Friday, November 10, 2006

Fictional Forensics

Forget those CSI scenarios. Crime clear-up rates in fiction are unrealistically high, writes Liz Porter in the Age, pondering how much more complex criminal investigation turns out to be in the real world:
... readers expect a comforting restoration of order at the end of every novel - and they usually get it.
Lists of suspects are shorter, forensic testing simpler and the detectives involved enjoy much more dramatic lives than their real life counterparts. Porter says:
Work on a "true crime" book, you might think, would offer a writer the opportunity to ditch these fantasies and embrace the dreary essentials of "real life". But true-crime writers still have to entertain readers. They therefore find themselves drawn to transgressions that most resemble the material of crime fiction - stories featuring "hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate" ... Real life does throw up such narratives, but only occasionally. Murder stories are more commonly either banal and sad or so bizarre and dysfunctional as to appear entirely unbelievable.
And really she should know: her new book Written on the Skin is a behind-the-scenes look at the forensics of police detective work, which this review from New Scientist describes as:
A bedtime book only if your intellectual curiosity can override your dismay and discomfort.
If fiction's still more your thing, this list at Award Annals is a good starting point.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information regarding the book awards.

Krishna said...

I for one, am still thankful for the closures accorded the reader at the end of most fictional police procedurals. If one has a hankering for unsolved cases with perpetrators being allowed to go scot-free,the newspapers are depressingly fertile territory for such reads.
Give me my Master Criminal bound and Gagged by pg450 and my broody/vulnerable/tough/sensitive Cop Hero alive and ready to tackle the next Maniacal Killer:-)

Kak Teh said...

I am a big fan of Patricia Cornwell and she is one of those who writes unputdownable books. Quite gruesome but unputdownable. and sexy too!

The Unladen Swallow said...

Of course, which is why most writers write fiction that portrays either larger-than-life or wonderful-seeming(depending) situations. Its a means from escaping from the real world, where things are either very dull or just plain damn weird. It's just escapism, so why would anyone want to watch a forensic show where the main characters would be doing paperwork, or something like that?

pablo said...

neat little packages tied up with string and this is the way of any ending for me.
escapism = happiness. aye! aye! for unladen swallow :D

bibliobibuli said...

anonymous - welcome

krishna - yes, of course ... although according to the article one of Susan Hill's detective novels leaves a major crime unsolved ...

kak teh - must read patricia cornwell soon ... i have enjoyed some of ruth rendall's novels and short stories

unladen swallow, pablo - yes, very true ... we have to have a sense of satisfaction reading a novel

Greenbottle said...

it's understandable that crime fiction need to have larger than life characters and fantastical plots to grab their readers' attention but we all know that real life can be a lot stranger than fiction.

i feel sorry that we don't have any writers here who find it worthwhile to write books on some of our more famous crimes (malaysia boleh!)...say on mona fandey etc...and i hope somebody will someday write about this poor mongolian woman that was blown to pieces recently...i think there is a very good story in there somewhere...

the last book i read on true crime was on the serial killer john wayne gacy...and that was some years ago...