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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best creativity magazine in the UK“, C.R. Berry, author of conspiracy thriller trilogy Million Eyes, talks about why he made Princess Diana’s tragic death a significant plot point in his books.
Written by C.R. Berry
The car crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, is an event that has always fascinated me. It left the UK reeling in shock, millions of people grief-stricken over this beloved figure they had never met. I remember my mum in tears. I remember there being nothing on any TV channel but coverage of the dreadful accident in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris for at least a day.
And I remember, as time went on, how the word ‘accident’ became an increasingly controversial description of what had occurred.
Princess Diana: a victim of dark forces?
I’ve always loved a good conspiracy theory. Ever since I learned about the mysterious shooting of King William II in the New Forest, and all the people who had a motive to kill him, I’ve been interested in the prospect of dark forces manipulating events from the shadows. When people started to suggest that Princess Diana had been the subject of said dark forces, my ears pricked up.
Of course, I don’t need to believe in conspiracy theories to be intrigued by them. I became drawn to the mysteries and unanswered questions that surrounded the night of August 31st 1997, and the allegations of foul play that the Daily Express and prominent figures like Mohammed Al-Fayed were espousing. The sheer possibility that Diana’s car crash may have been engineered made for a great story.
Why were all the CCTV cameras along the route of Diana’s Mercedes turned off? What caused the ‘bright flashes’ reported by witnesses right before the crash? Was driver Henri Paul really drunk or were his blood samples swapped with those of a dead drunk driver? The investigation of these mysteries by Met Police inquiry Operation Paget in 2004, and then again by the 2007 coroner’s inquest, made them even more prevalent in my mind.
The white Fiat that vanished
While most of the questions have been put to rest, a couple still remain to this day. Most notably, the Fiat Uno. Forensics found that white paint scratches on the Mercedes and bits of broken tail light in the road had come from a Fiat Uno that some witnesses saw racing out of the tunnel after the crash. It was determined that the two cars had collided briefly right before the Mercedes ploughed into the tunnel’s thirteenth pillar. To date, the white Fiat Uno has never been traced. It’s been alleged that the Uno deliberately caused the Mercedes to swerve and crash.
The seeds of an idea for a novel started to form. The Diana murder theory was one of several from history that I was interested in, including the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and the aforementioned shooting of William II. I developed a storyline that would link these events to the same dark forces. Given that William II’s death happened nine hundred years before Diana’s, there was only one thing these dark forces could be: time travellers.
Conspiracies beyond Diana
The plot of the first book in the Million Eyes trilogy materialised, with two characters, Ferro and Jennifer, on the trail of the time travellers and hunted by assassins. The second and third books, Million Eyes II: The Unraveller and Million Eyes III: Ouroboros, incorporate even more events subject to conspiracy theories into the same time-travel-laden puzzle. The Bermuda Triangle vanishings, the Gunpowder Plot, even the resurrection of Jesus. It has been so exciting to imagine that these events didn’t happen the way everybody thinks or believes.
A selling point
People have called Million Eyes exploitative of Princess Diana and her death. To be perfectly honest, I don’t deny it. All authors who incorporate real events or people into their fiction are exploiting them for entertainment purposes. And I knew making Diana a character in Million Eyes, and her death a plot by time travellers to recover a mysterious item in her possession, would be a selling point for the novel. But the driving force behind her inclusion was a creative one.
I typically ask those who think I’m wrong to have included her, what about all the books that have been written about Jack the Ripper? What happened to his victims was horrific, yet books, movies and TV have turned him into an alien, a ghost, a royal conspirator, even the Loch Ness Monster in disguise. The tragedy of Diana’s death may be fresher in people’s minds than what happened to those poor women in London in 1888, but why should that matter? It shouldn’t be acceptable to make sci-fi of one tragedy, but not another.
In a way, making Diana a character has made me appreciate her as a person even more. How different she was from other members of the Royal Family, how normal and approachable and vulnerable she was, and what she did for AIDs and leprosy sufferers, and the victims of landmines. I was quite young when she died, but I’ve had to learn about her for the book, and I’m glad of that.
Most people who’ve read Million Eyes and Million Eyes II: The Unraveller see them for what they are: fiction, designed to entertain, not to be taken seriously. I took an even bigger risk in Million Eyes II by writing an alternative and totally heretical version of Jesus’s life. But even some Christians have told me they can appreciate that it’s just a story.
And I’m fortunate that everybody who’s read and reviewed Million Eyes and its sequel have enjoyed it. The first book has been called “a disorienting but enthralling experience” with “relatable and believable characters in Ferro and Jennifer” and a “deliciously dark vein of humour”. The second book has been described as “a madcap romp through time” that’s “scarily plausible” and “as intriguing, captivating and addictive as the first”.
Million Eyes III: Ouroboros
I can only hope I pull it out of the bag with the third book! Million Eyes III: Ouroboros releases as a paperback on March 20th and one early review has already said that it does a fantastic job of bringing the story full circle, and the ending made her cry. If reviews like that continue, my work here is done.
Find more from C.R. Berry now:
Love conspiracy novels? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter
All 3 books in the Million Eyes trilogy are out now from Elsewhen Press
Fast-paced sci-fi conspiracy thrillers for fans of Dan Brown and Doctor Who
17 time-twisting tales set in the world of the Million Eyes trilogy
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