‘Wonderfully exciting and intriguing as ever’
Silent Scream (2009)
Hot young British film star Amanda Delany had the world at her feet. She’d had a string of affairs with famous actors, making perfect fodder for the tabloids. Then came a commission to write a tell-all memoir.
When Amanda is found brutally murdered, DCI James Langton’s enquiry discovers the sad truth behind her successful façade. Addicted to drugs and starvation diets, she’d almost died from a botched abortion.
Meanwhile, DI Anna Travis is up for promotion, but Langton is blocking her, accusing her of professional misconduct. This latest case could make or break Anna’s career.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Silent Scream includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Lynda La Plante. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Reading Group Guide
Beautiful young film star Amanda Delany is the next big thing in Britain, until she is found murdered in her posh London home. Up for promotion, Detective Anna Travis intends to prove her worth by solving the case of the beloved ingénue. But the deeply troubled Amanda, known for promiscuity with her co-stars, drug use, and anorexia, has left behind a messy trail of suspects, including famous ex-boyfriends, jealous roommates, a fraudulent agent, and ice-cold parents – all of whom stand to lose everything from the actress’ upcoming tell-all memoir. As she immerses herself in the star’s sordid affairs, Anna must overcome her past misconduct – and gain the approval of her critical boss and ex-lover James Langton – to solve the high-profile case that could make or break her career.
1. Langton says that Anna Travis needs more experience before she can get promoted. Which of Anna’s traits make her a successful DI, and in what ways does she need to improve?
2. What are some of the reasons Langton decides to take over the investigation of Amanda Delany’s murder from DCI Matthews? How was the case possibly mishandled at the beginning? How could it have been solved sooner?
3. The author says that Langton was never one to play by the rules. Which rules does he consistently break and why?
4. Langton warns Anna about withholding information from the team and making conjectures. Does she have a right to do so, and how did this help or hurt the case? How do they both overstep their bounds?
5. Compare Langton’s investigation style to that of DI Travis. How can each learn from the other?
6. Despite Amanda Delany’s many problems, she had a power over those who knew her. What about Amanda was so alluring, and how did this contribute to both her success and her downfall?
7. Besides Amanda Delany, who are the other victims in the case and why? Discuss the theme of manipulation throughout the book.
8. Throughout the first half of the book, who do you think had the strongest motive for killing Amanda Delany?
9. What was the significance of the Meredith Kinmont poem, ‘I am the Green Grass’, that Jeannie Bale read at Amanda Delany’s funeral? What does it reveal about Amanda’s nature?
10. Compare and contrast the personalities of Anna Travis and Amanda Delany. How are the two women alike, and which of Amanda’s character traits may Anna have recognized in herself ?
11. What does La Plante reveal about the nature of obsession? What characters fell prey to obsession?
12. What were Langton’s possible motives for referring Anna to Gordon the chiropractor? Could he have known about Gordon’s true feelings?
13. Discuss the ways in which the characters use both money and sex for power throughout the book.
14. Anna’s father was a big influence on her. How does his death affect Anna’s approach to her career, as well as her romantic relationships?
15. What is the biggest hurdle in the investigation, and how do Anna and the team overcome it? What clues possibly led them astray?
16. How should Anna have handled the interview for her promotion? What would you have done differently in the same situation?
17. It is never confirmed who impregnated Amanda Delany. Who do you believe it to be?
18. If Amanda Delany had not been murdered, where do you see her future going? Would she have changed her ways, or eventually self-destructed?
19. Who besides the actual killer had the strongest motive to murder Amanda Delany? Who do you think would have been hurt the most by the publication of her memoir?
20. What was at the root of Amanda Delany’s ‘silent scream’? What demons followed her throughout her life?
Enhance your Book Group
1. Watch the 1944 movie Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman, the Victorian thriller that Amanda Delany was filming at the time of her murder. Discuss how the film sets the stage for Silent Scream.
2. Look through recent celebrity magazines and websites and discuss which young actresses in Hollywood today most closely resemble Amanda Delany.
3. At the point in the book where Anna Travis uses the index card technique her father taught her to organize her suspects, meet with your group to recreate this game. Make an index card for each suspect, discuss each person’s possible motives, and place your cards in order of suspicion. Discuss the possibility of any additional suspects and motives.
