Bullman, Lee (2016) Nothing but the truth? Truth, true-crime, genre and 'Blowback'. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Blowback, my biography of the international drug smuggler Michael Forwell, has, since its publication, been marketed within two commercially and culturally recognised categories, namely true crime and biography. In a commercial sense these titles act as signifiers of content, communicating in broad strokes what the reader can expect from the work, where it might lie within their own view of the cultural landscape and therefore whether or not they find engagement with the work appealing. In a practical sense (i.e. from the point of view of the practitioner, the writer), these categorisations bring with them expectations of both form and content, which influence the work produced within that category to varying degrees, either by their inclusion or their absence. I intend to look at these generic and cultural expectations in relation to my own book Blowback, as well as true crime’s most consistently popular, influential and lauded texts, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry’s Helter Skelter, in order to examine the extent to which these expectations shape the work. I will also engage with the work of relevant theorists, including Christian Metz, Steve Neale and Mark Seltzer.

I also intend to provide context for both my own creative practice prior to writing Blowback and the extent to which the fiction I wrote went on to influence the ‘true’ crime described within the book.

Any study of true crime must wrestle with the genre’s relationship with truth, a relationship I will contextualise via a history of the genre which examines its long, complex and symbiotic relationship with fiction. The true crime shelves are where we store our monsters, and I aim to investigate how those monsters’ brushes with true crime (and with fiction) alter our relationship with them. Interesting notions of truth exist within the study of biography too, and I will look at these where they apply to my portrayal of Michael and his world and where I, the writer of somebody else’s story, might be located within that world.

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