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Analysing literary journalism: De(composing) narrative: writing true crime in Death at the Darlo Bar
This paper is in two parts: a true crime story, Death at the Darlo Bar, I wrote about a violent death at one of my local bars near Kings Cross, Sydney and an essay reflecting on the writing process. I first heard about the death of Brett Adam Sparks through rumours that circulated in my neighborhood, which presented him as a homeless man who had been attacked and killed at the hands of a group of respectable chess-playing locals. The second part of this paper is an exegetical essay that reflects on the issues arising from my writing a true crime story as a resident of Kings Cross and a regular patron of the Darlo Bar, whose research and writing process was informed as much by local encounters and gossip as painstaking research into the archive of inquest reports, police statements and witness testimonies held at the local Coroner’s Court. The essay discusses the uncanny experience of investigating and writing a story about violent crime that was quickly glossed over by local stakeholders and authorities, and which has no satisfactory resolution or truth claim. In particular, the essay explores the uncanny concept of homelessness and how it folds into competing narratives about Kings Cross as an alcohol-fuelled crime hot-spot in the Australian cultural imaginary. My own story reconstructs one of a number of competing versions of the same event. But it can’t really claim to be closer to an objective reality than any other account, let alone the Coroner’s preferred version, even though it relies on the same facts as presented in the archival documents and witness testimonies. I started out by looking for a true crime story, but the findings from the inquest meant that Sparks’ death is not actually considered a “crime”. Any other claims that it was a crime, and that people got away with it, therefore can’t be “true”.
Recommended CitationWalker, Ruth G., Analysing literary journalism: De(composing) narrative: writing true crime in Death at the Darlo Bar, Current Narratives, 4, 2014, 17-33.