Saturday, 14 November 2015

Luca Veste on Crime Fact vs Crime Fiction

Today’s guest blog is by author Luca Veste who is of Italian and Scouse descent. He has a degree in criminology and is the author of the Murphy & Rossi series of novels which are part police procedural part psychological thriller set in Liverpool. Here he talks about crime act vs crime fiction.  More information about Luca Veste can be found on his website.  You can also follow him on Twitter @lucaveste and find him on Facebook. His latest book is Bloodstream.

There's an aspect of modern life which is something of a bane for crime writers. That is this statistic...

"The British Security Industry Authority (BSIA) estimated there are up to 5.9 million closed-circuit television cameras in the country, including 750,000 in “sensitive locations” such as schools, hospitals and care homes. The survey’s maximum estimate works out at one for every 11 people in the UK (Telegraph, 2013)"

We're almost at the point where if crime fiction was a little more realistic, they'd be even shorter than a Morrissey 'novel'. Although, slightly longer than one of his sentences.

I digress.

CCTV is seemingly everywhere, but in crime fiction I think we can obscure this proliferation somewhat. We can hide bodies in more imaginative places, we can have broken cameras, or poor images. Plus, I also wonder if most people reading aren't aware of the sheer number of cameras tracking their movements on a daily basis - although current Channel 4 series 'Hunted' has probably lifted the lid for some.

There's another aspect of modern society which I think can have a greater impact in making crime novels more difficult. That is social media.

When you consider the sheer numbers of people who use arguably the two main sites - Facebook and Twitter - it's a wonder we get anything done at all. In 2014, Facebook had 31 million unique users, and Twitter had just under half that number (although growing at a faster rate than Facebook was). That's a lot of people posting pictures of their children, links to the Guardian or the Daily Mail, and angry replies to Katie Hopkins' latest controversial statement.

What accompanies this, of course, is also opinion. As a species, we're nothing if not an opinionated lot. With social media, we now have the ability to share those opinions to a wider world, with the illusion of it actually meaning anything. Therefore, when you have a major news event, a fair few people are driven to have to share their outlook on what has happened.  No matter what it is. From all sides of political leanings, ages, genders. We're encouraged to do so. News channels will publish postings from social media sites during their reporting. They'll scour those sites, looking for comments to use as a basis for an outpouring of emotion/support/opinion. Flashed across the screen, as a reporter with a serious voice reads out the words with absolute neutrality.

How does this inform a crime novel - especially those of the type I write? Well, crime novels
usually contain the most absurd of crimes. Murder. And, for the most part, multiple murders. We're lucky to live in a country where the murder rate is quite low and the serial murder rate is almost rock bottom. However, it is by using the absurd when I feel we can explore more interesting aspects of society and it is this dichotomy from which I begin each book. Which leads me onto my new book Bloodstream. The initial catalyst for the book was a different theme, but when I began writing it, another theme emerged. That of 24 hours news culture, media and violence, and the impact of social media on a police investigation. I realised this was something I wanted to consider - with more focus from the outside, how does that effect a police investigation? When everyone has an opinion, how does that make yours (as someone supposedly official) somehow better?

On one side you have an investigation going on. Police and various other departments, trawling through leads, interviewing witnesses, planning and presenting evidence. On the other - you have commenters. People who believe they know something more than those investigators do (which sometimes they do!), and can't understand how they can see the truth, but those tasked to discover it can't.

Social media has arguably greatly increased the impact major news events now have on society. Live tweeting a tragedy, victims sharing their thoughts as an incident is happening. It has now become standard for a perpetrator of a major crime to have their online postings scoured for clues to his/her personality. Selfies now become the new mug shot, shared across media for us to scrutinise. To make assumptions about a person based on a fleeting moment in their lives.

And that's what social media does - it allows you to make assumptions about people in a short period of time, becoming judge and jury in front of and amongst a baying audience. You can make mistakes without recourse, condemn without worry. How does this culture effect our understanding and experience of crime? Also, how does a news media, intent on keeping up with this change and influence of social media, keep up and still stay at the forefront of the way people receive news? That's one of the themes I wanted to explore with Bloodstream.

Bloodstream by Luca Veste, Simon & Schuster £7.99

Social media stars Chloe Morrison and Joe Hooper seem to have it all - until their bodies are found following an anonymous phone call to their high-profile agent. Tied and bound to chairs facing each other, their violent deaths cause a media scrum to descend on Liverpool, with DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi assigned to the case. Murphy is dismissive, but the media pressure intensifies when another couple is found in the same manner as the first. Only this time the killer has left a message. A link to a private video on the internet, and the words 'Nothing stays secret'. It quickly becomes clear that more people will die; that the killer believes secrets and lies within relationships should have deadly consequences...

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