Crimes of the Father

by Thomas Keneally, Sceptre, £18.99

Novelists generally fall into two categories: those who need to research their books and those who believe that going to the library or using journalistic techniques is cheating. Some novelists, notoriously, change approach midway through career, like the late Beryl Bainbridge, who used up all her personal material and turned to historical events, or the crime writer Richard Price, who claimed that even his therapist had grown bored with his autobiographical novels and suggested that he start talking to cops and criminals instead.

But perhaps the best example of a writer having a research-based story fall into his lap is Thomas Keneally. Famously, the author was buying a suitcase in Beverly Hills when a security check by Mastercard led to him staying long enough to talk to a Schindler survivor called Leopold Pfefferberg.

Pffeferberg showed the Australian author a collection of historical material he happened to have in the shop and shared stories which inspired Keneally to write his Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler’s Ark, later to be adapted into the Steven Spielberg film Schindler’s List.

Keneally described that book as a work of “faction”, or “documentary novel”. It’s a genre the octogenarian Keneally has returned to several times across his 31 novels, and he does so again in his latest book, Crimes of the Father, which addresses the difficult subject of child abuse within the Catholic Church.

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