“Gone Girl” Writer Sought Advice From Vt. Detective

Gillian Flynn's global bestseller inspired a big-screen adaptation starring Ben Affleck

A retired detective with the Burlington, Vermont police department volunteered as an advisor to the author of "Gone Girl." The wildly popular 2012 novel inspired the new film of the same title, starring Ben Affleck. 20th Century Fox released the mystery thriller Friday.

"She was pretty much right on," said Emmet Helrich, describing the authenticity of author Gillian Flynn's storytelling from a police perspective.

Helrich, a former lieutenant with the Burlington Police Department who now works with Chittenden County's Rapid Intervention Community Court, said a newspaper reporter he knew from his police work asked him once to advise a friend, Flynn, on a novel she was working on. Helrich said that inquiry led him to answer Flynn's questions about law enforcement topics that arose as she wrote her two novels preceding "Gone Girl."

The relationship continued through the writing process of “Gone Girl,” Helrich explained.

Flynn's global bestseller centers around a woman's disappearance and the rising police, media, and public suspicion of her husband. Helrich told New England Cable News the writer contacted him several times, wanting to know theoretical details about law enforcement, including how many officers would be assigned to a case, how they'd approach a possible crime scene, and what detectives would say to the spouse of a missing person.

"You don't think, ‘This is going to be a blockbuster,’ you're just helping somebody out," Helrich said of his early interactions with Flynn. "She had the whole book. I didn't offer her one bit as far as the scenarios; just sort of dressing up the scenarios a little bit, I guess you could call it."

Helrich said he did not offer new input on the screenplay version of "Gone Girl," also written by Flynn for director David Fincher. Helrich, who said he plans to see the movie, added he hopes the fact the novelist wrote the screenplay will make for a powerful screen adaptation.

"You could tell that there was somebody that knew what they were doing from the police side," observed Tod Gross of downtown Burlington's Phoenix Books, who described himself as a fan of Flynn's novel.

Gross called "Gone Girl" a true page-turner, and told NECN it has been the store's top title for a couple of years now. He said he expects the Hollywood version to drive even more interest. "Movies are incredibly powerful sellers of books," he said.

Helrich said he relishes his spotlight in the book's acknowledgements section. "I was always amazed when someone would say, 'Oh, I read your name in the acknowledgements of so and so's book,' and I'd be, 'Wow!'" Helrich recalled. "Someone does read them-- a lot of people do read them!"

This summer, NECN featured Emmet Helrich's work with the Rapid Intervention Community Court. Click here for that story.

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