Tuesday 23 September 2014

Hilary Mantel and her Sagas of 'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher' . . .

Warning:  Small rant ahead...

I've never really been into politics and was a child when Margaret Thatcher had her day.  I know there are those who hated her and those who loved her, and I know they had their reasons, but to me, she's just a figure of British history.  I was too young to care, too swamped in my own, innocent imagination to worry about the state of the country back then.  That job was down to my parents.

And as an adult writer, that imagination is still going strong (even though it may not be that innocent anymore and with me still just as ignorant about politics).  We go about our lives with a constant stream of inner dialogue taking place in our heads, forming scenes, creating characters, worlds, scenarios.  And all around us we take in inspiration, be it from a sweet tale of romance to a barbaric story of butchery; the way the breeze blows blossom down the street to the storms that bend trees and rip them of leaves and branches.  Inspiration is everywhere we look and ours for the taking, be it bad or good should we choose.  So I feel quite shocked that a writer is being threatened with criminal charges after penning a short story that blends historic events with fiction.  'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher' by Hilary Mantel, with a scene set in an attic home where its owner and a member of the IRA wait with a 'widowmaker' to assassinate the Iron Lady.

We all know that to write a story and put it out to the world we're opening ourselves to feedback.  Some will like it and some will hate it.  You can't please everyone, but imagine Hilary Mantel's surprise after one reader condemned her story and demanded a criminal investigation? [Quote from Lord Bell in the Guardian:  "If somebody admits they want to assassinate somebody, surely the police should investigate?"]

Erm...I know I'm blonde and I may be overseeing some point here, but Mrs Thatcher sadly died sometime back and is in no danger of assassination.  And surely people can distinguish between fiction and fact?

But having said that, I reiterate the fact that I am blonde and never been one to jump into politics, so there may indeed be points that I am missing here.  There may be a reason why this story has been branded 'in bad taste' (I only read a short clip from the Guardian, and apart from Hilary Mantel using it as a instrument to vent her opinions on Mrs Thatcher, I never saw anything truly offensive.  I'm sure there are others around the world who feel the same way about the ex-Prime Minister as Hilary, but I sadly remain indifferent).  But aside from all that, I just find it sad that a writer has found her inspiration and used her creativity to merge fiction with history, was paid to write the piece, and then abandoned and left to face the consequences - what ever they be.  I write fantasy and horror.  I write about assassination and murder and this unfortunately includes barbaric thoughts.  Does that mean I'm more prone to go out and kill someone?  Should I expect to find the police knocking at my door and me answering to a crime I have not and have absolutely no intention of committing?  

There maybe a lot more to this story that I don't know or understand, and I'm not choosing sides.  In the political world, it may be offensive, it may be seen as too soon after her passing, but in a fictional world it may make for a good read.  I don't know.  But what I can't understand is why something fictional is being branded as a crime.  What about all the other successful books and films out there about government assassins and conspiracies, about terrorists storming the White House in Washington, and of royals being put in the line of fire?  Should those script writers be investigated?  No, because what they've written is fiction.  So what makes this story any different?

Rant over.  Feel free to air views :)


  1. I just find the 'hate Thatcher' business a bit of a tired meme. Is that the same as a cliche? So the 'idea' of how easy it might have been to assassinate her at one particular moment in the past is valid enough as speculation - even perhaps warrenting a letter to the paper AT THE TIME. But thirty years later in a piece of short fiction - other than reinforcing the prejudices of those who hate her still and thus speaking to the converted, I don't really see the point. I mean, who cares?

    1. Exactly! I think there are more pressing issues that people should be worrying about than a piece of short 'fiction'.