In Cold Blood: The Story Behind The First True Crime Novel

In-Cold-Blood-by-Truman-Capote-Howard-Linskey

The first true crime novel almost destroyed the man who wrote it. Howard Linskey, an author featured in CBS Reality’s new true crime TV series Written In Blood, finds out why.

The story of the first true crime novel is as famous as the crime that inspired it – and the man who completed the book never wrote another.

Truman Capote was already a literary star in 1959, when he read about the Clutter killings in the quiet town of Holcomb. Capote was famous for writing Breakfast at Tiffany’s but he wanted to try something new – the first ‘non-fiction novel’ – and this felt like the ideal subject.

Herbert Clutter and his family were brutally murdered when two men broke into their farm one night, looking for money they thought was locked in a safe that did not in fact exist. Enraged, they resolved to leave no witnesses. Herbert’s throat was cut then he was blasted with a shotgun; his wife Bonnie, their fifteen-year-old son Kenyon and sixteen-year-old daughter Nancy were all gunned down before their killers fled.

Truman Capote left New York for the scene of the murders, travelling with none other than Harper Lee, his best friend since childhood and author of the recently completed, To Kill A Mockingbird, which would soon become a huge sensation. Capote and Lee arrived at a small town still reeling from the shock of the murders. The eccentric, effeminate, outspoken Capote must have stood out a mile in rural Kansas but he charmed the inhabitants of Holcomb and even the special investigator, Alvin Dewey, to get the inside information he was looking for. The one thing Capote lacked was any trace of the killers. It seemed the police trail had run cold.

Six weeks later, a former cell mate who knew of their plan to rob the safe, identified Perry Smith and Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock as the Holcomb murderers. They were arrested, tried and sentenced to death by hanging, admitting their guilt along the way.

This is where the story of In Cold Blood takes a highly unusual turn. Despite the savage and brutal nature of the crimes, Capote decided it was necessary to get the killer’s version of events, because it would humanise them and make his book more vivid. He arranged to visit the convicted men and struck up an unlikely friendship with them, bonding with Perry Smith in particular, thanks in part to the murderer’s interest in art, music and books. He kept up a correspondence with Smith for five long years, while the death sentences were repeatedly appealed and his novel remained tantalisingly incomplete.

Capote realised he had placed himself in an impossible position by getting too close to the killers. In a bitter twist worthy of any crime story, he did not want Perry to hang, yet needed the sentences to be carried out if he was ever going to have an ending for his book. The mental torment on Capote began to grow.

“I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.” – Perry Smith by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood.

As one of ten crime authors asked to appear in CBS Reality’s new true crime series Written In Blood, which began on 3 September, I prefer to keep my distance from real-life killers. Mark Billingham, Peter James, Simon Kernick, Angela Clarke, Marnie Riches, RC Bridgestock, Luke Delaney, Elly Griffiths, Alex Marwood and myself have all written books influenced, in part or whole, by true crimes, ranging from the callous, so-called honour killing of Banaz Mahmod to the horrific James Bulger murder.

My episode covers the infamous Moors murderer, Ian Brady, who, with Myra Hindley, killed five children in the early sixties. My novel The Search features a fictional character, loosely based on Brady and in no way sympathetic to him. When young Susan Verity disappears, suspicion falls on Adrian Wicklow, who shares Brady’s sadistic desire to torment the police. My research on Brady was disturbing enough without actually having to sit down with the real killer, who ironically died, after 51 years in prison, just one week after The Search was published.

Even if I had been writing about the Moors murderers themselves, I could never imagine visiting Brady – let alone striking up a friendship with him – to gain insight into his awful crimes. Rightly or wrongly, Capote put himself through that very process to complete his novel, but it took a terrible toll on him.

Perry Smith and Richard Hickock eventually lost their final appeals and both men went to the gallows on 14 April 1965. They asked Capote to be there when they died and he reluctantly agreed, witnessing Hickock hang but running out of the room just before Perry was executed.

