by Rob Lopresti
I want to tell you about some authors you have never heard of and I have to start out with a warning. You are going to think I’m making these people up, especially since a previous column I more or less did that. But I swear on my next royalty check that I did not make up a single detail of what you are about to read. Each and every one comes from a well-respected reference series from a distinguished publisher, found in most large libraries. If you don’t believe me, I will identify it at the bottom of the page. Naturally we will start with a mystery writer.
ALBERT MILDO worked as a mime impersonator and curator of a dental museum before being sentenced to four years in prison for loitering. After being released he started writing mystery novels including Holster to Hell, The Dead Corpse, and Mr. Bigg’s Little Secret, which won him the Bottom Shelf Award from Metropolitan Airport Library.
RAOUL C. QUINDERPUNTE is a taxidermist. His books include Formaldehyde Is My Ink, Eyes That Glow Like Headlights, and Squirrels and Girls: One Taxidermist’s Weekend in Las Vegas. He won the Bronze Squirrel Award for successfully stuffing a hummingbird.
SARAH PARENTE led an interesting life, to put it mildly. "The root of my belief in the benefits of natural food was shaken," she reports, "when both of my first two husbands succumbed to an adverse reaction to belladonna." She married her third husband, Abraham Abrams, when she was sixty-nine, and had baby Isaac nine months later. Hence her book, Septuagenerian Childbirth: A guidebook.
ARTHUR X. NIHILO was the son of Neil X. and Nadia (deNada) Nihilo. His books include The Reality of Nonexistence and Being For Beginners.
By now you probably think I’m a liar. I’m not. (Well, of course I am. I write fiction, but I’m not lying now). All of these people can be found in the well-respected reference series Contemporary Authors, produced by Gale, a very distinguished publisher. But I am fairly certain that the wonderful folks at Gale made them up.
Why would a publisher deliberately include non-existent writers in their reference series? Well, I’ve never heard an official explanation but I assume that it is a copyright trap. Since these people don’t exist anywhere except those books, if they show up in another publisher’s material, Gale can prove theft. (And by the way, all of these authors claim to live at the same address in Grosse Point Farms, Michigan… must be an interesting household.
Since typical users go to the books to look up known authors, the chance of stumbling across any of them by accident is fairly slim. (Don’t ask how I found them. Librarians are not typical users.) When Gale switched the series to the Web they pulled these phonies, and that makes sense. You could, after all, look in the database for taxidermist-authors.
Anyway, now that you have met Raoul, Sarah, and the gang I hope you have learned that the Web is not the only place to fund bogus information. And I didn’t even mention AARDVARK Z. FARQUHAR.