4. Discuss what you would include in your own tell-all memoir and how friends and family might react.
A Conversation with Lynda La Plante
1. How is the nature of police work different for men and women, and how does this come into play for Anna Travis? What are your views on the role of women, specifically a young detective like Anna, in such a male-dominated field?
Although the Metropolitan police force remains a male-dominated environment, there have been major steps forward in removing discrimination between male and female officers. Equality is preached, but there remain antagonistic attitudes, usually from the older detectives. The new breed realizes that female officers must be treated as equals, and although there are obviously a number of women leaving for maternal reasons, it does not affect the workplace. Female officers know that if time is taken out to either give birth or remain at home to look after their children until they feel they can return to work, they will basically have to restart their careers. Laws change, police procedures change, and taking any time out requires an updated knowledge.
Anna Travis will have to prove herself a capable detective before any promotion. There is no easy solution; any failing she has will not be due to her being female.
2. Were there any high-profile cases that inspired the Amanda Delany storyline?
There are many cases that I have used as a semi background for the building of the character Amanda Delany. We have very famous young models who appear hell-bent on a destructive life of binge drinking and drugs. This is also very relevant with many young Hollywood starlets, girls who appear to have everything – wealth, success, and beauty – but are constantly being arrested for drug abuse and alcohol-fueled incidents. The number of famous young actresses spending time in rehab, suffering from various addictions along with eating disorders, is a daily news item. We live in an age when sadly few famous stars have not had plastic surgery, breast implants, teeth implants, hair extensions, nail extensions, and attempt to maintain a skeletal frame. Amanda Delany is one of them.
3. In reference to an affair with a witness (Damien Nolan) in a previous case, Langton says to Anna, ‘You’ve got a bright future and you almost blew it’. Why does Anna continuously let personal relationships affect her work?
Why does Anna Travis continuously let personal relationships affect her work? She is very young, very inexperienced, and her private time is constantly swamped by whatever investigation she is working on. She has few friends outside her workplace; she has no hobbies or sport-related pastimes. She is very career minded, almost obsessive, and when she makes a foolish error of judgment it is highlighted because of her relationship with her boss, her mentor, her ex-lover James Langton. That is in reality one of her first errors but, likewise, can be said of him having a sexual relationship with such a young detective. Early on she is very aware that she is making a mistake, but in many ways not only is he a very sexually attractive man, he is also a father figure. It is Anna, however, who breaks off the relationship, and when she makes the error of being attracted to a man so similar to Langton, i.e. Damien Nolan, it is down to the fact he makes her feel less like a young girl and more like a woman. Again it is her inexperience that doesn’t give her a self-warning. Langton is absolutely correct warning her of her stupidity in having a sexual relationship with Damien Nolen. If Nolan had been called as a defense witness, and it was leaked that an officer involved in the investigation was having a relationship with the husband of a woman on trial, all hell could break loose.
Anna has to live and learn by her mistakes. The flaws in her character are what make her sympathetic and in many ways understandable, because she is also a very attractive woman. Sometimes she is really unaware of her own sexuality, and the men who prove to be detrimental to her career are more or less filling a void left by Langton.
4. Anna’s father appears to have influenced her greatly. Who has influenced your life and work?
Jack Travis was a big man, with a big personality, and the reputation of a true cop. He never rose above the rank of detective sergeant, because unlike his daughter he had never had the education to move him up the ranks. He was a hard drinker and a man everyone admired; he took no prisoners and his honesty and toughness made him a detective who was always a mainstay of any murder enquiry team. He has many similarities to his beloved daughter, a workaholic who is obsessive and determined never to allow a case to go unsolved. Jack nevertheless somehow found time to be a constant support for Anna. He was always in slight awe of her beauty, and even more so her intelligence. His death, leaving Anna alone, was a very painful period in her young life.
