Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The "Murder, He Wrote" Trial

In 2003, Polish crime author Krystian Bala became so obsessed with the murder case of a Polish businessman that he wrote "Amok", a best-selling novel that described the grisly murder of a Polish ad executive. Now some four years after the novel was published authorities say some of the details in the book are eerily similar to those of the actual crime . Apparently, in his thriller "Amok", Bala describes a murder whose gruesome details match precisely the torture and murder of Dariusz J, including many details which were not released to the press and could be known only to the police... or murderer. As a result, they have charged Bala with the crime. A perfect case of art imitating life, er, death,wouldn't you say?

Bala has vigorously denied having any inside knowledge of the murder, he maintains he was inspired to write the novel after reading numerous
press reports on the murder. He insists he has been framed to cover up for what he described as a “bungled” police investigation.

Upon further investigation it has been revealed that the dead businessman was known to Krystian Bala's ex-wife. So did Bala commit a crime of revenge? But even if he did, why was he prompted to write about it? Isn't that a dead giveaway? Also, would it be amoral to buy a copy of his book (please note, the evidence against the writer is thin). Prosecutors have demanded a 25-year sentence for him, a verdict is expected to be announced sometime today.

This weird story was making news all over Poland when we vacationed there mid-August.

UPDATE*** Violainvilnius kindly let me know that Kyrstian Bala has been convicted. Please go here to read the full story.

And here's the article from the Guardian (UK). Thanks, Sanjay!


Literary Feline said...

I remember hearing something about this quite a while ago. I'd be curious to know what the verdict is. It is not totally unusual for certain types of murderers to want to brag about their crimes or to somehow get "involved" with the investigation. I haven't heard of many cases like this though--if in fact he is the killer. I know so little about the case and the man that I wouldn't even want to hazard a guess at this point. The only other one I know of would be OJ Simpson, although he was found not guilty in a criminal court.

I do know that there are quite a few mystery authors out there who are inspired by real life murders and crimes, including ones that touch their own lives, sometimes weaving a version of the true story into their novels. Often, they do a good amount of research. A mystery author once said during an interview that as a reporter, police were not always as cooperative, but as a crime novelist, law enforcement are much more receptive to him now.

There's a lot of factors to take into consideration either way. I can see why the authorities might be suspicious considering some of his other behaviors directly after the crime. Although as you mentioned, the case seems pretty thin.

As to whether to it is amoral to buy and read his book if he is guilty? An interesting question, and one I have given some thought to because of criticism I have received for reading a certain mystery writer's books.

One of my favorite mystery authors committed a rather cruel murder. I know a lot of people who refuse to read her books as a result. In her case, she was a minor at the time of the crime and was convicted and served time accordingly.

She's since changed her name and, for the most part,refuses to talk about that part of her past. She does not use it to gain a profit or sell books. I think she would rather the world didn't know her shame. Guilt? Remorse? I think she feels all of these things, but how can I really know? Her actions and words suggest that, I could argue, but I don't really know her well enough as a person to say.

I don't know if I would read Amok. I wouldn't totally rule it out though.

Breeni said...

I've heard about this. It will be very interesting to see how it plays out. I'm sure it could easily have happened.

Hollydolly said...

Oh, this is weird. When I read your review another name came to mind. OJ Simpson.........

Asha said...

A quick hello to you A, can't focus much still but getting there!:))

Lotus Reads said...

hi, Wendy

Thank you so much for your comment!

I am surprised this case didn't get that much coverage this side of the world, it had completely captivated Poland when we there.

You are right, if indeed he is the killer, the novel could have been his attempt to brag about how smart he is, but it could have also been an attempt to "confess" maybe?

Yes, I would imagine that an author of mystery novels would have to be keenly interested in murders and other crimes and being that they (the authors) research their stuff so thoroughly, they would know a LOT about how this gruesome stuff works. Could it be that Krystian Bala's research coupled with his fertile imagination was just too close to the truth for his own good?

One of my favorite mystery authors committed a rather cruel murder. I know a lot of people who refuse to read her books as a result. In her case, she was a minor at the time of the crime and was convicted and served time accordingly.

Now you have me wondering who this "mystery" author is! You're right, it's hard to tell what she feels. If it's a crime committed when she was a minor I would imagine she has tried to put it past her, but she is obviously still very intrigued with crime.

If someone gave me a copy of "Amok" now I would probably read it right away, but if Bala was found guilty, I would boycott the book.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Breeni and welcome! Yes, I, too, am curious to see what the verdict will be, especially as there is not a whole lot of evidence (except for the book) and not much of a motive either!

Sylvia Hi! True, I thought of OJ too, except, in his case, a lot of the evidence pointed towards a guilty verdict which didn't happen. And of course, that book he wrote seems to be an avenue for him to brag about the "perfect crime" and how he got away with it! In Bala's case the evidence is very thin in comparison, so it's really hard to know what the verdict will be.

@Asha ~ Welcome back and you are the sweetest for leaving me a note despite the discomfort of surgery and all that. Heal well sweet lady!

Heather (errantdreams) said...

Certainly I gather there's reason to be suspicious. There've been other details mentioned, for example, some anonymous letters the police got from overseas about the case corresponded to times he was in those locations. And it wouldn't be unusual for a killer to behave in a manner that leads to getting caught. So... I'm withholding judgment. I can certainly believe he might have done it, but obviously there isn't enough information out yet. While I'd hate for writers to get arrested because they happen to write something too similar to real life, I don't think that's what's going on here; I do think the police have good reason to at least be suspicious.

Beenzzz said...

You'd think that it would be a dead giveaway! This sort of reminds me of O.J.'s new book....

