Sunday, 17 July 2011

Case Histories, Kate Atkinson and True Crime

The Hanging Wood is due to be published in the UK later this month, and I'm planning to go back to a daily blog post for the next fortnight, as if to celebrate! I'm also looking forward to my first panel at the Harrogate Festival - where I hope to see some of you - and the book launch at Gladstone's Library.

Meanwhile, I just watched the final two episodes of the (in my opinion) enjoyable Case Histories starring the excellent Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie. The changes to Kate Atkinson's book, When will there be good news? were many, but I thought it still worked pretty well.

The story seems clearly to have derived in part from the terrible case of Lin, Megan and Josie Russell, though I've seen some reports where Atkinson says she got the idea from another attack on a woman in a park. Whatever, she makes brilliant use of the concept of a girl who is a true survivor, and this came through in the TV version.

It did make me wonder, though. What other crime novels of the past 20 years have been based on or influenced by real life crimes?


Anonymous said...

Martin - Interesting question. I'm quite sure a number of novels have been influenced by crimes that actually happened, even if those crimes weren't widely publicised. Thanks for getting my brain started up :-).

Deb said...

I think it's a given that all fiction writers tend to use real-life events for inspiration. It's not so much whether a writer uses a particularly heinous crime as inspiration, but how they use it. I think I've posted before about how disappointed ("shocked" might be a better word) I was that Elizabeth George clearly used the Jamie Bulger tragedy as part of her book THIS BODY OF DEATH. It wasn't so much that she based some of her book on the Bulger case, but that she used it in a rather throwaway subplot that could have easily been resolved another way without ever bringing the murder of a child by other children into the story.

My reaction is different to Atkinson's book because, unlike George, Atkinson kept the Russell case (if indeed that was her inspiration) front and center to the story. The murders and their aftermath framed a major portion of the book, which I feel honors the victims much more than the way George used the Bulger case.

Anonymous said...

Not many that I will have read, as it seems to me that the concept of ´true crime´ is mainly for writers with no imagination of their own ;)

Well, of course there are exceptions, such as you and Kate Atkinson. And have you read Megan Abbott´s absolutely brilliant Bury Me Deep? Old crime but new story.

Dorte H.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, Deb, Dorte, thanks.
This is a subject that fascinates me. Wilkie Collins was among those who used true crime as a source for novels. So did Sayers, Francis Iles and many others in the Golden Age. But I think it's less common now.
Deb, I still haven't read the George book. Of course, the Bulger case was a huge issue in Merseyside, and really still is.
Dorte, no, I haven't read it, do tell me more!