CategoryAbout writing

True crime less ‘believable’ than fiction


We’ve had a remarkable story in New Zealand in recent days involving the Corrections department (prisons) and a convicted murderer and pedophile, Phillip Smith.  Despite his ghastly crimes and being recalled to prison after offending on parole and still being widely known as manipulative and devious, Corrections thought he was worth a try at living in the community. They set him up with a family ‘sponsor’ and without any electronic bracelet. This is after spending the best part of 13 years behind bars and reports describing him as a significant risk. Surprise, surprise, he had no intention of seizing the opportunity to reform and rehabilitate. He fled to South America and many say he should stay there.

But what’s even more bizarre is that in the lead up to being driven from behind bars to the airport, then  departing for Chile, Smith managed to acquire whilst in his cell, a passport under a former legal name. This name was also well-known to the authorities. Not only that, he put together $10K in cash from a business he ran in prison.

In my novel, Best Served Cold, (pictured above) there’s a scene when a final act of revenge is played out against an inmate. It involves the killer obtaining the cooperation of a prison manager who’d earlier been duped into believing he might regain financial losses, sustained at the hands of his prisoner. Realistic? Well that’s the nature of fiction – a series of events crafted so they lead to a plausible action. But in the case of Phillip Smith, if I’d had his series of events as a plot line  in one of my books, I’d have been criticised for a complete lack of realism and an over demanding requirement of readers for suspension of disbelief.   Who’d have thought that Corrections would not only be a source of derision but a source of the bizarre plot line.

Crime author interview

Craig Sisterson not only writes a great blog (Crime watch) promoting crime novels and novelists, he founded the New Zealand premiere annual award for NZ crime writers (Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel) . This year’s winner is pictured below.  It’s a great read.  To that end Craig is, I believe, MR CRIME in this growing community and has, almost on his own, furthered the ends of writers and readers of  crime novels in NZ and beyond.

Ngaio MarshIn this interview, I talk with Craig, but do check out and follow the rest of his blog for regular interesting updates.

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