Dear Mr. Chandler...
Anyone doubting that has only to run a web site for a while, or, I guess, simply attempt to offer an opinion or two in public, before that becomes glaringly obvious. People misread, misspeak and misinterpret stuff with such ferocity and come up with such peculiar notions that you wonder if they had to go to Stupid School to get that way, or were just naturally blessed.
Like, on a mailing list recently, I dared poke a little fun at a famous author's PR schtick and his increasing longwindedness, only to be told by an apparent adult on the list that I had no right to voice such an opinion about anyone "who's accomplished so much more than you have" and "are a lot better than you are."
The implication, of course, being that one should keep their mouths shut about one's betters.
Naturally, this genius' own literary accomplishments seem to consist chiefly of a self-published book only available on his MySpace page, but that's beside the point. You still you have to wonder about any "writer" -- published or not -- who thinks so little of the concept of free speech.
And then there's my site. I get letters all the time from people who think I'm a detective agency or a book seller or a DVD vendor or even the fictitious character I'm writing about. And plenty of folks with more technology than imagination who've had nothing better to do than Google their own names, only to discover some private detective who shares their monicker. Most of them assume I'm the author, of course, and are simply curious as to why "I" chose that particular name.
Which is harmless enough, I guess. I answer them, clarify who I am and what I do, pat their butts and send 'em on their way.
But then there are the gumdrops who take it up a big notch, like the latest wingnut who thinks she has a legal case because a relatively well-respected mystery author had a series built around a character who shared her long deceased relative's name.
Not that there is much to link the two beyond a shared bit of nomenclature and a few rough biographical similarities, but this woman's anger seems to have two fronts: she's angry because the name is the same, and she's angry because the details of the detective's life are not the same. In a work of fiction!
But mostly she seems to resent the praise and acclaim the author has garnered over the last ten years or so, over what she sees as the dead body of her relative. Did I mention the woman considers herself a "truly creative person"?
I made the mistake of trying to reason with this fruitcake, and now I've got members of her extended clan also on my case, also threatening me with legal action. And now the woman's boasting she has plans to confront the author.
Suffice it to say that I managed to track him down and warn him, just in case. After all, being a looney toon doesn't necessarily disqualify anyone from being able to purchase a gun in this country. I'd rather risk ridicule for over-reacting than read about some poor mystery author being Cheyneyed in the face.
And this isn't the first time it's happened. I've had correspondence with a few other litigation-happy crackpots over the years, perhaps most notably a few years ago when a woman informed me she was going to sue a British author for ripping off her life for a male character-- and also having the audacity to change almost every bit of her life for his fictional character. She demanded I post "the whole story" on my web site so the world would finally know "the truth."
I tell you, it makes me long for the days when most of my e-mail from the site was more along the lines of:
Dear Mr. Chandler,
I love your books about Phillip Malrowe. Why don't you write more?