All crime fiction needs to be grounded in some kind of fact but a lot of my favourite authors have used real life events such as wars, current events and historical facts as the setting for their books. There are several different facets to this so I’m gonna take a wild stab at a few of them.
Sure all authors have to do research and make sure their facts are correct, but when it comes to writing the story the facts can make or break the book. Over-showing of research is a big a crime to me as getting basic details wrong. On the other hand detailed research fed into the story as relevant details can really educate the reader.
Take Wilbur Smith’s excellent Courtney series which starts with When the Lion Feeds. It encompasses the Boer War and the battle of Isandlwana which preceded Rourke’s Drift in the Anglo-Zulu wars. Smith weaves his characters into known facts and gave a very educating account of both conflicts while the story was really a grand adventure. As the series progressed through the decades both the first and second world wars were included although in a lesser way. By reading Smith’s books I have learned so much about African history while being entertained by a great story.
Similarly Steve Berry’s books are rich on historical details and I have had a wonderful education from him on many different subjects. His novels though deal with historical findings and the way he welds fact and action together never fails to keep me turning pages.
The juxtaposition to these novels is the modern news story based books by Tom Cain. Cain tackles issues such as the
riots, the banking crisis and the death of Diana – Princes of Wales in his action fuelled novels. What he does so brilliantly is take current events as the background to his novels, then his main protagonist has to battle all kinds of different forces as he pursues his goal. UK
Conversely one of the best selling books ever – The Da Vinci Code – challenges known religious beliefs with alternate theories as to the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail.
Personally I love it when an author educates me while entertaining me. What about you, does fact in fiction float your boat or sweep you overboard?