Tuesday, October 9, 2018

BOOKBUB SPECIAL: Jane and the Man of the Cloth!

The second Jane Austen mystery, Jane and the Man of the Cloth, is discounted to $1.99 on a Bookbub promotion starting today, October 9, through October 20. It's available for download over the next two weeks on any platform you can think of.

It's one of my all-time favorite Janes, set in Lyme Regis against the backdrop of fossil hunting and coastal smuggling. But it also comes with an interesting tale on the side.

A few years after the book was published, a woman (She Who Shall Not Be Named) contacted me by letter and asked permission to adapt the novel for the screen. As she was unwilling to pay me a dime for the rights, and as the granting of rights in one Jane novel would preclude the sale of rights to all the others, I declined.

A year or two after this minor episode, a screenwriter contacted my then-publisher, Bantam Books, with the alarming news that she'd been hired to rewrite a film script...which she suspected was ripped off from Jane and the Man of the Cloth.

Turns out, the original screenwriter was the same She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

Outraged, I sent off what my husband terms a Lawyer Gram, pointing out that the book was my intellectual property and she was stealing it. I sent a drop-copy to the Canadian production company who'd financed the rewrite, and they promptly killed the project.

End of story.


About two years later, I awoke one morning to a phone call from a reporter for the Bridport News, Lyme Regis's local newspaper. He was calling to get my comments on the movie being made of my book, Jane and the Man of the Cloth, which was about to start filming in Lyme...

Unbelievable! Or as Wallace Shawn cries repeatedly in The Princess Bride, "InconCEIVable!"

The reporter kindly gave me the details of the production company--a South African one--and director attached to the film. And sure enough, the screenplay they'd bought was penned by the same She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. When I contacted her through lawyers this time, she responded with a Cease-and-Desist letter, ordering me to sign a Do Not Compete Agreement and crawl back into my miserable authorly hole.

Naturally, I refused.

A flurry of correspondence ensued.

And the sum of it was: She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named informed me self-righteously that I did not own Jane Austen! I did not own history! I did not own the private journals Austen had penned two hundred years ago...

At which I tumbled to the appalling truth: She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named thought Jane's diaries recording her detective adventures, which I invented purely as a framing device for a series of mystery novels, actually existed.

She'd never seen them, of course. She had no idea where said journals might be archived. She'd just read a paperback edition of Jane and the Man of the Cloth and assumed it was all true.

By return of fax, my lawyer explained the difference between fiction and fact. Sadly, the South African director was killed in a car accident before he could commit the egregious error of copyright infringement, and I have never heard again from She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. But I take it as a warning: Stupidity and wilfull folly are immune to instruction. Not all the lawyers in the world can guard against them.

I hope someday a real producer is smitten with Jane, and throws her exploits in vivid color on a screen. I would simply like to be paid for them first. I believe Jane herself would demand as much.




  1. OMG Stephanie! That story is so comically shocking it should be it's own movie. Jane would think it hilarious, though I doubt very much that you did while in the thick of it. I too hope to see your detective Jane in the screen soon. She is very worthy of the adulation!

  2. Laurel Ann, I keep waiting for the whole thing to resurface one day soon...when it's too late to stop it, LOL! Hope she's found another book to steal.