Passing along a story from the front page of today's Palo Alto Times.
Justice Department Sniffs Out Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Writing Industry
Palo Alto – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Midpeninsula District of California today announced that it is launching an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) by well-known authors around the country.
“We have convened a grand jury that is taking in camera testimony from authors, editors, and agents,” said Hamilton Wiener, U.S. Attorney. “It appears that some authors have been resorting to PEDs which give them an unfair advantage over their colleagues who play by the rules.”
According to grand jury transcripts obtained by The Palo Alto Times, many authors, especially of mysteries and thrillers, do their writing under the influence of a pharmacopeia of stimulants, opiates, and such. Moreover, Times sources expect a perjury indictment this week of one prolific author who has set sales records for his books and denied using any PED while writing them.
“We’ve got this guy, whose latest book was about to be named an Oprah’s Book Club choice, dead to rights,” boasted Michael Jovert of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General. “He relaxes at night by smoking marijuana according to his mistress. He denies it but she has phone tapes. He’s going down. Oprah’s so grateful that we saved her from the embarrassment.”
"The results of this investigation show our commitment to protect the integrity of America’s reading pastime from deceptive and fraudulent practices," said Inspector Jovert. "We have an obligation to pursue and bring to justice those who prey on vulnerable readers and place profits before public health.”
Bud Taper, commissioner of the Major League of Writers (MLW), said that PED use is unfair to those authors who have been writing while “clean.” He promises to rule shortly on requests to strike the books of an authors found using PEDs from bestseller lists. With the focus of the investigation on crime fiction, such lists may be drastically altered. The New York Times list of the top 15 hardcover fiction books for the week of April 6 contains nine instances of crime fiction.
Industry observers are wondering if Taper will lend his presence to the Edgar® Awards ceremony, crime fiction’s “Oscars,” on May 1.
“He can’t win either way,” said 2007 Edgar Award nominee Cornelia Read. “If he does show, it will look like he doesn’t care which of the nominees have been smoking dope or whatever. If he doesn’t, it will be disrespecting the game of crime fiction.”
In addition to its grand jury investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice is asking for reciprocity from its English counterparts. The Times has learned that descendants of Thomas de Quincey, author of Confessions of an English Opium Eater, will be asked to forfeit the royalties the book has earned over the last century and a half.
Comments from writers have been mixed.
Jeff Shelby, the best-selling mystery author, said, “Late at night, I’ve seen my colleagues take amphetamines to stay up and hit their deadlines. It’s not fair to those of us who scrupulously follow the law and still write great mysteries. I’m sure Wicked Break would have hit the top spot on the Denver bestseller list if only my fellow writers had played fair.”
Author of the hot new mystery Thugs and Kisses, Sue Ann Jaffarian, said, “Dude. I live in LaLa Land, where we do what it takes to get the muse up off her lazy ass. Sometimes that means more than sugar and chocolate. Readers benefit. Where's the harm?”
Keith Raffel, the Silicon Valley mystery and thriller writer, has concerns about the investigation turning into a witch-hunt. “I have been questioned by the grand jury,” he told The Times in an exclusive interview. “What I don’t understand is if only illegal PEDs are being looked at or if any foreign substance that enhances your writing is taboo.”
Raffel estimates that he drinks up to 15 cups of green tea each day he writes. “If that’s outlawed, I’ll be driven back to the software industry where the rules are far laxer.”