Life Imitating Art

Tony Wilson reflects on his eerie, and entirely unintended, prescience.

My novel is coming true. It happened with my last novel too. No sooner had I written Players (Text 2005) - the story of a Sam Newman-like character pretending to have cancer to shrug off a scandal - than came the news that Sam Newman actually had cancer and was receiving treatment live on 60 Minutes. I gave my character testicular cancer. Newman’s was prostate. Missed by five centimetres.

For Making News (Pier 9, 2010), I turned my attention to the British tabloids. I’d read Fleet Street memoirs such as Wensley Clarkson’s hilarious Dog Eat Dog and Piers Morgan’s masterpiece of self congratulation The Insider, books which detail the disturbing and occasionally hilarious skulduggery of the newspaper world. Buy ups, beat ups, break ins and stake outs. Cannonball Run-style car chases between reporters chasing exclusives. Piers Morgan even writes about a royal pubic hair being sent through the post to a prospective admirer.

In my novel, the celebrity Dekker family is at war with The Globe, a notorious tabloid edited by the suave, erudite boy wonder, Anton Giles. Giles was based on the foppish and yet silver-tongued Piers Morgan, although it could quite easily have been Andy Coulson or Rebekah Brooks. All are marked by their ambition, ruthlessness and ability to curry favour with the world’s most powerful mogul.

To bring down Giles, I managed to include phone tapping, but didn’t think invasion of privacy could topple a media empire as large as News International. Nor did I dare to toss in prime ministers, press secretaries, police corruption, dynastic revolution or murdered teens. To think I spent a year bathing in the filth of the fourth estate - and didn’t get dirty enough.

The surprise has been that News of the World would extend its periscope beyond the lives of celebrities. The tide of public opinion would never have turned if the targets had remained the rich and famous. We need our toe sucking scandals. We relish those post baby bellies sagging into the surf. But the idea of leeching information from the dead and grieving at their most desperate moments, it beggars belief.

If only I could do one more draft.

In light of the News of the World scandal, Making News has received a UK release. It is available here.

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