Five years as a hostage of the RSC

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The Independent Online

There is a most unusual trial going on at the moment in the High Court, in which one author is suing another over the title of their book, claiming that their title has lost them thousands of pounds. We join the case where the accused author, Ivor MacAdam, has just taken the stand...

There is a most unusual trial going on at the moment in the High Court, in which one author is suing another over the title of their book, claiming that their title has lost them thousands of pounds. We join the case where the accused author, Ivor MacAdam, has just taken the stand...

Counsel: Your name is Ivor MacAdam?

Defendant: It is now.

Counsel: What did it use to be?

Defendant: Ivor Hugo.

Counsel: Why did you change it?

Defendant: I got fed up with people making jokes about "Ivor Hugo or I do".

Judge: I don't get it.

Counsel: Perhaps I can explain it to you later, Your Honour.

Judge: I'll look forward to that. Carry on.

Counsel: Now, Mr MacAdam, you are the author of a book, are you not?

Defendant: Of many books. I have written such best-selling volumes as The Little Book of Lust, The Little Book of Sloth, The Little Book of Wrath ...

Counsel: A little series on the seven deadly sins, was it?

Defendant: Well spotted. I have also written The Book of Chinese Jokes, The Book of Icelandic Jokes, Best Manchurian Shaggy Dog Stories ...

Counsel: I think we get the idea of the area of the literary world which is occupied by you. But the book I wish to draw the court's attention to is not one of those. It is one which you called That Book They Serialised On Radio 4 Last Week. You wrote that, did you not?

Defendant: I did.

Counsel: Had it in fact been serialised on Radio 4?

Defendant: Chance would be a fine thing! No, it came about because I noticed that every time I went into a book shop I overheard someone saying "I want that book they serialised on Radio 4 last week," and I thought, Hold on! If I wrote a book with that title, the bookseller would have to sell it to them! So I did.

Counsel: And has it sold well?

Defendant: Pretty well. Certainly better than if I had written a book called That Book They Serialised on Radio Five Live Last Week.

Counsel: Quite so. May I inquire what is actually in the book?

Defendant: Well, I was going to put in some of the Manchurian shaggy dog stories I had left over, but then I thought I might have some fun and write a small book rather like the ones that you do get on Radio 4.

Counsel: Namely?

Defendant: On Radio 4 they are very fond of people who have gone through ordeals and they are also fond of stage memoirs, so I wrote the spoof memoirs of someone who had spent five years as a hostage captured by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Counsel: Now, tell me, Mr MacAdam, are you aware of a writer called Susan Heligo? Who has written a wonderful account of her experiences looking after threatened desert hedgehogs called The Prickly Years? Which was recently serialised on Radio 4?

Defendant: No. But I can believe it.

Counsel: Would you believe also that in the week of the broadcast, and in the weeks after, when sales would be expected to go up, her sales actually went sharply downwards? And that that is almost entirely due to the presence of your book? Because so many people went into bookshops and asked for that book they serialised on Radio 4 last week?

Defendant: Why didn't they go into bookshops and ask for The Prickly Years, then?

Counsel: Because the British bookbuyer is congenitally unable to remember the name or title of any book he wants!

Defendant: They can remember the name of my book!

Counsel: Ah! But only when they are looking for something quite different!

Judge: I am finding all this very confusing. Might this be a good time to explain that joke I didn't understand?

The case continues.

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