Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, March 24, 2013 Under: Writing fiction
Just published “The Pick Up”, a long-ish short story (11,000 words) which is in some respects a companion piece to “The Hardest Word” (although it deals with very different subject matter).
If I’m lucky enough to get much of a response, I will be interested to see how readers react to the incident in the playground which is at the centre of the story. If people don’t believe it could happen, that may mean that I haven’t described it convincingly enough – because it is based on something which actually happened to me. However, unlike the central character in the story, I apologised (admittedly somewhat grudgingly) to the family I had upset. In real life, that was the end of the matter - whereas in the story, it escalates into an angry confrontation, triggering a chain of events which lead to the central character being “doorstepped” by our rather ferocious tabloid press. As to the rights and wrongs of it all, I really don’t know what the answer is. I certainly didn’t mean any harm by what I did, but perhaps I was in the wrong.
Hopefully most UK readers will “get” which real life news stories are being alluded to in terms of the completely fictionalised plot elements involving the press and the police - but for the benefit of any non-UK readers who are curious about the background, the following may help (NB – contains some plot spoilers):
- Media frenzy over paedophiles: in late 2012 there was something of a media frenzy in the UK over allegations that a well known BBC TV presenter, Jimmy Savile (now dead), had been involved in child abuse over many years. It appears that the authorities were aware of the allegations but did not investigate them properly (a subsequent police investigation has concluded that many of the complaints were well-founded). The media frenzy over Savile led to the airing of similar allegations of paedophilia against others – including a retired politician who turned out to be innocent (the BBC, distracted by criticisms of its handling of the Savile affair, led the way on the erroneous allegations against this figure - click here for details). It is against this background that “The Pick Up” is intended to take place.
- Phone hacking, privacy and the press: the UK has always had a fairly ferocious tabloid press, which may be a good thing in some respects (e.g. holding politicians to account) – but it’s not so good for ordinary people who find themselves on the receiving end of a tabloid “monstering” (which is what happens to the central character in “The Pick Up”). Now you might well ask why anyone in the UK should be shocked by this – are we all so naïve that we can’t see how tabloid journalism operates? But people have been genuinely shocked by revelations that certain UK newspapers have engaged in illegal phone hacking in a large number of cases where there was no public interest justification for it. The same revelations have also led to the closure of one tabloid newspaper and prompted the UK government to undertake a major review of press regulation.
- The police and the press: The phone hacking scandal has also highlighted the close relationship between the UK police and certain journalists. Presumably the police cultivated these links because they have a difficult enough job as it is, without making things worse by getting on the wrong side of the press. But on phone hacking, it appears to have made them reluctant to investigate further, despite evidence that the scale of it went much further than a small number of “rogue employees.” Another recent investigation – into a fatal incident at a football (soccer) stadium in 1987 – has found that police actively encouraged journalists to publish misleading stories about who was actually to blame (in order to distract attention from their own failings). The relevance of these events to the “The Pick Up” is in the suggestion that the “monstering” of the central character by the tabloid press is triggered by a police tip-off.
“The Pick Up” is available on Smashwords – click here to go to a download page.
UPDATE 30.3.2013: now also available on Feedbooks.
In : Writing fiction
Tags: "the pick up" "media hysteria" "tabloid press" "phone hacking" leveson paedophiles "jimmy savile" "hillsborough disaster"
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