Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Banged Up!

It seems I was not the only one to find the publishing of O.J. Simpson’s memoirs reprehensible. The chorus of protest from the media would, unfortunately, probably only succeed in titillating the public’s fancy and ensure that Mr. Simpson and his wacky publisher had a totally undeserved hit on their hands.

Judith Regan, whose publishing house has a distinctly seedy air about it, judging from their previous output, has gone on record that this is Simpson’s “confession,” a statement that must be hardly good news to the LA Police Department to say nothing of the judge and prosecution in the case. And then there are the relatives of the victims, still awaiting their compensation awarded them in what must seem to the rest of the world, a very strange way to run a justice department.

Regan herself removed all doubts as to her sanity (other than in the matter of making money from sleaze) when she gave an interview on TV. It must be a worrying thought for any aspiring author that their manuscript might be assessed by a nut case such as she proved herself to be. Fortunately, I think publishers like that are in a minority. Were Simpson to be writing his book (if, indeed, he was writing it himself) from a prison cell, it would, I think, have been marginally more acceptable. Although perhaps, not much.

In the UK they have just introduced an embargo on prisoners making money from their memoirs whilst in the slammer. This does not make much sense to me. Some prison memoirs have been of genuine quality and to encourage an activity, other than watching television, whilst banged up, must surely be to everyone’s benefit. And perhaps any money they earned would enable them to go straight when released.

Daniel Defoe and Oscar Wilde are but two who might have been dissuaded from penning anything from their cell by this edict and, as they would not have had television to watch, one wonders how they would have filled in the time?

I must agree that there should be exceptions made if books from inside are allowed out into the public domain. One, J. Archer’s work, springs to mind, so perhaps there could be a committee formed to make sure that nothing of this nature is inflicted on the populace in future and a prize awarded, say the W. Scrubbs Award for Outstanding Literary Merit, for those that qualified. A small addition to their sentence for really bad stuff might be advantageous at keeping up the standard.

Strangely enough, Jeffery Archers first novel was written to pay off his debts. And at the time, I thought, what a jolly admirable effort and gave him ten out of ten for it. Mind you, I hadn’t read the book at the time, otherwise I might not have been so fulsome. But his later effort from inside was merely tiresome and self-serving.

So I suppose O.J. Simpson’s problem is that he got away with it. But to thumb your nose at law and order in a book which is a virtual confession in spite of the disclaimer in the title, is neither morally nor ethically acceptable. Miss Regan and Harper Collins should be ashamed of themselves. But somehow, I doubt that they are. However, ultimately they are answerable to Mr. Rupert Murdoch, a man not known for squeamishness in the publishing world. And the revulsion of the public and the media to the mere thought of this book, aroused him to make a remarkable apology – and, more to the point, scrap the deal. Three cheers for Murdoch and a thumbs down for Regan, Simpson and Harper Collins.

Now I wonder if, in a prison cell in Austria, David Irving is scribbling another dubiously accurate historical memoir. I don’t believe the authorities there have any objection to prisoners publishing their work, however dodgy from the point of view of accuracy. I suggest he try Harper Collins.

So stand by. It will probably be a denial that there are any prisons and prison cells in Austria. That should get him out early.


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