Contemporary authors often find themselves in the uncomfortable position of defending the accuracy of their fiction, while true crime writers of dubious repute (not me) publish nonsense as if it were well-researched and factual.
I’ve never met Mark Fuhrman, author of Murder in Spokane, but I wrote a book, Body Count, about the same case. I devoted a full year to intensive research and interviews, pouring over police reports and internal communications of the Homicide Task Force. My book is, above all, accurate and correct in its portrayal of the crimes, the investigation, the errors and victories of the Task Force assigned to catch the Spokane serial killer.
Fuhrman’s book is woefully inaccurate, even devoting an entire chapter to the significance of the placement of two bodies at a dump site — and his description of the placement is completely wrong. Did anyone complain? Yes. The Homicide Task Force was outraged and furious, but the book still sold like cotton candy at the State Fair. My book, Body Count, continues to sell well also, so it’s not a case of "sales envy" that prompts me to bring up this issue. More people complain about inaccuracy, or supposed inaccuracy, in fiction than they do about errors in non-fiction. This is nothing new. Even Charles Dickens had to deal with it. Dickens used Spontaneous Human Combustion to kill off a character named Krook in his novel Bleak House. Krook was a heavy alcoholic, true to the popular belief at the time that SHC was caused by
excessive drinking. The novel caused a
minor uproar; George Henry Lewes, philosopher and critic, declared that SHC
was impossible, and derided Dickens’
work as perpetuating an uneducated superstition. Dickens responded to this
statement in the preface of the 2nd edition of his work, making it quite clear that he had researched the subject and knew of about thirty cases of SHC. The details of Krook’s death in Bleak House were directly modeled on the details of the death of the Countess Cornelia de Bandi Cesenate by this extraordinary means; the only other case that Dickens actually cites is the Nicole Millet account that inspired another book about 100 years earlier.