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Michael Thompkins
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Dog Whisperer Falls

by Michael 5/2/2010 12:26:00 PM

All too suddenly I received the following email:

"With mournful regret, the California Narcotic & Explosive Canine Association gives notice that Dan Lamaster tragically perished in a residential house fire on Saturday, April 17, 2010. The Canine Community has lost a pioneer, a, visionary, an icon, a true friend.  There are times when mere words are insufficient to describe a person's life contribution both personally and professionally.  It would be impossible to ever accurately determine the number of people and dogs that Dan has positively influenced during his career, his life.   Dan was an original founding member of the California Narcotic Canine Association. His twenty years of unselfish contribution both on the field and in the classroom has been an integral factor that directly contributed to the overall quality and success of CNCA. Dan contributed so much, quietly, behind the scenes, without any intent to seek any kind of recognition, but instead did it because he wanted to be part of something that in the end would make us all better handler's, better trainer's, better people.  His kindness and compassion will always be, in all ways, a testament to his true character.  As we slowly and over time come to realize what a substantial loss we have all incurred on so many levels, let's give pause, remember and reflect on the absolute kind Soul that Dan was and continues to be and together we all must celebrate his life. He would have not wanted or accepted anything less. "

   

I knew Danny for just a few years as I researched Explosive Detection K9 teams and training in the Southland.  We established a bit of a friendship based on his love of dogs and literature.  When I first met him, he was engrossed in Steinbeck's East of Eden-"for the 13th time!" Danny was a dog whisperer, a man who could train the most stubborn or inattentive puppy to hunt and find explosives, contraband or people.  He was, as CNECA points out, a precious resource to Law Enforcement; his shoes will never be quite filled. 

He was also the lover of books and a resource to this writer. Without his encouragement, I would not be writing my newest and third novel (on K9 officers and their handlers.)  Without his presence, I am forced to continue with just his last words to live up to.  Danny finished the first act of my new novel as an informal editor and told a mutual friend: "tell michael I want more!"

Sometimes, writers write for themselves--the very least important reason.  Sometimes, they write a story that honors others--the most important reason.

Holocaust Frauds et al. as a New Literary Genre by Colleen Fitzpatrick

by Michael 5/1/2010 10:33:00 AM

Guest Byline from Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick , Forensic Genealogist

Story line:  Child orphaned during Holocaust. Alone, must depend on fate to survive while millions perish.  Unexpected savior appears. There is hope. Child survives war implausibly.  Setting is foreign country decimated by Holocaust. Child relocates to new country.

 

Child grows up.  Child writes autobiography– redefining the word “incredible”. Doubts arise about authenticity of story. Yet book becomes bestseller based on public emotion. Skeptics are squashed.

 

Forensic genealogists move in, discover evidence believed inaccessible, disproving story. Child is busted. Much adverse publicity followed by much face-saving in press.  Movie producer is hung out to dry.  Publisher claims no knowledge of fraud, withdraws publication, moves on to next project that may include a second book glorifying lame excuses for child’s deceiving millions of readers.  The phrase “to make a lot of money” is never mentioned.

 

Does this scenario describe

 
  1. Misha Defonseca’s Surviving with Wolves
  2. Herman Rosenblat’s “Apple story”
  3. Both of the above?
 

There is no law against publishing a book as nonfiction when there are suspicions that it is a fabrication. It may even be desirable to do so. Marketing a story as autobiographical can be more lucrative than marketing it as fiction. Public controversy over the truth only boosts sales. 

 

Both Misha’s and Herman’s stories would have made good reading as fiction, but the job of big publishing houses is not truth-in-marketing.  Their job is to make money. And once a work of non-fiction is exposed as a fraud, there is usually no requirement to return the money to the unsuspecting public.  Embarrassment is often enough to cease publication of the work and move on to the next project.  In the present cases, the publishers maintained their innocence, claiming they were taken in by the con as much as the public, and did the best job they could with the difficult task of fact-checking a Holocaust story when documentation was so hard to come by.  Yet if forensic genealogists could find evidence conclusively debunking the stories,then why couldn’t  multi-million dollar publishing houses?

 

A fraudulent autobiography can be lucrative for its author too.  After James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces was exposed in 2006 as fake, he was invited by Oprah to appear on her show to explain himself– displacing countless other authors more worthy of airtime.  Late in 2007, James Frey received a seven-figure advance from a publisher for his next three books.

 

As I remarked to my colleague, “We’re in the wrong business.  The real money is in creating the frauds, not debunking them. Since we are experts at how literary frauds are constructed, why don’t we create our own?” 

 

Are there others Holocaust frauds there?  Probably.  For the last year, I have been investigating Mark Kurzem’s The Mascot, an international bestseller about his father Alex, an orphan who survived the Holocaust thanks to circumstances that give yet a new meaning to the word “incredible”. The savior offers hope of a happy ending, only this time the story takes place in Belarus, Latvia, and Australia. The same indications of literary fraud are evident, including continual adjustment of the “true” story apparently for the sake of embellishment and to evade questions by skeptics. Not surprisingly, the subject of the story was experiencing financial difficulties around the time the book was conceived.  Of course the movie rights have been sold, even as true Holocaust survivors voice concern about the lack of authenticity of both the story and the storyteller.

 

Without the support of publishers, the autobiographical fraud industry would wither.  While there is so much money in publishing falsehood, there is little incentive to tell the truth. If you still want to enjoy a good story, please don’t believe everything you read in the paper, nor the paperback. If a story seems too “incredible” to be true, it usually is. For those of you who wish to take a stronger stand against literary fraud, I offer further advice.  Don’t buy the book, and I wouldn’t wait for the movie either.

-Colleen Fitzpatrick,  www.identifinders.com

 

 

Boy, this one is close to my psychologist turned author heart.  I can hardly wait for the comments to roll in.     -Michael  

   

 


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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.