Good Reading : September 2009
cover story Anya battles with the memory of her missing sister and the challenge of financially supporting an ex-husband and young son. Kate still feels keenly the death of her lover, and sometimes struggles in the male-dominated world of homicide. This interaction between her characters’ professional and personal lives is part of what makes Kathryn’s books so compelling. Rather than glamorising perpetrators and serial killers, Kathryn’s books focus on the victims of crime and the people whose job it is to help them. Violence is almost always shown from the victim’s chilling perspective – being followed at night, having your home broken into, or being stalked. Blood Born is an example of what Kathryn calls ‘reality fiction’. The term came about through her friendship with three fellow writers with whom she has formed the advocacy group ‘Giving Victims a Voice’. At least two of them will be familiar to Australian readers. Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, author of the Temperance Brennan novels and a producer of the television series Bones. Linda Fairstein is the author of the Alex Cooper novels. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit was inspired by her pioneering work for the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan DA’s office. The fourth member, Robin Burcell, is an author, former California police officer and hostage negotiator. ‘We’ve all seen firsthand the effect of crime on people,’ says Kathryn. ‘We come from different backgrounds, but we have this common interest, and we write about what outrages us in the real world.’ Throughout October, the group will be speaking in the US for events as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Kathryn says domestic violence – or her preferred term ‘domestic violent crime’ – is ‘the ultimate betrayal, the worst form of violence, because you can never get away from it. You can’t even go to sleep and feel safe. At least with stranger violence you can lock the doors, get an alarm and feel safer. But domestic violence is ongoing. ‘When someone is beaten up in the street we’re all outraged, but if it happens in the home we turn a blind eye. In Australia, 1 in 13 women will suffer breast cancer. We all know someone who has been through it, because there are fantastic campaigns to raise awareness. field of work which is little known and poorly funded. ‘These dilemmas are real, that’s the hing. Police naturally want to catch he perpetrators of these crimes, but ometimes it’s not in the best interests probably sounds naive, but I think I can atually affect more eople through writing han I ever could in medical] practice.’ nai m Kathryn Fox And yet with domestic violence the number is 1 in 5, and how many of us can name someone who has been a victim? It’s a silent statistic.’ One of her biggest themes is the ripple effect of crime, and how many people are affected. ‘It’s never just the perpetrator and the direct victim involved. Violence has an impact on family, children, friends, far beyond the immediate crime.’ Working with rape victims and with the doctors who dedicate themselves to their care, Kathryn Fox has seen the damage that an adversarial legal system can do to victims, caught between prosecutors who want to imprison criminals, and defence lawyers whose job is to get their clients off – even if it means undermining the credibility of witnesses. ‘Everyone wants to see right prevail, but everyone’s version of justice is slightly different.’ However, for her, there’s no question where the doctor’s responsibility lies. ‘For doctors like Anya, their ultimate duty of care is to their patients – not the lawyers or police or anyone else. But that conflict is difficult, and that’s what I love to write about in my books.’ Among her preoccupations are the issues faced by forensic practitioners every day: the ethics of photographing victims’ injuries; how much detail to write down in interviews; and how to balance their roles as counsellor and victim advocate. All this in a of the victim to have the person caught. For example, if a sexual assault victim doesn’t want to testify or make a police statement, it can be more detrimental for her to be pressured and then forced to go through that system – especially if her mental health isn’t so good. ‘We often think a woman should come forth and report, to protect other potential victims, but you have to ask whether her duty is to society, or to protect her own wellbeing.’ Writing about the issues is one way of making a difference. ‘It probably sounds naive, but I think I can actually affect more people through writing than I ever could in [medical] practice. I’ve had letters from women’s groups and individuals who’ve read my books, saying “I’d never hesitate to go and be examined if I was sexually assaulted”, or “I’d never put up with that from a bloke – I deserve better than that”.’ With so much violence around us – on TV, in newspapers and books – it’s easy to become too focused on the crime and forget about the victims. Kathryn Fox’s measure of success is when she makes her readers think differently. ‘If I make someone care, think differently about a character or a person or a I d a victim – if I can get omeone to intervene f they know someone s being abused, then I know I’ve made a difference.’ Blood Born by Kathryn Fox is published by M B Macmillan, rrp $29.99. SEPTEMBER 2009 ı goodreading 11 Photograph of Kathryn Fox by Nick Cubbin.