Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Criminal Classics – Iain Rowan

Iain Rowan is the author of two truly outstanding collections of short fiction, and his debut novel One of Us has just been released with Infinity Plus.  He is currently undertaking a project to write one short story every week, inspired by song titles, at 52 Songs, 52 Stories.  And he’s taking requests.

Iain’s Criminal Classic is Macbeth…




Consider this, for a crime story.

Think of an organisation. A drug gang, maybe, something like the Barksdale organisation. A senior member of that organisation wants to be at the top, capo di tutti capi, but he’s uncertain about whether he has what it takes to get there, and besides, the leader is firmly in control. Our man’s wife doesn’t share his uncertainty, and seduced by the thought of power she encourages him to be ruthless enough to do what he needs to do.

Despite his persistent doubts, her constant urging spurs him into action, and they plot their next move. She drugs the bodyguards’ drinks so that they black out, he murders his boss, and then when the body is discovered the next day he feigns rage, accuses the bodyguards of being the murderers, and kills them before they can give away the truth. The leader’s sons go on the run, convinced that whoever killed their father is going to come after them next, and knowing that they will also be suspects.

Our man finds that power is not all it is cracked up to be and is troubled by guilt and fear that someone will do to him what he did to his boss. He looks to secure his position at the top by turning his attention to a rival senior gang member, and in particular his son, who he has heard is favourite to rise to the top one day. He ambushes the two of them, kills the father, but the son escapes.

Always flaky, our man is starting to crack up at this point, wracked with guilt and doubt, haunted by visions of his dead friend and colleague, and at a meal with most of the organisation present he starts raving like a lunatic. His wife tries to smooth things over, but her mental state is disintegrating too. She knows that she has got blood on her hands, and she can’t handle it. As if he’d been over fond of dipping into the gang’s cocaine supply, our man passes through his fear, and begins to believe that he is invincible because he knows some secret information that his enemies do not.

Desperately trying to keep control in an organisation that is falling apart and where no-one trusts him any more, he orders the execution of the family of another gang member he considers a threat. The man whose family have been killed joins forces with the murdered leader’s son, and they put together a team to take the organisation on and reclaim the leadership. Our man’s wife can’t stand her guilt and fear and kills herself; stricken with grief he moves to the final showdown, convinced that he has the upper hand. In a fight with the man whose family he killed, our man finally comes to understand that what he thought impossible, is coming to pass, as it was always fated to be. He is hacked to death, the former leader’s son takes control of the organisation, and our man’s brief grasp at power is over, leaving behind it a futile trail of betrayal and blood and murder, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Macbeth’s one hell of a crime story.

– Iain Rowan

The Criminal Classics series was prompted by a post which originally appeared at Crime Fiction Lover.