Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Is truth stranger than fiction?

Given that I am currently writing a serial based around what is best described as a ‘delicate’ subject, I woke up thinking about how people often refuse to believe things, because they appear to be unbelievable. When you read a horror or fantasy novel, you know that vampires and werewolves don’t exist, and you suspend belief so that you can just enjoy it. Much the same can be said for traditional romantic fiction, where serving maids or tavern wenches end up married to princes or dukes. We know it doesn’t happen very often (if at all) in real life, but we seek a diversion, and a happy ending.

But what about books (or films) dealing with the bad things that really happen? Serial-killers, child molesters, other sexual deviants, or unrelenting psychopaths who leave a trail of carnage in their wake? Such things sadly happen all too often in the real world. But unlike most popular novels or films in those genres, they usually don’t end up tied up neatly, with the perpetrator behind bars, following the dedicated work of an ace detective. There are currently 212 ‘official’ unsolved murders in Britain, one dating back to the 16th century. Add to that more than 3,000 unsolved sectarian murders reported during the Northern Ireland troubles, and real life shows us that it is all too possible to kill someone, and get away with it.

What about those stories where someone goes missing? Because they like to have a neat ending, they are usually found, again by a detective, or perhaps a dedicated friend. If not, then we might read about the discovery of their body instead. But few books or films conclude with the ending ‘never found’. It is known that that almost 275,000 people are reported missing every year, just in the UK. The majority of those eventually return, contact the authorities, or turn up somewhere else. But at least 18,000 are never seen or heard of again. Read that number again. 18,000. In the USA, the number is far greater, with around 2,000 people reported missing every day. Yes, every day. That’s 730,000 a year. At least ten of those reported daily are never seen or heard of again, leaving a missing total of 3,650, not accounting for the many thousands who are found dead soon after, or much later.

If I read those numbers in a novel, I might have decided that it stretched my credibility.

If any of you have ever read any of my ambulance stories, you may well agree that many of them sound far-fetched, almost unbelievable. In fictional medical dramas, people who suffer terrible injuries almost always recover, thanks to the dedication of the familiar staff. Should someone suffer a cardiac arrest, a few pumps on the chest or two zaps from a defibrillator will see them up and about in no time. They are usually leaving for home with a smile, as the closing credits roll. In reality, that rarely happens. If you ask anyone who served alongside me in the London Ambulance Service at the time, they will confirm that, I am sure. We had a saying, ‘Dead is Dead’.
And surely nobody ever calls an emergency paramedic team because they are having trouble passing a hard stool? Oh yes they do.

So to my current serial, and its dark themes of child abuse, and consensual sex between statutory ‘minors’ and adults. We know that happens, but obviously don’t like to dwell on it. Few of us know a family or families where that sort of thing goes on. That is something that happens ‘somewhere else’, and you look on in disbelief as you watch it on news reports, unable to comprehend how the other parent could not have been aware. Hardly anyone has ever personally known an outwardly respectable man, living a seemingly blameless life whilst secretly sexually abusing his eight-year-old daughter or son, after all.

But I have. And I had no idea, until it was exposed. I saw the effects on the confused wife and strangely sexualised young girl first hand. And it was far more disturbing than anything I had ever read in a book, or seen on a film.

So I have to conclude that the old saying is correct.
Truth is stranger than fiction

You couldn’t make it up.

52 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

  1. You are so right, Pete. I have always been a fan of horror and although I know many people don’t enjoy it, in my case I know that much horror cannot compare with what really goes on in life. And yes, some of the things I’ve seen and heard would make readers of a novel think it was not realistic enough. Oh, well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What I find most difficult is the refusal of unaffected people to believe the truths of the exploited. Instead I am amazed at the way people can deflect and come up with reasons not to believe. I was at a large church and knowing the percentage of abuse among Christians asked the pastor’s wife to be aware of kids being abused. She said that there was no way any child was being molested at our church! Later of course I learned of one specific case, though I am sure there were others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I deliberately excluded religion from my story. That was because the second most common abusers of children in the UK are churchmen, especially Catholics. But the first and most consistent abusers are parents. Usually the father, but sometimes the mother too.
      It is a tragic statistic.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And in the news today – the senior member of the Roman Catholic church in Melbourne… Six years doesn’t seem a long time for that abuse. It is a heart-wrenching topic, Pete, and I look forward to the serial. Cheers, E

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to wonder if fiction reflected life, or conversely gave people ideas that became real events.
      But experience has taught me that nobody can imagine anything worse than what happens every day, behind all those closed doors.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When we read, we want to be entertained and know something about a particular place or a subject. I don’t read books that make me disappointed or not satisfied at all. I shy away from depressing subjects too except reading books where they teach in the process and you learn while reading. Great post Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Having stayed in a spot in Scarborough when I was 18, run by some scallies who were duping the DSS on rent money and putting about 10 of us in one room, I saw first hand what happened to the younger and more vulnerable as they were singled out for ‘something else’ I would imagine a number of the lads there went missing. I was only there a few nights before I sussed it all out and took off. An old friend, who worked for social services in Leeds told me that it was likely part of a ring that shipped runaways between London, Leeds and Scarborough. Not something I like to think about much, but these things go on in plane sight sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I buy a lot of books for my Mom, who likes a wide variety of genres…except she found one series of Detective novels just too violent – telling stories designed to shock and make us imagine the worst in everyone…when you see it happen in real-life, there’s no stomach to make it up and “imagine” it…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Unfortunately, truth is worse than fiction when it comes to the depravity of human beings. I go through periods when I can not read fiction because it reminds me of what is happening behind closed doors. Friends often say they do not understand that, “for it is only fiction.” Yes, and it is not as bad as real life for some. Nevertheless, I do take breaks from fiction for my stated reason. Warmest regard, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am a firm believer that the truth is stranger than fiction. That is why I like historical fiction, based on a true story, kinds of stories. That said, as I get older, I don’t care for extreme deviant stories (like horror movies). I know the horrors of people and life and prefer to stay away from it as a subject matter. It easily depresses me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is understandable, Cindy. Though I sometimes think it is important to confront the evil in this world, or at least be aware of it. So for the younger generation, I believe such stories still have value.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My Work in Progress is about missing persons – the whole idea is chilling. Probably there is an explanation for most – a skeleton might turn up centuries later. But there is always the possibility of alien abduction and time travel do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think the internet has answered your question…..we can find anything to justify anything…..pople will believe what they want without checking their beliefs out…..so I say that truth is stranger than fiction…at least these days….chuq

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have not known anyone that way inclined (at least I don’t think I have) but have been present in my nursing capacity when a little girl had to be examined for damage after being abused, that tore my heart. There are a lot of bad people in the world, I’m glad I only know good ones.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it was someone I knew reasonably well, friends of my second wife. They had moved from London to Bristol with his job, and once there away from close family members, he started. (She was around 4 at the time, and it went on for 4 years) We visited them again after his court case and imprisonment, and it was one of the most unsettling weekends of my life, to see how the girl was behaving at the age of 9. I didn’t expect that, I can tell you.
      Even more appalling was the decision of the social workers to allow ‘supervised access’ on his release later on. Unbelievable!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. This was in 1995. Hopefully, things have changed now. The girl asked if she could come and stay with us in London to see the sights, and her mum agreed. But I didn’t want to chance being alone with her at any time, so I used the excuse of work.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. Traditionally, the most trusted protectors of children are their parents. Sadly, they are also the most likely to abuse them. It’s like a game of Russian Roulette, depending on who conceived you.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

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