Saturday, February 02, 2008

A crime story that hit close to home, a question for readers

I started Giles Blunt's The Delicate Storm ten days ago, eager to see how Blunt wrote about Quebec's October Crisis of 1970, a period through which I lived. It transpires that he wrote about it with near-journalistic accuracy.

Though the novel's setting is contemporary (it was published in 2003), its crimes have their roots in 1970. Blunt's narrative of that time is a roman à clef . Pierre Laporte, the federal labor minister murdered by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), becomes in The Delicate Storm a provincial politician named Raoul Duquette. James Cross, the British trade commissioner kidnapped by the FLQ, becomes a British consul named Stuart Hawthorne, though Blunt had the clever idea of making Hawthorne younger than Cross, so he can come back thirty years after the fact, still vigorous, to talk about his kidnapping.

Other events are similarly referred to, thinly disguised by name changes and, if my memory serves me well, I went to summer camp with a member of one family referred to by its real name in the novel.

How about you, readers? What fictional accounts have you read of periods or events that you experienced firsthand? How did you feel reading such accounts?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked reading Richard Condon's novels many years ago. The Manchurian Candidate is famously based on the Kennedy assassination but although my memory fails me, I think the others were on similar themes.

Of course the Kennedy assassination has been the subject of far too many books and films (I resist writing "done to death"), apart from the Man C, the one that sticks in my mind is The Parallax View (the book, but movie good too).

I was extremely young (!) when Kennedy was assasinated, but I do remember it, mainly via my parents' reaction.

I can't call to mind any local events, but of course 9/11 has been fodder for many novels.

Doris Lessing's "The Good Terrorist" is a book I enjoyed (apart from the weak ending) - I guess this was loosely based on Patti Smith and similar cases at the time.

Perhaps my favourite of all is The Little Drummer Girl by John LeCarre, remarkably prescient about middle east terrorism, though foretelling a culture rather than being based on a specific real-life event, I think? I have an idea that another of my favourites by him, the one about Vientiane (can't remember the title just now), was based on real events of the journalists out there before the communist takeover.

I enjoyed your post, because as you know I like these Giles Blunt books very much but did not know (or had forgotten) that this is based on a true event.

February 03, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

If you're interested in the Octobe Crisis (which I always think os The Year They Cancelled Halloween because I was ten years old and living on the south shore of Montreal at the time and we couldn't go out after dark) you might want to check out Michel Basilieres' 2003 novel, BLACK BIRD. It takes those events - and a lot of other Montreal history - and plays prett fast and loose with it, very magic realism kind of stuff, and very good.

Of course, there's also Brian Moore's, REVOLUTION SCRIPT.

February 03, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, if you were on the South Shore, that would have put you closer to the FLQ safe house, though I'm not sure anyone knew about the safe house at the time. I was right around your age (still am, I reckon), and I don't remember anything so drastic as being barred from trick or treating; I may have considered myself too old for such things at age 11, anyhow. Mostly I remember the newspaper stories, the pictures of Laporte and Cross, and the names of the most prominent felquistes. Thanks for the heads-up on the books.

Maxine, I wonder if someone a few years older than you are might feel an especially personal connection to fictional accounts of the Kennedy assassination. Or perhaps those fictional accounts, so different from a young child's memories, might be interesting in its own way to someone well under ten (as I was!) when Kennedy was killed. How about it?

February 03, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I keep meaning to read De Lillo's "Libra," since it uses (as I understand it) the JFK assassination as a principal plot point.

I was thirteen that day; I attended the services at Arlington National Cemetery.

February 03, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yikes, that should give you a personal connection to any JFK-related story. And Libra offers a fictionalized account of Lee Harvey Oswald's life, so one guesses that JFK would play a role, too.

February 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting question, Peter....will think on it!
I was quite a bit older when John Lennon was assassinated and remember the moment well, hearing it on the radio 3 morning news. But I am not aware of any fictionalised accounts of it.

February 04, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I remember the John Lennon assassination well; I was an adult then, or at least a college student. The only reason I remember that the date was Monday, Dec. 7, 1980, was that Monday was production night for my college newspaper, and we were putting the paper out when the news came through.

Other than that, I am afraid to say, I remember being surprised that people regarded the killing as such a shattering event. In my mind, it was not up there with JFK, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. But then, the latter two of those killings have not been the subject of fictional portrayals either, as far as I know. Maybe after JFK was killed, the reading and writing public was no longer shocked at the notion that a widely known public figure could be killed so publicly.

February 04, 2008  

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