A few months ago I was contacted by law enforcement on a matter of national security. It turns out that somebody working on a top-secret weapons project had taken his name, and his entire personal background, from a character in one of my DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels. No joke, friends. This is a true story.
Investigators contacted me, through my publisher, to ask me how I happened to create this character, his backstory, and how I chose his name. I spoke to the investigators and told them quite simply that I made it all up as I went along. I have no idea how I came up with the name, it was just random association. I liked the way it sounded.
They wouldn’t tell me any details in return… except that the guy legally changed his name to the name of my character the same month my book came out and that he apparently identified with aspects of the characters background and motives, adopting them as his own. The guy couldn’t have been very bright…adopting this character’s name is akin to plotting to rob Fort Knox and changing your name to Auric Goldfinger first. And can you imagine what kind of guy would legally change his name to match a bad guy in a DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel??
I did ask the investigators how they made the DIAGNOSIS MURDER connection. I don’t kid myself, I know how obscure my books are in the whole scheme of things. Turned out they ran a Google search on his name as part of their background check and only four listings came up…three of them references to my book. Then they read the book and were surprised how many of the details of this character’s life matched the man on their weapon’s project.
Needless to say, I found the whole thing unsettling. It’s the first time, that I know of, that anything I’ve written has been imitated or recreated in real life. I’ve often wondered since that call how the whole thing turned out.
Who knows, maybe I could get a DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel out of it…
11 thoughts on “Now The Truth Can Be Told”
Which Diagnosis book was it? Or is that knowledge top secert? And the most important question did the investigators like the book?
That is very creepy…
I’ll confess to wanting to change my name to be a character in a book once. It was Peter from THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, but I was in third grade at the time and it lasted about a week.
So did this make you think about the “writer’s resonsibility to society” question again, or was it just a weird, disturbing incident?
It was just a weird, disturbing incident.
I’d rather not mention the book or the character just in case the investigation is still on-going…though if the guy happens to read my blog, too, he’s probably tipped off now anyway (if he’s hasn’t been fired or put in jail already).
I’m having more fun picturing the chewing out of the background checker.
And can you imagine what kind of guy would legally change his name to match a bad guy in a DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel??
I once worked with a guy who legally changed his name to Ozzy Osbourne. It’s more common than you think.
Although I think that simply indicates that “what kind of guy would legally change his name to…” is a lot more common than we think.
Wow! I guess you’ve arrived. Where, I’m not sure, but that is an amazing story.
Did they happen to give you some indication how likely someone like that might be to turn into a stalker? If they liked your work that much, what’s to say they won’t show up at your front door? Yowza.
I don’t think the guy loved my work…I think he just identified with the character and his motivations. Maybe he just liked the character’s name…
Holy Canoli! I’d be looking under the bed at night, Mr. Goldberg. That’s definitely material for a novel. It worked out all right, though? I hope.
It sounds like it has all the makings for a sequel to “Three Days Of The Condor”, which also had a lot of national security problems because of similarities from a book…..
Maybe you’ll get a Faye Dunaway out of all this, but don’t tell the Mrs…..
Oh my … I find that very unsettling too. This world is getting crazier by the minute!