Tomorrow's Canvas features an exclusive interview with brilliant New Zealand author Charlotte Grimshaw about her latest and last novel featuring David Hallwright, a National prime minister with more than a passing resemblance to John Key. To celebrate its publication, here are five of our favourite novels mixing fiction with fact.
1: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Perhaps modern fiction's most famous roman a clef novel. The French term literally translates as "novel with a key" and means that a mask of fiction - sometimes a very thin one indeed - has been layed over a true story. In telling this, the real life story of the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Kansas by drifters Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, Capote created something like a non-fiction novel. He approached the task of getting his story like a journalist. He wrote it with all the narrative power of a novelist in his prime. It remains controversial - at publication critics challenged Capote on some of his facts and how he got them - but it's remains a gripping classic.
2: Primary Colors by Anonymous
Possibly a little dated, it was first published in 1996, but this is still an absorbing spin on the first presidential campaign of one of American politics greatest spinners, Bill Clinton. Seen through the eyes of a idealistic campaign worker, the book substitutes Jack Stanton, a Southern governor, for Clinton as he embarks on his Democratic primary campaign. Its an insider's guide to the cynicism of modern politics. The book echoes Clinton's real life scandals, including an affair with a hairdresser, and the view that the charismatic politician would say and do anything to win votes. The book has an interesting history too; the anonymous writer was quickly identified by Clinton's people as American journalist and columnist Joe Klein, who reported on Clinton's campaign for Newsweek. After initial denials, Klein admitted he was the author some six months after the book was first published.
3: The Ghost by Robert Harris
Journalist turned novelist Robert Harris has built his fiction career on historical and counter-factual historical fiction including his first Fatherland, his soon-to-be-completed trilogy based on life of Roman lawyer Cicero and his most recent novel, An Officer And A Gentleman based on the true life French scandal, the Alfred Dreyfus affair. The Ghost is one of his best, however, both a page-turning murder mystery and a very plain "J'accuse" to Harris' former friend, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The plot has a ghostwriter hired to help tidy up former British PM Adam Lang's autobiography. Lang is fighting to prevent charges of war crimes being laid against him over a war in the Middle East. Meanwhile the ghostwriter discovers that his writer predecessor seesm to have come to a sticky end. A cracking thriller.
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4: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Weisberger has always denied that the central character of this brightly written and entertaining novel, fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly, is a thinly veiled Anna Wintour, the celebrated Vogue editor who's famous for her froideur. Whether it is or it isn't Wintour - and Weisberger did work at Vogue - this semi-fictional romp is an entertaining takedown, a barb well aim at the awfulness of Manhattan's snobby glitterati.
5: HHhH by Laurent Binet
Not quite roman a clef, and not quite historical fiction either, this novel by French writer Laurent Binet has the feel of a dream or even a hallucination as it recounts the story of Operation Anthropoid, the successful assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during World War II. Binet frames his novel around a young author struggling with how to write (or whether he should write) the very book you're reading. This conceit provoked much discussion on its publication about whether the story of Heydrich, one of the most brutal Nazis, should be interspersed with the author musing on literature and his girlfriend. It's a real highwire act of a book, but it works.