How the 'salaciousness' of true crime TV inspired Thomas King's latest mystery novel

In author Thomas King's latest book in the DreadfulWater mystery series, a true crime reality show comes to Chinook to investigate a death that’s been ruled accidental.
Thomas King's latest book, "A Matter of Malice," is based on a true crime reality television show coming to Thumps Dreadfulwater's town of Chinook. (Trina Koster)

Thomas King doesn't watch true crime reality shows, but they became the inspiration for his latest mystery novel, A Matter of Malice. 

"I find them just kind of creepy," King said. "They sort of get stuck to the wall of my mind, and if I can use them, I do."

A Matter of Malice is the fourth book in the DreadfulWater mystery series, which follows Cherokee ex-cop Thumps DreadfulWater as he's constantly pulled into solving cold cases in the small town of Chinook.

But in the latest book, a true crime reality show comes to Chinook to investigate a death that's been ruled accidental.

The show, named Malice Aforethought, looks for "salaciousness," even in places where there isn't any.

"I hope I don't glorify that kind of journalism, if you want to call it that," he said.

"A Matter of Malice" is King's fourth novel in the series — the fifth one will be out in January. (Trina Koster, HarperCollins Canada)

In the book, the local chamber of commerce starts "The Howdy Program" reminiscent of classic Western stereotypes including ones about "cowboys and Indians."

"The cowboys and Indians will probably never die as icons," King said. "They're just too delicious to throw into the trash can."

The series has spanned 17 years — and in that time, as King gets older, he wanted his character to experience some of the same things he was as he went through life.

"I thought, 'Why should I leave my main character out of that loop?'" he said. "I figured as I get set upon by life and diseases and conditions and bangs and bumps, why not Thumps? That's a part of living.

"So, in a sense, I suppose we are linked at the hip in some ways."

King's next book in the crime fiction series will be out in January.