In January 2021, the university where I currently lecture (University of Wolverhampton, that is) gifted me half of a Post-Graduate module from their Popular Culture MA: Crime of the Century. In this role, I'd be talking PG students through the Jack the Ripper murders, and the ways in which these have been represented and re-presented in media outlets. This included everything from comic books and novels, through to documentaries and televised adaptations.
I was in my element. Though I soon came to realise that it wasn't just for the joy of teaching and the excitement of lively debates with students; nor was it exclusively because I was putting my own research background (the representation of female violence in contemporary crime fiction) to good use.
No, I soon realised what was actually happening was that my creative brain was kicking in, too, and a story was falling together...
I was and am utterly enamoured with the ways in which crime is represented in the media. There is a clear distinction to be drawn between those who are found guilty and/or not guilty through our country's legal system, and those who are tried for a second time through the media. The module I taught on was and remains much more varied than, 'What did the newspapers have to say about it?' Although if you cast an eye over the true crime documentaries - and everything else under this or a similar heading - that discusses crimes from the last century, you'll find that traditional news and media outlets aren't the only means for interrogating the "truth" of someone's crimes or misdeeds.
This is where Erica's story was born.
Erica is the first narrator of The Things I Didn't Do; an older woman living out her days in the countryside where she exists under a fake name to hide her past. Everyone who knows her now, knows her as Ruby. Anyone who knew her before, knew her as the woman found not guilty for murdering her husband...
Erica put me in a mindset of wondering what it must be like to have that crime follow you around for the remainder of your days. Through the book, and through Erica, I've tried to place a spotlight over the newspapers, documentaries, never-ending allegations, and consider how Erica - or another figure, even - would respond to that, and the burden it might place on her.
I don't want to be accused of laying sympathy at the door of a murderer, let that be said now. But Erica was found not guilty. So, is she a murderer at all?
The premise of the book is that Erica hires Prue, a ghost writer, with the aim of finally telling the truth of her story. Prue is to write Erica's memoir, detailing the events as they really took place. Though, of course, we have to then believe that Prue isn't hiding anything either...
The Things I Didn't Do is forthcoming with Bloodhound Books and it will be released on February 16, 2022. If you'd like to have the book waiting for you on publication day, it's now available to pre-order on Kindle for 99p, and it's also available to pre-order in paperback.
Warmest wishes and thank you for reading -
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This is my blog where I write about writing; or attempt to, at least.