Why Fiction, Why Now? Upon publishing my first novel, I thought it might be of interest to explore these questions.
I’ve been a nonfiction writer all my working life, starting out in journalism and working my way into books from there. My writing was always heavily facts-based, even if I was giving a different take on the facts from the mainstream. An example is my 1989 book Lords of Poverty: The Freewheeling Lifestyles, Power, Prestige and Corruption of the Multi-Billion Dollar Aid Business. It won an H.L. Menken Award honorable mention for an outstanding book of journalism. It was entirely fact-based, but it took the same facts the aid industry was using to blow its own trumpet and showed that there was a whole other story lying underneath them—a story not of “help” and “kindness,” but of corruption, waste, greed, and ego on the part of the donor organisations. Lords of Poverty was the first book really to question foreign aid. A lot of people in the aid business got very angry with me about it, but it struck a chord and is still in print twenty-one years later in the United States.
So the same basic approach that I brought to Lords of Poverty, I also brought to my later nonfiction books on historical mysteries—questioning established facts, reinterpreting them, and trying to bring new data to the table. Typically I would refer to a thousand-plus other books for each of my big books of nonfiction, which were all fundamentally works of synthesis. If there was anything truly original in them it lay in creating a novel synthesis, and in asking new questions about the data that perhaps hadn’t been given much thought before.
You should see my office any day when I’m writing non-fiction. Dozens of books relating to the chapter I am working on that day are scattered all over my desk and floor. There are little yellow tags in the pages of these books that remind me of some nugget of information hidden on page 243 or 867. As I write I am constantly inserting footnotes, and I’ve learned that if you don’t do the note—at least in abbreviated form—right away, then you can never find it again…
[Continues on the Wordstock Festival blog. Graham Hancock can be seen on Sunday Oct. 10th of the Wordstock festival at 5pm on the Columbia Sportswear Stage.]