Truman finally had his ending, but the anguish that caused him and the six years it took to finish In Cold Blood drove Capote close to madness. He never finished another book. Instead, he was left with lifelong addictions to drink and drugs that directly contributed to his early demise from liver disease in 1984, aged just 59.

Two Hollywood films have been made about Capote’s obsession with the Clutter family murders and their killers. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman won a best actor Oscar playing him in Capote, while British actor, Toby Jones, earned rave reviews for his equally brilliant portrayal of Truman in Infamous.

The book was finally published in 1966 and was a huge success. In Cold Blood is still in print and considered something of a masterpiece. The first true crime novel has been translated into thirty languages and sold millions of copies. Whether Truman himself considered it all worth it in the end is debatable.

***

Written in Blood airs every Sunday at 10pm since 3 September, exclusively on CBS Reality. Howard Linskey’s episode on the Moors Murderers will be broadcast on 5 November.

Via: https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/in-cold-blood-truman-capote-howard-linskey/amp/

Transgender teddy to girl pirate: Authors tackle gender norms

Transgender-teddy

FRANKFURT

From a transgender teddy bear to a fearless girl pirate, children’s authors are tackling gender norms like never before, as debate rages about what it means to be a boy or girl.

Visitors at this week’s Frankfurt book fair, the world’s largest publishing event, will be faced with a string of books for young readers that defy stereotypes and navigate today’s hot-button issues of transsexuality and gender fluidity.

Stories with transgender lead characters in particular have broken one of the last “taboos” left in children’s writing, said literary expert Nicola Bardola.

“Some are watching this trend nervously, these kinds of books still make critics uncomfortable,” Swiss-born Bardola said, an author himself.

One of the most headline-grabbing recent titles has been “Introducing Tilly”, a tender story about Thomas the teddy bear who tells a friend: “I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy.”

The picture book, aimed at children aged four and older, was written by Australian Jessica Walton who was inspired by her own father’s transition to a woman.

Translated into German last year as “Teddy Tilly”, Bardola called the book “a phenomenon”.

For a slightly older audience, there is US author Alex Gino’s award-winning “George”, which is about a transgender 10-year-old determined to play a female part in the school play.

INAPPROPRIATE

The book has won widespread praise for its warm portrayal of a feisty heroine, but it has also stirred controversy.

A Kansas district last month decided not to purchase “George” for the area’s schools, deeming it inappropriate for young readers.

Gino, a self-described “genderqueer” – someone who refuses to be defined by a gender – promptly started a Twitter fundraising campaign to deliver copies to every school library in the district.

In just half an hour the money poured in.

“Sharing stories of trans people with children is key to trans acceptance. There is no age before which it is appropriate to be compassionate,” Gino told AFP.

In the young adult section, readers can find Meredith Russo’s “If I Was Your Girl”, which chronicles an American teen’s fresh start at a new school, burdened by the secret that she used to be a boy.

Children’s book expert Bardola said the trailblazing tales had triggered much earnest hand-wringing from critics wondering whether it was “appropriate” or “dangerous” to introduce young readers to such complex themes.

He said it reminded him of the stir caused in the 1980s when gay characters started appearing in young adult books.

“The debate is nearly identical. You can tell literary critics are unsure about these (transgender) themes,” he said.

“I think we can be a little more relaxed about it,” he added.

“These books should be judged by their literary quality and children should be given a chance to decide whether or not they want to read these stories.”

German literature critic Ralf Schweikert was more sceptical.

“If you want to talk about what it feels like to live in the wrong body, you are asking for a lot of self-reflection from young readers,” Schweikert told AFP.

For bookworms scouting for a more general take on the gender debate, there’s no shortage of new titles out to smash the patriarchy, reflecting a wider cultural discussion about the traditional roles pushed upon boys and girls.

“There are increasingly books for very young readers out there that deliberately challenge these gender stereotypes,” Schweikert told AFP.

He listed the German early-reading book series “Wild Wilma” as a standout example, about the buccaneering adventures of a girl sailing the high seas as captain of a pirate ship.

‘PONIES AND PRINCESSES’

Bardola said stories that turned gender roles on their head had always been around but that such titles tended to peak every few years depending on the zeitgeist.

