Our Book Club Friday guest today is author Peter Guttridge. Peter is a novelist, writing teacher, crime fiction critic, a long-standing fiction prize judge, and a chairperson/interviewer at a wide range of literature festivals and events. He has also recently resumed his role as film critic for Shots magazine and is currently an Academic Writer in Residence at Leeds Trinity University. You can read more about Peter at his website. Also, Peter will be giving away a copy of City of Dreadful Night to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP
Writing Fiction Based on Real Events
The great comic crime novelist, Carl Hiaasen, once wrote: “given the real stuff happening all around me, sometimes writing fiction is a futile endeavour”. He was referring specifically to a real-life incident in Florida in which a local congressman had been found in a cheap motel, naked, in bed with an alligator. “If I’d made that up,” Hiaasen said, “people would have said it was too far-fetched.”
As a comic crime novelist I was always on the lookout for real life craziness that would translate into funny but just about believable stories. I got a character in my second novel, A Ghost of A Chance, from a magazine photograph of a man standing on a beach with a pint of beer in his hand. He was naked except for a thong and he was painted from head to toe in horizontal black and white stripes. An accountant by day, in the evenings and weekends he liked to go around as a zebra. His ambition was to go into the hills as one of a herd of zebra with a group of “like-minded people.”
But now I’ve moved from the Daft Side to the Dark Side my engagement with real events is more problematic. My new novel, City of Dreadful Night, is based on a 1934 unsolved true crime. A butchered woman, her head never found, her identity never established, her killer never caught.
For this definitely non-comic novel I had access to a mass of detail in the police files. I had to be ruthless, not allowing myself to pile in my novel some fascinating stuff that had nothing to do with the story I was trying to tell. Ruthless enough? Yes - but as City of Dreadful Night is now the first of a trilogy, that stuff might still make it in.
Thanks for joining us today, Peter. Any comments or questions, readers? Remember, post a comment to enter the drawing for a copy of City of Dreadful Night. And don't forget to stop back on Sunday to see if you're the winner. -- AP