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Friday, September 11, 2020

How a real-life assassination inspired my first published novel

I started writing seriously in 2016 when I lost my job and decided to semi-retire, It took about six months to get a first draft and I subsequently started to hawk it around agents, with absolutely no success whatsoever. In the end I decided to shelve it and come back to redraft it at a later date.

Then I saw this article in the Guardian and I started to think how I could adapt the bare bones of these real life events into a fictionalised version set in a more familiar environment.

The actual events saw the most powerful politician in the historic Spanish city of León, Isabel Carrasco, gunned down in the street by the wife of one of the half-dozen most senior police officers in León province.

Carrasco had been shot in the back and, as she slid to the ground, grabbed hold of the bridge’s handrail, twisting to see her attacker. Two more .32 calibre bullets had then been fired into her head, killing her instantly.

As the paper recounts, the victim, who presided over the powerful provincial government, or diputación, from her office in a cloistered 16th-century bishop’s palace, was known to everyone in León.

'The murder had been committed at one of the most dramatic sites in the city. “It was almost like a ceremonial killing,” recalled Ángela Domínguez, the former editor of the local edition of El Mundo newspaper.

'Emergency service radio recordings reveal one shocked ambulanceman blurting out a phrase that many would have recognised: “She’s the one who had 12 jobs, and 12 salaries!” It was a reference to the number of official and semi-official posts Carrasco had accumulated during her five years as diputación president.

'With her multiple jobs, incomes and perks, she had become a symbol of how politicians were milking public funds while other Spaniards struggled to cope with the recession that had devastated the country since the 2008 financial crisis. In a country with 25% unemployment, here was a woman with 12 jobs.'

The paper says that as she had consolidated her position, Carrasco's style became as bullying and confrontational as that of her worst male predecessors and rivals. She would bawl and swear at her subordinates, humiliate her staff in public and squash journalists or political rivals who dared challenge her. She grew more and more paranoid about her enemies both within and without her political party.

The daughter of the assassin, Triana Martínez , looked upon Carrasco as her friend, protector and protege and began to dream of two things. First, she wanted a job for life at the diputación, of the kind enjoyed by established civil servants. Second, and against her father’s wishes, Triana wanted a parallel career in politics.

The Guardian takes up the story: 'Suddenly, however, Carrasco and Triana fell out. Triana would later claim that this was the result of a scene allegedly played out on the sofa at Carrasco’s apartment in January 2010. “She came up close to smell my perfume, and then she kissed me on the mouth … I was scared, but she tried to touch me and put her arm around me to stop me moving away,” Triana testified later in court. “I managed to get away and say that I was leaving.” Carrasco’s friends vigorously deny this. “She had no sexual interest in women,” said Ramos.'

Triana fell out of favour and failed to get the permanent job she sought. Her mother claimed that Carrasco then pursued Triana with blind hatred, blocking her attempt to take up a council seat in Astorga after another councillor resigned, demanding the return of €11,000 allegedly overpaid to Triana by the diputación and getting the tax office to send claims totalling €6,000. She was convinced Carrasco also prevented her daughter finding work elsewhere in the city.

It was then that Montserrat González decided that Carrasco must die, and conceived a daring assassination in the most public place possible in broad daylight.

Although it was inspired by this event, The Assassination of Morgan Sheckler is very different in many ways. It is a counter-factual set in Cardiff and involves the Executive Mayor of the Cardiff City Region being gunned down outside City Hall.

There is a lesbian element, and it is narrated in first person by the daughter of the female South Wales Police Commissioner, but that is where the similarities end. Please read it for yourself, especially for the twist at the very end.
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