“Of course you can still find books for girls about ponies and princesses,” Schweikert said.

“But if you want to get away from those cliches, there’s a lot of good material out there right now.”

And more titles grappling with gender issues are on their way.

Scholastic, which published “George”, will next year be releasing the young adult novel “And She Was” by Jess Verdi, about a teen coming to terms with a parent’s transgender identity.

“And we’ve seen a number of trans or gender non-binary characters in other books we are publishing,” said Scholastic’s editorial director David Levithan.

Books, he added, that “show how gender diverse our real world can be”.

Via: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/lifestyle/transgender-teddy-girl-pirate-authors-tackle-gender-norms

Book News: Hodder wins new novels from Angela Clarke

angela-clarke_0A massive congratulations to my friend, Angela Clarke, on her new book deal – I can’t wait to read them. Here is what The Bookseller had to say…

Hodder & Stoughton has acquired two new novels by Angela Clarke, the author behind Follow Me, Watch Me and Trust Me (Avon), in a “hotly contested” auction.

Hodder’s Crime and Thriller publisher Ruth Tross, who acquired world English language rights from Diana Beaumont, Marjacq, said Clarke’s new novel, Inside, had hooked readers at Hodder from the first page and they had “big plans” for Clarke and her writing.

Clarke’s new novel, Inside, tells the story of Jenna Burns: framed for murder, she must prove her innocence from behind bars. When she realises she is pregnant, things take a darker turn – time is running out before she may be forced to give her baby up to the person who has ruined her life…

Wecloming, Clarke, who was previously published by Avon, Tross said: “I have loved Angela’s writing since reading her first novel – she is just amazing at combining a simple hook with page turning plots and intriguing characters.Inside displays that talent perfectly – everyone here was hooked from the first page – and we have big plans for Angela and her writing. I’m so excited to welcome her to Mulholland Books and Hodder & Stoughton.”

Beaumont said: “Angela’s first standalone novel plays to all her strengths: it’s topical, gripping, has a great hook and a strong female protagonist in a truly nightmarish situation. After a hotly contested auction we felt that the team at Hodder were the right people to take Angela to the next level in her career.”

Clarke added: “It’s a dream come true to be joining Ruth and Hodder’s roster, which includes many of my favourite crime and thriller authors writing today. I’m utterly delighted.”

Hodder & Stoughton will publish Inside on its Mullholland imprint in January 2019.

Via: https://www.thebookseller.com/tags-bookseller/angela-clarke

Kazuo Ishiguro Wins the Nobel Prize in Literature | The Guardian

Nobel Prize literature 2017

Fab article from The Guardan about this year’s amazing Nobel Prize in literature winner:

The English author Kazuo Ishiguro has been named winner of the 2017 Nobel prize in literature, praised by the Swedish Academy for his “novels of great emotional force”, which it said had “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”.

With names including Margaret Atwood, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Haruki Murakami leading the odds at the bookmakers, Ishiguro was a surprise choice. But his blue-chip literary credentials return the award to more familiar territory after last year’s controversial selection of the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The author of novels including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro’s writing, said the Academy, is “marked by a carefully restrained mode of expression, independent of whatever events are taking place”.

Speaking to the BBC, he called the award a “magnificent honour, mainly because it means that I’m in the footsteps of the greatest authors that have lived”.

“The world is in a very uncertain moment and I would hope all the Nobel prizes would be a force for something positive in the world as it is at the moment,” he said. “I’ll be deeply moved if I could in some way be part of some sort of climate this year in contributing to some sort of positive atmosphere at a very uncertain time.”

Ishiguro’s fellow Booker winner Salman Rushdie – who is also regularly named as a potential Nobel laureate – was one of the first to congratulate him. “Many congratulations to my old friend Ish, whose work I’ve loved and admired ever since I first read A Pale View of Hills,” Rushdie told the Guardian. “And he plays the guitar and writes sings too! Roll over Bob Dylan.”

According to the former poet laureate Andrew Motion, “Ishiguro’s imaginative world has the great virtue and value of being simultaneously highly individual and deeply familiar – a world of puzzlement, isolation, watchfulness, threat and wonder”.

