinion fits well with Dresbold's character that she included another persons analysis charts, not only not giving Cina Wong credit for the work but went on the Bill O'Reilly show talking as if she did the analysis!


I guess we have to do our research before we fork over our money for books.

Inkblot said...

Indeed, though sadly that is not always possible - or even under consideration - when one is merely browsing a sales table :)

However, thank you for setting the record straight. I can now dismiss any lingering fears about my handwriting and move on :D

Welcome to Inkfever :)

Signature Forgery said...

I enjoyed your entries on Toxic Words - such great thoughts and a wonderful reminder to watch the words I use - to be positive and kind and use words to build up rather than tear down. :)
Forged documents | Handwriting analyst

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