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TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a private investigator, Thomas G. Martin has tracked down errant spouses and missing birth parents. He’s conducted background checks of child-care providers and investigated fraudulent businesses and sex crimes.

But the Anaheim private eye says nothing prepared him for his latest caper: Writing a book.

“If You Only Knew. . . : An Internationally Known Private Investigator Reveals How you Can Take Control of Your Life” (Griffin Publishing; $16.95) offers Martin’s advice on how “to help you feel safer, live smarter and succeed in your relationships--at home and at work.”

Based on Martin’s 28 years of experience as a private investigator and former supervisory federal agent with the Department of Justice, the book offers practical information on everything from locating lost friends and family to avoiding scams and maximizing personal safety. (Pepper sprays and other nonlethal protection devices create a false sense of security, says Martin, who offers numerous tips on how to reduce risks.)

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Martin, whose Anaheim office does more than 1,200 “marital surveillances” a year, also offers tips on how to find out if your partner is having an affair. (Does hubby come home from a long day of work smelling better than when he left? Has the number of hang-up telephone calls in your home jumped?)

Other chapters include information on stopping domestic violence, minimizing investment pitfalls, protecting yourself from sexual harassment on the job and identifying the warning signs that your teenager may be getting into trouble. There are even chapters on finding the right lawyer and what steps to take in hiring a private investigator.

Martin said writing the book, which includes Web sites and other free sources that can be used to locate missing friends and relatives, didn’t come easily.

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“It’s probably one of the most difficult tasks I’ve come across in my adult life,” Martin, 50, said. “I have a master’s degree in public management and a bachelor’s degree in scholastic philosophy, and it’s a pretty humbling experience when you write what you think is a dynamite chapter and they hand it back to you.”

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Martin said there’s something in the book for everybody.

“Not everybody needs an attorney or thinks their mate is cheating on them. I’m hoping that people will read the three or four chapters that pertain to them at this particular point in their lives.”

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The book, he said, “is written by someone who’s not a Rhodes scholar but by someone who’s got 30 years’ [experience] on the street, and I think if they look at the table of contents and say, ‘Gee, I’d like to know about teenage problems,’ and they go to that chapter there are concrete solutions to those problems there.”

Response to the book has surprised Martin.

Since its publication in mid-August, he has done about 40 radio interviews, and KCOP Channel 13 in Los Angeles featured him in a segment on personal safety, which aired around the country.

Martin said the chapters on security and how to pick a lawyer are receiving the most media interest.

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But one woman who read the book was especially interested in the section that includes “20 ways to know if your partner is cheating.” She’s now a client.

“She said, ‘Three words in your book changed my entire life.’ She read where I stated that when it comes to taking care of yourself, ‘you deserve it.’ She said, ‘Once I saw that, I decided I’d better get my act together.’ So we did a surveillance. We caught her husband with another woman, and we got her a good attorney here in town.”

Glendale-based Griffin Publishing Group, the publisher of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s series of sports, health education and fitness books, has asked Martin to develop a series of drug-education handbooks for students and teachers from kindergarten through high school.

“The amount of drug use in our schools is going off the chart,” said Martin, who spent 12 years as a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

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Three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Janet Evans, a longtime family friend of Martin’s, has been approached to be a spokeswoman for the anti-drug series.

“The core of the book will be written by me to explain drugs and why not to use them, and Janet will provide stories of her life and how, by her not getting involved in that and being disciplined, show what you can accomplish,” Martin said.

Martin, however, has no intention of leaving the private eye business and taking up writing full time.

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“I’m definitely keeping my day job,” he said with a laugh. “When they say writing a book is like giving birth--although I haven’t done it--I have a better sense of what they mean.”


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