RARA-AVIS: Horse Theft and Robert Leslie Teran

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Thu, 22 Apr 1999 08:08:10 -0400 Speaking of theft, coincidentally, there's a woman who's contacted me (I'm
not sure why-I guess because of my site) who claims to be suing Dick
Francis over what she claims is the theft of her life story in his Sid
Halley novel, COME TO GRIEF, of a few years ago.

It seems she was an investigator who looked into the mutilation of some
race horses. Her anger seems to stem from the fact one publisher wouldn't
accept her autobiography because it resembled Francis' book. She claims she
had been corresponding with Francis, and that he had worked details of
their private correspondence into his book. The case had also been covered
in the press, evidently.

Unfortunately, it's all tied in with her daughter's death from cancer,
which she claims Francis also appropriated for his own novel "without
warning." As well, she's upset at the parts of the book that don't match
her life story (yeah, first it's too close to her life, then it's not close
enough) and also that he seems to have included facts in the book that she
never revealed to him, facts that "only myself, and the person doing the
vandalism of my horses, could have known." She then wonders if " persons
unknown have followed me on many occasions?" and notes that "there are also
wheels within wheels that I cannot go into right now."

Despite what seems like a galloping case of paranoia, the question does
remain: when someone bases a story on a real-life incident, is it theft? (I
think Patrica Cornwell was also sued for this, but that had to do more with
the fact that she used confidential coroner's reports which she had access
to during her day job).

Personally, I'd have to question how someone could be sued for distorting
the truth in fiction. Seems like a real "Duh!" to me, but then, people have
successfully sued McDonald's because nobody told them that hot coffee was
hot, and that it might hurt if you spill it on yourself.

As for fiction based on other fiction, there's a huge gap between theft and
homage, of rip-off and tribute. If GOD IS A BULLET really is based on THE
SEARCHERS, my appreciation of the book just took a giant leap forward (I'm
working my way through it now). So far, I've been very aware of Teran
trying to push buttons and overwriting every single sentence, but there is
a good story in there. But it's his impressionist writing style that seems
to be getting most of the comments. If he keeps it up, he may become the
Robert Leslie Bellem of his age (and I'm not meaning this as a slam,
necessarily). I just read a another sentence that may be regarded in the
future as a Teranism, where a "John Lee's Caddy tires into the driveway."

But rather than detracting from my enjoyment of the story, the Searchers
connection actually adds to it. Good eye, Mark.

Kevin Smith
The Thrilling Detective Web Site

In the April issue: True Confessions in our P.I. Poll

# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to majordomo@icomm.ca.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.vex.net/~buff/rara-avis/.