“How does he do it?” asked Motion. “Among other means, by resting his stories on founding principles which combine a very fastidious kind of reserve with equally vivid indications of emotional intensity. It’s a remarkable and fascinating combination, and wonderful to see it recognised by the Nobel prize-givers.”

Permanent secretary of the academy Sara Danius described Ishiguro’s writing as a mix of the works of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, “but you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix, and then you stir, but not too much, and then you have his writings.

“He’s a writer of great integrity. He doesn’t look to the side, he’s developed an aesthetic universe all his own,” she said. Danius named her favourite of Ishiguro’s novels as The Buried Giant, but called The Remains of the Day “a true masterpiece [which] starts as a PG Wodehouse novel and ends as something Kafkaesque”.

“He is someone who is very interested in understanding the past, but he is not a Proustian writer, he is not out to redeem the past, he is exploring what you have to forget in order to survive in the first place as an individual or as a society,” she said, adding – in the wake of last year’s uproar – that she hoped the choice would “make the world happy”.

“That’s not for me to judge. We’ve just chosen what we think is an absolutely brilliant novelist,” she said.

Ishiguro’s publisher at Faber & Faber, Stephen Page, said the win was “absolutely extraordinary news”.

“He’s just an absolutely singular writer” said Page, who received news of Ishiguro’s win while waiting for a flight at Dublin airport. “He has an emotional force as well as an intellectual curiosity, that always finds enormous numbers of readers. His work is challenging at times, and stretching, but because of that emotional force, it so often resonates with readers. He’s a literary writer who is very widely read around the world.”

Born in Japan, Ishiguro’s family moved to the UK when he was five. He studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia, going on to publish his first novel, A Pale View of the Hills, in 1982. He has been a full time writer ever since. According to the Academy, the themes of “memory, time and self-delusion” weave through his work, particularly in The Remains of the Day, which won Ishiguro the Booker prize in 1989 and was adapted into a film starring Anthony Hopkins as the “duty-obsessed” butler Stevens.

His more recent novels have taken a turn for the fantastical: Never Let Me Go is set in a dystopic version of England, while The Buried Giant, published two years ago, sees an elderly couple on a road trip through a strange and otherworldly English landscape. “This novel explores, in a moving manner, how memory relates to oblivion, history to the present, and fantasy to reality,” said the Swedish Academy. Apart from his eight books, which include the short story collection Nocturnes, Ishiguro has written scripts for film and television.

Awarded since 1901, the 9m Swedish krona (£832,000) Nobel prize is for the writing of an author who, in the words of Alfred Nobel’s bequest, “shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. Ishiguro becomes the 114th winner, following in the footsteps of writers including Seamus Heaney, Toni Morrison, Mo Yan and Pablo Neruda.

The award is judged by the secretive members of the Swedish Academy, who last year plumped for the American musician Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. He proved an elusive winner and was described as “impolite and arrogant” by academy member Per Wastberg after initially failing to acknowledge the honour.

Some members of the literary community were also less than impressed: “This feels like the lamest Nobel win since they gave it to Obama for not being Bush,” said Hari Kunzru at the time. The choice of a writer who has won awards including the Man Booker prize should pour oil on at least some of the troubled waters ruffled by Dylan’s win, though Will Self reacted to Ishiguro’s win in characteristically lugubrious fashion.

“He’s a fairly good writer,” Self declared, “and surely doesn’t deserve the dread ossification and disregard that garnishes such laurels.”

Via: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/05/kazuo-ishiguro-wins-the-nobel-prize-in-literature

Transworld Sign 70-Year-Old Debut Author

transworld logo1[1]

Here is a heartwarming piece of news that should put hope in your heart and a tear in your eye, and just goes to prove you can be published at any age with the right story. Enjoy!

A debut novel by 70-year-old Anne Youngson has been pre-empted by Transworld and is set to become the publisher’s lead fiction title for summer 2018.

