After really enjoying AB Morgan’s previous novel, A Justifiable Madness, I’m delighted be a part of the blog blitz for her latest novel – The Camera Lies. Today, I’ll be sharing an extract from the book, the first chapter, so get comfortable, and enjoy!
Konrad Neale is a television presenter. His waning career has been given a new lease of life since he took on a series of hard-hitting documentaries that investigate miscarriages of justice.
Matthew Hawley has been convicted of the brutal murder of his wealthy attractive wife Helena. However, he has no memory of the events and insists he is not responsible for willingly killing her.
When Konrad interviews Matthew in prison, he explores the details of the murder and the possible motives behind it. But all is not as it seems.
Did Matthew murder his wife?
Soon the search is on to identify who else might be involved in the murder of Helena and Konrad is about to learn that sometimes the camera lies.
Turning slowly, Konrad Neale faced the film crew and directed his words at the watching audience behind the large lens of the TV camera.
‘If Matthew Hawley were a woman would his sentence have been so harsh? The answer, in this case, is probably yes, for the simple fact that the level of premeditation could not in any way support the suggestion that he was of an unstable mind. Unbelievably, this was the case strongly argued by his barrister in court, but how on earth can we accept his story? Based on what we are about to show you, how is that possible?
‘If you are of a delicate disposition, I strongly advise that you look away. What you will see next is graphic, brutal and sickening.’
There was a momentary pause before a series of still colour photographs appeared on the television monitor, and were commented on in finite detail.
‘Here we see the mutilated body of Helena Chawston-Hawley, on the expensively tiled floor of her substantial kitchen. It is the morning of the first of March 2014 and her own blood surrounds her. The skid marks that we can see in the lake of red, we are told, were made by her husband, Matthew, as he carried out the deliberate surgical removal of certain appendages and organs. Not, as you would suppose, to make life easier for himself in the disposal of his wife’s body, and not even to aid his attempt to hide her, because Matthew Hawley made no such attempt. He killed her, neatly laid out her remains, and dialled 999.
‘He mutilated her, as is plain to see from these police photographs, by removing her eyes with the implement pictured to the left of her head. The eyeballs are on the right, on the floor amongst the blood, and quite difficult to distinguish. The order in which these disfigurements were carried out is not known but we have to ask ourselves why would he do that at all? Why did he cut off her breasts? And bizarrely, why did he make careful incisions to remove her lips?’
The camera cut back to a shot of Konrad leaning forward earnestly as he sat to one side of a functional desk in a prison interview room, where the stark grey walls contributed to the slightly hollow sound when he spoke, ‘Welcome to another case of “The Truth Behind the Lies” with me, Konrad Neale.
‘Over the four days that I interviewed Matthew Hawley, here at HMP Longlees, I have probed into the unbelievable chain of events that led to the brutal murder of his beautiful wife. If what he has told me is the truth, it does not change that one simple fact. Matthew Hawley did murder his wife, Helena Chawston-Hawley. He remains guilty of a heinous crime and he accepts that, so why are we here if there has been no miscarriage of justice? I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves once you’ve heard what he has to say.’ Konrad leant back in his chair with his hands together, as if in prayer, placing the tips of his fingers to his lips.
The scene changed, although the room remained the same.
Sitting on a plain plastic chair was a slim, almost gaunt, Matthew Hawley.
‘Yep, I’m happy with how the intro is looking, Konrad. What do you think?’ asked Annette the editor, as they sat together with two other members of the production team, beginning an initial run of the material recorded by Konrad and the film crew at the prison.
The first thing that had struck Konrad about Matthew Hawley was that the greying hair and prison pallor could not belie the man’s underlying distinctly handsome features. A strong jaw, chiselled nose, intense but alluring green eyes and not a tattoo in sight. His modest intelligent air coupled with his good looks shattered the stereotypes that could potentially define him as a monstrous killer. When Matthew spoke, he did so with consideration, careful with his choice of words but he didn’t shy away from answering questions. He was believable.
