Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Novels - Fiction or Fact? Or a little of both?

Ok, when you are reading a novel have you ever wondered precisely how much research was put into the story?  Where does the line between fact and imagination cross in a work of fiction?

Our Death in the Stacks - Mystery Book Discussion and Lunch Group is currently reading 'Hardball : a V.I. Warshawski novel' by Sara Paretsky. Warshawski, a private investigator in Chicago, is hired by an elderly lady to find her son who disappeared the night before a terrible snow storm engulfed the city in January of 1967. In addition to memories about the storm, this current case is also causing Warshawski to remember being a kid during the race riots of 1966 and worrying about her father who was a Chicago policeman.

I have to confess to not being familiar with current Chicago weather or happenings let alone historical aspects of the Windy City. However, as a native Pennsylvanian used to historical snow falls and events, I became curious to know more about the events Paretsky described in her novel. So, I did want any normal person would do... I Googled it!

The Chicago Tribune happily provided me with answers....

The Chicago Blizzard of 1967
Winter in Chicago has never been easy, but this one was a record-setter.
by Allan Johnson

Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago
During his stay in the city, the civil-rights leader faced a "hateful crowd."
by Frank James

I found some additional insight into Sara Paretsky's research on her website. The author performed the best kind of research possible... she lived it! Paretsky worked as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side during the turbulent race riots in 1966.

"Like her fictional detective, Paretsky lives and dies with the Cubs, runs Chicago’s lakefront with her golden retriever, and loves to sing, taking part in community musicals. Paretsky lives on Chicago’s south side with her husband, a member of the University of Chicago’s Fermi Institute." (http://www.saraparetsky.com/biography/)

Which brings us around to the advice given to many beginning authors... write about what you know!

Ms. Paretsky's novels are available through our library system, including Hardball and the first V.I. Warshawski novel, Indemnity Only.

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