Transworld editorial director Jane Lawson pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights including Canada to Meet Me At The Museum, described as “the gentlest, most humane and emotional” novel, from Judith Murray at Greene & Heaton, just 48 hours after receiving the submission.

Meet Me at the Museum tells of a man and a woman with more of their life behind them than ahead, who find new beginnings when they connect unexpectedly through a mutual love of ancient history, personal treasures and nature.

Lawson said it was rare for her to fall for a novel so “instantly and irrevocably”.

Anne Youngson has created an enduring novel of ideas, full of grace and humanity, and charged with emotion”, said Lawson. “I realised as soon as I started this novel that I would not stop until I had acquired it. And I am fortunate to have a superb team at Transworld who read overnight and loved it equally”.

Youngson said: “It is astonishing and thrilling in equal measure to have my first novel selected for publication by the team at Doubleday. My agent advised me not to hesitate to accept their offer and she was right. I have been so impressed with the passion and professionalism they have brought to the process (all new to me) of moving towards publication. I feel truly privileged to have this opportunity to develop another career, and I plan to take full advantage of it.”

Youngson, a debut novelist who is just turning 70-years-old, worked at a senior level in product development at a major car company. “It is all the more surprising therefore that after so many years in the cut and thrust of a high-pressure day job, Anne has produced the gentlest, most humane and emotional novel”, the publisher said. Since then she has also supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband.

Transworld will publish in Doubleday hardback on 14th June 2018, backed by a “major impact” publicity campaign.

Via: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/transworld-snaps-most-humane-debut-summer-2018

How To Keep Writing In Tough Times

lemons

If you’ve found yourself in the midst of a difficult season, what can you do to keep moving forward with your writing? Here are 3 ways to keep writing through adversity:

1. Think About Your Priorities

Consider what exactly is going on in your life and understand the time demands that come from it. Maybe you’re getting married and the planning is time consuming… but you’ve got this novel you just don’t want to let go of for a few months. Getting married is quite different than being stuck in a hospital for the better part of five months, and your time restrictions are going to be different. Whatever your tough situation, think about what you want to achieve. Maybe you can only spare ten minutes a day to write a few paragraphs. But hey, it’s a start!

2. Outline Your Goals

This is where you look at where you want to take your writing career, and realistically try to figure out how to keep writing and stay on track. Do you want an agent, a publishing deal, etc. Because all of that is going to require a time commitment. Working on your goals, and figure out how those work alongside the other needs and commitments you have in your life.

3. Always Be Doing Something – Even if It’s Not Writing

There are loads of positive things you can be doing to keep your head in the game. Read, listen to podcasts, or check out blog posts from other writers – to name but a few.

There are a lot of great writing podcasts out there:

When adversity strikes, you don’t have to let your writing fall by the wayside. But it will if you let it. However, you can not only continue on with your goals in the face of harrowing times, you can amaze others with your work ethic. The tenacity to push through is something almost everyone will admire. It’s also a really good feeling as a writer.

If you can get through adverse times and figure out how to keep writing, you’ll find it that much easier to carve out time on days when you’re not in the middle of a trial.

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Read the full article here: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/how-to-keep-writing/

Top 10 Plot Twists In Fiction | The Guardian 

Gone Girl Film Shot

The word “twist” exerts a strange power over crime fiction addicts like me. Publishers know this all too well, which is why the promise of a twist is often used to advertise books that don’t have twists at all. “You’ll never see the breathtaking twist coming!” screams the press release. Well, no, you won’t, because it doesn’t exist. And so many people think a brilliant resolution is the same thing as a twist. It isn’t. Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express offers the most impressive puzzle solution in all of detective fiction. But, however ingenious and surprising, it’s not a twist ending.

So what is a bona fide twist? In my view, it has to be something that overturns or negates an already drawn conclusion or a firmly entrenched and reasonable assumption (Orient Express overturns an unreasonable assumption on the part of the reader, which is why I wouldn’t call it a twist).