‘Yeah, good. I guess we can get hold of a recording of Matthew’s call to the emergency services if we need to make use of it, but overall, I’m comfortable that our outline plan is a sensible order of events. Goodness me, he comes across frighteningly well on film…’
‘Doesn’t he just. You know, watching this and transcribing every word freaked me out quite a bit, I can tell you.’ Annette brushed cake crumbs from her enormous trouser-clad thighs. She hadn’t stopped eating so far that morning and this was irritating Konrad, who had to suffer the endless moaning about her weight, for which she blamed her thyroid. His own eating habits were overshadowed by the constant fear of putting on the pounds. The slightest weight gain would be magnified in front of the television cameras where he earned his living, when he wasn’t writing newspaper columns, or fronting chat shows. He had thought his best days were behind him as far as fame and fortune in the fickle world of television was concerned, but his move into documentary and real crime had reignited the nation’s interest in what he had to say.
‘I can’t believe how lucky we were to get the green light on this one. It’s a hell of a story,’ Annette said as she stood up, gently patting the presenter’s designer-dressed shoulder. ‘Great interview. Do you realise he could be your younger brother, in appearance I mean? Similar features. You make quite an attractive pair, which will please our female audience members, I’m sure. What would you say, there are five years or so between you and Matthew Hawley? Good looking man, but shit, I can’t quite comprehend what sick and twisted stuff he told you, you know.
‘So, what do you want to do now?’ Annette turned to ask her team. ‘Shall we let it roll as usual, and get this firmly into our heads before we finally identify the selects?’
A young intern, by the name of Joe, bravely interrupted to ask what that turn of phrase meant.
‘Slow Joe, you didn’t do your homework, otherwise, you would know what the selects are.’ Annette had been ironic in nicknaming him Slow Joe. Konrad knew that she was impressed by how swiftly an enthusiastic Joe absorbed information and by the intelligence with which he used the latest sound technology.
‘Actually, that’s a fair question, Joe,’ Konrad interjected before Annette had a chance to enlighten her protégé. ‘The art and craft of producing, and especially editing, a documentary is entirely different from a fiction film. Although there’s a chronology to the interview itself, it has to be edited with the viewer in mind. We don’t change what has been said, but we do develop a working structure and identify scenes, ideas, thoughts that can be separated out. The selects. We can trim the long pauses or the repetition of the same argument, do you see?’ Joe mouthed his thanks and received a thumbs-up in return.
Annette had obviously decided to ignore the interruption, and she continued without needing to contribute to the response. ‘This transcript’s a long one. Mind you, having looked at it again, I’m beginning to think we have enough juicy solid material to make a two-parter and I’m loathed to bin anything. What’s your feeling, guys?’
‘I don’t think we can argue for two episodes of the same case,’ Konrad replied. ‘The executives won’t agree to a change in the fundamentals of the contract, so let’s watch and aim to eventually edit to the required sixty minutes. I can précis certain parts to camera if necessary or as voice-over material during those odd shots around the prison that we bagged. It’ll provide atmosphere and break up the face-to-face sections.’ The assistant editor, Mike, signalled his approval. Konrad was explaining in more detail than was strictly necessary just for Slow Joe’s educational benefit.
‘To be frank with you, this one’s had me awake at nights ever since we started filming. I wasn’t expecting to like Matthew Hawley, but he’s so bloody convincing on camera, and the viewers are in for a rough ride when they see and hear what he has to say. I wanted to hate him, but I couldn’t. Anyway, let’s crack on before the coffee goes cold.’
*My thanks to Bloodhound Books for providing me the above extract and inviting me to take part in this blog blitz*
About the Author:
Alison Morgan started writing a couple of years ago to address that niggling question: could she write a book? The answer was a simple yes. She’s had to retire from the NHS a little earlier than planned, but has discovered a new passion. Writing. Her debut novel, A Justifiable Madness, was published by Bloodhound Books in September 2017 attracting great reviews for its refreshing premise and dark humour. With two further novels being published at the beginning of 2018, it seems Alison has a promising future as an author. Divine Poison is the second novel to feature Monica Morris, a mental health nurse, as the main protagonist in this crime mystery, but there are no plans for a series. Alison’s third suspense novel, The Camera Lies, steps away from the field of nursing and into the world of real crime documentary films.
Alison lives with her husband Andy and their dog Sadie, in a small village north of Bedford. She’s not the type to let life get in the way of adventure and so, always up for the next challenge, she decided to have a proper midlife crisis and learn to ride a motorbike. In August she passed, first time. Her husband was impressed until she swung her leg over his prized Triumph and roared off with a big grin on her face. ‘Research for the next book,’ she cried. The fourth book is under construction and does indeed feature motorbikes.
Alison Morgan: writes under the name AB Morgan.
THE CAMERA LIES BLOG BLITZ