Unfair Use

“Good morning, and welcome once again to BookTalk. Today our guest is the always-controversial arts biographer, Mr. Tyrell Hokus. Mr. Hokus, good day to you.”

“Good morning, Ross.”



“I can assure you.”

“Well, hell. Sorry about that. I could have sworn it was Ross.”

“Think nothing of it. You’re getting closer every time. Well, Mr. Hokus, I assume that if you’re on my show, you have another of your daring, audacious and minimally researched biographies to hawk. What could possibly follow in the footsteps of such dubious masterpieces as Maurice Ravel: Disgusting Frog of a Queer, Graham Greene: Who Does That Swishy Pom Think He’s Fooling Anyway?, and your latest work, The Brontës: Shag-Twiddlers, Every Last One of Them?”

“Not a bit of it, Tom. I’m actually out of the biography business. It’s a mug’s game.”


“Sure. I want to be on Good Morning America and Late Night. I don’t know why I keep turning up on this show.”

“That makes several thousand of us.”

“Which is exactly my point. I just bought a new condo and I’m not going to be able to afford a double redwood hot tub on the coin I pull from the pitiful highbrow rubbish I sell to you lot.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I don’t imagine any of our viewers have actually bought your books.”

“You’re telling me, sister.  Anyway, I’m going where the money is. My new book is fiction.”

“Not much of a change for you, really.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most of your previous works in the field of arts biography, with the possible exception of the subject’s name, were complete fabrications.”

“Not a bit of it!”

“In Robert Frost: A Dog-Wanker Remembered, you claimed that Frost was an unconvicted sex murderer and the founder of the American Nazi Party.”

“For all I or anyone else knows, he was.”

“You also claim that he was Belgian.”

“He was! Originally.”

“And a sculptor.”

“What’s your point?”

“Tell us about your novel. Please.”

“About bloody time. It’s called The Celestine Prophecies.”

“Hasn’t that name already been used?”

“You can’t copyright a title, so says my agent.”

“And what is it about?”

“Well, you know that other book what’s called The Celestine Prophecies?”


“It’s the same thing.”

“What, you just copied it?”

“Right. And it’s bound to do well. The first time round it sold like johnny cakes.”

“Word for word?”

“Naw, I changed the names of some of the characters, to make it fresh. I figure no one’ll remember the last one. It was ages ago.”

“Mr. Hokus, you can’t simply take someone else’s copyrighted work, put your name on it and claim it as your own. That’s against the law.”

“Stuff and nonsense, Tom. People do it all the time in the publishing game. It’s called ‘ghostwriting’.”

“But…traditionally, one pays one’s ghostwriter. Also, the ghostwriter produces original work. And the ghostwriter is usually aware that his work is being published under someone else’s name.”

“I’m sure if that were all true, my publisher would have let me know.”

“All your books are self-published, Mr. Hokus.”

“Well, I figured someone would ring me up regardless.”

“Mr. Tyrell Hokus, ladies and gentlemen, has been our guest on BookTalk.”

“Can I tell about my next project, Someone Other Than Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six?”

“Perhaps next time.”


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