Writing a twist isn’t an exact science, but part of what makes the brilliant ones so attractive in fiction is that feeling of having everything you thought you knew reversed, inverted or demolished; the fictional equivalent of being on a rollercoaster that suddenly turns upside down, leaving everything looking and feeling very different for the rest of the ride. And the new picture created by the shake-up of the twist has to be one that makes sense and is not risible. For example, if you find out at the end of the novel that the murderer is not the person whose fingerprints were on the knife, but rather his long-dead second cousin who developed marvellous fingerprint-forging technology unknown to science or the reader – that’s not a twist, it’s a travesty.

It’s going to be very hard to do this without spoilers, but I will try. In my opinion, these are 10 excellent examples of novels with genuine twists:

1. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
A moving, complex moral-dilemma story about a girl who takes her family to court in order to win the right to refuse a life-saving bone marrow transplant to her dying sister. What’s great about the twist is that you were neither waiting nor hoping for it – the story feels totally satisfying and complete without it – and yet when it arrives, you realise that there was a carefully and subtly carved space all throughout the novel for that perfect twist to fit into.

2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
A psychological suspense classic about a woman who marries a man she adores, only to discover that he, his home and his staff are apparently still obsessed by his far more charismatic first wife, to whom our heroine fears she can never measure up. Without revealing anything that’s gone before to be a lie, the twist changes the meaning of everything we’ve seen so far and provides the novel with an exemplary and memorable resolution.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Not all superb twists need to come at the end. There’s a twist in the middle of this classic novel that takes it to another level of passion, intrigue and excitement. There are hints before the big reveal, but not even the most imaginative reader would dare to imagine the truth. Twists in the middles of stories rather than at their ends tend to say: “And what do we all think now?” rather than, “So THIS is what we’re supposed to think!” – and this one does that brilliantly.

4. Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson
An unputdownable novel about a woman who loses her memory every night as she sleeps, and wakes each next morning remembering nothing. The author expertly leads the reader to assume that there is a binary choice in terms of who and what to suspect, and then reveals at the last moment that there is a third and even more terrifying possibility…

5. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
You can tell when a twist is brilliant, because copycats spring up all over. The twist at the end of Lionel Shriver’s masterpiece about a school shooting and a difficult mother-son relationship is one that literally takes your breath away. I’ve read two novels since that have copied and pasted Shriver’s twist as if it hadn’t been done before (or perhaps they simply hadn’t read Kevin!). Either way, neither of the copycats used the twist with Shriver’s panache.

6. Innocent Blood by PD James
I know I don’t have to choose a No 1 – this is, after all, a top 10 – but this novel contains my favourite twist in all of crime fiction. Halfway through this story of an adopted young woman determined to trace her biological parents, there is a twist that made me leap up off my sun-lounger and yell at random holiday makers that they needed to read this book urgently. I won’t say any more – just, please, read it.

7. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
This novel about a US Marshal trapped on an island, trying to find an escaped murderer in a sanatorium, has a twist of such audacity, I’m not sure I’d have dared, but I’m very glad Lehane did. It’s so bold and all-encompassing, it’s perfect.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This brilliant thriller contains a meta-twist, devised and inflicted by a central character within the novel rather than by the author herself. It’s a middle-twist rather than an end-twist, and the character responsible spends much of the novel afterward boasting about it. It works exceptionally well.

9. The Secret House of Death by Ruth Rendell
A brilliant crime novel by one of the UK’s finest crime writers, in which the murder itself is the twist. You won’t understand what I mean by that – so you must read the book! The last line, which underscores how profoundly the reader has been fooled, sent a shiver down my spine.

10. Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris
I’m not sure all readers would recognise that this is a twist-based story, but it is. It twists our expectations of the entire psychological thriller genre. The novel begins as a portrait of a marriage in which the wife seems to be a little nervous around her husband… What could possibly be going on? Is he abusive? Does she have a guilty secret? I liked this novel from the start, but a few chapters in, one of the main characters provides information that’s so startling, it shakes up all of the reader’s expectations about the genre they think they’re reading, making the rest of the story all the more exciting.

So there you have it – I hope these have whetted your appetite. If you haven’t yet read them, add them to your TBR pile immediately! Happy reading 🙂

Via: https://amp.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/16/top-10-twists-in-fiction