Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Job Hazards: Crime Author Charged With Murder...

...after police read his perfect plot.

This is rather a fascinating case, because it opens up all sorts of interesting questions. There is undoubtedly a risk when authors draw inspiration from real crimes. They risk offending family of the victim(s) and they also risk coming off as an opportunist, cashing in on the suffering of others.

However, I doubt many have found themselves on trial for murder.

Although the case sounds mostly circumstantial, "the book contained intimate details of the murder that could be known only to police — or the killer. Further investigations revealed that the victim was an acquaintance of Mr Bala’s estranged wife." If the police can prove that, they may just get a conviction. Since people have been convicted of murder without a body ever being found, physical evidence isn't always the clincher, or essential.

Whatever the outcome, this is food for thought for crime fiction authors. On the one hand, being charged with murder is one way to get free publicity and press coverage...

For myself, I do draw from real cases, in so much as they inspire me to think about certain issues. I have never taken an actual case and literally translated it into a story. I see there as being a huge difference. One exploits. The other is what I consider to be crime fiction at its best, using the forum to address current social issues. It can be a fine line between the two, but the reason I appreciate crime fiction with social relevance is that it actually has meaning and significance for the reader, and goes beyond mere entertainment value. Some people like their sitcoms and some people like their intense dramas and some like their news shows. I'm somewhere between the last two. If crime fiction didn't address issues, I wouldn't be reading it.

One thing's certain, though. If Mr. Bala gets off, I bet he'll be more careful about how exactly he replicates a real crime in his fiction in the future.

(My thanks to my good friend Steve from Edinburgh for the link to the story.)

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