Tara said...

What a fascinating story. It seems that someone who does this wants to be caught for some reason. I am also wondering about this mystery-mystery writer!

Gentle Reader said...

What an interesting story. I'm very curious to hear what happens! Maybe to avoid deciding whether or not it's immoral to buy a copy of his book, I'll wait until there's a verdict...

How was your vacation, by the way?

Sanjay said...

Lotus, a very intriguing post and I loved the title and reading the post too. I don't want to jump to conclusions and would rather see the trial run it's course. But then again justice is hardly perfect. A good lawyer maybe able to get Bala off since as you mention the case against him is pretty thin.
The inside knowledge that Bala appears to have is really weird, does he have an explanation for it? I am not familiar with the Polish system of justice but I wonder how high the burden of proof is. That the victim knew his ex-wife could be coincidence? I guess I am playing a bit of a devil's advocate here.
Anyway I looked up the BBC for this story and there does not seem to be a verdict yet and the coincidences are really quite a few but yet don't make a strong case.
And like literary feline mentioned he may have written a book to brag about it, and it also made him money and he thought he could get away. I would not buy the book till I found out about the verdict.

You find the most amazing things to talk about.

Radha said...

Thats a bizzare story; if it is in fact true that the author committed the murder & then wrote a book about it!

It is also entirely possible that the media saw a molehill & made a mountain out of it!

Bybee said...

It sounds almost like it could be an episode of MONK.

Jyothsna said...

I'm intrigued to find out more about this story. Why would someone write a book on the crime he committed? To brag? Is it amoral to buy the book, well, that can be said only if we know the real story. I'm curious to know the verdict.

Lotus Reads said...

@Heather ~ Yes, I forgot about the letters, also, Bala's ex-wife was known to the deceased...those definitely add weight to the prosecutor's case. They were supposed to have reached a verdict yesterday, but still no news. Thanks for dropping by, Heather!

@beenzzz ~ True! Except, in OJ's case the book was written "after" the verdict. What makes Bala's case really interesting is that the book, which was written in 2003, is going to be prime evidence in the case.

@Tara ~ It seems that someone who does this wants to be caught for some reason.

I think you're onto something there Tara. When people commit what they think is the perfect crime they cannot help but share their "cunning" with the rest of the world. Many a time this "wanting to share" has been their downfall, also, as you say, the desire to confess is very strong for some people. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

@Gentle Reader ~ I hope they reach a verdict soon. I am sure sales of his book will go through the roof either way. I had a lovely holiday, thank you so much for asking. I have written up a post on Elie Wiesel's "Night" and thrown in my impressions on Auschwitz (and some pictures too) but I haven't got around to publishing it yet.

tanabata said...

Interesting story. I hadn't heard about it. Please post about the verdict when you hear it.
As for reading the book or not, I'm with you. If he's found guilty I don't think I could.
I'm looking forward to hearing about 'Night' and Auschwitz.

Lotus Reads said...

@Sanjay ~ Thanks so much for checking the BBC for a verdict update, that would be a good place to look. I find myself wishing this case would run on "Court TV"! Like you said, if he has clever lawyers, they might be able to get him off without much ado. But then again, he may not be guilty. He continues to insist that a careful reading of the press reports is what enabled him to write a book about a crime that was so similar to the actual one.

We shall wait and see what the Polish courts decide.

starry nights said...

Reminded me also of the O J simpson book. I would not buy or read his book even though he was found innocent because I personally dont think it was a fair trial.In the same light I would wait for the verdict to be in but then what if?

Saaleha said...

fact is often stranger than fiction

violainvilnius said...

He's been convicted - see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20611732/

Lotus Reads said...

@Nat ~ The verdict's out! But apparently he and his lawyers are going to appeal the sentence. Wonder if the appeal will change anything. I guess the verdict is going to affect the sales of his book...wonder if there will be a stay put out on his book so that he no longer profits from the sales?

@Starry ~ The Guardian also tells the story of William Burroughs who accidently killed his wife while attempting to shoot a glass off her head, which later became the theme of his novel "Queer". He wrote: "I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would have never become a writer but for Joan's death."

Lotus Reads said...

@Radha ~ There are still very murky areas. For instance, if Bala did it, who were his accomplices? There's a lot more that needs to be uncovered.

@Bybee ~ I haven't seen MONK but you've got me curious!

@Jyothsna ~ Well, we are no longer in suspense, the verdict is out and he's been convicted! We can only hope that he got a fair trial.

@Saaleha ~ Ain't that the truth?

@Violainvilnius ~ Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention, I have been curious about this case ever since I first read about it.

Clarisse said...

what an interesting yet bizarre story for the author! well i think that it would be just a giveaway to write that novel that was really from the true murder. but i dont know, i guess, i sympathize with writers so much.

Patricia said...

Hi Guys!

I saw the news about Krystian Bala's case today and I would like to buy the book. I was searching the internet but I couldn't find it anywhere. Does anyone know where could I buy it? It can be in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese... though I really don't know wheter there are translations of this book or not.


Lotus Reads said...

@Clarisse ~ Welcome! I completely agree with you, I sympathize with writers too, I so hope the authorities aren't making a mistake! Thank you very much for visiting!

@Patricia ~ Thank you for the visit! I have no clue where "Amok" might be available. Come to think of it, I know nothing about the book except the excerpts that made it to the news reports. I hope you find your copy!

Anonymous said...

This is perfect for Unsolved Mysteries on TV or perhaps the show True crimes. One character trait not unusual for a killer is that of arrogance...that they are smarter than everyone else and can get away with it.

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