Truth is Stranger (and More Interesting) Than Fiction
April 26, 2017
I've been a long time fan of biographies and true crime books. I also love documentaries, docudramas, and reality crime shows. Not just because I get such writing inspiration, though I definitely do! I mean, it's like being a plot twist farmer getting a big harvest regularly. But as you can imagine, I don't use everything I see in my fiction. I couldn't if I tried with the amount of material I inhale daily. No really. Every day. Some of the stories I watch or read will never be used because I'm consuming just because I find it fascinating. Of course the case can be made that on a subconscious level I use all of it. I wouldn't disagree. Still the one thing I love about reading true stories is truth can out weird fiction any day of the week and twice on Sundays! Just two examples to make my case.
I watched a true crime show on Netflix called The Investigator: A British Crime Story. A wife disappeared and was never seen again. Her daughter, who was sixteen at time, is now in her forties and still haunted by the unanswered questions. Her father's explanations were accepted for eleven years before he was arrested and convicted of his wife's murder. Some of the twists the story took to unravel the story behind this seemingly fairly common crime left me saying, "He did what? She did what?"
Another factoid that left me even more speechless was the case made by historian Martha Ward that Marie Laveau's second husband was actually a white man who passed for biracial to marry her. They loved each other deeply, but it interracial marriage was against the law. And the law was vigorously enforced. So, Monsieur Glapion and Marie created a series of legal documents attesting that he was in fact a mulatto, a free man of color. So successful were they that generations later most historians would call this preposterous. Yet Ms. Ward meticulously tracked down the truth in legal documents of his life before he met and married Marie. Passing for white is well known. But a man passing for Black to marry a woman of color is just extraordinary. He gave up the plethora of advantages that came with being a white man for Marie. Now that's what you call true love.
By the way, there are no portraits of Marie Laveau. One in particular painting is famous, yet the truth is an early writer simply made up that this portrait was Marie when in truth no one knows who this lady is.