Primary suspect and the colour of money

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The Independent Online
Columnist Joe Klein, the Anonymous who wrote the hugely successful political roman-a-clef, Primary Colors, is finding that basing art on life can be a risky business.

In the book, a fictitious Harlem librarian who runs an adult literacy programme is seduced by a candidate clearly intended to be taken as Bill Clinton. Now the model for that character - who indeed did meet the real Governor Clinton during his 1992 campaign - is suing Mr Klein for $120m to prove that she wasn't.

Citing "extreme mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation," 51-year- old Daria Carter-Clark has filed her suit in a New York court. "I was hysterical, crying and screaming," she says, upon learning of her portrayal in the book, which sold a million hardback copies and will form the basis of a film later this year.

The episode provides a hilarious first chapter, as the imaginary librarian Ms Baum -"middle-aged, pushing 50, hair dyed auburn to blot the grey, unexceptional apart from her legs, which were shocking, a gift from God" - is enthralled by the visiting Jack Stanton, Governor of "an obscure Southern state".

Had matters stopped there, Ms Carter-Clark would have had no problem. Alas, a page or two later, a "dazed" Ms Baum emerges from the Governor's hotel bedroom, "arranging herself". As for Stanton, he is described as "buttoning his shirt over a hairless pink chest; he was the colour of a medium rare steak just off the grill, steaming a little".

Much of the book's success reflected its eerie closeness to life. Two dozen or more figures from the 1992 campaign populate its pages, most of them instantly recognisable. That alone makes it harder for the author to plead that anyone could understand it did not happen.

Ms Carter-Clark in fact was chosen as one of the "Faces of Hope" who symbolised Mr Clinton's 1992 campaign, and was invited to both his inaugurations. Which only adds to her discomfort.