David Halberstam died recently, killed in a car crash, and the English-speaking world lost one of its great writers of non-fiction. I loved his books, especially "The Fifties", and would often read a book of his even if the subject matter didn't compel me -- he was just that good.
In thinking of him I keep wondering: would his books been as interesting if they were all made up? Writers -- especially genre writers -- are programmed to "show, don't tell", and those habits run deep. There are beloved exceptions -- much by Borges, The Dictionary of the Khazars, Stanislaw Lem. But by and large fiction hews to the time-honored tradition of characters and plots.
But non-fiction -- expository non-fiction -- is often exciting, gripping, compelling -- all of the things fiction is supposed to be. Is it all of those things only because it's true? I think that if someone had written a book as readable, as interesting as "The Fifties", but about a completely different world -- I think I would have loved it.