Fake novel

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(HOST) Commentator Philip Baruth is outraged at the glut of fake news, and now fake novels, that are hitting Americans from all sides these days. More specifically, he’s outraged that he’s not getting the calls to write them.

(BARUTH) Remember Armstrong Williams, the conservative com- mentator who was paid by the Bush administration to secretly promote No Child Left Behind? Well, a few weeks back the Government Accountability Office declared the Williams contract “covert propaganda,” and the case has now been referred to the U.S. Attorney for possible prosecution.

But just when I’d stopped feeling bad about the Williams scandal, along comes something even worse, the New York Daily News reports that the pharmaceutical lobby commissioned a thriller in which terrorists used cheap imported Canadian drugs to poison unwitting Americans. They offered the prospective novelist six figures, apparently.

“Work began in April, after [publishers] hired veteran ghostwriter Julie Chrystyn. Her story concerned a Croatian terrorist cell that uses Canadian Web sites to murder millions of unwitting Americans looking for cut-rate pharmaceuticals.”

The article goes on to connect the dots, which are huge enough
to need very little connecting. “The Pharmaceutical Research
and Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, has vigorously fought
all efforts to legalize the purchase of cheap drugs from Canada. Even though the lobby has had some success, the underground business still takes an estimated one billion dollars in annual profits from American drug behemoths.”

“Chrystyn titled her thriller-in-progress The Spivak Conspiracy.” After she delivered the first 50 pages, PhRMA made several editorial suggestions. According to Chrystyn’s co-writer, the drug lobby “wanted it somewhat dumbed down for women, with a lot more fluff in it.”

I don’t know about you, but I for one am livid about this: Who, may I ask, is this Julie Chrystyn, and how and why did she get the nod to write the fake drug novel?

I don’t want to brag, but I like to think that in the fiction world, I’m fairly well-known for second-rate plot and a certain appetite for a fat pay-check. I’m not saying the drug kingpins should have come to me immediately, but what about a chance to underbid or de- monstrate a lower level of integrity than “veteran ghost writer”
Julie Chrystyn?

Believe me, if the job had come my way, no one would have had to “dumb it down” after the fact. It’d be dumb as they come, from the get-go.

This is all particularly annoying because when the project was scuttled, the drug lobbby offered Chrystyn $100,000 to keep the whole doomed idea quiet. Obviously, since I read the article in the New York Daily News and then told all of you about it, the fabu- lous Miss Julie Chystyn didn’t do such a hot job of keeping the whole thing hush-hush.

So let me just put it out there as directly as I can: Hey, Big Pharmaceutical, where’s the love? Work with me next time, and I can promise you this you’ll get a page-turner you can be proud of, one that will give Americans night-sweats at the thought of cheap Canadian prescription drugs.

And if not, I melt away like an October frost. No investigations,
no indictments, no news stories just the competence and
professionalism you expect in a fake novelist.

Philip Baruth is a novelist living in Burlington. He teaches at the University of Vermont.

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