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Metacrime Murder Mystery: The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe

December 21, 2017 Leave a comment

When I was thinking up ways of promoting my new book, Literary Stalker, I toyed with the word ‘metacrime’ – a compression of ‘metafictional crime’ – and I did a search to see how widely the term had been used before, and in relation to what. I discovered it was hardly in use at all, and the only work I came across that bore that particular label was the 1937 ‘Golden Age of Crime’ novel The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe.

The search led me to an excellent review of the book by Ted Gioia, which is posted on a site Ted has dedicated exclusively to the phenomenon of Postmodern Mystery, also dissecting works by Borges, Nabakov, Flann O’Brien, Paul Auster and other writers familiar to me – I had never heard of Cameron McCabe. Further trawling revealed that at least three of my writer friends – Nicholas Royle, Andrew Hook and Christopher Fowler – had written about this mysterious man and his novel, so he was not perhaps as arcane as I’d thought, and I needed to discover more.

I expected to have to make do with a dog-eared and dubiously stained version of the tome, disingenuously described by the seller as in ‘very good condition’; but no, a new version has fairly recently been published by Picador Classics, coming with an introduction from Jonathan Coe and so many bits of front and back matter that it’s hard to know where Cameron McCabe’s own input ends and that of others begins – which is precisely what the novel is all about.

Coe’s introduction sets out the parameters and of course the name ‘Cameron McCabe’ is just a device – both a nom de plume and the protagonist/extremely unreliable narrator of the tale. Keeping the synopsis side of things simple, the plot involves the ‘murder’ of actress Estella Lamare, to which several characters confess, but which later, by means of hidden camera footage, is shown to be a suicide…maybe. But soon another ‘real’ murder takes place, and things resolve into a Crime and Punishment-like duel between McCabe, as witness and later suspect, and Inspector Smith, the sleuth on the case. Presently another important character, A. B. C. Müller, enters the stage, and everything is set for the most meta of meta-mysteries you could ever hope to find. Read more…

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Roger Keen on Metacrime and Metahorror

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

My colleagues at Darkness Visible have conducted this with interview with me, concentrating on the metafictional aspects of Literary Stalker and also touching on the broader aspects of ‘self-knowing’ fictionality in film and literature, citing some of my favourite examples:


 

Roger’s new novel Literary Stalker is a psychological crime thriller with horror overtones, but it’s also metafictional – that is, it has self-awareness about its fictionality – and Roger has used the terms ‘metacrime’ and ‘metahorror’ to describe this tendency within the genres the novel occupies. So, we thought we’d ask him explain a little bit more deeply about what he means, and give us some other examples.

Darkness Visible: Literary Stalker involves Nick, a writer who is composing a novel about revenge murders. Is it this layering of novels-within-novels that gives rise to the meta dimension you talk about? And how is this different from a novel taking place in the real world, as oppose to a fantasy, for example?

Roger: Yes, the layering is part of it, certainly, but only one aspect. And Nick indeed does inhabit the ‘real world’, but that ‘reality’ is constantly being called into question by what he does and thinks. As an ‘unreliable narrator’ Nick is in a league of his own! He’s writing his novel – The Facebook Murders – where the characters are effectively his real enemies (he even keeps the same names for the purposes of a first draft), and he gets his alter ego narrator, Jago, to murder them in stylised ways, as in the movie Theatre of Blood.

So his novel is a projection of his wishes, a realisation of the revenge he desires in real life. And as the story progresses, the lines blur, fiction and reality interchange, as Nick is progressively ‘taken over’ by his novel. Which is a very ‘horror’ idea, but because it’s ‘psychological’ rather than ‘supernatural’, it still retains ‘real world’ integrity – at least for most of the time. But throughout there are these ‘nudge-wink’ moments, and towards the end the metafictional undermining and rug-pulling gets stronger, till the twists at the climax which leave you wondering what exactly is ‘real’ and what isn’t.

Read more on Medium.

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