October 23rd, 2005

What, My Ethics Aren’t Lax Enough?

by Philip Baruth

So I just learned that the pharmaceutical lobby commissioned a novelist to write a thriller in which terrorists use — yes, indeed — cheap imported Canadian drugs to poison unwitting Americans. Damn! What a sweet idea:

“In a tale worthy of a zany Washington satire - except for the lamentable fact that it’s true - the rich and powerful pharmaceutical lobby secretly commissioned a thriller novel whose aim was to scare the living daylights out of folks who might want to buy cheap drugs from Canada.

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 little connecting, and to demonstrate the level of literary expertise at work here:

“PhRMA [the drug lobby] has vigorously fought all efforts to legalize the purchase of cheap drugs from Canada. Even though the lobby has found some success, the underground business still takes an estimated $1 billion in annual profits from American drug behemoths.

Chrystyn titled her thriller-in-progress ‘The Spivak Conspiracy,’ an homage to her friend Kenin Spivak, an L.A. telecomm entrepreneur and onetime Hollywood exec.

Spivak said he became Chrystyn’s co-writer after she delivered the first 50 pages, and PhRMA made several editorial suggestions.

‘They said they wanted it somewhat dumbed down for women, with a lot more fluff in it, and more about the wife of the head Croatian terrorist, who is a former Miss Mexico,’ Spivak told me.”

You can read the whole article here. I, for one, find myself outraged: Who, may I ask, is Julie Chrystyn, and why did she get the nod?

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 lax ethical standards. I’m not saying that the drug kingpins should have come immediately to me, but what about a chance to underbid and/or demonstrate a lower level of integrity than Miss High-and-Mighty 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 all hell, from the get-go.

This is all particularly annoying because when the project was scuttled, the drug boys offered the Stupendous Miss Julie Chrystyn $100,000 to keep the whole doomed idea quiet. Clearly, since I just linked up every VDB reader with the skinny, JC didn’t do such a hot job of keeping her generously lipsticked Hollywood yap closed.

So let me just put it out there: Pfizer, where’s the love? Work with VDB next time, and I 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. Word is bond.