I can think of no one in my own life with whom I had a relationship like Anna and her father. I have not had that many people who I can honestly say influenced me or my work. I have, however, been fortunate to work alongside so many talented people that contact has enabled me to learn from them. To have spent so much of my career, first as an actress, taught me all about failure and at the same time gave me a very literate background. I have learned from mistakes, and I think possibly the main influence would be a producer called Verity Lambert. She was a very tough operator and a woman that also took risks, i.e. Verity took the risk of commissioning me to write my first television series, Widows. She took the chance knowing I had never written anything before but made me understand that if it was not up to her standard she would hire another writer. By the time the first draft of episode one was on her desk, I had already begun diligent research helped by the Met police. Her notes were never destructive, constantly making me see the faults for myself, e.g. she asked if I had intended for the leading character not to come into focus until midway through the script! She also gave me another note that like everything she ever said I have used throughout my career: ‘If it is not on the written page it will not appear in the script’. I remained a constant friend of Verity until she died; she was in many ways my mentor. The other person who will always be remembered by me was my first American editor, Jeanne F. Bernkoff. One note from Jeannie was that I should never be afraid of a ‘perfect written line’; she called them diamond lines, which I often spoiled by surrounding them with cheap glitter!
5. In several instances, you chose to reveal details about the characters to the reader that Anna Travis was not aware of. Why did you choose this technique, and how do you think it enhanced the story?
I often choose to give a reader details about characters that the police are not privy to. I chose this technique because I think it is interesting to see how the information is gradually gathered by the investigation. It makes the reader on occasion one step ahead, but then it is equally interesting to see if the information is valuable or not.
6. Were there any intentional parallels between Anna Travis and Amanda Delany?
The only parallel between Anna Travis and Amanda Delany is youth. Amanda is successful, famous, and wealthy in her chosen career. Travis is neither wealthy nor famous but I consider her to be very successful. They are very different females, one with a wretched destructive streak with no self-esteem. Anna on the other hand has had a loving background with doting parents, and they have given her security and values. Amanda Delany has no moral values; her deep-seated insecurity is in total contrast to Anna, and yet her compassion and shock when she uncovers the seedy, pitiful existence of a girl who was an icon to many young fans, saddens her greatly.
7. What is at the root of the tension between Langton and Anna? What is the biggest change in their relationship in this latest book?
The growing tension between Langton and Travis is due to the fact that they had a sexual relationship. Langton finds it difficult to let go of his control. At the same time neither can help the fact they are bound together by a mutual attraction. Langton also came into her life after the death of her father, so he is bound up in their relationship as a ‘father figure’ as well as her mentor. As Anna gains confidence in herself the ties begin to loosen, so the relationship slowly changes as she is more capable of standing up to him. In Silent Scream Anna is beginning to gain more experience and attempting to remove herself from his domination.
8. How did the current economic crisis influence your inclusion of various financial conflicts in the book?
The current economic crisis in the UK creates the financial situation with Amanda’s agent. The world of publishing creates more and more celebrity deals for autobiographies from young stars who have their fifteen minutes of fame. It isn’t hard to believe that Amanda Delany could ask for a huge advance from a publisher for her memoirs. The UK is awash with soap stars writing novels and autobiographies to the extent that some booksellers have refused to stock a third autobiography from a star who is still only thirty-one years old!
9. What does the future possibly hold for Anna Travis? What are you working on now?
The future for Anna Travis is watching her moving up the ranks. In my next novel she will head up a murder team and have a personal tragedy that will shape the rest of her life. I see Anna Travis eventually slipping into the shoes of my Prime Suspect detective, Jane Tennison – to be able to see a character age and shaped by her life is a wonderful experience for me.
10. You have a very successful career as a novelist. What advice would you give to those who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
My advice to any writer beginning a career is to make sure you understand your subject matter. It is a truly wonderful profession that is made by dedication and having the confidence to self-believe. I always advise any young writer working for me to keep going. Often the first attempts are never productive because of lack of confidence. Many writers, in my opinion, make the mistake of constantly reworking their first chapters until the initial energy is lost. Keep going. Don’t ask family members for their advice; they will always have ‘their story’. Retain the energy that first kick-started you into wanting to write. A finished manuscript can be reworked and edited but in many cases, the lack of confidence means the manuscript is never finished and ends up in a drawer somewhere. When the novel is completed, another learning curve is to be able to make a treatment of your story. Never send an uncommissioned manuscript to a publisher. Find out who the commissioning editors are of the publisher you choose. I have printed in front of my desk a large notice: rejection does not mean no. Many famous writers have been through rejections; it’s the same advice again: keep going and upper most, if possible, find an agent who will read your novel and believe in it as much as you do.