20 November 2007

A surprise ending for everyone

I am reading Orhan Pamuk's Kara Kitap (Black Book). At one point, Pamuk's protagonist wonders if it is possible to write a murder mystery in which even the author doesn't know the identity of the murderer.

Ever since then I have been wondering too how a book like that can be written. An ordinary murder mystery is like a blind scientific study in which either a new drug or a placebo is given to patients (readers), but only the scientist (author) who is doing the study knows who gets what (who the murderer is). But the writing of a novel in which even the author didn't know the ending until the very end would be like a double-blind study where the scientist conducting the study doesn't know who gets the drug, who gets the placebo.

A 2nd author would have to be involved in the writing of a double-blind murder mystery. The function of the 2nd author would be to select the murderer from among the characters and then feed clues to the actual writer of the novel as the writing of the novel progressed. That author would try to figure out the identity of the murderer as the plot thickened, so to speak, and bring everything to a closure at the end when the final clues revealed the killer.

Can it be done?


John said...

I think that having two authors - one of whom knows the answer while the other does not - would violate the question's premise.

Christopher Taylor said...

I believe it could be done in some sense. I used to try to write stuff when I was younger (I never got very far, and I left off once I realised that it wasn't very good) and I'm familiar with the feeling that characters almost seem to lead their own lives that aren't necessarily under the control of the author. I can therefore quite believe that an author might start a murder intending that one character be the murderer, and somewhere along the way realise that, in fact, everything indicates that another character was the real villain.

pascal said...

In some ways it happens every day, via police reports, and journalists covering developing stories. Not nearly as dramatic, but the premise is similar.

Interesting idea, because the primary (unknowing) author would likely instill a bias as to who they thought committed the crime, and write that way.

Roger B. said...

I once read a murder mystery by John Sladek, where the author turned out to be the murderer.

As I recall, one of his victims was suffocated with an inflatable life-raft whilst using the lavatory!