Caught red handed or off scot-free?

I tried really hard to make my characters different from the people on which they were based,  because I really didn’t want to get sued for slander or libel, but apparently I didn’t do a very good job, because numerous people have recognized them.

This was most true of my first book, Murder under the Microscope, which was based on an incident that happened over 30 years ago, when I was the solo pathologist at the Twin Falls Clinic & Hospital. One of the surgeons who had been there at the time recognized who Sally Shore was based on, who Tyler Cabot was based on, and thought it was so cool that I had killed both of them off.

One of the doctors asked me which surgeon had had a coronary bypass, allowing Sally Shore to be his temporary replacement, and was quite disappointed to learn that I just made him up.

A physician on the staff of the hospital in another town recognized George Marshall, the curmudgeonly gastroenterologist of Gnarly Finger fame.

Most of my techs that worked for me back then recognized who Lucille was based on.

My second book, Too Much Blood, was based on a sleazy lawyer that got all the Clinic doctors (except me) and many others involved in a scheme to avoid paying taxes. It worked quite well for five years until Black Monday happened and it all came crashing down. Everybody involved found themselves liable for hundreds of thousands in back taxes, interest, and penalties. This adversely affected the bottom line of the Clinic, which was doctor-owned, for many years thereafter and I really believe it contributed to our necessity to sell out to the county hospital in 2001. Everybody around here knows who that was.

I spoke at Kiwanis last year about my books, and I had a few there to sell if anybody wanted to buy one. One of the members requested the one about Jay Braithwaite Burke using the name of the person on whom he was based.

My third book, Grievous Bodily Harm, was about an administrator whose ambition was to become CEO of a behemoth hospital system and didn’t care whom he had to step on to get there. He was not above blackmail and sexual harassment to get what he wanted. The administrator on whom Marcus Manning was based was a pathological liar and treated employees like s**t. He’s long gone. And strangely enough, nobody has mentioned that they recognized him. I find that hard to believe, but there it is, don’t you know.

My friends and I go out for breakfast on Saturday mornings, and one of the waitresses told me once that I needed to write a book about sexual harassment, and I said, “You haven’t read Grievous Bodily Harm, have you?”

She hadn’t, but I bet she did right after that.

As I’ve said before, my first three books were my way of killing off three of the most threatening people in my life. They were a catharsis. The characters in the other books are totally made up, with the exception of three physicians. No, four. Oh yes, and Rollie Perkins, the coroner, is based on a local mortician who was one of my favorite people. Sadly, he has passed on. The Commander is based on a retired cop who was also one of my favorite people.

I’m always willing to use real names in my books upon request. My ophthalmologist, Robert Welch, MD, asked me to use his name in The Body on the Lido Deck. He was the ship’s doctor, and quite disappointed that I’d made him look like Richie Cunningham instead of George Clooney.

Everybody laughs when they think they recognize somebody. So far, to my knowledge, nobody has been offended.

Nobody, so far, has told me that they recognized themselves.

Still Waiting…

I’m still waiting. I promised people that Death by Autopsy would be out sometime this summer. I really thought it would be. I’ve published three books now, and I thought I had a better handle on how long it would take. So much for my short-term memory.

Sure, it took me two months to do the first edit. That didn’t happen with the other three books. I probably have nobody but myself to blame. Now I find myself nagging iUniverse to hurry up and get things done, because (1) I promised people, (2) I want to sell my new book at Thousand Springs, (3) I want to have a launch party, (4) I want to have a book signing at Barnes and Noble, and (5) I want to get myself on KMVT and tell everybody about it, and I want to do all that before the holidays get here and screw everything up. I want people to be able to buy many copies to give as Christmas presents.

Here’s where we are: the editing is done and we’re now in the design phase. I have chosen which layout I want for the interior of the book. You’d be surprised how many details go into deciding what the printed pages look like. I’m waiting to see which mockups I have to choose from for the book cover. Then when that’s all done, the book will go into proofreading, and then I’ll receive a preliminary printed copy of the book to review and make any changes.
After that, I can release it for publication, and then and only then can I start scheduling things. Then I’ll be able to order copies to sell at my launch party. Barnes & Noble can order copies to sell at my book signing. I can give everybody in the family a copy for Christmas.

Now, can we all close our eyes really tight and cross all our fingers and toes and wish really hard for iUniverse to hurry up and make all this possible? Maybe light a candle for me? Pretty please with chocolate sauce on it?

Because that’s what I’m doing.